May 28, 2013

He’s Official!

We have talked a lot about the German processes and procedures and how they are different, and often more detailed than in the U.S. Lucky for me, Kyle has had to deal with this almost entirely on his own, because so few offices have English-speaking representatives. Some do speak English, but prefer to speak German, so that’s where he has been extremely helpful.
Before Henry was born, we knew to expect lots of paperwork once he made his arrival.
Kyle learned that aside from the German birth certificate, we needed to get Henry an International birth certificate, which would be in English, German, and French. We also had to register his birth abroad with the U.S. Embassy, apply for his passport, and of course his Social Security card.
After a few weeks of waiting, and a trip to the Consulate, our little guy is an official American citizen! Initially, we thought that he could have dual citizenship, but learned later that laws have changed in recent years. Still, he will have a pretty cool birth story and a baby book full of his early life in Germany.
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Here is Henry in front of the U.S. Consulate. They gave him a little flag to commemorate his citizenship! This is the only picture I could take during our visit. There is (obvious) high security both inside and outside of the Consulate, but while we were there it was as if we were back at home. Even the décor on the inside looked American, with paintings of the U.S. landscape and pictures of our presidents. The Consulate is located outside of Berlin in Zehlendorf (the same neighborhood where he was born).

May 15, 2013

5 nights & 6 days

To pick up where I left off in the last post…Kyle and I were both taken off guard hearing the words “emergency C-section”. I wasn’t at all prepared for that so I asked, “What happened within the last 5 minutes?!?!” As the doctor and midwife rolled me onto my left side, put an oxygen mask on my face, and inserted an IV, the doctor explained that the baby’s heart rate had dropped to 50 beats per minute and he was in distress. As she spoke the words, the monitor showed that his heart rate was back up to a healthy 146 beats per minute. I remembered the countless times when I sat with the non-stress test in the doctor’s office and the monitor would frequently “lose” Henry’s heart beat and I assumed that the same thing had happened this time. I wasn’t nearly as concerned as everyone else in the room seemed to be, and now I thought they were the ones being dramatic.
The doctor explained that she had phoned the surgical team to get everyone prepped in the O.R. for my C-section, and that they would be on stand-by as we watched the monitor. I told Kyle that it appeared that the baby was okay, and I didn’t want to rush the decision to have a C-section if we didn’t have to. As the medical staff left the room, we both said, “What just happened?” and wondered if there was a potential problem with the baby, or if they were being overly cautious. We didn’t have long to discuss the possibilities because within 10 minutes, everyone was back in my room again. Although it appeared to me that the monitor was showing healthy heart beats, the doctor explained that they had been watching the monitor from another room and were not happy with the inconsistency of the heart rate. She encouraged me to agree to have a C-section for fear that the baby was in distress and if his heart rate dropped again, they would have to perform an emergency C-section, which would be rushed. For whatever reason, I felt a sense that this was the right decision and I agreed to go ahead with it. I think Kyle was surprised by my calm mental state (especially considering that I had a break-down about an hour ago), and didn’t question the decision.
With the decision made, Kyle was given a set of scrubs to change into while the anesthesiologist and the doctor explained the process of the surgery to me and did a quick medical history Q&A.
As I walked into the O.R. I had a few thoughts of “is this really happening?”, “I hope Kyle doesn’t faint”, “I wish my parents were here”, and “too bad they didn’t give me any time to change into my super-cute hospital gown…”
Entering the room, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people in there. I couldn’t really hear anyone talking except for the anesthesiologist, who was telling me what to do in her perfect English (thank goodness!).
Within 15 minutes, I was completely numb from the neck down and Kyle joined me in the O.R. As he sat down, I asked him to peek over and tell me what was going on, (I really wanted him to record the whole thing and take pictures, but the doctors didn’t seem too keen on that idea…and neither was Kyle.) I told him that I was feeling a lot of movement and just then, we heard a cry. Baby Henry was out (already!) and just let out the tiniest scream. The midwife brought him over to Kyle and said that the cord was around his neck pretty tight, the reason for his drop and then inconsistent heart rate, apparently. The midwife said that she was going to clean him up and get his measurements, and I told Kyle to “follow the baby and don’t let him out of his sight”, because after this crazy sequence of events, I just wanted to make sure that the baby was okay.

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I glanced at the clock on the wall and could not believe that I hadn’t even been in there for an hour. The whole surgery start to finish took about 45 minutes and I have to say that I was very impressed by the efficiency of the entire process. As soon as I was sewn back together, they wheeled my back to my original delivery room and Kyle handed Henry over to me. It was nice to be able to hold him so soon after the surgery, and surreal at the same time because I never dreamed that he would be born before 7 p.m.

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We were then taken to our private family room where we would spend the next 6 days. One of my main concerns prior to Henry’s birth was ensuring that Kyle could stay with me in the hospital. We knew that we would have to pay extra (88 euros a night) for this luxury, but it was one that I thought was very important. First of all, I cannot imagine sharing a room with another woman and her baby. We were so blessed that Henry slept so much and was a very good baby. We heard many other babies screaming throughout the night and I would have hated having one of them in our room (although I did feel bad for those parents). Secondly, since I only know a few German words, it would have been difficult to communicate with the nurses throughout the day/night. Once a day, we had a nurse who didn’t speak any English, so I was grateful to have Kyle as my translator. He learned a lot of new medical terminology that he never would have needed to know before now!
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Big sister Anya came to visit us every day and was so excited to meet Henry. It was wonderful having my mom in Berlin, staying with Anya while we were in the hospital. I don’t know what we would have done without her. Although a few friends offered to help out during this time, we knew that Anya would be most comfortable staying in her own home with Ommy. These 6 days were hard on everyone, but made easier by the fact that we knew Anya was happy and being taken care of at home.
In general, we were very happy with the doctors, midwives, and nurses at the hospital. They were extremely attentive to me and helpful in giving suggestions for my recovery. My only complaint in the experience, which I was warned about from online bloggers, was the “stinginess” of pain medication. This was the only instance where I hoped we were back in Carmel, IN at the hospital where I had Anya.
On day 3 of my stay, I had severe pain in part of my incision, and up until that point, I was only given ibuprofen every 6 hours. I had constantly asked for stronger drugs, but it wasn’t until 2 a.m. that morning when I had not gotten out of bed for over 9 hours because I was in so much pain that it made my whole body shake that they finally called a doctor in to assess the situation. No one seemed to understand why or how I could be in so much pain, and when they saw me physically shaking, I think they determined that I wasn’t just being a baby about it and probably needed another method of relief. Kyle specifically asked the doctor, “Don’t you have any Vicodin you can give her?” to which she chuckled and said, “You Americans…”. Not the best thing to say to me at that moment, but she finally said that she could give me something stronger and warned that “it might make you a little fuzzy”. At this point, I would have let Kyle just knock me out to get out of experiencing the pain, so a little “fuzziness” was not something I was worried about.
After a few more days of slowly starting to feel better, and having an ultrasound to ensure that everything was healing properly, it seemed that I was on the mend. Finally on the 6th day, we were released to head home.
It’s been a slow and painful recovery, but I now see the light at the end of the tunnel and can look back on all of the good aspects of the pregnancy and delivery.
Now that Henry is nearly one month old, I look back on the last few weeks and realize that we have been pretty lucky with the whole experience of having a baby in Berlin. From the excellent care given by my personal doctor (weekly check-ups), the delivery doctor, midwives, nurses, and even our health insurance which allowed us a cost-free delivery (with the exception of paying for our private room), it’s all been a positive experience and one that we will always remember.

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May 12, 2013

Our Berlin Baby

The experience of Henry’s birth is not one that we can easily forget, but for weeks I have been meaning to write this post to ensure that certain details are not forgotten. During our year in Germany, one aspect of the culture that we have fully experienced has been with the medical system…something that at first was very daunting for us.
Towards the end of my 40+ week pregnancy, I was uncomfortable, anxious, and quite frankly…annoyed. I was ready for Henry to come out and nervous that the longer he stayed in, the bigger he was getting, and the more chances for potential complications during his birth.
In the last week, I went to see the doctor every other day, and was pleading with her to induce me. Standard procedure at this particular practice was to allow women to go 10-14 days past their due date. Since Anya was also late in her arrival, and I was induced 6 days late with her, that is what I was comfortable with, and tried to convince my doctor to do the same with Henry. Although she listened to my concerns, she saw no reason to induce me…until my last appointment when I waddled in at 7 days overdue, and she finally handed me a piece of paper to take to the hospital which would allow me to begin an induction. I think she finally just took pity on me and I appreciated that.
So with that, we decided to head to the hospital around 1:00 that afternoon. We packed our bags, told Anya goodbye, and took a taxi 25 minutes to Krakenhaus Waldfriede. This hospital is located in Zehlendorf, just outside of the city. It is a beautiful area and home to the U.S. Consulate. We have decided that if we ever live in Berlin again, it will be in this neighborhood.
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We arrived at the hospital with our 5 bags (no exaggeration) and found our way to the maternity floor. I was extremely prepared in my packing, because I didn’t know what the hospital would provide and I didn’t want to take any chances. I had everything from my own pillow, to my own hospital gown (not cheap, but it was cute), towels for the bathroom, snacks for labor, a book, magazines, and the list goes on. I have spent the last few months reading blogs and forums about Americans giving birth in Berlin. Based on the experiences of others, I wanted to make sure that I had everything that I might need, and had many items shipped from the U.S. just to be sure.
After waiting for about 30 minutes, we were introduced to a midwife and I was hooked up to a non-stress test monitor (for the umpteenth time during my pregnancy) for about 45 minutes. All appeared to be normal, so we were then taken to see a doctor. I spoke briefly with the doctor while she examined my Mutterpass (German medical book for expectant mothers detailing my entire medical history during the pregnancy), and then did an ultrasound. At that point, she said that everything looked normal and I should come back in the morning for the induction. Kyle and I exchanged a look of “you’ve got to be kidding me” and I asked the doctor why we were initially told to come to the hospital this afternoon if my induction wouldn’t take place until the following morning. She said there must have been a miscommunication somewhere, but that they only do inductions in the morning.
That was the final straw for me. I felt like I had done my duty of staying calm and holding it together for 41 weeks… going with the flow of differences in the German medical system versus the U.S., I had been patient, I had waited, but now I was done. D-O-N-E!
I lost it…I broke down crying and surprised both Kyle and the doctor. I told her that I couldn’t go another sleepless night and that I was told that I could be induced TODAY! I had mentally prepared for it, prepared Anya for it, and I didn’t want to have to do it all over again tomorrow.
Well, this threw her for a loop and quite frankly, I don’t think she had ever witnessed a reaction like this before. It wasn’t an embarrassing display or anything (says Kyle), but it was a bit dramatic. By this point, a midwife came into the room and felt sorry for me in my state of distress, and tried to convince the doctor to let me stay. After about 45 minutes of deliberation between the doctor, the midwife, and another doctor, they decided to break protocol and allow me to be induced right away. So with that, Kyle grabbed our many bags, I pulled myself together, and we made our way to a delivery room.
I was given 1/4 of a tiny little pill to kick-start labor, or at least to see how my body would react to it. Again I was hooked up to the non-stress test, and we were told to sit and wait…to see what would happen. I didn’t think this microscopic pill would do anything at all, but I was grateful to begin the process anyway. In the meantime, Kyle was sent downstairs to register me, and I typed out a hasty email on my phone to my mom, telling her that it could be days before we would meet this baby and giving her a summary of what had just occurred.
Within 10 minutes, Kyle came back to the room and we just waited, watching the monitor and flipping through magazines. I noticed some irregularity with the monitor (Henry’s heart rate), but was not concerned since this had happened many times during my weekly appointments. Apparently the medical staff was concerned because at that moment, a doctor, a nurse, and two midwives rushed in to my room speaking quickly to each other in German and told me that I needed to have an emergency C-section.

[The next post will pick up here since this one is getting pretty long…sorry for the cliff-hanger…]

April 13, 2013

Catching Up

We are at the 40 week (plus a few days) mark with Baby Boy, and still waiting on him to make his appearance. I thought this would be a good time to catch up on what we’ve been doing the past few weeks, besides baby prep. Hopefully, I will be in the hospital soon and unable to update the blog…

We’ve been doing some fun things with Anya, knowing that her time as an only child is limited. Although it’s still winter here in Berlin, we’ve had a few decent days to play outside, and Kyle took an afternoon off from work to take us to Jack’s Fun World for some serious play time.

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Anya loved the ball pit, but Daddy had to protect her from the older, rowdier kids.

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She thought she wanted to play air hockey, but Kyle and I ended up playing 3 games instead.

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Anya drives her first car…not a bad choice!

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We celebrated Easter this year with a few gifts from the Easter Bunny, and a nice dinner at home with friends. We decided that since we were missing out on a delicious dinner at home (my favorite…ham loaf and scalloped potatoes courtesy of my mom), I made chicken & noodles, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs because that’s about as Indiana as you can get! Our friends brought green bean casserole, a favorite of Kyle’s, so everyone was happy!

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Anya was very surprised and excited to see what the Easter Bunny brought for her. She has been asking for a puppy for some time now, and she finally got one. She has also thoroughly enjoyed her chocolate candy treats.

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We also celebrated Kyle’s 31st birthday a week ago, and per his request, had the same chicken & noodles dinner. I also made caramel brownies which we enjoyed all week.
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March 27, 2013

Iceland

Kyle had the unique opportunity to travel to Iceland a few weeks ago for a geothermal conference. Anya and I would have loved to tag along, but as the date approached, we decided that it would be an expensive trip and probably too much for me being this far along in the pregnancy. This post has been on the shelf for a while now and I decided to finally crack down and get it out here. Initially, I suggested to Kyle that he write it, but he’s blog shy, so I will relay his trip mainly through the pictures he took with his new camera.065
Once Kyle arrived in Iceland, he assured me that we made the right decision to stay in Berlin. We had 55 degree temperatures that week in Germany, and it was frigidly cold, snowy, icy, and windy in Iceland. He said that we would have been confined to the hotel room for most of the trip because it was almost dangerous to be outside in those conditions.

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Above is Kyle standing in front of the conference building…trying not to blow over! Below are a few shots of the town of Reykjavik.

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Not only did Kyle get to see some beautiful scenery, but he also had delicious food while he was here. Fresh seafood was plentiful (including whale…much to my dismay), and here is an example of his dinner menu one night.

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After a long week, Anya and I were very ready for Kyle to return to Berlin. He surprised us with a few presents including a little stuffed puffin for Anya, some wonderful Icelandic hand lotion for me, and a book of photos for our travel collection. We hope to return to Iceland in the future as a family, preferably in the summer.

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March 13, 2013

Spring Week

Last week, while Kyle was in Iceland for a conference, Anya and I were blessed with beautiful 50 degree temperatures and lots of quality mama-daughter time. Although I have been limiting my walking lately (because baby boy is getting big and uncomfortable in this last month), I knew that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to soak up the sun and enjoy the warmth that we haven’t felt since last August.

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We had a few days of absolutely beautiful weather and Anya really enjoyed spending time in our little courtyard swinging, playing in the fort, and in the sand.

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We also celebrated the 109th birthday of Dr. Seuss with our English play group. There was a special activity of story time and coloring on Thursday, and although it made for a long day, we enjoyed the time with friends.

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As a special treat, one of our friends brought us a sweet Hostess-like cake which she has discovered at a local Berlin grocery store. They are delicious and fed my current craving for Ding Dong cupcakes! Most German cakes just aren’t sweet enough for our American taste buds, so this was a pleasant surprise!

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It was a great week for us, even though Kyle had to be away. God gave us beautiful weather that was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated! (and now this week we are back to 20 and 30 degree temps with snow)

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March 4, 2013

Baby Shower!

A few months ago, our friends offered to host a baby shower for us. Although I initially thought that it wasn’t necessary since this is our second child, I then decided that it would be a good reason to get the group together and celebrate. Since I really haven’t been able to properly nest for this baby, or prepare nearly as much as I did before Anya’s birth, it was nice to have this shower to look forward to and I know Kyle was glad to give me an afternoon with the girls to relax and get out of the apartment.

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I was very touched by the thought and effort that our friends put into planning this shower for me. The 8 lady “Boschies” and I enjoyed a wonderful spread of food and cake, and we played a few baby games to really get into the spirit. Apparently throwing showers (of any kind) is not as common here, compared to the U.S., so I was very impressed that the ladies were able to make this shower look and feel just like we were at home.

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From the lovely diaper cake to the delicious sugary vanilla cake, it was the perfect Sunday afternoon to spend with friends.

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We received so many thoughtful and useful gifts for the baby, and Anya even came away with a Big Sister present!

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Throughout the last few months, I have felt pretty removed from life at home and getting together with these friends made all of the difference and was just what I needed to get through the last month or so before Baby arrives.

March 4, 2013

A Taste of Home

As much as we love and appreciate good German food, we have been craving some American favorites lately. Since I’m very pregnant, it’s no new thing for me to have cravings, but when Kyle said that he was craving some treats from home, I decided to get baking. The first (and most delicious) snack were M&M bars. Although it wasn’t easy to keep Kyle and Anya out of the bag of M&Ms, they both decided that it was worth the wait, and these turned out to be a delicious snack for a few days.

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We were excited to learn that our neighborhood grocery store was having a special on “American foods” for a week, and stumbled upon some muffin mixes, popcorn, and peanut butter (those of you at home will remember this post when you can easily find these 3 things in any grocery store!). The muffins and popcorn were good, but needed a little doctoring to be sweet and salty enough for our taste buds. I added a homemade streusel topping (double batch) to the blueberry muffins and they were a nice breakfast treat for a few days. Anya called them her “little cakes”.

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Lastly, are two things that did not have to be baked, but were part of our American food week anyway. I found that even though we cannot find Campbell’s tomato soup here, tomato juice heated on the stove with some salt & pepper tastes almost exactly the same. Paired perfectly with grilled cheese, it made for a delicious dinner one night.

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Anya received a care package in the mail which included some of her favorite snacks. All three of us have enjoyed these, and we’re rationing the last bag for as long as we can.

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February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day!

When Anya woke up this morning, I told her that it was Valentine’s Day and that we were going to wear something special and make cookies. Although she has no idea what this holiday is, hearing “cookies” brought a huge smile to her face. Kyle has been away at a two-day conference in Zurich, Switzerland, so I thought it would be a nice home-coming for him to have some homemade cookies and a few Valentine’s Day surprises.
From the trip to the store this morning to buy ingredients, to straightening up the apartment, making heart-shaped cards, and the cookies, Anya has realized that this is a special day. She even suggested to call her cousin Charlie to tell him “Happy Valentine’s Day”, which we haven’t gotten around to doing yet.
Anya wore her red & white sweater with heart-shaped buttons today (actually she wore the same one last Valentine’s Day as well…although it was a bit big on her then). She was very excited to make paper hearts for her Daddy and even more excited to test out the icing for the cookies! What she was not so excited about was waiting ALL day for him to get home. We aren’t expecting him until around 11 pm our time, so she’s in bed right now (at 8:15). I know she will wake up to see him because she is so anxious for his return home.

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I found a great recipe for super-soft sugar cookies with buttercream icing. I only wish I could have found some food coloring and sprinkles to make them extra festive. Anya waited not-so-patiently for the 30+ cookies to bake, and then she had to wait even longer for them to cool and get decorated with icing.

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I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how well these turned out. I’ve never made sugar cookies from scratch, and these are moist and fluffy with very sweet icing. I will probably send some with Kyle to work tomorrow so that I’m not tempted to eat these all by myself. They certainly cannot go to waste!

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These are the decorations we made for our door for Kyle’s arrival home tonight. Anya had some fun with glitter puff paint and always enjoys making crafts for her Daddy.

Hope everyone had a Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 2, 2013

Baby Boy

This past Thursday marked the 30 week milestone of my pregnancy. Only 10 weeks (or less) to go, and we will be a family of four.
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The month of February will be all about Baby. In looking at my calendar tonight, I realized that we have 6 baby-related appointments in this short month. Not only does that mean that we’ll be busy, but it also means that the month will fly by. Then March is the last full month before our due date. Running through these numbers in my head gives me a lot of anxiety, mainly because I don’t feel prepared for the baby’s arrival yet.
I have been reminiscing about my pregnancy with Anya lately. How we had a doctor and a hospital before I was even pregnant, how my doctor was so wonderful at calming my nerves, and how I had the comfort of friends and family around me. This time it’s different. In some ways, it’s good that this is my second pregnancy because I don’t have the “first time mom” questions and concerns, but on the other hand, I tend to compare everything to my first pregnancy at home. Being in Germany has presented some challenges that I may not have even realized if this was my first baby.
I have definitely been blessed by having a husband who speaks fluent German and can arrange all of my appointments for me. I’m sure it would take me 5 times as long to schedule an appointment, figure out insurance issues, and communicate with midwives. Kyle has also taken on a lot of the tasks related to baby prep just to ease my stress level (and probably his too!).
Preparation for Anya’s birth involved painting, decorating, and stocking a brand new nursery, whereas this little boy only has a drawer to call his own at the moment. We have only purchased a few absolute necessities, and have also been given many second-hand items from friends.
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I think living here has definitely shown us what we can live without, and in the first 6-8 weeks of baby’s life, he doesn’t need an entire nursery, or a fully stocked closet. (I have finally accepted this fact.)
Monday evening we will visit our third hospital to see if it’s a good fit. We will see one more the following week, and possibly two others if these two don’t work out. We also have to choose a midwife. Midwives are a key component to a pregnancy and delivery in Germany, and if I had to guess, I would say that it seems around 90% of women have a midwife at some point during the process…compared to under 10% at home (my own rough estimates). It is comforting to know that a midwife will check up on me up to 6-8 weeks following delivery to make sure that everything is going well with me and the baby.
Hopefully within the next month, we will be able to choose the hospital and find a midwife. Once those two things are crossed off of our list, I will sleep easier at night.
In the meantime, I started crocheting an afghan for the baby, which helps me to relax!
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