I remember the day we got orders to Germany like it was yesterday. We were so excited, ready to continue our married adventure in Europe. I distinctly remember calling my mom and telling her the exciting news. She was happy for us and I think excited to visit. But there was one thing I was a little nervous about: having a baby in Germany.
I also remember saying to my mom on the phone, “Mom, promise me you’ll come over if I have a baby there.” She did, and then we did- shortly after arriving in Germany we got pregnant. And my mom came to visit. It was hard to go through a pregnancy in a foreign country, without my mom nearby to ask questions of and to tell me what to expect. But she was never more than a phone call away and I ended up learning a lot about myself through those months.
Now, 11 years and three pregnancies later, I’m well aware of the differences in having a baby in Germany and in the United States. One is not better than the other, as I had wonderful experiences for all three births. But they are different, and sometimes differences scare us. Even so, sharing positive experiences can help others when they’re navigating a similar path.
4 Things to Know About Having a Baby in Germany
You may deliver in a German hospital.
At first, I was shocked that I wouldn’t have an American doctor in an American military hospital. But after my first visit, I was glad. There was a nice list of available OBs given out by the clinic on the installation and I narrowed it down to three that delivered at the closest hospital. Then I polled random pregnant women in the commissary one day. Several of them mentioned the one I eventually went with.
There were some distinct differences in the way they practiced medicine, which may throw you for a loop. They rarely wore gloves when taking blood, they weighed you in kilograms, and they didn’t provide gowns to wear during the exams. You simply stripped from the waist down or wore a skirt. But they were so knowledgeable, incredibly compassionate, and ready for anything.
Language barriers were few and far between.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with the doctor or the nurses. I was so wrong. Sure, we had some hiccoughs with certain words, but overall, we had no problems. I really only struggled when trying to understand what everyone was saying when things started moving quickly during delivery. But the nurse, midwife, and doctor all spoke perfect English.
There was no rush to go home.
I gave birth on a Saturday evening and was fully expecting to go home the next day. But there was absolutely no rush. It’s completely normal for German mothers to stay up to a week in the hospital after an uncomplicated birth. Family members and friends come to visit and when they are ready, they go home. Also, there was no pediatrician on Sunday to check the baby out, so we stayed another day. With my C-section, I stayed for four days and had to really push them to let me leave that early.
We had to get our own breakfast.
The big meal in Germany is served midday, and that was brought to our room each day, which was nice. Supper, a lighter meal of sandwich-type fixings and salads, was also delivered to us. But breakfast, breakfast we had to get on our own. We’d roll our babies down to the breakfast room, which was open 24 hours a day, and fix our plate. It was wonderful being able to eat at any point during the day, or night, while we were up nursing our newborns. We could also have visitors in the breakfast room, which is where my son met his little sister for the first time.
Having a baby in Germany was so amazing, I did it twice! But seriously, I felt comfortable and valued. No one rushed any part of my care and I wasn’t forced into anything. Sure, things were different, but I loved every second of it. It also really helped me to know what I wanted when I had my third child back in the states.
Make the most of your overseas duty station, figure out what’s going to work best for you and your pregnancy, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Whether you’re having a baby in Germany, Japan, Korea, or Italy, you can have a safe and successful pregnancy. Good luck!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out What to Expect When You’re Expect a Deployment Baby!
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Photo Credit: Rebecca Alwine