Mac is well over a year old now, so I figured now is as good a time as any to write down my prenatal and birth experience in Germany. My entire process took place at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) and overall I had a great experience. There were definitely a few disappointing aspects, between being abroad and pregnancy in the pandemic. Yet overall, we had some really amazing providers and even surprising perks of COVID.
To even begin seeing the OB department, you have to start with an appointment with your Primary Care Provider. I had never met mine before, but we just had a quick phone call and he scheduled me to get an official pregnancy test at LRMC. Once that was confirmed, he called me back to let me know he put in a referral so I could finally call the OBGYN clinic to schedule my first prenatal appointment. All of this to say, you can’t just call and schedule an appointment – you have to go through a few annoying steps to get there.
Typically at LRMC they don’t see you for your first appointment until 11 or 12 weeks into your pregnancy. Since this was my first pregnancy, this felt really late to me. Luckily (or unluckily, and painfully) I started getting horrible migraines so they agreed to see me at 8 weeks. My first appointment went well, and it was as amazing and life changing to see the heartbeat of our first child!
LRMC operates as a group, so you don’t necessarily see the same provider each time. This was kind of disappointing at first because we had to keep answering the same questions to different people each appointment, and it felt a little less personal. After awhile though, we started requesting to see the same Nurse Practitioner and that made a huge difference!
A few disappointing things about pregnancy during COVID
Every other appointment in the first and second trimesters were over the phone. This was due to COVID precautions and trying to minimize the amount of people in the hospital. My husband wasn’t allowed into the 20 week anatomy scan, but we were able to Facetime him for the gender reveal part. The Group Prenatal Care program didn’t happen. This is a small group of 8-10 mom/couples that meet and have speakers/classes followed by their appointments. Also, in person classes weren’t held so they were all virtual.
A few disappointing things about being abroad
In the US, you can find out your gender as soon as you do the genetics screening (about 9 weeks). Tricare Overseas doesn’t cover this, so you have to wait until the anatomy scan/20 week ultrasound to find out the gender. Also, so much paperwork!!! Giving birth in Germany, Mac has a German birth certificate and we had to fill out so much paperwork to make sure he was an American citizen, get his social security card, get his international birth certificate, and his passport (because we still have to travel of course).
Overall though, the prenatal care was great! I think having our one Nurse Practictioner that we saw most of the time really made a big difference.
Labor & Delivery
Like most hospitals, you either have to time out your contractions or your water has to break before you are officially accepted into the Labor & Delivery ward. My water broke at around 4:30 am and we headed to the hospital at around 11:30.
The birthing room was pretty large, with a hospital bed, a large TV, a speaker you could connect via bluetooth, a chair that could pull out into a bed(ish), and a bathroom. They had these machines that measured the baby’s heartrate and the length and intensity of my contractions. We were just taking it easy, finishing a show on HBO, etc.
It wasn’t until around 5pm that a midwife came in telling us we needed to really try to move into active labor or they would have to induce me to speed things along. I wish they had put the pressure on us sooner! We really had no idea. We talked through our options and really weren’t excited about the idea of inducing with Pitocin, so after dinner (really bland hospital food), I rolled my hips around on the birthing ball and things moved from zero to a hundred really fast.
I won’t share all of the gorey details here, but in a nutshell I was nauseous, the epidural didn’t work, I could feel the catheter which was equally as painful as the contractions, and then I had to push, and felt the ring of fire… and then Mac was born. Fully expecting to have an epidural, I hadn’t considered the possibility of it not working. So it was horribly painful, but I had the best nurses and husband to get me through it.
After Giving Birth at LRMC
The first few hours were wonderful! We had our golden hour cuddling with Mac, the lights dimmed and the Beatles playing softly in the background. The nurses were so respectful of our time and tried to minimize coming into our room. After a few hours, we had to move to the Mother and Baby Unit, and I was so sad to say goodbye to our L&D Nurses.
Mother & Baby
The Mother & Baby Unit is across the hall, so they wheeled us over there, and I was surprised that the hospital bed was actually so comfortable. One blessing of giving birth during the Pandemic is that we didn’t have to share a room with anyone else. Typically, there are two new moms to a room – the beds are across from each other, with a curtain separating the two families, but they would all share a bathroom. Instead, Timmer was able to use the other bed instead of their pull out chair.
LRMC provides everything you need for postnatal care. Mesh underwear, pads, witch hazel wipes, peri-bottles, ice pack pads, dermoblast numbing spray, etc. This is good to know because you don’t have to worry about buying those Frida Mom post-natal kits and having them ship in time. They give you everything you need + enough to take home. They also have robes and towels and a shower, but no hair dryer so bring one if you need it.
Also, surprisingly the food was pretty delicious. They provide meals for the mother, and I remember being pleasantly surprised. The chocolate chip cookies were amazing!
We had a really great experience in the Mother-Baby Unit at LRMC. Such great nurses who taught us how to bathe a baby, how to swaddle, and were so patient with us. Since we were leaving the hospital on Christmas Eve, they sent us home with extra necessities to make sure we had everything we needed over the holidays.
Overall, it was an exciting but crazy time being pregnant abroad. It was hard being far away from friends and family during such a big moment in our lives, but living abroad gave us the opportunity to travel to other countries while pregnant. We had the best babymoon in Greece! And we were lucky enough to have had a great experience with our prenatal care and giving birth at LRMC.