Giving Birth Abroad

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

They always talk about nesting— when you have more energy to clean your home before your baby gets here, just to mess it all up again once the baby has arrived... Well that didn’t necessarily happen to me. My sister-in-law was visiting while my husband was away, training back in the states. He would be missing the birth of his first child and we had prepared for this for months. We paid for his sister’s flight out here to help me with labor and to help take care of the baby for the first week.

My nesting turned out to be me just having enough energy
to take my sister-in-law out to dinner for her first schnitzel experience.  For the past few months, since being hospitalized in Dublin, I’ve struggled walking. Braxton-Hicks contractions every few minutes whenever I walked for more than 10 minutes. So showing her around Europe would not be happening. Schnitzel was all she could get until her family came the next week. We had a lot fun walking and taking cute photos by the gothic church steeples and cobble stone roads though. I did have to stop and take a few breathers on the way to dinner, however...

We got home around 9pm and continued our binge-watching of True Blood that we had been doing all week long... my ankles were swollen and the temperature outside was 90 degrees with no AC in the apartment. I was feeling pretty weird. Something I couldn’t explain, but we talked it up to being me hot and tired. I just remember telling her that tomorrow is the day. The day we meet him. I could feel it.

The next morning around 9:30am I went to use the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and felt a bunch of fluid come out of me. No. I didn’t pee. That was a flood. Confused. Did I pee? How could I tell? Then the ever-so slightest of backaches began. Still, confused, I ran out the bathroom to wake up sis. “Uhh I think my water broke!” I shouted. “Really? How can you tell?” She asked, groggily.

“Idk, I was peeing and then more liquid came out?... it was a lot, but I was also peeing...”
“Heh.. I don’t think it broke...”
“Maybe it didn’t...But my back hurts a little too!”
“I don’t think it did.”

That’s when I felt more liquid leave me. I ran to the bathroom to clean it up as I shouted, “it did break, it did!”. I called the Labor & Delivery room at the hospital and they told me to come in. I called my husband (it was about 2am where he was), I texted my friend in Virginia, and I called my parents who were flying from Dublin to Paris. They had just landed in Paris to start the other half of their vacation when they got my text... they ended up taking the first train to Frankfurt. I packed my hospital bag and my boppy and headed out! This was it! The contractions didn’t feel bad at all. This little backache? Pfft. I can totally do the water birth. Bring it! 

Ha. I was wrong.

A neighbor of mine dropped my sister and I off in front of the hospital. I waddled up to the elevator and headed to L&D. The backaches were already getting heavier. I had to breathe through them while waiting for the midwife. Most of it became a blur after this. What I do remember was that the tub I requested to give birth in was “reserved for someone else” who never showed, and yet they placed me in the bathroom tub anyway... on my back. Not so nice when you’re having back labor. They tried to make it nice and calming, though...scented salts, amber lighting using led lights, and calming music that I drowned out due to increase back pain. The floating helped the pain a little bit, but it became more and more excruciating as time went on. And no. No one ever timed my contractions, but they felt like they never ended. 

Waiting to see a nurse or midwife, 5 minutes after arriving to the hospital. That was the room I gave birth in.

An hour in, I demanded the epidural. Here, in our area, they only administer the walking epidural so you still feel most of it, the contractions just aren’t as strong, and they really don’t care for you to use it. They want the births as natural as possible. I almost yelled at them. They gave my sister-in-law paperwork for me to fill out before stabbing my spine...Poor girl didn’t know what was coming.
“Are you on any medications? This includes vitamins”
“No.” I breathed through.
“But it says vitamins!”
“But your prenatals...?”
“Brooke, shut up.” I nearly vomited from the pain.

When I reached 2cm they gave me the epidural. “Arch your back like a cat and be very still!” Was very difficult when you’re going through contractions. I ended up moving ever so slightly and got yelled at, but it worked out in the end. Only my left side though. My right felt every throb of pain.

By then, my childhood friend and her mom showed up. They had just landed in Frankfurt at 8am that morning, great timing! A few months ago I was telling everyone I didn’t want anyone there in the delivery room, but now I’m really glad they never listened because I can’t imagine doing any of this alone. My sister-in-law held the fan and handed me water when i needed it (it was about 85 degrees out and the hospital did not have AC!), my friend held my numb leg up, and her mom was so nice to lend me her hand to squeeze/break off during the pain.

Despite what the nurse had condescendingly told me after receiving an epidural, how the process would be a lot slower— I went from 2cm to 5cm within the hour. Then 5cm-7cm 45 minutes after, then 7cm-9cm 20 minutes. Baby Anthony was ready to come out! The midwife who delivered the baby looked about 19/20, tall, blonde, and I had no clue she’d be the “doctor” telling me to push. I never saw a doctor, actually. And contrary to all the movies I’d ever seen, she never told me to push either. I had to ask if I should, and her response was “if you want...”. They’re really laid back here, I guess. 

By the time he was crowning she told me to push only when I felt a contraction, I told her I couldn’t feel the contractions because all I could feel was the burning pain from his head pushing its way out.

At 4:55pm my baby was born. On his due date. 6lbs 14oz. I couldn’t believe I was a mother. Surprisingly, after the birth I felt no pain— even after a second degree tear. They stitched me up as I held my friend’s hand out of fear of pain, though they numbed me up pretty good so it was all in my head! 

Visiting hours were ending and so I said my goodbyes to my friend and her mom. I couldn’t be more grateful to have them there. They rolled me into the empty maternity room where I was happy to not have a roommate... yet... but that’s a horror story for another time. My sister-in-law helped me settle in and I said goodbye to her as well.

My parents arrived after hours but they let them visit me for a few minutes to see their grandson. They took some photos and then I had to say goodbye. Their visiting hours were pretty horrible. 9am-12pm and then 3pm-6pm. Dumb. 

The nurse came in asking if I wanted any dinner. Usually they don't bring you in the food, you have to get it yourself, however, my leg was still numb so she offered me a tray. The food was lousy. Dry bread, deli meat, and potato salad. Every dinner. And every breakfast. Lunch was the star meal, though I only had it once there.

I only had lunch once, because I was so sleep deprived that getting up and walking down to the cafeteria to feed myself, and eating alone, was just not appealing when I could try to see the inside of my eyelids instead. My roommate's husband saw my name on a tray in the cafeteria and brought it in for me though, which was nice. A lady would come in every morning and hand you a lunch menu you would have to choose from that list. There was a lot.

The hospital had no nursery, so my son stayed by my side for three days. Sleep deprived for those three days, no one warned me my son would be spitting up all night long, choking, and how it was completely normal. I freaked out and didnt sleep in fear he’d choke. On top of that, no one helped me breastfeed for two days, either. I cried and begged for some advice on how to feed him at night. Desperate for sleep, and a baby’s poor latch, he was crying all night in his bassinet, and nursing from 2am-5am. The nurses refused me to give him a bottle, they wanted me to keep trying to breastfeed. They refused me their pumps. They wanted me to keep trying to breastfeed. My baby was starving and there was nothing I could do. The first night he was fine. Quiet and sleeping soundly. The next two nights he’d cry until he was nursing or in my arms for hours. I couldn’t feed him enough and I was at my wits-end.  Not even their swaddles helped him. The swaddles I would refused because it was 90+ degrees outside and the hospital had no AC so he’d overheat and cry again. It also didn’t help that there was horrible construction right outside our window, keeping him awake when he did try to nap. I even went against my beliefs and bed-shared with him the last night just to try to get some shut eye. It worked... until my roommate would find ways of waking us both up.

I had to deal with all of this, and a nightmare of a roommate, all alone. I couldn’t tell if I had baby blues or I was just so frustrated with all of the stress as a new parent and how little help the nurses were. I didn’t see a doctor until my last morning there. I tried to put on a happy face so I could leave ASAP... but then I looked down at the bassinet and saw blood under my son’s cheek. He had coughed up blood... 

I began to cry and called in a nurse. She told me it was from my milk and walked away. Not something to do to a new mom who knew zilch about breastfeeding. Then, right before seeing the hospital’s pediatrician, there was a clot of blood where the other blood stain was. This was not my milk, but they still told me it was. I couldn’t believe it. I took a picture of it for later when I could see an American pediatrician, who explained to me that sometimes babies still have stuff in their lungs they’re getting out. No one ever talks about that. 

The german doctors gave us the green light to leave and I prayed there’d be nothing else stopping us from leaving. My parents and friend came to pick us up after we took some newborn photos of him at the hospital. I was finally going home. 

The night we got home I immediately started pumping. I decided I’d pump exclusively from now on since having cracked, sore, and bleeding nipples was not bonding time with a baby who couldn’t latch well enough. Any way to feed him, I’d find it. Eventually, though, we got the hang of latching and I rarely pump now! 

These last two months have been the most difficult days of my entire life, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Having my husband back home has brought back my sanity and after 19 days of sleep deprivation, I definitely needed a savior. My husband may have missed the first 19 days of our son’s life, but I’m so glad he didn’t miss the 2 months that we had debated on. 

8 weeks postpartum update: I’m just 7lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I know I shouldn’t focus on things like that but I do. Each day I try to wear another piece of clothing I couldn’t fit into while pregnant. It’s a good day when I can fit into my beautiful jumpsuits again... so far, I can’t.

My stitches are gone, but there’s still some healing that needs to be done. My doctor told me the muscles I’ve used have been damaged from labor and will take about a year to fully heal (ugh). 

Other than that, I’m spending each day loving my baby boy. We tummy time, dance, read stories, play with new toys that rattle and jingle, and just giggle whenever his chin gets tickled! He’s growing so fast and I’m so excited to see who he’ll be in the future. Just don’t grow up too fast, kiddo, we’ve got lots of stuff to do!

Hello 8 Months *A Pregnancy Update*

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Whew! This 3rd trimester has been BUSY and very exhausting, mentally & physically.

First back in December, we learned my husband would not be here for the birth of our child.  I had to mentally prepare for that, and I was ready for the adjustment, but somewhere along the way we found out his class had been cancelled and he would be here.  We were so thrilled about it! I made him go with me on one of the hospital tours I booked before knowing he would stay, took him to a Mommy & Daddy class, an OB class, planned out the birthing experience with him, even planned out a babymoon vacation to Ireland since we had more time to prepare for our baby boy... then just two weeks ago we found out his class had been un-cancelled and he'd be leaving in 30 days. Stress ensues.  He's the only one with the drivers license in Germany so now I have to take the class and pass before he leaves in a few days (I was hoping to avoid driving while pregnant so that I wouldn't add any stress on the pregnancy...).  On top of that, we now have a very short time to get the nursery all built, stocked, and ready to go since I'll be the only one here for 2 months and three weeks after the baby is born. It's all very expensive when you have to buy everything all at once, through Amazon, and wait 2 weeks for it to all arrive no matter how fast of shipping you choose. We are so very thankful we have such supportive friends and family back home though.  Mostly, all we need now are diapers, wipes, baby toiletries, a diaper caddy for the changing station, organizational items, some more summer onesies, fans, (it gets HOT in July!), and small stuff like that.

We had some cultural mishaps getting our baby boy's crib together.  Did you know the standard crib sizes are completely different in the UK/Europe vs. America? Yes. So shipping through American Amazon isn't always great when you're having stuff shipped overseas.  There are size and weight limits, so depending on what you order, Amazon won't ship to you.  I know this because I tried ordering a travel system stroller through them and got all the way to the "pay" option and was rejected due to "weird sizing" the stroller was shipped as. So we were recommended by some friends to go to the German IKEA here and pick out a crib. Okay, cool. Done. Forgot to buy the crib mattress *Smh*.  I thought I could order the mattress online... Nope! Because I was ordering through American sites, they only had American standard cribs. Thought maybe I could order through a German site, realized it'd be harder to obtain than ordering through the American sites. ON TOP OF THAT, Our crib size wasn't a standard European IKEA crib size... it was UK, thus making it a LITTLE MORE DIFFICULT in finding the right size for a mattress and fitted sheets. Luckily we found a crib and some sheets at a local baby store by IKEA and bought them immediately, even though none of it matches his nursery theme. Just need to find something to make the mattress a little more waterproof in case of accidents. At least we have a beautiful bassinet he can sleep in for a few months until we can get it all sorted out, but let that be a lesson to all you new pregnant folks overseas!

While we were stressing about getting his room situated. the house unpacked and all cleaned up--we have just one more box to unpack, a mystery box? I'm 95% sure I already unpacked the box, then packed it up again to put into storage but pregnancy brain here doesn't remember, now we have to go through it again-- trying to get a family member to fly out to stay with me for a little while, we took a vacation to Ireland! Dublin to be exact.  The plan was to see Endgame, sight-see all of Dublin, eat my way through cafes, check out Winterfell up north, see the cliffs, GO TO CORK COUNTY AND SEE THE LAST CASTLE MY LINEAGE HAS UP... pretty much everything southern Ireland had to offer.  Alas, I did not realize how pregnant I had become and couldn't handle more than an hour without a pee break, so we had to scratch the long bus trips outside of Dublin off our list until baby is born. The city was so beautiful though, such a multicultural tourist spot! More on that in another post. On our last night in Dublin, I wounded up very sick.  I had just been telling my husband how thirsty I was-- pretty much all week, but it was very prominent the last day, and I just couldn't manage to quench my thirst, it caused my stomach to twist and turn and I decided to skip out on dinner that night.  Later when we got back to the hotel, I ended up vomiting for about 6 hours on and off and the next morning, a few hours before our flight, I was admitted to one of Dublin's finest maternity hospitals due to severe dehydration.  I guess walking around 4-8 miles a day and only having a few glasses of water here and there doesn't do the trick when you're pregnant. Another lesson to be learned!  I was stuck there for 36 hours and had to have 3 IVs of fluid until my vitals finally settle back to normal. The baby was totally fine, however, he was just as active then as he is now. I think he's getting restless and wants out!

I'm 32 weeks pregnant today and my baby is so silly already. All of our family members are shocked to see how active he is, but the doctors ensure me that it's what they love to hear.  If only they could see JUST how active he truly is.  He enjoys 80's hairbands like Motley Cru and Metallica, he prefers the right side over the left, HATES anything on my stomach, and loves pushing his wittle booty out as far as he can.  We can't wait to meet this little guy. Everyone says he's gong to be a handful but I pray that's not the case! Hahaha.

I think that's all I have to update on this pregnancy. In just one month he'll be saying hello to all of you and thanking you all for the wonderful toys and stylish clothes, and books he'll get to read!  We are truly blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives, helping us out as much as possible and trying to make this pregnancy a little easier on us.  I can't believe how loved he is already, not only by us, but by you too! Thank you for sharing this journey with us <3


If you'd like to send us a "baby shower" gift I'll leave our registry links down below, it's a bit messy, I add items to remind myself to buy them later on, so don't feel obligated to buy any of it at all!  You can never go wrong with diapers! My current curiosity is the Pampers Swaddlers diaper, but I'm open to try any diaper recommendations :)

Amazon Baby Registry

Target Baby Registry

It's A Boy!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Long time no see! Erm... talk? Type? Oh well.. I't s been a long time!! I've been quite MIA since finding out about our big move, not because the move was incredibly stressful (which is was!) but because I found out some crazy news on November 3rd... I'm pregnant! It's taken two years and the last time I had seen my doctor (Oct 3rd) she told me I needed to start seeing a fertility doctor.  Once my body heard those words I guess it kicked into overdrive and figured out what it needed to do on it's own because here I am now, 20 weeks pregnant and so incredibly shocked still.

It's a whole new life to get used to.  Nothing will ever be like it was, and I'm learning to be okay with that.  There are spurts of excitement to see our precious baby boy, but there are spurts of horror thinking about how I'll have to take care of another human being for 18+ years when I can hardly take care of myself, and there are spurts of depression I never thought I'd have during pregnancy - Will I ever go back to my normal body again? Will I be a good mom? Are we even ready for this child? And it's terrifying, but talking to other women who have gone through it just opens my eyes to the fact that so many of us go through these emotions all through pregnancy and barely ever talk about it. There's so much I've learned about myself if the past 20 weeks.

For example, some weird facts about pregnancy I've never heard anyone talk about until I was just 6 weeks along:  Your morning sickness can just be from the lack of food in your stomach. "Snack, snack, snack." was the advice I got a lot. While it added a few extra pounds over my pregnancy weight, I never threw up because of it! & The new problem I have now... Sinus congestion. Ugh. I've been put on antibiotics just to see if it's an infection, but I'm learning that I'm just going to have to put up with this for the next six months, and I can barely breathe. Seriously I'm constantly sneezing, coughing, and just blowing my nose wayyyy too much.  I never knew this was a symptom until reading What to Expect When Expecting app.

There's so much excitement going on though, especially after finding out the gender .  I've been planning out the registry with ungodly expensive items (Sorry! I don't know what I'm doing- I just hear these are the best!), thinking about how to decorate his nursery and learning how to be a mom... it's all so crazy but also so exciting.  One thing I am sad about is that we probably won't be traveling as much as we thought we would moving here....and the fact that I'll be giving birth by myself -but that's another story for another time, I guess.

How far along are you?: 20 weeks

Maternity clothes?: I'm searching, but definitely can't find any I like so far or that's budget-friendly :( just happy my yoga pants still fit me! (And that the hair tie hack works on my jeans haha)

Stretch Marks?: None yet! Hoping it stays that way!

Sleep?: Barely any. I get up almost every hour to pee or blow my nose. I've got purple all under my eyes :(

Movement?: Lots! Mostly at night but he's starting to be active during breakfast hours too lol

Food Cravings?: Java Chip Frapps!! I've had a coffee aversion for so long, I'm shocked that I'm craving it again.  And strawberries have been a go to for a few months!

Food aversion?: Still cooked spinach and the thought of garlic.

Gender: Boy!

Symptoms: Swelling, dear God the swelling! I walk about 4-10 miles a day... Mostly on the weekends unless I need to make a grocery trip sooner, but my legs haven't gotten used to any of the walking I've done this month and they swell so quickly.  Not terrible swelling (the plane ride was TERRIBLE) but it's definitely puffy

Now that I have more time on my hands again, expect to see an update on our living real soon! Until then, look at our lovely picture of our son sprawled out, livin the good life.  He's going to be a handful.

Latest Instagrams

© Sand & Cities. Design by FCD.