Thursday, February 22, 2007


Two of us
Theo turned one month old over the weekend. He celebrated by taking a nice long nap and wearing his jammies all day. We should all be so lucky on our birthdays.

I've heard people say that after a baby is born, it's hard to remember what it was like in the house without him. I haven't found that to be true; I vividly remember sitting around with an aching back and hips, bored and impatient, wondering when he might arrive. I can even remember last year at this time, feeling aimless and wondering what to do with my days. I was primed for change.

And change arrived, beginning at 2am the morning after my due date. My water broke at home, I woke Jeff, and after showering and taking one last look around our apartment at life as we knew it, we drove through the deserted city to the hospital.* During the five days I spent there, the quiet of early morning was my favorite time. Hospitals are never completely dark or silent, but the nighttime hum of beds being wheeled through corridors and quiet conversations in the hallways soothed me.

The mild contractions I'd been experiencing for the past few weeks had not changed by the time the doctor admitted me that Tuesday morning, and she advised us to spend the next few hours walking around. My midwife had told me that time is elusive during labor; some hours seem endless and others pass in a moment. The next fifteen hours went by relatively quickly. We walked, we napped, we read books, we ate lunch and dinner. Midwives checked on me at the beginning of each changing shift. We made frequent trips to the nursery to stare at the new babies.

By Tuesday evening I had not progressed much at all, so I was advised to swallow a pill to get things moving. The medication succeeded in making my contractions more intense, but unfortunately failed to persuade my body to give up its precious cargo. We learned later that the meds I received are regularly administered repeatedly over several days in order to get things moving, but after some negotiation with several different midwives and several hours of painful contractions, at around 2a.m. Wednesday morning they agreed to give me an epidural and (the German equivalent to) Pitocin to induce labor instead. I moved to a delivery room and when the anesthesiologist left, I remember telling him he had saved my life. I was left to sleep for a few hours (heaven) and Jeff returned to my room to nap as well.

At around 7:30a.m. another shift of doctors and midwives arrived and the activity around me began to buzz. The Pitocin had done its job, and it was almost time for Theo to make his entrance. I asked the midwives (three times) to rouse Jeff, and he made it back to the delivery room with plenty of time to spare. My epidural dosage ran out and the midwives waited until it had worn off completely to call the doctor for delivery. At this point I had been in labor for over 30 hours. I was tired and, judging by Theo's heart rate, he was tired too. The two of us worked hard and made progress, but the doctor finally decided to help us along using a vacuum cup. Theo arrived at 10:20 a.m., pinker and cleaner that I expected. I squeezed his little foot to make sure he was real.

Though the three of us normally would have stayed in the delivery room together for a couple of hours, instead Theo was taken straight to the children's ward (KinderKlinik) to be checked out by the pediatricians due to his stressful delivery. He sported a big black bruise on his head from the vacuum, and the doctors wanted to make sure he began healing smoothly. Jeff went along with him and reported back to me that everything looked fine, but they wanted to keep him in the KinderKlinik overnight to make sure.

A couple of hours later, I boarded a wheelchair and Jeff took me to visit our Theo. He slept in an incubator, attached to heart monitors and an IV drip. When I look back at the photos from that day he seems tiny, but compared to the preemies in the room with him he looked like a giant. I imagine I should have been just a little scared for him, but it was so nice to finally hold him and see his swollen eyelids and tiny fingernails that I felt only happiness.

We spent the next several days waiting to hear that Theo could join me in the maternity ward, but the cautious doctors kept extending his stay in the KinderKlinik since the bruise and his blood type indicated increased risk for jaundice. He eventually moved to a room with healthier babies, but remained in his isolette, where we learned to diaper and dress him through plastic openings and around tubes and monitors. I visited him every few hours to feed and hold him, then returned to my room and the ever-present breast pump. I spent the rest of my time on the phone with friends and family, eating hospital food (not bad), and chatting with my roommate, a Scottish woman who had her second baby via Cesearean section a day or two before I arrived. Having a friendly, English-speaking roommate was a huge bonus.

I was set to be released on Saturday, but the doctors weren't sure if Theo would be ready to go by that time. I got permission to stay one additional night in the maternity ward if he had to stay, so Jeff and I lounged around eating junk food from the hospital gift shop, waiting to hear the doctor's decision, assuming that we would be there one more night. When the call came around 2pm that Theo was free to not only leave the KinderKlinik but to go home, we threw my belongings into a bag and Jeff ran to the car to get the carseat. The midwives gave us a few words of advice and several boxes full of free baby lotion samples and sent us on our way.

When we visited the hospital for our tour last fall, we passed a couple with a brand new baby in a carseat carrier exiting the front doors. They looked exhausted but smiley, their baby asleep and somewhat crumpled behind the wide nylon straps. Walking out the doors, knowing that we were introducing our child to his first breath of fresh air, watching his eyes scrunch up and his fingers wiggle around in the cool breeze, those parents were us.

*P.S. I'll post a nuts-and-bolts account of my labor, delivery, and hospital stay for the Having a Baby in Germany series later.


daniela said...

no fair to make me cry at work... I'm so happy for you B. Welcome to this new world of mommydome - something 15 years ago we never thought we'd do, and now I can't imagine we'd do without.

EuroTrippen said...

What a great story... and I can't believe he's a month old already! How long is he sleeping at nights? Hopefully you're getting at least a 5 hour stretch by now.

Blythe said...

I think he slept for five time. But he's learning that sleep is one of our favorite family pastimes.

Maria said...

I know I am a little late, but Happy 1 Month Birthday Theo!