An Officer’s Wife (Part 2)

By Circe Woessner, Army Wife

So, I drove myself to St. Elizabeth’s—contractions and all.  We called Chris from the hospital, and she said she’d be there soon.

Because it was 11 PM, Erik was grumpy and fretful. My mother-in-law wanted to go home, Chris was nowhere to be seen. But I couldn’t sort this out—I had more pressing things to attend to.

The midwife on duty checked me out and agreed I was having contractions, but she disagreed that I was having the baby any time soon. I could hear Erik having a tantrum in the waiting room, and my mother-in-law trying to calm him down. Where was Chris?

To this day, I do not know exactly how my mother-in-law got back to our place—if Chris drove her, or if she remembered how to drive a five-speed or what.  All I remember is that I informed the nun at the St. Elizabeth’s clinic that I needed for my own sanity and the wellbeing of my unborn child to stay there at the hospital. Everyone was mad at me for overreacting and I just needed to stay put—and rest.

They checked me in for an overnight and the contractions continued. But…no baby.

The next day the Head Nun and the obstetrician came to inform me, they would keep me at the hospital, but if there was no baby by dinnertime I would have to go home.

The doctor assured me I’d know when the baby was coming—ultrasounds showed he had an enormous head. “He’ll come out like a battering ram,” Dr. Moeller chuckled, “Wait and see.”  That wasn’t a pleasant prospect.

St. Elizabeth’s hospital is built into the side of a large hill—on the Weinberg—I don’t remember seeing grapes, but I do remember climbing the steeply terraced paths…

My phone conversations back to my apartment were unsatisfactory. I knew friends were checking in to see things were all right…still I had an uneasy feeling…

I needed to have this baby now! I continued climbing up and down the steep pathways. Nothing.  Around four PM I waddled back to my room for some cold cuts, rye bread and rosehip tea. After dinner I would do last minute toe touches.

The first toe touch did it. My water broke. Yes! I wandered out to tell the nun in charge. She hustled me to a room to wait for the midwife—(In Germany at that time, everyone had a midwife for part of the birth, and the doctor did the delivery—that’s how it was explained to me.)

Iain, however, didn’t feel like being born right then, and Dr. Moeller informed me that he’d be back after he had supper.  “Don’t drink any beer,” I fussed at him.  He laughed and told me, he’d drink an extra one for me—to keep me calm!

At 20:20, March 8, Iain was born—pretty much ramming his way into the world. Chris had shown up again and was there for me. Bill was shooting his copperhead, and my mother-in-law was on the post, watching Erik.

What I didn’t know is that St Elizabeth’s policy is to keep a mother as an inpatient for a minimum of a week after a baby’s birth, so she can rest and the baby will get onto a schedule.

I really have to leave, I told the Head Nun.  Rules are rules was the answer, so I resigned myself to a lengthy hospital stay.

Because I had both German and military health insurance, I had a private room. I insisted the baby stay with me—another thing the nursing staff frowned upon—but I won a compromise. I could have him part-time—during the day—but at night, absolutely not.

The first time I really saw Iain, he was swaddled very tightly. I waited till the nun left the room to see if he had all his limbs. It was a little tricky, but I got him unbundled.  They had packed some extra diapers between his legs to keep his spine and hips straight, and then swaddled him tightly. (To this day, his posture is really good, so I guess that worked.)

Over the next few days, my friends came to visit, and each brought wine and gifts. My room became a veritable cocktail hour. My friends had stopped by the house to bring me things to do, and so I had canvas and paintbrushes and other things to amuse me.  The nuns kept me busy, too. Since I was restless and not the model patient, and I had paints, could I please touch up the odd chips in the hospital ward walls? So, I spent quite of bit of time painting walls at St. Elizabeth’s.

Bill remained in the field the whole time I was hospitalized. My parents, who worked for the Defense Department in Germany, drove up to visit on the weekend and brought Erik over to see his baby brother.

Bill arrived home from the field the day I came home from the hospital. It was the first time Bill had seen his mother in years, and of course, the first time he’d seen Iain. I handed him Iain and let the three of them bond while I bathed and fed Erik.

It was an interesting time for all of us—Iain was born just after the wall fell in Germany and just prior to the first Gulf War. Europe was in transition, and interesting times lie ahead.

I don’t think it a coincidence that out of our two children, Iain is the one who likes to drink wine—after all, he was born surrounded by vineyards.

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