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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For Magdalena Gray, the intriguing thing about delivering her baby in a German hospital is the option of having a natural water birth.

For Amy Gill, the quiet hallways and soothing atmosphere of Elisabeth Krankenhaus are the attractions.

“There’s less commotion here than Landstuhl,” said Gill, who is one of 300 expecting moms in Baumholder, home to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

On Thursday, a group of spouses from the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry toured Elisabeth Krankenhaus in nearby Birkenfeld. Such hospital tours have become routine for the unit’s many expecting families.

Lisa Shrout, senior spouse and wife of unit commander Lt. Col. Michael Shrout, began organizing the trips soon after arriving in Baumholder in the spring.

The unit, like the rest of the Army community here, is in the midst of a baby boom. In 2-6’s Company B alone, there are 11 pregnancies. And in the last three days, the unit as a whole had three births.

Shrout said the unit tours aim to provide a closer look at various hospitals so that families can make the best choice about where to have their babies. While Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is often the obvious choice for many Army families, Shrout says German hospitals also are worth exploring.

After all, women sometimes don’t even have the option of delivering at LRMC. When there are spikes in the birth rate, Landstuhl sometimes is forced to divert women to German hospitals.

“There is a tremendous amount of fear in giving birth. There is a lot of anxiety you feel. Is your baby going to be OK? Are you going to be OK?” Shrout said.

Being in a foreign hospital can add to such worries. But getting familiar with how things are done in German hospitals can counter those fears, Shrout said.

“This is all about reducing that anxiety. The two best hospital experiences of my life were on the German economy,” said Shrout, who delivered two of her three children at German hospitals.

While some of the expecting moms participating in Thursday’s tour already decided to give birth at the Birkenfeld hospital, others made the trip just in case there’s an emergency.

So far this year, about 30 Baumholder women have delivered babies on the economy. Another 46 are scheduled for deliveries in German hospitals through February, according to the Baumholder Health Clinic.

During the tour, midwife Marlene Simmons guided spouses through a series of rooms.

First stop was the pre-delivery area, where couples relax in a hotel-roomlike setting. “We try to limit the amount of time you spend in the delivery room. It’s not so comfortable,” Simmons said.

The tour then moved to the room for water births. The big, yellow tub, nicknamed “Yellow Submarine,” has enough room for both husband and wife, Simmons said.

“Can you monitor the baby in the tub?” Gray asked.

Yes, the equipment is waterproof, Simmons said. “She wants to stay away from the drugs (painkillers),” said husband Spc. Robert Gray, explaining the reason for the water birth plan.

The visitors then checked out the standard delivery area, emergency delivery room and nursery.

For the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry, it is unit policy that husbands be given time to go along on the tours, Shrout said. “This is their job,” she said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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