30 thoughts on giving birth in Germany

  1. I didn’t actually give birth in Germany. My wife did. Twice.
  2. So this should be called 30 thoughts about watching someone give birth in Germany. Twice.
  3. The German word for ‘giving birth’ is entbinden, which literally means “to disconnect”. People do not welcome a new life in Germany. They disconnect from it.
  4. Birth is covered by health insurance in Germany and most people have health insurance.

    giving birth in Germany
    Photo thanks Ralf Appelt via Creative Commons.
  5. However, only the midwife is covered if it’s a home birth or in a birth house.
  6. Nabelschnur – umbilical cord – is fun to say. Try it! We’ll wait.
  7. If you’re married when the baby emerges, it belongs to both parents.
  8. Unmarried? Just mom. Dad has to fill out a form and get a stamp before it’s his. Not even biology is mightier than German bureaucracy.
  9. The German word for ‘placenta’ is Mutterkuchen (mother cake). Would you like some tea with your mother cake?
  10. Some German moms keep a little to use as a Kuchenboost in case the baby gets sick, so babies born in Germany can have their cake and eat it too.
  11. Whether it’s a hospital, a birth house or your bathtub, midwives do most of the birthing work as long as it’s an unproblematic birth (most of them are). That was my experience at least.
  12. Say Nabelschnur again.
  13. Changing diapers isn’t as bad as it sounds.
  14. A delivery room is called a Kreisssaal which, despite the name, isn’t round.
  15. Health insurance probably pays for several post-birth midwife visits at home too. We were grateful at first but contemplated not opening the door by the end.
  16. Midwives are great. I’m a fan. Protip: German word for ‘midwife’ is Hebamme. Probably Latin. Or Greek.
  17. The German word for ‘cervix’ is Muttermund. Mother mouth. Weird.
  18. Our Hebammes offered us food and drinks after both births. Even Champagne.
  19. Champagne, or Sekt, supposedly helps get the milk flowing in moms, our Hebammes said.
  20. I ate most of the food our Hebammes offered after both births. And drank most of the champagne. Never produced any milk.
  21. Men have very little work during a birth. I tried to massage my wife’s shoulders during my son’s birth and she would have killed me were it not for the contractions. So by “very little work” I mean “none”.
  22. No, you can’t bring a book. Or a Playstation.
  23. Men get to cut the umbilical cord: The first thing your baby sees is you destroying their relationship with their mother.
  24. Geburtsvorbereitung sounds dangerous but is actually birthing classes. At ours the midwife said we didn’t need a class: “That baby’s coming whether you want it to or not.”
  25. Geburtsvorbereitung is mostly hanging out with terrified couples in very awkward positions. Kind of like a swinger club.
  26. I’ve never been to a swinger club, actually.
  27. Check out the German word for amniotic sack: Fruchtblase. Fruit bubble.
  28. Don’t believe the wives’ tale that nursing acts as a contraceptive.
  29. Did I mention we have two kids?
  30. The German word for ‘contraceptive’ is anti-baby pille. Anti-baby pill. You know right away who the enemy is.
  31. NABELSCHNUR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Germans hate male babies

I always felt like Germany cultivates a culture of intellectualism while America … well we like hamburgers.

Nowhere did I see this more than when my wife was pregnant.

When we were awaiting our second child – our son – my German friends began to act strange.

“We’re having a boy,” I would say.

“Oh,” my German friends would say with alarm. “Poor you.” Some hugged me as if to say: It’s going to be all right. We’ll get through this too.

Strange, right?

german babies
Both have opinions on your unborn child.

I never had any idea what they were talking about. But they said it so openly, so confidently, that I couldn’t profess ignorance. The way they said it, it sounded like all of Germany knew having a boy was a bad thing. Except me. I started to wonder if Germany was the anti-China. Girls only, bitte.

I was afraid that my ignorance of the pitfalls of boys would reflect poorly on me. So I didn’t admit I didn’t understand. I just said, “I know, right?” And changed the subject.

But I was prepared for this reaction because it’s the way a certain kind of American and Brit reacts to news that you’re having a daughter, which we did, right before we had a son.

“A daughter, huh?” Americans would say shortly after meeting me and hearing I was expecting a daughter. “Poor you.” Unlike my German friends, they didn’t hug me.

But poor me.

The assumption here is that I would suffer as my little girl grew up and became a woman and started having boyfriends and – gasp – sex. As if your daughter enjoying a cornerstone of the human experience is the worst thing. Ever.

The implication is that fathers have to protect their daughters and make their choices for them, while teaching their sons to be strong humans capable of making all the good and bad decisions on their own.

You know: sexism. Yuck.

German babies

I prefer instead to teach both of my children to be strong, confident people capable of making both good and bad decisions, just like other humans. Though, to be honest, I hope they make a few fewer bad decisions than I did. Like not having Steak Frites on Kurfürstendamm after a bucket of popcorn at the French cinema. You lose your gall bladder with decisions like that.

And they probably should decide against seeing Hangover 2 (come on, you know you liked Hangover).

So, in a way, I was ready when suddenly my German friends started acting the same way about my soon-to-be son. Poor me. Except I had no idea what they were talking about.

It happened so often that I decided I had to stop faking as if I knew. When my German documentary filmmaker friend – a leftist intellectual with little equal – made the same statement, I dropped my guard.

“What are you talking about?” I asked him between bands at White Trash Fast Food. And then I told him the story about Americans and daughters. He was repulsed.

“Nothing like that,” he said. “The Freud thing.”

“Oh, right,” I said.

No idea what he meant.

Luckily my generation invented this thing called Google and when I got home I put in “Freud son father” and was horrified at what the Germans were warning me about. You see, it’s Oedipus. It’s always Oedipus with these Germans.

In order to fulfill his mother fantasy, Oedipus had to kill his father. Germans (and Freud and even Jung, I discovered) extrapolate this on to the human condition to mean that a boy can’t become a man until he replaces his father in the world. Germans were trying to warn me that my son would become a murderer. And me, a murder victim.

What?

Either way, people shouldn’t be warning anybody about the sex of their baby, though a warning or two about babies as a species is certainly warranted. Anyone who’s ever had one – or shared an airplane with one – knows what I’m talking about.

Poor me indeed!

How to parent like a German, Ep. 1

German kids have to go outside for an hour every day.

One hour. Every day.

I may have misunderstood biology class but I think it has something to do with photosynthesis, like Germans have more chlorophyll than everyone else. Also I’m pretty sure it’s part of the Grundgesetz (German constitution). Germans don’t even question this. It’s a total normal part of raising kids in Germany, like feeding them, clothing them and regretting having them.

Back when my kids were little, if it started getting late in the day and they hadn’t been outside, my German wife would start getting panicky as if she were Cinderella and it was 11: 59 p.m. (that’s 23:59 to Germans).

Hase, meinst du, du kannst mit den nur eine Stunde um den Block gehen?” she would ask (“Honey, do you think you can walk around the block with them for an hour?”). And I would, because I’m always worried she’ll see her mistake in marrying me so I try to keep her happy.

Plus: Love.

Also: I didn’t want to see my kids turn into pumpkins.

German kids have to go outside for an hour every day.

My kids and I would always end up on one of two playgrounds, swinging and sliding in blackness with a few other dads.

“Married a German?” we’d ask each other.

“Yup.”

Parenting like a German

I sound like I’m deriding it here but I’m not: Kids do need to be outside for an hour every day, regardless of the weather. It seems to air out their tiny brains. It’s like rebooting them after you opened too many windows in their browser inside. It’s such an obvious truth that they’re trying to  institute it in America now too, via our equivalent to the German constitution: Professional football.

The must-go-outside thing doesn’t stop when kids go to daycare either. German daycare teachers are expected to make sure the kids get their hour of sunlight per day too. And daycare teachers are happy to oblige because they know a secret: Kids are way easier to deal with when they’re outside. Especially when they’re outside and on the far side of the playground.

This often leads to two or three hours of outside time for daycare kids every day, which ingratiates the teachers even more to the parents and allows the teachers even more time to Snapchat.

Through this requirement I discovered that I do better with some outside time every day too. Maybe I got some chlorophyll with my German DNA.