Have I mentioned the snow here? It has snowed almost every day this last week and most days have stayed around freezing, which means the snow just keeps piling up. It is beautiful, but it means that every trip I take on foot (which is basically almost all of them seeing as how we don’t have a car) is complicated by snow boots, snow pants, coats, hats and mittens. You know that maybe once a year (if we are lucky) in Arkansas where we get a few inches of snow and the kids beg and beg to go outside? And you know how it takes at least 10 minutes to get them all geared up to stay warm and dry while they are outside? Those of you with small children know what I am talking about. That process happens every day here, sometimes more than once a day so that we can trudge out in the snow. The kids love it! They clamber up snow drifts, wipe snow off of every level surface we walk beside, devour large handfuls of snow and pretty much make my job of keeping them safe and together quite difficult. But at least I don’t often hear complaints of cold, which is partly due to the fact that for the first time in their lives they actually own the correct gear.
So,on the day of my first OB (or Frauenartz) appointment, after the 10 minute process of helping the boys get everything on, we headed out on foot to the OB’s office, which is thankfully just about 5-10 minutes walk from our house. Thankfully my friend who had made the appointment had also taken me by the office door to show me exactly where I needed to go, which was good as I don’t know if I would have figured it out on my own. We walked in and said our normal greetings: “Guten Tag” and then I proceeded to share my practiced German phrases with the receptionist. “Ich habe eine Termin vor zwölf Uhr.” Of course because I started in German, the receptionist proceeded to tell me everything in German from that point on, which is good, but meant she got some blank stares from me as my brain tried to process the words. The problem I run into when trying to use German is that I can say a practiced phrase quite easily, but take forever to process phrases said back to me even if I do know the words. I recognized the word for bill (“Rechnung”) which I had purposefully looked up, but only after the receptionist had given up and said it in English. I did learn a new word though, “Wartezimmer” which is waiting room.
After stumbling through the check-in process we were sent to the Wartezimmer to wait. This turned out to be a long wait. Since my appointment had been made last minute, I think that I must have been squeezed in. Thankfully the boys played quite happily with only a few needed interventions from me with the wooden toys in the waiting room. The waiting room itself was a beautiful room with large windows letting in lots of light and a nice clean wooden floor. There was a coat rack for everyone’s coats, and of course the boys had to shed most of the stuff that had taken me 10 minutes to get on them. Every time a new person walked into the waiting room everyone shared a “Hallo” and a nod. When someone left, there was a quick “Tschüs.” I love the friendliness here even with strangers.
After about 30 minutes I was summoned to do a urine test and blood pressure. Then I was sent back to the waiting room. I think it was probably about an hour after we arrived before we were finally allowed into the doctor’s room, which was a very large exam/consultation room. One end had couches and chairs to sit and talk with the doctor. The other end separated by a row of shelves was the exam room. We had a very quick chat (in English thankfully) with the doctor. He took very little information from me, just asking me the basic questions about how my previous deliveries had gone and if I had ever had any complications. Since I haven’t really had complications, he didn’t seem concerned to have much more information. We did talk briefly about Emma’s health issues, and he said that he could send me to get a special ultrasound to check the baby’s heart, but that was my choice. I told him that I was fine with just a normal ultrasound with him unless he saw something he would like to check further on. After our chat he did the normal exams along with some extra ones, such as checking the actual thickness of my cervix by ultrasound. I also got the usual bloodwork and test which I hadn’t yet had done in the states. We also got a normal ultrasound of the baby, my first this pregnancy. The baby looked perfectly normal and measured right on track, and appeared to be sucking on his/her toes. Of course once we had finished all the tests and things I had to redress the boys in their snowsuits and coats and gloves, interrupted of course by someone needing to go the bathroom after they had their snow pants and coat already on. We finally made it out of there and home by around 2 o’clock. Oddly enough the boys never mentioned being hungry even though I hadn’t thought to feed them lunch before we left.
I am still learning the maternity care here. What I have found out is that the normal procedure is to see the doctor for my pre-natals. He will do the monitoring of the pregnancy making sure there are no issues. I also need to contact a midwife (his wife is actually a midwife, so I have her card and will call her next week). The midwife will visit me in my home and do things like birthing classes and preparation for labor. Unless I do a home-birth though, she will probably not be the one to deliver me. Instead, I choose a hospital (or birthing center) and go there when I am in labor. Both are staffed by midwives and I will be delivered by whoever is on call. The midwives do 90% of the births here, the doctor is only called in if there is an issue. Then after I go home (which will be after several days in the hospital or just a short time in the birthing center) the midwife I had chosen before will come and visit me several times to check on the baby, my recovery and breastfeeding, etc. It’s an interesting blend of teamwork between the doctors and midwives that I find quite different from how it is done in the states.