Archive for October 2009
She makes a cute bear-mouse, don’t you think? I’m beyond thrilled to have a little girl to play dress-up with every Halloween.
I love Halloween, and this season in general. While the end of summer is always a little sad, the excitement of Autumn comes every year:
The food of Autumn, the colors, the crisp air. Also the start of classes, the start of sports season, the start of new television – take your pick. The start of pre-Christmas time excitement (though I’m annoyed as everyone else to see Christmas trees in stores in September). Oh! And I think Fall clothing is also the most fun. It’s cold enough for boots and scarves but you aren’t tired of them yet, and you don’t have to cover them up with an even bigger coat.
Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite thing about this time of year?
This week we made the trek to the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt to submit the paperwork to get little A’s USA citizenship and passport. We, the baby and both parents, had to be present, along with a bunch of forms. When I called to schedule our appointment, the next opening was 2 weeks out, and they sent us a checklist of documents to have ready:
- Application for Consular Report of Birth
- Child’s German Birth Certificate
- Parents’ passports
- Marriage certificate, if applicable
- Divorce decree/Death certificate, if applicable
- If the child’s father is a U.S. citizen who is not listed on the birth certificate, an affidavit of parentage form, if applicable
- Evidence documents that establish the US parent’s physical presence in the U.S. before the child’s birth (school transcripts, wage statements, bills, etc…)
- Cash or credit card, $170 USD
- Passport application
- Two identical passport photographs
- A self-addressed, German Registered Mail envelope with €3.60 in stamps
- Social security card application
Rounding up all the documentation we needed was straightforward, though it did take a few trips at the post office to get the prepaid registered mailing envelope with the correct labels and postage. Getting the passport photo was the hardest part, but that was mostly because we first tried to do it ourselves. We didn’t try this to save money but rather to save a trip with baby to a photographer. Who knew getting a clear shot of a newborn, with both ears showing, against a white background with no shadows could take so much effort. We ended up at the photo shop finally, with I’d wager, one of the least polite people we’ve met since we moved here. Grunting, scowling, impatient, sarcastic… wow. He did get the job done though, so we were relieved anyway.
So on Wednesday morning we got up extra early and headed to Frankfurt. Traveling with the baby is still a daunting prospect for us, so we were not exactly thrilled by the idea of a 2.5 hr drive x2, followed by who knows what, once we arrived.
The time at the consulate turned out fine. After we got through security, we received a ticket that was almost immediately called. Our paperwork was complete so we only had to pay, and then to wait again to see an officer. He looked at the baby, reviewed the forms again and then got us both to sign in front of him. We stopped by the Federal benefits desk to drop off the social security number application, and then headed home again.
One less to-do!
Labor, the hospital, and coming home. A very physical and emotional roller coaster but not all in the ways I expected.
Part I: The Labor
Very few women aren’t worried about this and I was no different. Not exactly scared but definitely concerned.
I didn’t actually have many expectations going in and zero experience, but there are certain things you hear over and over about labor so you assume they likely to happen. The first baby usually means several hours/days of labor at the hospital. First time parents usually go to the hospital too early. It will be more graphical than the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. And so on.
I wanted a natural birth, even though everyone told me “that’s what they all say”, and that I’d be begging for drugs, worst pain of your life, etc, etc… I had read a book called Your Best Birth, and even though it focused on births in USA, and definitely leaned toward natural choices, it made sense to me. I wanted to know how it felt to give birth, if it was manageable and safe for the baby and myself. Beyond that, things would go as they would go.
How it happened for us.
It was 5 days past the due date before we saw any action. And after the EDD, we had to see the doctor every 2 days. Every visit the “you’re still here?” look intensified.
A friend wanted the baby on the due date, which is also her daughter’s birthday. D had wanted the baby for his birthday. Everyone else thought a 09-09-09 birthday would be nice.
On the morning of the 9th, I finally (another long story) got to take the written test for my German driver’s license . After, we drove to Aachen to exchange my FL license for the German one. Then D dropped me off at home and went to work. I was feeling sore since I’d overdone it the day before with the bright idea to go for a LONG walk, in flip flops. So the rest of day’s agenda involved the couch followed by more couch.
Maybe it’s time.
Just after lunch I started noticing twingy ache which came back again. I opened a txt file, since I using my laptop, and started marking the time, 14:33, 15:12, etc…After a few hours I googled contractions 30+ minutes apart. Everything I read said that contractions this far apart could be false labor and not worth tracking, so I stopped noting the time.
But the contractions didn’t stop and by the time D got home from work they were about 15-20 minutes apart. I didn’t have much appetite at dinner (for maybe the first time in 9 months now that I think back) but I was still not convinced it was the real thing until they were less than 10 minutes apart later that night.
Yep, it’s time.
At 1:30 a.m. we left on foot since the hospital is a 10 minute walk from our apartment. We called our midwife before we left, and I had two contractions on the way. As we walked across the open plaza, we crossed a man going in the opposite direction and I almost laughed, realizing how we probably looked. At the hospital they put us on the CTG machine which recorded a consistent pattern of peaks, yes, we were having strong regular contractions.
The midwife arrived a few minutes later and we moved into one of the three birthing rooms, where she checked me; we were already 7 cms dilated.
Somewhere between 2 and 7 a.m.
I didn’t keep track of the time really, but it went by fast. Just 3 cm to go, so we continued the same way: during each wave D would massage my lower back (awesome) while I repositioned myself to find the most comfortable angle, then a rest period, and repeat.
At some point our midwife checked again and we decided to manually break my water. After that, the hope was that things would progress faster but as they didn’t, they started me on a small dosage of pitocin. For those who don’t know, pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions. The CTG in the birth room was attached to me again to monitor the baby’s heartbeat for any signs of distress.
D and I were both interested in the CTG (the engineers in us I guess), and questioning why this unit’s results seemed different than the one monitoring us earlier. A part of me also enjoyed seeing the peak of the contractions digitally quantified by the sensors, weird?
At two different times we heard women in the other birth rooms screaming. Egh.
7 to 9 a.m.
So now the contractions were coming hard again due to the pitocin. We were in the pushing phase of labor, though I’m sure there is a more technical term for it. In theory I hadn’t wanted the pitocin, as epidurals usually follow, but when you are actually in the middle of labor, you have to trust your body AND your midwife and doctor. D told me after the fact that they dialed the pitocin up at one point and then down again but I didn’t notice.
It was definitely the hardest part for me, though I wouldn’t say it was an unmanageable pain. For me, it was intense but not a bone-crushing pain. It’s more the repetition that starts to wear you down. D was great from this point until the end when things were definitely tougher physically and mentally.
One last little bit
Okay, we’re almost there. D, the midwife, and the doctor are all coaching me through the last part. We would do one contraction on my right side, then one laying back, then one lying on my left side, pushing hard each time. We had made progress but the last little bit was stalling for some reason. My physical strength was starting to wane and I really did not enjoy changing sides between contractions.
The doctor tried a few more things but in what felt like an instant, she had brought in a vacuum to get what she called “the last few centimeters”, but what was probably more than that. After the help there, we had her, and she was lying on my stomach in two pushes.
Wow! She didn’t cry but her eyes were open and alert. I was still in a bit of a daze at first. D cut the cord. She was lying on my belly, not my chest, because our sweet daughter happened to have a short umbilical cord. The midwife explained that this was the reason for the stalling at the end – she was at then end of her cord. The next few minutes were joyful and calm, and everyone exuded relief, baby included.
Giving birth is an amazing process, and, I think, very individual. I went in with the idea that every birth is different and we’d just do our best, and this is still how I feel about it on the other side.
What surprised me / Things I hadn’t read about this whole labor business
Labor is not like a fire drill. At least for the first baby, you will probably have plenty of time to pack your hospital bag. Though in my case I wish I had packed for a week instead of 3 days, more on that later.
Thirsty yes, hungry no. Not even a little. Some people talk about being starving during labor but this was absolutely false for me. After, yes, but not during.
Your people are priceless. D, the midwife, and even the doctor. I absolutely needed that physical and mental support and am beyond thankful for it.
Childbirth can be pain med optional. We were very lucky to have minor complications, but I was surprised at how relatively pain free I felt, just minutes after the birth. The doctor did administer some local anesthetic to take care of some stitches I needed, but less than an hour after the birth I was gingerly walking around, changing my clothes and looking for something to eat in the bags we had packed. That’s it. Not even a Tylenol for the whole week we were in the hospital.
Lastly, enjoy the first 2 days when the baby sleeps almost all day because it doesn’t last!
About a month ago I wrote about how complicated it could be to find the right stroller. And about how we had bought a travel stroller and infant carrier combo to start out but we still needed an everyday stroller. I also mentioned I was worried about how this stroller would handle the cobblestone in some parts of our neighborhood.
Turns out that the
Quinny Zapp/Maxi-Cosi carrier
This cobblestone covers a small bridge that we must cross to leave our apartment’s courtyard, and it is disturbingly rocky with the Quinny Zapp set-up. To be fair, most strollers would find this stretch challenging.
So within two days of our first outing, we bought the stroller below, a Teutonia, which is a well known German stroller company:
Although still bumpy crossing the bridge, with this stroller we can go for a walk without worry. Besides the bigger wheels, the removable bassinet, which though we thought we didn’t need, has proven to be quite useful.
Our new addition is 24 days old today.
I’m not sure I have the words, and I know I don’t have the time now, to describe how much has changed and yet not changed so far. It’s been tough and yet great at the same time. And yes, we are sleep deprived to varying degrees depending on how the night before went. Free time in the last 24 days has been vastly reduced, and eating meals together or on-time has been a random occurrence at best. And yet, if the little one has been sleeping for 4 hours we both get to missing her.
As I contemplate the last month, it seems especially true that the tough moments in life can really show the mettle of yourself and your relationships. And also that the little things in life are sometimes the most dear. When I think of day we left the hospital, D carrying our baby girl in her carrier in one hand, and the suitcase in the other, it just about brings tears to my eyes.
Note: Maybe last week I would have tears, so I realize there’s a good chance I’m still hormotional now.