Welcome to the family - Our Birth Story (it's a long one)

On Monday 23rd May 2016 at 09.44am, Ian and I welcomed into the world our daughter Zoe Elisabeth Fleming. I never knew I could love somebody this much. This is our birth story

On May 3rd, during our visit to Klinikum Neuperlach, we were scheduled in for a C-section for May 23rd. To be told that your baby will be in your arms in 19 days, or less if labour happens spontaneously, is such a weird thing. Ian and I started a countdown on a little black board hanging in our kitchen. At first the 19 days seemed too short. I was so terrified to become a mummy, in so many ways. By 13 days left, pure excitement and anticipation set in. The countdown went so fast and it was suddenly 'C-day". We didn't tell family or friends because it was enough that they knew she was a girl without them knowing her birthday too in advance. Ian told his boss and admittedly I told my friend Niamh, well I needed to tell someone, oh and my friend Cristina - oops, sorry Ian. 

The last belly shot taken in our apartment

After hardly sleeping a wink, Ian and I got up at 6.00am. We showered and dressed. While Ian had breakfast, I double checked I had everything I needed for the week ahead. We packed the car and at 7.00am we drove to the hospital to meet our baby.

This is the photo I sent to my family viber account and to my longest best friend Amy to announce that today was the day.

We were greeted by a lovely midwife named Katharina, who was going to support us through the whole experience. She brought us to our room on the delivery ward, explained what would be happening over the next few hours and left me to gown up and prepare myself. Katharina then set up the heart monitor to make sure everything was fine with baby. 

At 08.40, She returned to take us down to theatre. I was feeling only a little bit nervous, nothing as bad as I thought. Ian and Katharina wheeled my bed along the corridor, while I had so many thoughts running through my head. I will be meeting our daughter within the next hour, our lives were about to change forever. Katharina asked Ian to say goodbye to me and told us we will be reunited once they start to make the first incision. We kissed and that's when the fear set in. I was wheeled in and transferred to another bed. There, I met the anesthetist who I actually can't remember talking to. I think he stuck pads onto me but it's a bit hazy. I was wheeled into the theatre at approx. 08.55 and met with the loveliest German lady. She told me her English was terrible, which of course was not true but we continued to try to converse auf Deutsch. I couldn't believe I had to try think of German words as the nerves were getting worse and worse. I felt so alone surrounded by this language I haven't yet mastered. In hindsight she did help me to take my mind off what was about to happen. 

The actual last bump shot

More and more people arrived into the room, introducing themselves and catching up with each other after the weekend. What a bizarre job, I thought. Everyone was so incredibly nice. Katharina returned to the room at around 09.05 and I asked if Ian was okay. She told me he was gowned up and starting to feel a little anxious. Time started to pass really slowly and I just wanted Ian to be there with me. I began to feel extremely emotional and kept welling up. The feelings were overwhelming - nervousness, fear, apprehension, excitement, happiness, isolation, loneliness and anticipation. 

Ian all gowned up

The midwife, Katharina and the anaesthetist  got me into position for my epidural and I think local anesthetic. They disinfected my back and stomach, asked me to sit up, with my legs hanging over the side of the bed while resting my feet on a stool. I had to curve my spin as much as I could and put my head down into my chest. Under no circumstances should I move. Katharina held me shoulders down and stood in front of me so I could not move my head up. Let me tell you at 9 months pregnant that is an extremely uncomfortable position. I was in it for approximately a minute until they got a call that the head surgeon was running late. I sat back up normally and watched the clock. After what felt like an eternity the surgeon walked through the doors and suddenly things were about to start happening. The anesthetist warned that I would feel a slight sting and then some coldness and heat at the same time. It was really quite an okay feeling. Honestly it was the position that was the worst part of it all. They asked me to turn back around and lie down. Suddenly I felt a warm gush down there and I still don't know if I peed myself or if that was the epidural entering my body.

I lay down and they strapped my arms onto the bed out at an angle. They put my legs on stirrups and placed a curtain in front of my face so I couldn't see what was going on down South. They sprayed cold spray onto my legs and feet every so often until I could no longer feel anything. The older woman, the first lady I met sat at a stool by my head at the right side of my body. The surgeon said it was time and I heard someone saying to get Papa. They started to cut and I could feel the pressure. I suddenly heard Ian's voice and turned to see him at my left hand side. I almost relaxed then knowing he was there. The lovely woman kept rubbing my cheek so lovingly. It was such a comfort. She whispered in my ear " it's going to be fine, I had one too". Ian was telling me a story or something. I thought I would remember because it was funny and a real distraction for me. Alas it's gone from my head. The pressure was so immense that at one stage they rocked my body from side to side, pulling and dragging. I could feel the weight and pressure of baby on my back as I had been lying down for almost 25 min. 

All of a sudden as I felt so aware of my back, I felt the pressure on my spine release and I knew that was our baby coming into the world. My body felt light again. I will never forget that moment when I heard our little girl cry. I was just into tears which came even stronger when I heard Ian sobbing beside me. It was so surreal. This wasn't a movie birth or an episode of 'One born every minute'. This baby that I was about to see was my baby, the baby Ian and I made together, the baby who spent the last 9 months growing and moving inside of me. We were about to meet our daughter. Katharina was so quick to bring her to us. She was wrapped in a towel and covered in thick white, grey stuff and had a squashed up face and was crying. 

She was held out at my left hand side and I just kept kissing her all over her face while repeatedly saying " it's okay bubs, it's okay". They told me they were just going to take her for a minute to check her and invited Ian to come too. He said he was going to stay with me but pleading I said " no honey, I'm okay. Go with our little girl. She needs you, she's scared."

A few minutes later, Ian returned holding baby and the midwife helped him put her on my chest. He was saying  "look at our girl, she's perfect". We had a few minutes together as a new family and then Ian had to go with her up to the delivery suites, as theatre was too cold an environment for her to be in for too long. We said goodbye and I watched as they left the room.  


I was stitched up rather roughly while one of the male nurses tried to make awkward small talk with me. A very bizarre experience indeed. I just wanted to reflect on what just happened, scared that because of the drugs I might forget parts of it. However this cute little Indian man wanted to chat about why I moved here and about krippes and kindergartens. After that I was moved to the recovery room for half an hour or so but which turned into over two hours because of a shortage of midwives at that time. I lay there just wishing for the time to pass quicker so I could find out things about our daughter - what time she was born, how much she weighed and if her name was going to be the one we had chosen or not. I was also exhausted so I drifted in and out of sleep over the two hours. 

Finally at about 12.35, almost 3 hours after my little girl was brought into this world, Katharina came down to collect me for the much anticipated reunion. I asked her all my questions on the trip up to our room, except her name. As I was wheeled into the room backwards I could hear Ian saying to baby "Here comes your mummy Zoe". I couldn't hold back the tears. With the help of Katharina, Ian placed Zoe gently onto my chest under my gown and my little baby nestled her head against me and slept. 

All I wanted was to look at her entire body, to know every part of it, to see the person I had spent 9 months growing but she needed to regulate her body temperature with the help of mine so we lay there together as a family. We rang our mothers and sent messages to the rest of our friends and family announcing the birth of Zoe Elisabeth Fleming.

After lunch we were transferred up to our room to enjoy our little girl further. The nurses there took Zoe and I presume washed her and they dressed her in the hospital uniform - vest and elephant baby grow and a yellow sleep sack and returned her to us in her cot. We were joined by another woman who had a c-section straight after me and had just met her fifth child, her fifth boy. She was very upset he wasn't a girl so I felt a tad guilty for having to share a room with her having had one myself. Ian had a few more cuddles with Zoe and then headed home for some food. I lay there just watching her sleeping on my chest. Things are a bit of a blur after that time wise etc. But mid-afternoon, while Ian was gone, the nurse came to check on us. She asked me how long Zoe had been breathing like that. I told her that was the noise she had been making since I was reunited with her at 12.40 and I thought it was just her gurgle. She asked could she just take her to check her for a few minutes. As I said before the rest is a blur I can't remember if the doctor or the nurse returned first. 

I think it was the doctor. He said that Zoe wasn't breathing well on her own and needed to go to the baby ward in Harlaching, a hospital close by. He said that I couldn't go because of my surgery but if she hadn't returned by the following evening they would try and transfer me. Obviously I started welling up but the doctor was so sweet and reassuring. I cannot praise the midwives and doctors enough in Neuperlach, the nurses were hit and miss. So a nurse returned and explained that Zoe would be returned to me for ten minutes for a cuddle, then transferred into an incubator where she could be brought back into me again and then would be brought to Harlaching by ambulance. Ian was allowed to join her. So she was returned to me for our last snuggle of the day and for who knew how long. I had asked Ian to hurry back and briefly explained what was happening. I had not taken the option to see her in the incubator because I just couldn't handle that on top of everything else. 

We cuddled and I told her how much we loved her and Granddad is heaven was going to look after her when mummy and daddy couldn't be there with her. And no matter what, we would be reunited the following day even if I had to do a runner or at least limp out of there. The very understanding nurse returned to take her and I just started sobbing as I smothered her with kisses. And with that they were gone. The woman next to me just started going on about God and I wasn't allowed to cry because the devil will be happy. I just didn't want to listen to a preacher so just continued. Ian then came rushing in and I explained everything. The woman tried to explain to him that she already told me to stop crying because it was God's decision about what to do with my baby so crying was pointless. For some reason, he humoured her, probably out of pure shock of someone being so insensitive. He then went out to see if he could say goodbye but Zoe was gone. He rang later that evening and they had her on a drip, ran tests, took blood samples and were about to x-ray her lungs. They said she was stable and content. 
Zoe in Harlaching tubes and all

At around 21.30, after an emotional rollercoaster of a day, Ian said goodnight and I settled down to a long, worrying night accompanied by contractions and a hell of a lot of pain. Eventually morning came and I knew Ian was going to visit Zoe at 08.00 and would update me immediately. The doctor actually contacted the hospital earlier and came to tell me the latest - you see that's how wonderful the medical staff are there. He said he had bad news, that she had to stay longer as infection could occur in the first 48 hours but that I couldn't leave because it was the same for me. I held back the tears,for once, as I didn't want another - God's work lecture from the woman next to me! God didn't make this baby, myself and my husband and biology did. I was so disappointed and was desperate to get hold of Ian but his phone was on silent because he was visiting Zoe. Finally after 09.00 he phoned and instantly I told him I knew that she was staying. He said "that's funny because they told me that I can come back and collect her this afternoon!!!". I could have jumped up and danced the stupidest but happiest of dances and I wouldn't have felt my stitches burst I was so ecstatic He came straight to me after his visit, we hung out for a few hours and then he set off on his adventure to go collect our baby girl. And life as a family of three could begin - oh no wait, we had to wait another three and a half days to be together properly but at least Zoe was with me and Ian had lots of time to visit. 

First photo after being reunited

Ian was exhausted after the stress of driving our 30 hour old baby back to me so took a power nap in my bed
This was when I eventually got to examine her little body, well her legs and toes at least

Gave her a 15ml bottle of the previously pumped colostrum which she enjoyed

Our first night together

 Got to see her little eyes when they were not covered with my insides. She was a chubby cutie. 

So congratulations to you if you got through the entirety of this blog post. It has been a very, very long one and has taken days to write one handedly. 

So that's how the first 30 hours of knowing Zoe played out and although I couldn't exactly say I wouldn't change a second of it; it was hands down the most amazing experience of my life. I also know she was in the best place possible and I am eternally grateful for that. Thank you to all the staff at both Klinikum Neuperlach and Klinikum Harlaching - you were amazing. 

Thank you too for stopping by.

With love,

gem xx

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