Cristina's Pregnancy & Birth Story

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I came to Italy in 1994 but I never thought I would stay and I surely never thought I would have not one but two children here. Here is my story.

In September 1997 my husband and I decided that we would like to have a child. Amazingly enough, I got pregnant right away. Once I had taken the home exam, I called my OB/GYN to find out what I had to do. She said I would need to call and make an appointment so of course, I hung up and called immediately at the main switchboard. They gave me an appointment for 2 months later. This would have meant that I would be 13 weeks pregnant by the time I had my first visit. This bothered me a little but I figured I could wait it out.

So two months later I strolled into the medical building, went to the cassa to pay for the ticket (back in 1997, we still had to pay small co payments for maternity visits but that is no longer true) . They gave me a little booklet which inside had referrals for all of the tests I would need (blood, urine, ultrasound, etc.) during the pregnancy as well as spaces for the doctors to write results in. I took my new little book and went to see my doctor.

I gave her the book and she filled out the first referral for blood and urine tests. She then filled out the one for an ultrasound. She said that once the blood test came back and I was indeed pregnant, I would be able to have the ultrasound. Did the tests, did the ultrasound. Everything was fine. During the next months, I would go for a monthly visit, she would send me off with my referrals, I would do the tests and I would go about living life as normal.

Oh, special note on what they recommend you stay away from in Italy. They say no cured meats, no soft unpastueurized cheeses, avoid cat little boxes and cut back alcohol consumption to a glass of wine or beer with meals only.

They are nuts here for weighing a pregnant woman. I was already 30 lbs. over my perfect weight before getting pregnant so this caused a lot of complaints from my doctor. She wanted me to go on a diet. I told her I wouldn't. She said I was risking the health of my baby. I told her that her causing me stress would be more of a problem for the baby so to leave me alone.

When I was 8 months pregnant, I tripped and broke my ankle as I was walking down the street going for an ultrasound. It happened in front of a hair salon and they immediately called an ambulance. I went to the hospital but because I was preggers, they would not do an x-ray or put a cast on me. They wrapped my ankle in a half cast in the event that it swelled I could take it off and I went home. I immediately called my doctor. She had me come in the next day (imagine seeeing an 8 month preganant woman on crutches). I walked in to her office and she did a special ultrasound to make sure I did not hurt the baby. All was fine so we started discussing the birth. This is when all hell broke loose.

I asked her if she would come to Poggibonsi because that is where I wanted to give birth. This is a town about 20 minutes away but their reputation was wonderful where as the hospital in Siena had a lot of things about it that I did not like. In Siena, the insisted that all babies be put into an incubator for the first 4 hours after birth. They insisted that all mothers must lie on their backs in stirrups to give birth. They also insisted that the baby will be given a bottle by a nurse before he/she would be allowed to breast feed. When I brought up these topics, she basically said that they knew what they were doing and that I was wrong to complain. When I first found out that I was pregnany I joined an online group of prenant women who would all be giving birth in June of the following year. We had 100 members and were from every corner of the world so I felt that I was pretty informed on many subjects. No one else had to keep their newborns in an incubator unless there was a problem, no one else had to allow the nurses to give bottles and being on your back during birth was considered barbaric. So she and I got into an argument about what I wanted. She even had the nerve to tell me that babies need to be taught to suckle so that is why the nurses give the bottle. I told her she needed to go back to school and walked out the door.

The following day I went to Poggibonsi and told them what happened with my doctor. I was given a new doctor (a man this time) who was great. I told him my demands (baby rooms in, no incubator, birthing position of my choice, tub if I wanted it, immediate latching on of the baby) and he agreed to them all. I was so happy I cried. I continued my visits with my new doctor and everything was perfect.

When my due date arrived and passed I went for another visit. They told me to see what happens and if nothing changes in a week that I should come in and be induced. So a week later, I woke at 6 (we had to be at the hospital by 9), went to the bathroom and my water broke. Honey, its time to go to the hospital!

Get to the hospital and still no contractions. The have me on the monitor but after 2 hours, still nothing. So they induce using Pitocin (the drug from hell). For the next 10 hours I was in agony. Full contractions, sometimes with only a second or two between them but after 10 hours, I had not dialated at all. The baby was fine but I was miserable and they did not know for how long I could keep going without causing the baby distress so I opted for a cesarean.

They wheeled me in, gave me a spinal and 20 minutes later my baby was out and they immediately placed her on my chest (they had me wait a bit to latch her on until they had finished sewing me up). After 10 or so minutes while they were sewing me up, they took her to get cleaned off then they brought her back and latched her on. They wheeled me out a few minutes later to my husband who was just outside of the OR and we all went back to our room.

Once I was back in the room, a nurse came to check on me and reminded me that I could not sit up for 24 hours and that I could not eat or drink until I had "passed wind" . I still had the numbness from the spinal so was not in pain, just happy. After a few hours the pain started and it got pretty bad. I asked for some pain killers but they did little too help since I let the pain get too bad before I got the meds. Every day they would come and clean me in the morning, rounds would happen next and we would then be left on our own. There was a nursery to put the babies but I only did it during visiting hours, the rest of the time she was with me. After a few days I had still not passed wind so the top nun told me to lie and say I had. I did, they let me have water and I felt better. I was discharged on the 6th day. The pain was still bad but I am sure a lot of that had to do with the awful contractions I had for 10 hours and then cutting the muscles themselves.

A year later we deicded to have another baby. I went to Poggibonsi first and met my doctor. I told him that under no circumstance would I get on the scale. With my first, I gained 22 kg. and lost it all within 4 weeks. It was water, just water. He said fine unless my blood pressure went up. Everything went fine (no broken bones thankfully) and when it got near to my due date he asked me if I wanted to do a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Ceserean). I said no, I would rather schedule the c-section and not have to go through labor again. He said fine, we scheduled it for a Monday morning. I checked in the night before, first night away from my firstborn so I was an emotional wreck. The next morning, they came and prepped me, I kissed my firstborn (she and DH came back to the hospital at 7 am) and DH and off I went for baby number 2. Spinal, cut, baby out, on chest, clean baby, etc. We get back to the room and after 30 minutes I requested pain meds. The nurses thought I was crazy but I explained if you can get on top of the pain before it starts (I was still feeling nothing from the waist down) then it will not be as bad. They gave me a shot, an hour later I was feeling fine, 2 hours later I passed wind and was able to drink. After dinner I was able to stand up and by the next day I was ready to go home. They made me stay an extra day but I was released 48 hours after she was born.

Some final comments.

  1. It is your body and your baby. Do not accept a doctor that is not with you 100%
  2. You can change doctors even at the last minute. Do not be scared.
  3. If you have to have a c-section, get the pain killers before the anesthesia wears off.
  4. Join an online group of moms who are due the same time as you. Youc an find them at
  5. Read all you can to find out what type of birth experience you want and demand it. If the hospital you are going to will not accomodate you, find another hospital.
  6. If you have roomates (I did) there will be quite a few visitors. If you feel uncomfortable or in need of privacy, just ask them to leave.


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