One Born Every Minute
My Birthing Stories - in Three Different Countries
In honor of a new Lifetime Television unscripted TV show, "One Born Every Minute", which will follow a maternity ward team premiering in February, I would like to share my three very different birthing experiences. Two of my youngest children were born in Europe, the first one in Finland and second one in Germany. Our third child was born in the state of New York.
PRE-PREGNANCY AT THE MILITARY CLINIC
When I was pregnant with our first child, I wasn't really prepared well at all. I had an American doctor at the US Army's military health clinic in Schweinfurt, Germany, and I read Fit Pregnancy for pregnancy tips and the best tips I got were "birthing a baby isn't like in the movies" and "take epidural", and those were as helpful as the tips "eat a strawberry when you crave sweets" to prevent too much weigh gain (yeah right, when I craved for sweets I just ate the entire jar of Nutella).
When I was 6 months pregnant my husband got deployed and I packed my big belly and our dog in a car and drove to Northern Germany to take a cruise boat to Finland cross the Baltic Sea. I'm from Finland, so I wanted to have family around me. I enrolled myself to a birthing class alone, and the truth of birthing babies was brought to me with a very real video on the first class. It was Finland, and there was no sugar coating, nor talk about a "beautiful experience" and the image of a woman in labor yelling "take it out now" is still in my head to this day. I was more scared than ever in my life, both for my husband being in Kosovo war, but mainly about having to squeeze a baby out of me.
HAVING A BABY IN FINLAND
Thanks for US Army, they sent my husband to be with me when it was time to have our baby. Thanks for my daughter, she was two weeks late, so we got two weeks to prepare for the birth together. And then one day it started, and after suffering the pain what I thought was the worst in my life for about 6 hours, we left for the hospital. They sent me back home and asked to come back if the pain was so bad that I couldn't take it anymore. 24 hours more of the pain we left for the hospital again. This time I stayed over night, walked stairs up and down hoping the labor would really get started. Nope.
We went back home, totally exhausted and totally discouraged. And still in very much in pain. Now I know that if this had been in the US, I would have probably given some help to get the labor going faster, but it was Finland, and such is not in the norm. It was the fourth day of pain, and even my husband was tired and fell asleep once we got home.
I lost the track of time, and I was sitting on a chair in the bathroom, taking a hot shower until the hot water ran out. I think I was just focusing on the pain and all I can remember was my mom calling (and waking up my husband) to ask if it was time to go yet. I was sitting in the dark bathroom in some kind of trance I think, and when my husband saw me - he knew it was time to go. But by that time my labor was already so far ahead that it was such a struggle for me to get dressed. It was quite comical - my parents and my husband were all trying to help me, and all I can remember how much my dad and my husband were suffering from my obvious pain and the fact they they were trying to help my clothes on together.
Once we got to the hospital, my daughter was born in less than two hours later, and what I had thought was going to be the worst part, in deed was a beautiful experience. Thank God it was Finland - and I was given a glass of champagne at the maternity ward right after nursing my baby for the first time. We shared what was called a "family room" at the hospital the next few days, even my husband had his own bed there, and we were both served three meals a day in bed, and it was very easy to get into this parenting thing together. Oh, and the best part - the entire birthing including the four day stay at the hospitals with meals for two and the midwife in the delivery cost us less than 300 dollars, thanks to great public health care system. Now only if my labor had been a day, or two, shorter.
NATURAL BIRTH IN GERMANY
21 months later I was ready to have our second child. We still lived in Germany, and this time no deployments and I wanted to be more prepared. I got a German doctor, I figured I could improve my German while at it. I also read everything about the Bradley method and like all the local moms, I was very much into natural child birth and chose a hospital where I could even have a water birth.
My water broke in a bathtub at home and it was quite different than on the first time. We headed to the hospital only to hear that the maternity ward was super busy, overbooked and under manned. It was 16th of December and they couldn't even call any backups - everyone was in the hospital Christmas party. With the help of one doctor (whom I never saw) and two midwives that small clinic in the Main river valley witnessed the births of 32 babies that evening. Thank God my husband had seen a baby to be born once before, and he had read a few pages of the Bradley book, so he was all prepared to deliver our baby.
I was in the bathtub most of my labor. The nurse brought in some aromatherapeutic candles to ease the pain and played Enya's calming music. It was just my husband and I, and I think the candles were the only light in the room. It would have been almost romantic, you know, only if there was no pain involved. The midwife popped in to the room a few times, and the only thing I can remember of her that her sweat smelled so bad that I started feeling ill. She didn't speak good English, and at that stage my understanding of her Northern Bavarian German was non existent, and she was saying "breath in" every time she was supposed to say "breath out" and wise versa. I think I wanted to kill her. I think she wanted to kill me too.
Because the baby was so big they decided to move me from the tub for an actual delivery room. The midwife gave me a small towel, which pretty much covered my belly and that's it, and asked me to walk to the delivery room. My face, and especially my husband's face was in misbelief, and finally I was handed a gown. You are having a baby for Pete's sake, who cares if you walk naked in the hospital corridor in a foreign hospital in the winter, right? After getting settled in the delivery room we were left alone again. I think the midwife delivered a few babies before heading back in. I don't know if my daughter really got stuck, or if I was just afraid that my husband really had to deliver our baby, but when she finally was born, she came out all blue and screaming from the top of her lungs and with a bump in her head because she had gotten stuck. They didn't wash her at the delivery room, neither the entire day in the hospital. They said that it's better for babies skin not to wash them the first few days. It couldn't have all been any more natural.
"GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL"-BIRTH IN NEW YORK
Only 13 months later I was in labor again. This time in upstate New York. There is quite nothing like having three babies within three years in three different countries. This time I was pretty much prepared for anything, but after talking to all of my new American friends and hearing all about labors being induced before due date, I was ready for an easy birthing, the American way. The third one was the easiest for sure, thanks to epidural that I knew to ask immediately when walking in, but also thanks to my son who was in such a hurry to get out that he practically pushed himself out. The words "you can push if you want, but this baby might come out all by himself" were music to my ears.
But while the maternity ward experience in the US was more pleasant than in Europe in the pain management issue, I missed the more modern maternity wards with more natural mindsets of Europe, and I especially missed my post-baby champagne and cursed the nurse who washed my baby with soap before letting me nurse him. I felt like something was stolen from me for life.
The rules they had at the hospital were driving me crazy and the hospital experience in the US was a nightmare and I couldn't wait to get home. It was very difficult to me to be told things completely opposite way as what I had been told in Europe, and I did not appreciate how some of my more natural decisions were criticized. Overall I can't believe how different all of my birthing experienced have been, all of them having good and bad points.
Tune in to the second season of the unscripted series "One Born Every Minute." Premieres Tuesday, November 29 at 10 pm et/pt on Lifetime.