Of all our children’s deliveries, this last one was the fastest. It’s a reason we dubbed it “violently efficient.” Those German doctors were in and out so fast. After we were introduced to our son, Martin stepped away with Nurse Charlotte to make his identification bracelet, which was simply our last name spelled out in tiny beads. By the time they were done and stepping back into the hallway, I was being wheeled out of surgery, which, based on what we captured on video, took less than 35 minutes total.
After a quick photo, I was sent to the recovery room while Martin and the baby went to another room so the baby’s measurements could be taken, and Martin could fill out the birth certificate paperwork. I was given additional pain medication through my IV, and I did my best to relax. It felt good to rest, especially since I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before.
Eventually, Martin arrived with the baby, and promptly showed me the paperwork which revealed our son’s name.
In the past, I technically picked the names for our children. Granted, it was always a mutual decision, but I was always the instigator. I made the suggestions, and Martin either approved or vetoed. I knew Miss C’s name ever since I was a teenager. Lola’s name came to me while I was soaking in a bathtub. Jaz’s name was one I always admired, and Martin liked it, too.
This time, for this child, I decided that Martin was going to handle it.
I didn’t worry too much about this: Martin and I like the same style. Our older kids have classic, timeless names. In fact, all of them were popular in the 1880s, and remained so in the 1900s. And at the time of our children’s births, the names we selected were usually in the Top 200 for that year, although a few have spiked in popularity ever since. I picked names that just felt right, that represented or meant something special, that were familiar, but not crazy popular, names that could work in either country and culture, and that sounded good with our family name.
I can’t really say Martin paid attention to any of that. He either liked a name … or he didn’t.
So, I left the naming to him, and removed all the pressure from myself. Of course, that’s not to say he didn’t receive input. Whenever the conversation came up, the kids definitely had opinions. And I threw out some names that I liked. Since we didn’t know the gender, we talked about names for both boys and girls.
Yet, it wasn’t settled until the time came for Martin to write it on the birth certificate.
So, that’s how I learned my son’s name, in the recovery room, when Martin unfolded the paperwork to reveal it. Now, I don’t share our children’s names here on the blog, and I’m not going to start now. But I will say, Martin couldn’t have picked a better name for our son. Like the others, his first name is traditional, timeless, and familiar. In the United States, it was once very popular, but not anymore. However, here in Germany, it’s one of the Top 5 names. And it fits well with our family name.
But the thing that really got me?
His middle name.
It’s the masculine version of my name. Martin figured that since big brother Jaz gets his middle name from him, this little one could get his middle name from me.
And for that reason, here on this blog, this little one’s nickname will be Junior … the youngest, littlest namesake of mine.
After revealing Junior’s name to me, Martin handed him over to me. He felt as light as a feather despite being dressed in five layers of clothing. I had heard that Germans like to dress their babies in multiple layers, even if it’s super hot and humid. I immediately started peeling them off: a hat, a jumper, socks, a long-sleeve shirt, and a onesie. That’s when I discovered that they don’t clean newborn babies either.
Admittedly, that was a surprise to my American sensibilities. In the past, my babies were washed and scrubbed before they reached me. I knew Germans prefer to go natural in many ways, but I didn’t think they would keep babies so … fresh. Martin noticed my surprise, and admitted he was surprised by it, too.
“But they said this is better for the baby to just keep it all there, so…” Martin trailed off. I nodded, recalling having read that vernix is actually pretty good for newborn skin, a protectant and all that jazz. Nevertheless, I cleaned off the baby’s face before nursing him, which he took to right away. It was as if we’d been doing it for years.
Between all the adrenaline, hormones, pain meds, and lack of sleep, I was deliriously happy.
Every so often, the recovery nurse came by to check on me. After about two hours, she came by one last time, and was happy to see that I could raise up my legs and wiggle my toes on command. Some orderlies appeared, and we were wheeled out of there to my room.
Since this was our last delivery, our last baby, and because I knew I was going to be there for five days, and because it didn’t cost much more than a hotel, we rented the “family room” which was like a mini-apartment with a kitchenette, living room, and private bathroom. It allowed for Martin to stay overnight with me, and provided plenty of room for when our circus visited.
The only thing missing was a rocking chair.
Or air conditioning and an ice machine, but I expected as much.
Anyway, I got wheeled in and the orderlies moved to lift and switch me to the room’s bed, but I was already hoisting myself up with my arms, and dragging my body into place. They helped me get into a comfortable position, and then they were gone.
So Martin and I got settled in the room. Actually, I just reclined in my bed with the baby and watched Martin put our things away for our stay. The nurses came and went, monitoring my vitals and making sure I was doing okay. In the midst of it all, we made phone calls to our family, both American and German. We didn’t post anything to social media, though, since we agreed to wait until the kids got to meet their new sibling once they got out of school. They still didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and we didn’t want word to reach them ahead of time.
Eventually, Martin helped me change out of the surgical gown, and into one of the hospital gowns I purchased for the occasion. Without leaving my bed, I was able to freshen up and look presentable for their arrival.
The kids showed up later that afternoon as planned. All three were wearing the “sibling shirts” I ordered for them, as was our tradition.
Martin captured their arrival on video, of course.
Family tradition, you know.
The kids’ reactions were so sweet. When I announced they had another little brother, the girls promptly burst into tears (good tears), and Jaz gave a cheer. Lola was the first to crawl up on the bed with me and hold her brother, still crying tears of joy.
Then Miss C followed.
Jaz was a little more cautious. He came up close and was absolutely fine checking out his brother without actually touching him. He was much more concerned about the surgery and where they cut me. We assured him that I was really okay and would be walking again soon. (It wasn’t until the next day’s visit, when he saw that I really could stand up and walk again, that he climbed up next to me and held his brother. Sweetest moment ever!)
After awhile, the pain meds started to wear off, and my tolerance level for any noise or activity was rapidly decreasing. As much as I loved having ALL of my monkeys with me, I motioned for Martin to begin the goodbyes while also gently tapping the nurses’ call button. The girls really wanted to take their brother home already, but they understood, and everyone was out the door within minutes.
Thus began our evening learning about the German version of pain management.
Not unexpectedly, it’s different than what we experienced with American medical care. I had done my research, and talked with others. I knew that Germans preferred to take a natural, more holistic approach, but having never experienced it myself, I really didn’t know what to expect.
I guess I just forgotten how painful recovery was after a c-section when your internal organs are bruised, and the burning aftermath of having your skin ripped apart begins to ripen, and the painful tugging sensation of it all being stitched together again sinks in.
By the time the sun set, I was feeling all of it.
For the incision pain, I was given a white pill that I learned was over-the-counter ibuprofen in a slightly lower dosage than what you can buy in the United States. I was given a daily dispenser with the instructions to take one pill four times a day.
It was up to me to keep track of that.
I later developed excruciating shoulder pain caused by trapped gas resulting from the abdominal surgery. I remembered it from the previous surgeries, and pre-emptively requested something for it as soon as we got to our room. I was given a drink that was supposed to help, but it didn’t really have an effect. While the kids were visiting, I felt the familiar burning sensation as it began to creep up, and eventually the shoulder pain had me in tears and contorted over like a hunchback in the bed.
Martin couldn’t stand watching me like that, and went to get a nurse. She came in and took a look at me, and asked if I had the drink already. I did. She suggested we wait a little bit more to let it work. Martin said we waited long enough. She agreed to go look for something stronger … and came back with a suppository, placing it on the bed between Martin and me, turning, and leaving the room.
“That’s for my shoulder pain?” I asked. “Is she coming back to help me?”
Martin shook his head. “I think you’re suppose to … give it to yourself.”
We stared at each other, letting his words just hang there in the air.
I was flabbergasted.
“How am I … I can’t even turn my head to my other shoulder right now. And hello, I was literally cut open a few hours ago, like in half …”
Martin sighed and began moving toward the medical supply cabinet.
I protested. “I haven’t even stood up yet! I have no core strength! How am I suppose to assume a position where this is even possible?!”
He said nothing as he pulled out a pair of latex gloves.
“Aren’t we supposed to wait at least six weeks for this sort of thing!?!” I exclaimed.
I just heard him snap on the gloves.
I don’t remember how we made it work, but I remember thinking how strange it is that a country so modern and advanced can’t offer pain meds … for SHOULDER pain … in any other way.
I mean, SERIOUSLY.
A few hours later, after the medicine wore off, they brought the drink again. I took it, and didn’t ask for anything else, even when the pain got really bad again later on.
So, that’s how it was for the next few days. At some point, another nurse brought me a heated neck pillow filled with rice, but I ended up sending Martin to the nearby American base to raid the medical aisle at the commissary for Gas-X tablets and stronger over-the-counter pain meds. It made such a difference!
Some may say I’m a big wuss who shouldn’t depend on pain meds. Some may say it’s better to tough it out, and get over it. Some may say the difference was all in my head! But all I knew was that after Martin brought in the additional meds, I felt so much better.
At some point that first evening, one of the nurses came by to help me stand and walk. I had been sitting up with the kids, crossing my legs and moving aside to have them sit next to me, so I felt pretty good that my mid-section could support me.
She began to offer suggestions on how to lift myself, but I laughed and mentioned that I’d done this before, and proved it by taking my IV stand and pulling myself upright. I braced my stomach with my hand as I felt my internal organs sink low into my body, and then slowly waddled forward into the bathroom.
It’s amazing what you can do when you trust that your intestines are NOT going to spill all over the floor.
I was able to brush my teeth and wash my face, and it felt amazing. I was also able to show off my awesome American peri bottle, which I smartly packed with me.
Apparently, the Germans don’t have that for new moms, either.
The next morning, a familiar face walked into the room: the doctor who inserted my IV just before the C-section. She was there to draw blood this time … on purpose.
We made friendly chit-chat as she searched my arms for a vein. Martin and I reminded her that my veins are notoriously hard to find. She thought she spotted a good one in my left arm, and tried to attempt it.
It didn’t work … three times.
A vein near the crook of my right arm didn’t work so well, either.
She noticed that I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so she encouraged me to eat something, thinking that would plump my veins a bit, and promised to return a few hours later.
So I did.
And she returned after lunch.
And tried another vein … twice.
The vein near my right wrist didn’t work out so well, too.
Just before sticking my body for the 11th time that day, she offered to go find one of the other doctors who apparently specializes in difficult veins. She returned a few hours later to report he wouldn’t be able to come by, that she was it.
Martin asked if there was a nurse who could do it, and that’s when we learned that in Germany, nurses … at least the ones who work the hospital floor … don’t do needles. And they can only give out over-the-counter medication. Only doctors are authorized to inject people with needles and give out strong medication. It’s another difference from the Americans.
So, she attempted to draw blood again, and fortunately, it only took five more attempts and the vein on my left hand.
She was effusively apologetic the whole time, and seemed genuinely impressed that I remained so friendly and helpful. I just shrugged, looked at the various bruises on my arms, wrists, and hands, and told her there wasn’t much I could do about it…why get mad?
I did point out the irony that last time, she found ALL the blood, but not so this day.
She joked that in all her career, she will never forget me and my super tricky veins.
During our stay, the kids visited a few more times, bringing snacks and homemade brownies for me to enjoy. My coworker Chuck also stopped by, bringing with him two giant baskets of baby items and diapers from everyone in my office.
Most days, Martin and I just tried to stay cool since it got blazing hot and humid that week. (And remember, no air conditioning. So fun!) It was easy to distract ourselves with the baby, though. We slept when we could, and ate when we could, I nursed all the time, and passed inspection whenever the nurses or doctor came around to check on Junior and me.
By the fifth day, we were ready to go, and were so excited when we got the blessing to leave.
Unlike the Americans, I wasn’t obligated to be pushed out via wheelchair, so after Martin packed up all our things, we took the baby and walked on out of there, heading out into the world as parents of four.