This post is part two of “midwives and home births in germany.” You can read part one here.
Midwives in Germany—home birth plans or not—come to your home for your appointments. I had read about the concept when doing research for a set of Young Germany articles about parenting in Germany, but remain astounded and jubilant at the luxury and convenience of it all to this day. While the first midwife we had met had had trouble finding our place, the second midwife showed up outside of my trailer door ten minutes before I had been expecting her. It wasn’t her first time at a Wagenplatz either—she’d come directly from an appointment with a pregnant woman at the Wagenplatz down the road. I figured that this could only work in my favor. I had telephoned with a handful of midwives before finding one who did home births and wasn’t already booked, and I didn’t want one of my few chances of having the baby at home shattered by misconceptions about and biases against Wagenplatz life.
This woman was older and not immediately overbearingly friendly. Her distanced behavior made me nervous: was she an unfriendly person or was this just Deutsche Distanz*? We sat at my table, and I poured her a mug of fresh peppermint tea while she flipped through my Mutterpass.** She asked me why I was interested in a home birth, and I explained my reasoning as best I could. (Reasoning that I explain here.)
She seemed satisfied with my answer and then looked around my trailer. “A home birth is one thing, but I don’t know.” She trailed off. “Is there running water here?” I pointed out the window at the house and told her we had running water inside. “And a bathroom?” Yes there is, I told her, and we’ve got a shower and a tub in the house as well. She considered this, still looking around. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had turned down another Wagenplatz mother the previous year because she hadn’t felt comfortable attempting a home birth in a Bauwagen. “Well, why not. It’s not like no one’s done it before.” YES! Yes yes yes!
Nervous about being able to find anyone at all willing to attempt a home birth, I forgot to ask her a lot of the questions that have since occurred to me. Specific questions about her philosophy and practice, about her history, about her experience. But reading between the lines, I thought we would be a good match, and a few weeks ago I talked to an aquaitance who had the same midwife attend her own recent birth. Now I know that we are a good match. Apparently she has a reputation as being a women who lets birth take its course without much intervention. Apparently she is the type of woman who, when she says it’s time for medical intervention, you can really believe. Perfect.
At the end of an hour, we wrapped up the conversation, and she asked for my insurance card and a signature. (Not only do midwives in Germany come to your home, but regular old state insurance pays for them to do so! Ba-da-bing! Though for the Beleghebamme/home birth servies we’ll need to pay an extra 250 euro.) “So why don’t you sleep on it, and then if you decide you want to work with me, give me a call and we’ll make an appointment for four weeks after your next ultrasound (my next ultra sound being the one that I mention here).” I walked her out of the trailer feeling relieved at having found a midwife willing to try delivering a baby in a Bauwagen with no running water and a wood stove for heat. When I called her to schedule our appointment the distance between us had dissolved and in a friendly tone we hashed out the date of our next meeting.
Do any of you have experience with midwives? How did the process of finding and working with one go for you?
*Deutsche Distanz is the term for the German habit of not “thawing” to new people until they have had time to establish an actual rapport.
**The Mutterpass (Mother pass) is a passport-sized book that your doctor issues you at your second prenatal appointment. In it all your pregnancy information, such as weight, fetal movement, and blood type, is recorded. This is meant to facilitate smooth transitions between doctors and midwives—as you are like to have at least one regular OB/GYN, a midwife, and whoever happens to be on duty when you go into labor—and to help any paramedics in case of an emergency while are you pregnant. For anyone in Germany looking to make sense of their Mutterpass, I recommend taking a look at this website (in German).
***Photo, as usual, copyright Click Clack Gorilla. That’s 23 weeks of Peanut in there, folks. And look, a little glimpse into what my wagon looks like when I’m not trying to take pretty pictures of it.
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