One of the most challenging factors in my family’s relocation from Germany to San Diego this year has been doing all of this during the first trimester of a pregnancy. For anyone who has close experience with this 3-month (often longer) phase, it can make life extra challenging. As the newly pregnant woman, you are often depleted of energy, hit with exhaustion as suddenly as being run over by a Mack truck and tortured by the urge to puke at various, unexpected moments during the day.
While this is not my first pregnancy and is in fact my third, I often feel like a newbie at this as I learn how to navigate or re-navigate health care and motherhood here in America. My first two pregnancies and births took place in Germany, experiences which I was extremely satisfied with. The tendency towards natural and homeopathic care was in line with my own preferences. How much of these positive experiences could I replicate during my third journey into motherhood in the New World?
The first difference which occurred to me was when I needed to find a doctor in order to confirm why I was “late” and the reason for the sudden aversion to seafood and need to sleep an extra 10 hours a day. I realized that I had to work backwards. Although I had collected a few OB/GYN names recommended by my neighborhood dentist, I needed to decide now where I wanted to give birth. In America, unlike in Germany, your prenatal care provider delivers your baby and is affiliated with certain medical facilities. In Aalen, there weren’t a whole lot of options as to where to give birth. It was either the local hospital or at home. I never explored the latter option, but I believe that it was possible. Here, I needed to decide whether or not I wanted to give birth at a hospital, which one, or a birth center or at home. Again, I eliminated the 3rd option as it’s, for various reasons, unattractive to me. I was also uncertain of a birth center, only because I don’t like to be far from a hospital in the event that the baby or I might need emergency care. This was a dilemma because I wanted a midwife-led birth, just as I had had the first two times in Germany.
Luckily, since I had been listening to an American podcast show, Pregtastic, which is coincidentally based in San Diego, I vaguely recalled that there was a hospital in this city which had a birthing center within a hospital – the perfect solution. Thanks to Google, I found UCSD Hillcrest. Because of a placenta issue I had with one of my deliveries, I’m not able to give birth in their birth center, but I’m going to give birth in their Labor and Delivery department, and since I’m under the care of the UCSD midwives, the birth will be midwife-led with a doctor present if needed. Sound familiar? It should because this is basically what happens in Germany.
At my first prenatal visit, there was one obvious thing missing – even though I had it in my bag the whole time: der Mutterpass! This handy and practical document records all of your stats from every prenatal exam (blood pressure, iron levels if tested, weight, etc.). It also has results from any blood work done, whether or not your Rh positive, blood type. The idea is that you could walk into any hospital in Germany if you had to and get the appropriate care so long as you have that book with you. As an expecting mother, you are instructed to carry it with you at all times. While at my new midwife practice, I got a sheet of paper with a lot of this information on it, the fundamental difference is that this information is based at your hospital or with your practice. The midwife I saw offered to help me record my third pregnancy statistics in my Mutterpass so I can at least have one comprehensive picture of my pregnancies.
As the next five months progress, I’ll be sharing more about my DE vs. US experiences in pregnancy and childbirth. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go take a nap while I still can!