Nicki's Birth Story
I am a British girl who went to live in southern Italy, on the Amalfi coast about 7 years ago. I went to learn the language and of course ended up meeting a handsome Italian and falling in love with him.
After a few years together we decided to have a child, and I was lucky enough to fall pregnant fairly quickly. I decided that I would have the baby in Italy, otherwise I would have to come back to England for too long a time, and he would not be able to because of his job.
Six months into my pregnancy I went for the monthly visit to the Doctor I had chosen – I had been recommended by many new mothers, especially the ‘foreigners’ like me! I had to remind him that I was pregnant and it was time for a check up - he didn't have any notes or file on me, and didn't remember anything. Soon after that, I called home, “Mum, I think I want to come and have the baby in England!” But it turned out to be 3 times more expensive to go private or risk the local NHS hospital, which had been voted the 4 th worst in the UK. So I stayed in Italy.
I was scheduled for a caesarean due to a ‘mysterious infection which could harm the baby,' which was never explained! But I discovered that Campania, our Region, has the highest rate of caesarean births in Italy, probably due to the fact that the Doctors earn more money than they would from a natural birth.
The birth was scheduled for 2pm on 3rd February, and I was told to get to the hospital at 7am.that morning. I went to bed the night before, thinking that this would be my last night of uninterrupted sleep for a long time. The hospital was the other side of Naples, a good two and a half hour journey from where we live. We had to leave at 4.30 am for the drive there! There is a hospital closer to home, but it was closed for refurbishment at the time. When we arrived there was a small problem with booking into the Maternity Unit. My name is Nicki, short for Nicola, which in Italian is a male name .The female version is Nicoletta. The man at reception looked at the form I had filled out and told me “it is not possible, this is the name of a man!” Once I had convinced him that I was a 9 month pregnant female, he eventually let me into the waiting room.
In Italy when someone goes into hospital, most of their family will go in too for support. In fact you are supposed to have someone stay with you for the whole time you are there, so that the nurses are not overworked. Because of this the waiting room was packed! All the seats were taken by patients, husbands, mothers, sisters, and the rest of their families and friends. Believe me, the phrase 'give up your seat for the pregnant or elderly' has never been heard of here! I stood, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot for two and a half hours and nobody offered me a seat!
Finally I got assigned a bed in a ward with two other caesarean patients. The first had already had her baby a week beforehand. She seemed to be still in shock, she didn't speak or move much, just moaned occasionally. Her mother sat dutifully at the foot of her bed. The other woman was still pregnant and was happily climbing onto the trolley to be taken down to theatre as I arrived. Not long after, she was wheeled back into the ward, she had had a girl. The family arrived en-mass - husband, 2 brothers, parents, in-laws, sister, and 2 kids. They all wrote names on strips of paper, put them in a hat and the new mother pulled out a name. 'Romina', they all shrugged and nodded,“ Ok, that’s it then!”
It was now 1.30pm, shouldn't my Doctor have arrived by now? I wandered down to the nurses office and asked. They called him and he said he'd been delayed but would be there soon. I was told to go into the 'preparation room'.
“To prepare for what?” I asked. “Just get on the bed and take your knickers off,” was the answer. I couldn’t see what was happening over the mound of my stomach until it was too late. The evil nurse shaved me with a dry disposable razor in about 3 seconds flat, cutting me in two places. I was not happy! I was sent back to the ward to wait.
By 3pm my Doctor had still not arrived and the woman next to me was moaning full force “aaaiii, what pain, aaooww how it hurts!” This sent me into a total panic and I had to go and sit in the corridor so as not to hear her. At 3.30 pm I went back to the nurses office to check that they hadn't forgotten about me. Again they told me he was on his way. I went back to my chair in the corridor and cried. My mum comforted me, but I hated all this waiting. It should have been all over with by now.
At 4.30pm the Doctor arrived, flustered and panting.“ Quick, have a shower and put this gown on” was his greeting to me, “then get on the trolley, we 're late.” As if it was my fault! While I was showering he actually stuck his head round the bathroom door and said “hurry up! ”
I climbed awkwardly onto the trolley and was wheeled down to the operating room. My partner and my mother were not allowed in with me, they had to wait, locked outside the theatre in a corridor, (or maybe it was me who was locked in the operating theatre!) Not to go into too many details, the caesarean went normally and my daughter was born (finally) at 1650hrs, held up quickly, upside down, in front of me and then whisked away. I think I heard her first cry and then she was gone. She was wheeled out of the secure area with a 2 second pause for her Daddy and my mother to see her, then taken to the compulsory incubators that all babies in Italy are kept in for their first 12 hours of life. I was stitched up and left in the corridor while the doc and his team drank coffee and ignored me .
Within about half hour of being back on the ward I was given a birth registration form and told to have it ready in half an hour. It would have been nice to actually see my baby, the right way round and without all the birth gunk on her, before deciding her name, but that is not how it is done here. Luckily we had already decided on a girls name. We had also decided that she would have my last name, but then we were told that if the father signs the birth registration form, the baby HAS to have his surname, there is no choice.
While we were filling out the forms, the woman in the bed next to me pulled off her bedsheets and asked her sister to clean her 'down there, seemingly oblivious to the fact that my partner was in the room! He walked out in disgust! Later on, while she had all her family back in again my doctor arrived to check on me 'down there'. There were about 5 men next to my bed at the time and no one was asked to leave. In Italy there are no curtains around the beds, everything is done in full view of whoever cares to watch! I refused to spread my legs wide in front of an audience and at that point my mother demanded that they move me to a private room!
However, I must say that the hospital was spotlessly clean and the equipment was shiny and up to date .The nurses were mostly friendly but were not there to do the dirty work. My mother had to stay in my room with me, night as well, and help clean me and do necessary things that in England a nurse would do. On the second day I became a small phenomenom in the hospital when my mini-AA cup breasts each became full size footballs. When my doctor saw me he stopped dead and whistled “mamma mia!!”. That was not encouraging!
There was another slight problem when it was time to leave. Normally the husband has to go and sign a birth form in the town hall where you are resident. But it is not that easy for couples who dare to have children before getting married. We were told that we couldn't take the baby home until we both went and signed this document in our local town hall and brought a copy back to the hospital. To do this would mean a 5 hour car journey home and back, just to hand over a receipt to get our child, plus another 2 ½ hours back with the baby. Not exactly what you want to do with a fresh caesarean scar. We argued and made phone calls, and eventually they said we could take the baby if we went straight to the town hall and faxed the receipt through to the hospital.
My daughter is now 3 ½, very beautiful, we still live in Italy, and she is already bi-lingual.
However, If...I said ‘IF’ I have another child, I think next time I will go for the English experience!