Considering the customs and traditions in other countries regarding any topic is usually quite interesting. It is always important to remember how other people see and celebrate things, interpret life and look at the world. It can sometimes be so vastly different from what we know and experience that it is humbling.
Birth in other countries is such a different experience – even in those cultures that don’t seem all to different from us and how we live.
In Germany, for example, pregnant mothers are not under the care of a Doctor or OB, but rather a Midwife. The profession is actually so revered that a Midwife is required at every birth in the country. Compared to how our culture is, Midwives are a personal choice and are part of only some individual’s birthing plans, and have different levels of involvement – where as in Germany, they are the guide for all prenatal care and birth. I think that the experience of working with a Midwife differs greatly from the experience of working with a medical doctor since their focus is so different – focusing on the child and mother’s experience, comfort and health rather than the medical process. I could only guess that if I was working with a Midwife in my experience, I would not have been told I was wrong in what I was feeling and my intuition would have been respected and I may not have had the rushed and intense experience that I did.
German customs also focus on the actual event of giving birth. They look down on c-section births as they are not viewed as true birth acts and mothers who required c-sections can also be pitied by friends, family and even the Midwife. Another interesting limitation the German culture puts on child birth is the actual naming of the child. German government offices have lists of “acceptable” birth names. Parents who choose to name their child something unusual or unique must present a justification for it and hope that it is accepted. This is vastly different tan what we experience, as the number of unique names and spellings of traditional names in our country continues to grow!
Lastly, a German birth custom that is similar to many other countries around the world, but not our own, is the parental leave policies with work. Once a woman informs her employer that she is expecting, her job is automatically protected, regardless of any other factors including financial, economical, etc. German law allows women to begin their maternity leave 6 weeks prior to giving birth and are actually forbidden from working for 8 weeks after the birth, all fully paid. After that, the parental leave can extend for up to three years, unpaid, if the parent so chooses, the third year of which can be considered “floating,” which means they are able to return to work and use that final year at ANY time during the child’s life. This applies to both the mother and the father.