Welcome back to the International Birth Stories series. If you’re just joining us, make sure you check out the other testimonies in the series: Italy,France,Australia, Germany, Senegal,Spain,Switzerland,Japan, England, Djibouti, Northern Ireland, Brazil. This week is our LAST story…Becky, with a birth story from Norway (the place I would probably choose to give birth if I had my choice!) It’s been absolutely fascinating reading about all of these women’s experiences. Stay tuned soon for a “summary” piece.
Becky gave birth to a her third child in a public Norwegian hospital. She notes that most, if not all, hospitals are public in Norway.
Intro: What brought you to Norway?
I ended up here because my husband is Norwegian. We met in France 15 years ago and have been moving around ever since.
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in Norway?
I was surprised by the relatively hands-off approach to prenatal care in Norway. I was accustomed to a more interventionist approach to medical care in general, but there seems to be a very strong feeling here that because pregnancy is not an illness, it should not be treated as such. Perhaps part of it was that I was giving birth to my third child. The assumption was, I think, that I knew what to expect, how to read my own body, and how to proceed.
2) What surprised you about giving birth in Norway?
I was surprised by how easy it was to have such a relaxing, comfortable, intimate birth experience at a hospital. The hospital I gave birth at is 5 minutes away from our apartment. I labored in a nice, comfortable double bed while my husband slept beside me. The lights were off and I watched the sun come up from my side of the bed. The midwife occasionally stopped by to ask how I was doing, but there were no intrusive checks every 10 minutes or wires attached to me or anything. It was all so (relatively, given that I was giving birth) easy. When it came time to push, a midwife filled up the tub and talked me through the whole thing. Another midwife came in to help at the very end and that was that. It wasn’t a parade of people coming in and out. It was just us and that was so nice. After about an hour, we were transferred to the ‘hotel’ across the hall. It’s just what it sounds like- a hotel room. It had a big, comfortable bed, and nobody disturbed us.
3) What surprised you about post-natal care in Norway?
I was almost surprised by how little attention we got during our stay in the hospital hotel. I don’t think anyone even came in for the first 24 hours. Again, I assume this was also because we were not first time parents. It was, however, the perfect way for us to spend those first few days. We felt so safe being at a hospital, but also totally comfortable.
4) Overall impression of pregnancy/birth culture
My impression is that people generally have good experiences with birth here, though it is very different than in the US. Looking back on it, I can see that all of the extra ultrasounds and checks of this, that, and the other, while they are reassuring at the time, they are not always medically necessary. And I survived a pregnancy without having all of them done. It was mostly because I had given birth in the US before, that I knew what I was missing. Had it not been for that (and the internet), it wouldn’t have bothered me much. Also, you can’t beat the price (free) 😉
Rebecca is a photographer. To view her beautiful work and follow her adventures, you can visit her photography site, read her blog, and follow her on Instagram.
Thank you all of you who have followed along in this fascinating series of International Birth Stories. Stay tuned for a summary piece in the coming weeks!
(I have some other birth/parenting series in mind…if you are interested in guest posting for Best of Baby, please contact me using the Contact form in the navigation bar)
Diane gave birth to her second child in a public hospital (though her OBGYN belonged to a private practice) in a suburb of Milan, Italy.
Intro: What brought you to Italy?
My husband plays wheelchair basketball professionally for a team in Italy and it is our second year living here. Our Italian is basically non existent, but we are able to usually understand what people are talking about despite not being able to contribute. Finding a doctor who spoke English was a bit of a project, but I managed to find a great OBGYN. The doctor that we found works in private practice, as opposed to the National Health system, so we had to pay out of pocket for each appointment. She was a great doctor with good English, however she lacked the confidence to talk to me about everything in English so we had to bring a friend to translate during my early appointments.
1) What surprised you about prenatal care in Spain?
As this was my second child and I had the first half of my pregnancy at home in the States, I was not as concerned about prenatal care. I knew what I needed to be doing and was able to request the blood tests that I required based on pre-existing health conditions. I was surprised that the doctor never tested my urine — I did that when I had blood work done, but never at my appointments. I never had my temperature taken my entire pregnancy and she never examined my legs or hands for swelling. The last month of my pregnancy only had one appointment as opposed to one each of the final weeks of my pregnancy with my first child. One of the best parts of my prenatal care was that I got an ultrasound at each appointment. It was so encouraging to see the baby grow the last few months!
My OBGYN told me that she would not be delivering me. Instead it would be one of the two midwives in her practice. Thankfully the midwife spoke great English and we got along very well. She did warn me that if I went into labor or delivered on Christmas I would be charged the holiday rate- however that was not a concern because I was convinced I would deliver early like I had with my first daughter. Of course I went into labor on the 25th of December and delivered before 1am on the 26th!
2) What surprised you about giving birth in Italy?
When I went into labor we were not convinced it was true labor. We waited over an hour before packing up our sleeping 2 year old and heading to the hospital where the midwife met us. Arriving at the hospital, I had to check in at the ER and then wait for the OB on call to come see if I was actually in labor. Well, by the time she checked me I was ready to push. I received no assistance climbing from the exam table onto the gurney to take me up to a delivery room. I was instructed not to push on the way up! I was only able to have one person in the delivery room, but because the midwife was medical she was able to be there.
I never received instructions with regards to pushing from the doctor or nurses in the delivery room, but the midwife would tell me things as needed. After I delivered I learned that the hospital staff did not say anything because my husband was doing such a good job being my labor coach. I was never offered water or ice or anything during delivery. After delivery I was able to hold my baby girl right away and so was my husband. We kept asking her weight and length, but we were told they don’t do those until 2 hours after delivery. Post delivery I was offered tea, but asked for water instead. That was the only thing I was given until breakfast the next morning (which was tea and a packet of crackers).
The food was terrible — like most hospitals. I was given one bottle of water with each meal, but other then that, nothing was ever provided to drink. My husband brought me water while I was in the hospital, as Italians don’t drink tap water. He also brought me snacks each time he came.
I was told for my hospital stay that I would need to provide everything for myself and the baby — from the diapers the baby wore to the clothing I delivered in and even the pads for after delivery! I gave birth in a t-shirt of my husbands and had to provide my own everything from the moment I walked in the door. Turns out most Italians buy a specific set of clothing (very similar to American hospital gowns, but a little closer to a night gown) for their delivery! I wore my husbands shirts and basketball shorts for the entire hospital stay.
The baby was never given anything by the hospital — no cute t-shirt, no hat nothing. In fact my daughter was the only child who wore hats in the hospital. They also never swaddled her — she was put in a bed that had a thick blanket. It honestly made me nervous that she had a thick blanket over her. The Italians were surprised when I would only have her in a pajama onesie (long sleeved) and insisted on another onesie underneath.
The rooms had bathrooms but no showers and the “floor shower” was in a kind of storeroom which made it an uncomfortable experience. I was checked maybe 3 times a day the first and second day, but by the third day I was only checked on once. I felt very neglected. The checks were very basic, but I was never offered any type of pain management (after a natural birth I was extremely sore) and the baby was hardly ever checked on except in the morning by the doctor. The beds were very basic with no function for sitting up — only laying down — and the pillows were uncomfortable at best. When you called for a nurse they would reply on the intercom and they avoided coming to see you at all costs. At times we had trouble locating any staff to talk to at all on the floor!
3) What surprised you about postnatal care in Italy?
Post-natal care was basically non-existent. No pain management, no home instructions at discharge, no follow up appointments. I received stitches and was told to watch for them to fall out- no dissolvable stitches here! I made an appointment with my OB to be checked out, but there was nothing else offered or encouraged. The standard length of stay is 3 days Friday–Monday for me, and, I’ve been told, longer if you have a C-section.
4) Overall impression of the pregnancy and birth culture in Italy
I expected a different experience from my first birth, and that is what I got. I am glad that I had a very positive experience with my first child, because if I had experience this the first time around, I would have never done it again! People were very sweet to me when I was pregnant and now that I have a 2 month old, they are very sweet to her. Italians love babies, but the standard of care for child birth could be greatly improved!
Stay tuned next week for another installment in the International Birth Stories series!
She delivered in a small town public hospital, with a public health department obstetrician.
Intro: What brought you to France?
My husband and I were in France for language school.
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in France?
They did internal checks at EVERY prenatal appointment. Also, an ultrasound in each trimester was standard. The modesty ideals were different as well. I was asked to take off all my clothes for each appointment and not given anything to cover up with. I don’t remember them doing urine checks routinely, if it all. 2) What surprised you about giving birth in France?
I was surprised by the lack of care for personal comfort or modesty. For instance my water had broken before I arrived at the hospital, but I had not yet gone into labor. I was asked to sit naked on a vinyl covered hospital bed with no sheets or any kind of pad to absorb the fluid for two hours while they did the admission paperwork. Also, they expected me to be silent while in labor and were very pushy about giving me an epidural when I was, in their opinion, being too noisy.
3) What surprised you about post-natal care in France?
I was left for observation for 2 hours after birth in the delivery room. No one came in and checked anything. Nothing was offered to help clean me up. After a while I finally used those brown stiff paper towels from the sink area to try and absorb some of the fluids. It was awful… I was freezing and messy and very uncomfortable and no one was “observing” anything. We were left alone.
Physical therapy is recommended to get your perineal area and vaginal muscles tightened back up after delivery. You are expected to do all the baby care right from the beginning. I don’t remember there even being a nursery. The morning after giving birth at midnight, still very weak, I was woken up at 5 or 6 to go bathe my baby. A long hospital stay is normal…up to a week. I had to fight to be released after 2 days.
4) Overall impression of pregnancy/birth culture
This was my fourth child and people here found that very odd. I was offered an abortion several times throughout my pregnancy because they just could not seem to grasp that I actually wanted a fourth child. The mother’s life was always considered more important than the child’s. So for any sickness or pregnancy difficulty… an abortion was offered. This really shocked me.
Stay tuned for another international birth story next week!
I had another International Birth Story scheduled for this Sunday, but then I realized it was Memorial Day weekend. I thought it be a great opportunity to push pause and do a little review. I’m sure you’ll agree that these stories have been nothing short of fascinating! We’ll have a fresh story next week, but in the mean time, if you haven’t already, check out these amazing testimonies!