A Guide to Storknesting at Landstuhl, Germany

A Guide to Storknesting at Landstuhl, GermanyI’ve sort of hesitated to do this post. Having been here in Landstuhl for just over two weeks I realized that there was A LOT of information I wish I would have known before coming that would have made the transition much easier, but also that every person that comes here has a different experience based on their personal preferences and their unique pregnancy. I have luckily had a pretty “normal” pregnancy with no complications, and pushed them to wait to send me up here until I was mid-way through week 35. Some women have to come up here much earlier. I actually met one woman who was coming back in her 24th week to stay for the rest of her pregnancy.

Almost immediately upon arriving I started typing up the things I went through step-by-step with a plan to give what I collected to the coordinators back at Incirlik to hopefully better prepare those storknesting after me. I tried to list the basic facts and processes, based on how they were presented to me, as well as insights to my personal experience.

So I realize this is yet again another post that will only appeal to a small number of readers, but since I’ve actually received emails from complete strangers wondering about this process, and since there really isn’t much on the interwebs about it, I wanted to share any information I had.

I also want to acknowledge that this storknesting program, probably even if it was streamlined to perfection, would still be a difficult and challenging experience simply due to the nature of what it is. Having to travel away from your family and home, in the last month (and in some cases months) of your pregnancy, to a place you’ve never been, and having to basically in-process in a very short time, and face waiting for labor to begin all alone, is hard. It helps if you are outgoing and proactive, able to go with the flow, and organized, but that obviously isn’t the case for everyone. The information below is a collection of things that I feel knowing ahead of time, and being prepared for, could make the transition and experience a little easier. Women in the military are used to the endless forms, slew of checklist tasks to get settled, and knowing that no move, TDY, or assignment is ever a vacation – my best advice is to view storknesting in the same light. You aren’t being put up in the Ritz Carlton and treated to a life of luxury while waiting for your baby, but with the right attitude and preparing as much as possible beforehand, it CAN be a positive experience.

*On that note, just as with a PCS, get a multi-pocket binder and place your orders (medical TDY and copy of original PCS to Incirlik with entry stamp), storknesting packet with contact information, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical records (with copies to hand over), birth plan (with copies), and any other important documents you may need. I recommend taking this with you everywhere you go while checking in with the various offices (including the rental car company) and completing the required paperwork. 

The Rooms
Let’s start with the rooms. I am staying on Landstuhl so I can’t speak for the Ramstein lodging. I’ve heard it is a little nicer, and obviously closer to more amenities like the massive Ramstein BX and Commissary, but I am actually very glad I chose to stay on Landstuhl. Even staying on Ramstein you still aren’t really within walking distance of much of anything. It’s a huge base, which means you will most likely still be dependent on the shuttle to get around, unless you get a rental car. You will also have to take a shuttle or taxi to all of your doctor appointments as they take place at the LRMC. By staying on Landstuhl you are only a few steps from the hospital, which means you are a very easy walk to your appointments, help if you need it (including other storknesters), as well as enough dining options to at least meet your basic needs. There have been a few days where I just didn’t have the energy to get in the car and navigate my way around in search of food, and it was really nice to just walk over and grab something then retreat back to my room to rest.

The rooms are equipped with a kitchenette including a stove, oven, and even a dishwasher. There is a double bed as well as a pull out sofa bed (The pillows are hit or miss. I had great pillows, but some of the ones in other rooms were terrible. I recommend bringing your own for a little added comfort.). There is no air conditioning, so if you are staying there during the summer months it can be a little warm, but the rest of the year it’s pretty comfortable – and there are ceiling fans in the bedroom and living room. The rooms also have high chairs and pack ‘n plays. Some rooms come with sheets for the pack ‘n play, but it’s a good idea to bring your own in the case yours doesn’t.

 

The front desk will generally try to place you on the first floor if there are rooms available. The first floor was full when I arrived (there were 14 storknesters there at the time!), so I was placed on the 3rd floor, but when I heard some of the girls had left, I requested to be moved and was given a 1st floor room with no problem. 

Download this guide here! 

A GUIDE TO STORKNESTING AT LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER (based on my personal experience)

  1. Getting to lodging from the airport
    • Three options: shuttle, taxi, hitch a ride with a friend
      • Shuttle: Free, but only runs every about every three hours. Most of the time the rotator gets in from Incirlik about 12:00 which means you will miss the 11:55 shuttle. The next shuttle doesn’t run until 14:45 so you will have to wait.
      • Taxi: Typically costs around 24-26 euros, but is reimbursable – make sure they drop you off at the correct building (3756) to check in. 
      • Hitch A Ride: If you have friends stationed at Ramstein, or have connected with a storknester who is already at Landstuhl and settled, don’t be afraid to ask for a ride. Before you leave for Landstuhl, reach out to your respective squadron spouses at Ramstein. Having a friend or connection to help show you around when you get here is an amazing luxury and will really help you get settled in your temporary home. 
      • My experience: When you are coming with two bags (that could weigh up to 70lbs each), a carseat, and your carry on bags, it’s actually physically impossible for you to be able to handle them all by yourself. It’s a wonderful idea that there will be some kind people around that will offer to help, but that often isn’t the case. Even getting them out the door to the sidewalk at the airport presents a dilemma since they won’t let you go in and out to make the necessary trips to get all of your luggage. Wrestling them on and off a shuttle is a big challenge, and I’ve heard that many taxi drivers are less than helpful in assisting you. Having someone pick you up, and who is willing to help you with your things and to give you a free ride is really the best case scenario. Not to mention, you are pregnant, have been up since very early in the morning to catch the rotator, and by that point, you are exhausted (and in my case have feet that would make Miss Piggy look like a runway model). Whatever will ease your stress level is worth it. I was very lucky to have my husband’s boss and another co-worker pick me up, take me to lodging, and they even carried my things up to my 3rd floor room
  2. Upon Arrival to Landstuhl
    • Check in with the storknesting coordinator and your doctor from Incirlik. They need to know you made it ok and are settled.
    • Check in with the nurse in charge of the storknesting program to fill out any required paperwork, turn in a copy of your medical records, make sure your appointments are set up and you have a schedule of their dates and times, ask any questions you have about your stay and care, and to get a tour of the facilities. 
      • Appointments: Incirlik is great in that they have availability to see you on a weekly basis later in your pregnancy, and that the team there is small and therefore generally knows you on a more intimate level. The LRMC is a much larger facility, and services a great deal more patients than the med clinic at Incirlik. While the care is still great, you should expect the type of treatment you might receive at any conventional hospital. You will have an appointment during your 36th week, then you will not start weekly appointments until you reach 38 weeks. However, if you have an emergency, or need to come in for any reason you are still free to do so at any time. 
    • Visit the PAD (Patient Administration Division) office to register with the hospital so you are taken care of whenever you do go into labor, and to give them the required documents and information they need to pre-enter the info for your baby’s passport and social security card. They will get everything into the system so all they have to do is enter the baby’s birth information and get everything couriered out as quickly as possible so you aren’t stuck in Germany waiting on the passport and social security card to get back so you can return to Incirlik. This may require you to set up an appointment to come back and turn in everything. 
      • Depending on the day of the week your baby is born, you may be able to get all of their documents back by the Friday of that week. However, if your baby is born late in the week, over the weekend, or on a holiday, you can expect it to take a full week (and sometimes two) before you will receive anything back. All paperwork is generally sent out the same day your baby is born (unless it’s late in the day), so it is a matter of when the corresponding offices receive it, and can get it processed.
      • You will be given four applications to fill out (these can be filled out before you arrive – RECOMMENDED)
        • Report of Child Born Abroad of American Parents (AE 40-400B)
        • Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America (DS-2029): This application involves a full history of your time spent in specific locations in the US and abroad, including the exact dates you lived there. Good information to gather before you get to Germany.
        • Social Security Card (SS-5)
        • Passport (DS-11)
      • Items required for registration and completion of applications mentioned above: *Only originals are accepted, and you need both passports AND birth certificates
        • Passports 
        • Birth Certificates (original or certified copy)
        • Marriage Certificate (original or certified copy)
        • Final Divorce Decree(s) (if applicable)
        • Military ID card
        • Affidavits when applicable
        • Certificates of Naturalization (if applicable) 
        • Supporting Documents
        • Money order for $205 ($100 for birth certificate + $105 for Tourist passport) – due at time of delivery
        • $8 cash for passport pictures – due at time of delivery
  3. Distance from lodging to LRMC: Literally across the parking lot. You walk out of the front door, along the sidewalk about 20 yards, through a little gate and in the door the hospital. The OBGYN department is straight ahead on the left, and just beyond it you turn left (at the “four corners”) to get to the DFAC, TKS kiosk, library, USO, food court, and shoppette. Labor and Delivery is located in the Emergency Room wing, and mother/baby is just down the ramp by the elevators from L&D.
  4. Cost for rental car
    • Sixt: Located on Ramstein in the BX. You are able to take the shuttle from Landstuhl to the BX – a stick shift is around $25 a day.
    • Look off base and compare prices. *I was able to book through Expedia, with Europcar, for less than $20 a day and received an automatic. After talking to multiple companies, as well as locals here, I received the best rate by far there was in town. Even the cost to take a taxi into town to get the car is worth the lower price you will receive off base.
    • Is it necessary? The LRMC and lodging are up on a hill away from town and everything else. Your basic needs can be met, but there are limited food options, the shuttle takes a long time due to stops (multiple hours required to go to Ramstein to shop at the commissary – not to mention the task of toting all of your groceries bags all the way back), taxis can be expensive, and unless walking to the hospital to eat and watching AFN cable is enough entertainment, a car is really necessary. 
  5. VAT Tax Forms
    • In Germany the VAT tax is 19%. If the business you are buying from accepts (this program is voluntary so businesses are not required to accept the forms) VAT forms you will be refunded, or discounted this tax. The forms are $5 each and must be purchased from the VAT Office on Ramstein. You are allowed to purchase up to 10 at a time, and they are good for 2 years. 
      • VAT Tax forms must be presented at time of purchase. In some cases you are given a 7 day grace period in order to purchase them and turn them into the business. (I learned the hard way that although my rental car company accepts them, I had to turn it in the day I picked up the car. I ended up having to end that contract and start a new one in order to be able to use the form.)
      • To buy the forms you will need to fill out and sign form AE FORM 215-6A, present your ID and your TDY orders. If you are a dependent you will either need to print this form and have your active duty spouse complete and sign it before you leave for Germany, or you will need a Power of Attorney for your spouse. Forms can be found here: https://www.86fss.com/vat-forms-publications
      • When you give a form to a vendor, they will ask you to sign and date the form. They will keep all but the pink and white copy. The pink copy is for your records, the white copy must be dropped off at the VAT office or in one of their drop boxes. 
      • You can return unused forms, but you will not receive a refund for them.
      • Due to the cost of each form, you need to make a purchase of $50 or more to break even and justify using the form. 
  6. Gas Ration Card
    • Required to purchase gas on base.
    • To help relieve the extraordinary high cost of gas in Europe, Esso Fuel Cards (gas ration cards) allow you to purchase gas at American prices even while off base, but only at Esso gas stations.
    • To obtain a card you will need to visit the Customs Office in building 305 on Ramstein, and you will be required to present the following:
      • ID Card
      • Rental Contract
      • TDY/Leave/Pass Orders
      • Vehicle Registration for the rental vehicle
    • Once you have been given the completed form, you must take it to the gas station on base and turn it in in exchange for the gas ration card. You will be given a black plastic folder containing information regarding the gas card, and a slot to keep it in. 
    • Short-term fuel ration increments are 100 liters for 1-7 days, 200 liters for 8-14 days, 300 liters for 15-21 days, and 400 liters for 22-30 days.
    • For rentals of longer than 30 days, Garrison MP offices or US Forces Customs, Europe personnel may authorize another short term fuel ration card after the first short term card expires. In other words, the cards are only good for 30 days at a time for rental cars, so you will need to return and be issued another card once your 30 days is up.
    • To use: Pump your gas, take your black folder (with the fuel card and accompanying forms), your military ID, and your form of payment (10% discount if you use your Military Star Card) to the cashier. Tell the cashier your pump number. She will run your gas card through, then your payment. 
  7. Using your smart phone with TKS
    • Will need a SIM card and to purchase a minute and data plan
    • Three plan options: 19.95/29.95/59.95 euros a month – the lowest plan includes 60 minutes of TKS community calls, 50 minutes for all other networks, 50 SMS, and 200 MB of data. 
    • You can purchase an additional 1 GB of data for 11.95 euros a month
    • The total for the cheapest plan, plus the additional data costs about $43.00 a month (will vary depending on the exchange rate). The SIM card was included for free when I purchased it, but I have heard it can cost up to 10 euro in some cases. 
    • Is it necessary? The internet in lodging and the hospital can be really (really, really, really) slow. Having a data plan will allow you to access your emails and texts. Google maps turn-by-turn navigation also works in Germany so you will have a built in GPS should you rent a car. Most rental car companies charge $8-10 a day to use their GPS’s, so the data and minute plan for GPS purposes alone more than pays for itself. It’s also nice to have an actual phone number and the ability to call people as needed, especially since you are essentially a walking time bomb waiting for your baby to make its arrival.
  8. Dining Options
    • Dining Facility (DFAC): DSN 486-7186 (located in the hospital) *Open 7 days a week
      • Breakfast 6:00 – 9:00
      • Lunch 11:00 – 14:00
      • Dinner 16:00 – 18:30
      • It’s a pretty typical DFAC with a salad bar and a hot food bar. During the week there is a cook to order station open, and there is always a small assortment of pre-made/packaged foods like sandwiches, yogurt, and fruit available. Active duty can eat here for free while storknesting. Dependents have to pay and must be sure to get a receipt to turn in with their expense voucher to finance. *Payment is cash only!
    • Burger King (located in the hospital, down the hall from the DFAC): DSN 486-2764
      • Mon – Fri 6:30 – 20:00
      • Sat – Sun Closed
    • Subway/Anthony’s Pizza (located in the hospital, down the hall from the DFAC)
      • Mon – Fri 10:00 – 20:00 (only whole pizzas available after 14:00 from Antony’s)
      • Sat – Sun 10:00 – 17:00 
    • Bruno’s Pasta Bar: DSN 486-6107
      • Mon – Fri 11:00 – 14:00; 17:00 – 22:00
      • Sat 17:00 – 22:00
      • Sun Closed
    • Delivery: Check by the reception desk for brochures for places that will deliver. When I was there, there was a Chinese restaurant, and a pita house that would deliver to the base. 
    • A quick note about keeping track of your expenses (for dependents): I found it easier to create a spreadsheet on my computer to keep track of my expenses, rather than printing enough copies of the expense voucher worksheet and handwriting everything. You can transfer everything to the required worksheets later. The “SUM” function in Excel also makes it very easy to get a good idea of what you should receive reimbursement-wise. It’s also a good idea to staple your receipts from each day together, or to their respective expense sheet to help you stay organized.
  9. Places to use the internet:
    • Your room: There are wifi routers located on every floor of lodging, but for some reason the internet isn’t very good. Some people have better luck than others with this, and some floors work better than others. (My 3rd floor room didn’t work at all, but my 1st floor room worked really well)
    • Business Center: There are two computers located in the business center by the reception desk in lodging. The internet there is pretty slow as well, but it’s functional and there is a printer available for your use (and it’s free). 
    • Cyber Cafe/USO/Library/DFAC: These all run off of the wifi available in the hospital. Elsewhere in the hospital it’s a little touch and go, but in these places it seems to work the best. 
    • There is wifi in labor and delivery and the mother/baby ward.
  10. Cost to do laundry: Using the washer and dryers is free, however you will need to purchase your own detergent. 
  11. Electrical Outlets: There are both 220v and 110v outlets in the room, although only like two 110v. No need to bring converters. *You may already know this, but it was new information to me –  all Apple products (and many new electronics and appliances) are dual voltage, so you just need a converter to be able to use the 220v outlets in the hotel room.
  12. Staying Busy
    • Library – books, movies, internet
    • Netflix (or other streaming companies) – the TVs in the rooms have HDMI hookups, so bring your HDMI cord and you can hook your computer up and watch streaming videos and music.
    • Classes – limited options, but they do have a breastfeeding intro and new parent classes
    • Movie Theater – there is a large theater located on the second floor of the BX on Ramstein
    • Workout – there is a fitness center on both Landstuhl and Ramstein
    • Walk – “cardiac hill” takes you down to Landstuhl where you can grab lunch or a coffee and check out the town – although it’s rumored that this hill can send you into labor so tackle it at your own risk!
    • Shop – Kaiserslautern is about a 15-20 minute drive from Landstuhl. Merkurstraße is the main shopping strip there filled with restaurants and lots of shopping options (including H&M)
    • Make friends – You are all here in the same boat, with a lot of the same concerns, and LOTS of time on your hands, it’s a good time to bond with your fellow mothers-to-be. You might not have the courage to get out on your own and explore the area, but with a sidekick or two that may change. 
Boredom has been the biggest challenge for me so far, even though I’ve actually had quite a bit to handle in taking care of the things listed above required to get settled. There will still be days when you have absolutely nothing to do, don’t feel like going all the way into town or expending the energy to walk around and find entertainment, and you find yourself “stuck” in your hotel room. I generally don’t handle a day of sitting around doing nothing without feeling guilty, but I’ve tried to accept that part of the experience of being here is having the opportunity to truly rest up before your little one arrives. Expectant parents are always told to “sleep while you can” and this is the perfect situation to do just that. Bring books to read, or projects you’ve been putting off waiting till you had time to do them, and even though you can eat out for every meal – go to the commissary and shop and cook. You will feel better eating something home cooked now and then, and the task of cooking itself will provide you with some purpose and entertainment. It’s also really nice to make some friends and cook and eat dinner together now and then. This is a lonely experience and any human interaction is very welcome. Don’t sit in your hotel room and let boredom and loneliness make you miserable!
 
I hope to do a follow up to this post with the “after” process once your baby arrives. There are a lot of things that have to be completed once your little one has made their arrival to ensure their citizenship and ability to return with you to Turkey. There is a lot of confusion about what is required while you are here, and what you will need to do once you return to Turkey, so I will do my best to make good notes as we go through the process. 
 
Good luck to any future storknesters! I know this is a bit overwhelming, but really, what an experience and story to tell right? All frustrations aside, you ARE getting to hang out in Germany for a few weeks, almost completely on the government’s dime. Stay focused on the real reason you are here (to welcome your little angel under the best care the military can offer), try not to get worn down with the challenges, and do your best to enjoy it. 

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Storknesting at Landstuhl, Germany

  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Lauren! I actually live at Incirlik and hubby and I are considering starting our family while there (we don't PCS til April 2016). I have always wanted a water birth at a birthing center, but didn't think/know if that was possible while storknesting, so I was googling around and found your blog and this post! I will look forward to hearing how your birthing experience is there. I pray it's super smooth 🙂 Maybe I will run into you at the 'Lik!
    Megan

  2. This post has been invaluable in helping to figure out where to go to storknest. I’ve reread it multiple times. Thank you!

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