An overseas birth in Greece

My daughter is now 15. Where has the time gone?!

It seems like only yesterday I had all these thoughts about not only becoming a first time mother, but also the concern of my daughter’s future in a country, I thought at the time, would be our home forever. While I sat there thinking, I knew that raising her would be difficult. She would be brought up in a country that I, at the time, was not so familiar with. All I knew is that the language barrier and customs that were so foreign to me would be all she would ever know.  My thoughts were then interrupted by a doctor’s appointment that I was running late for.

I arrived to my appointment three days prior to the birth of my daughter. A stress test was preformed on the baby, which showed no stress at all. The doctor also checked to see if she had dropped more as she hadn’t dropped enough the week prior. I had been walking a lot as requested by my doctor, but that did not seem to help much at all. My doctor requested that I return in two days for another check and if the baby still hadn’t dropped by that time, he would schedule an appointment to have me induced. I suggested to him that we should just skip the next visit and schedule the appointment.

While there, I stressed to my doctor the importance of a natural delivery. I told him that I did not want to go in, get induced, and then after a lengthy labor for him to tell me that the baby was so stressed he would have to perform a c-section. I emphasized to him that I did not want a c-section unless it was absolutely necessary. I also informed him that I did not want any pain medication. He reassured me that this would not be a problem and told me that once labor is induced, all should be fine. He also mentioned that since my pregnancy had been a very smooth one, he was sure that labor and delivery would be as well. On the way home, I felt relieved, as this doctor was not the type of doctor who performed c-sections regularly and I felt I was in good hands.

One thing that that my doctor mentioned to me is not to be concerned with all the noise around me when I am in labor at the birthing center. He told me that Greek women tend to yell and scream during labor and it’s not due to the pain because most of them are medicated. They are loud because they usually have their mother-in-laws sitting in the waiting room and they want their mother-in-laws to believe they had a difficult time during child birth. With that said, I realized it wasn’t going to be such a big o’deal. After all, I had no one to impress and I knew that my mother-in-law would not be there anyway.

Labor begins

The next day, I started having some discomfort which happened to be contractions, only I didn’t know it at the time. The cramps were now gone but in their place was a discomfort that I had never felt before. It wasn’t painful, but it caused me to stop whatever I was doing and wait for it to pass. Once again, I didn’t pay much attention to it because my doctor had told me that discomforts may occur and that it would only be my body preparing for labor. With only two more days to go, I was trying to get as much done as possible.

I remember a moment on that day that is so vivid, I can still  feel it today. 

While cleaning our apartment, I stopped to hear the quietness of our home. It was a perfect Autumn day, the sun was out and I could feel it’s warmth. It was a day unlike any other. A day of clarity and acceptance. Interrupting the peacefulness of it all came the realization that this would be the last time I would hear this type of quietness. I just stood there broom in hand appreciating the moment of being completely alone.

As the day progressed, the contractions started becoming more intense. Still, I didn’t think much of it. Breathing seemed to help a little, but since I hadn’t taken any childbirth classes, I had no idea how to breathe! As one would come, I would take deep breaths until it would pass. This continued throughout the day and I didn’t want to tell my husband at the time because I figured being my first, it would be a false alarm anyway.

By the late afternoon, the contractions were coming every ten minutes. My husband asked if he should call the doctor and I told him not to bother the doctor since there were no other signs of labor (my doctor had told me that labor is usually pain in the back). Everyone says the first child takes the longest to arrive, so I felt I had plenty of time.

I have to admit, I was being stubborn. I wanted to have my baby on my birthday and wanted to wait it out for as long as I could. My husband tried to convince me for over an hour before I allowed him to contact the doctor. The doctor requested that we go in to see him right away. By that time, the contractions were so strong, it was almost unbearable to walk. So we waited between contractions and then hauled ass to the car.

The streets were congested with traffic more than usual due to a protest against the Greek Government. It had just started that day and traffic was being redirected to other parts of the city, while other streets were closed. It took us thirty minutes to arrived to the doctors office, when normally it would only taken ten. We parked on the sidewalk, as there were no other places to park and no time to drive around in the congested traffic. The doctor was there waiting and luckily for us, there were no other patients. He quickly monitored the baby and after a few minutes said that we needed to get over to the birthing center right away because I was in labor and the baby was coming. He said I should be delivering within the hour. I hadn’t brought my bag, so we had to first return home to get it before heading to the birthing center.

At the Birthing Center

I remember entering the smoke filled place and saw the receptionist sitting there with three doctors around her who appeared to be throwing money on the counter. I figured they were betting on some type of sport. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were actually betting on the time I would deliver.

As I stood there in labor, a midwife appeared and took me to the labor room to prepare me for delivery. After I was prepped and ready, I asked if I could go to my room to take a shower. My contractions were right on schedule and were getting more intense, but still I felt that I had a long night ahead of me and wanted to be refreshed for later.

When I was done, I returned to the labor room where I was checked for dilation and started concentrating more on my breathing. My husband was with me the entire time.  I remember almost slapping the hell out of him because he kept telling me it would all be worth it, and that was getting on my nerves. The contractions were going so well that no medication was needed at all. In fact, they forced me to get up and walk around which was quite difficult to do. Once the back pain started, the doctor broke my water and said everything was going as scheduled. After all I had heard from other people I thought this was just way too easy. The only pain I felt was some intense back pain but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. After all the things I imagined, I never in a million years thought my legs would give out on me but they did. I got really bad cramps after hours of pushing and still the doctor wanted me to push. They had me squat down while standing and push as hard as I could. The embarrassment of two doctors, a midwife and my husband all watching my bare ass pushing made me feel like I was an animal at the zoo for all to see. Still, pushing in every possible position, I gave it everything I had.

My cervix had opened up and I had full dilation but still the baby would not come. It wasn’t until another doctor was called in that I began to realize that something was terribly wrong. My baby got stuck on the pubic bone and was having a really hard time getting past it. My doctor hesitated on moving me to surgery since he knew I wanted to avoid a c-section. After the other doctor arrived, they came up with an idea. The baby had only 1/2 of a centimeter to go. They were hoping that if she could make it just a little further, they could use a suction device to get her out. That is when they decided to give me Pitocin to help me push. Actually, this medication took over my body completely and my body was pushing all on its own (not having any control over your own body is such an awful feeling). A while later, the doctors’ noticed I was just about giving up from exhaustion so the decision was made to take me to surgery. They had waited long enough.

My husband was not allowed to go into the surgery room with me. I have never had any type of surgery in my life, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought that maybe someone would be telling me what would go on as they were preparing for surgery, but no one did. I was lying on a hard, cold bed with a bare ass. My body was still pushing on its own and contractions were still coming. As I continued concentrating on my breathing, I looked around to see what was going on. It was as though I was watching these people around me in slow motion. They were taking forever to get prepared. The last thing I remember was an old man (anesthesiologist) trying to put a blood pressure monitor on my arm and as he expanded it, it fell off. At that point, I thought to myself that this person didn’t know what he was doing and I couldn’t help but wonder if others in that room knew what they were doing as well.

They had put me under, so I can’t say I really know all that took place. My daughter was delivered at approximately 6:30 AM on a Friday morning. She was 21 inches long and a little shy of 8 LBS.

The next thing I remember was waking up in my room. It was dark and I was still a little out of it. I noticed my stomach was flat and called to the nurse to bring me my baby. When she entered the room, I continued yelling at her “Where’s my baby?!” I was even more upset at the nurses when they finally brought her in to me and told me I would not be able to hold her for three days due to the c-section I had had. But they sure got me up and walking immediately after my surgery.

My stay in the birthing center:

My stay in the birthing center was lengthy due to an infection I had and Jaundice that my daughter had developed. We were there for a week but I had my own private room and there was a chair that made into a bed for my then husband. He stayed with me that entire week. We also had catered meals from nearby Greek restaurant which was great.

During those first three days, it was torture to not be able to hold my daughter. They would bring her into me to breastfeed while holding her up to my breast. It was such an awful experience. Most times, when breast feeding was over, they would take to her to the nursery.  One day, while on my walk, I decided to stop by the nursery to see my daughter and other babies. However, I was in shock to find out there was no nursery. It was a room with tables connected to the walls kind of like what you would see in a laundry mat. The babies were tightly wrapped in blankets and just laying there on the table. They could have easily rolled off. I then yelled to the nurse to bring my daughter to my room. It took the longest time to convince her that I wanted my daughter in my room. Finally, after my husband got involved, they brought in a bassinet and from that day on, she was with me in my room.

A couple of days later, this old man showed up to my room. At the time, I didn’t realize who he was. He came in smoking a cigarette and began talking to me. It was all Greek to me as that was the only language he spoke. I remember wanting him to get out of my room because I didn’t want the room filled with smoke while my daughter was there. I was relieved when he finally left. Later on, I found out he was the anesthesiologist who was just coming by to see how I was doing. 

2 thoughts on “An overseas birth in Greece

Add yours

  1. Natalie Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll be fine. Back then things were different in Greece. Now things are more modernized and having a baby there at this point in time will be just like having one in the states. All my best.

  2. I am due in 5 weeks, in Greece and this seems like a nightmare scenario to me. 😱 thankfully the hospital I am using ΡΕΑ is non smokeineg (they all smoke outside now) and the most up to date maternity hospital in Athens.

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