Eighteen years ago today I was in a six-bed room in the Women’s Hospital in Erlangen, Germany after 36 hours of labor and the birth of my second child, a son. After being in labor for 24 hours with the birth of my first child, not even a year and a half before, everyone said that the second birth would be easier. But I hadn’t believed them and the panic set in ten weeks before the baby was due.
In order to combat the panic, I went to birthing classes at the Women’s Hospital. We got to know the facilities there and meet the midwives. They would ease the anxiety. Giving birth in a well-known University Hospital, we would be in the best hands. The Women’s Hospital had a bad reputation back then because the house was, I think, built in the 1920’s. But medically we were surrounded by the best of the best and the Children’s Clinic was connected by a catacomb.
After being in labor for 24 hours, I decided against my better judgment to go to the hospital. We got to the maternity ward and there was a big sign: Delivery room is closed for renovations. Wonderful. They led me to a two-bed room and told me to make myself comfortable. I asked them if they could do this without me. I had other things to take care of. They said no, I had to stay there.
“Can we get you anything to make you more comfortable?” the nurse asked.
“A schnapps and a cigarette, please,” I said.
“I’m sorry, no smoking.
“How about morphine?”
“Maybe an aspirin?”
The night went on and on. Contractions every five minutes. With each contraction, the baby’s heart rate crashed to 75. There was something wrong. Shift change. New doctors. (In Germany you get whoever is on duty. The Gyns don’t do deliveries.)
But there was an angel by my side. The Midwife’s School is also near the Erlangen Hospital and a new student had been observing the developments the whole time. I hadn’t noticed her before. It was time for her to go home. But this was her first live birth and she was going to stay and help me through this. You know, I don’t remember her name. But she sat by me and rubbed my back with lavender oil and talked to me. (Yes, my husband was there too, but after having his hand badly bitten during the first birth, he was keeping his distance.)
The night went on and on and about 2 am they got tired of watching this. They put me on the drip that makes the body contract. This was comparable with opening up a black hole inside my body. I think I turned green, my head spun around and I believe to this day that I levitated.
The little angel wasn’t going to let me miss the moment of truth. She had told me a few hours ago that many women were so involved in the birthing process, they didn’t see when the baby came out. After what seemed like one continuous, agonizing, half-hour contraction, she grabbed my head and said:
“Look! Here comes the baby!”
And there he was. And there he went. He had been two weeks late, had a hard labor behind him and they just whisked him away. Not a word to me. I didn’t trust these men. I just said to my husband:
“Follow that incubator!”
Today, that little 2700 gram baby is a big, strappin’ guy. Happy 18th Birthday, Jan!