28 April 2016

Giving birth in the Czech Republic

Last week, the smallest member of our family decided to enter the world. In spite of being a few days over his due date, he managed to shock me with his arrival. I was half-convinced I was going to be pregnant forever.

Birth basics
My waters broke in the early morning, but since I had only a few small contractions, I decided the best course of action would be to go back to bed. Fortunately, L convinced me that we should at least call the hospital to see what they would want.

'They said to come straight away,' L told me.

'Yeah, but I don't think they really meant it,' I said. 'Did you tell them I don't have any contractions?'

I faffed about adding extra things to my hospital bag and filling in forms while L paced about and tried to talk me into putting on my shoes and getting into the car, as well as transferring Smalls to a tired-but-excited Babi and Děda. 

After a 30-minute drive on a deserted motorway, we were at the hospital and I was still not contracting convincingly. 

So, I was quite apologetic to the nurse who booked us in and prepared to be told off for wasting their time. The visage of a disappointed Babi loomed.

However, the nurse was surprisingly serious about the whole thing, insisting we change into hospital-issued clothing (Bah! We'll just have to change back when they realise I'm not really in labour.), had the doctor take a look, and then, mysteriously, escorted us to the labour and delivery room.

The labour and delivery room was very nice, as far as these sorts of rooms go. And I wavered between feeling a little guilty that we would be taking up a room that surely some other more-contracting woman would need and looking forward to catching up on my reading on the adequately-comfy sofa. 

I suspect that you can guess what is coming next.

A hard-and-fast two and a half hours later, and I had a snuffling Smallest curled up on my chest. 

The book was never opened.

Giving birth in Czech
I'm happy to report that my lack of fluent Czech did not prevent me from giving birth.

When the midwife said, with some urgency, 'To bude brzy!' [It will be soon!], I understood.

When I realised it would be even sooner than she predicted, and that the space around my bed was concerning lacking in people, I said (in English...and since this is my version of events, with the calmness of the Orgasmic Birth woman), 'HE'S COMING!', and people came running over.

The very kind midwife patted me reassuringly and repeated, 'Tlačte'. Through the searing whiteness of contractions, I couldn't remember if that meant 'breathe' or 'push'. So, I did both. And it seemed to work.

I have some vague memory of the midwife instructing the nurse to hand her the scissors (me: Oh hell no! Better make a big push. Or possibly breath.), but in the memory, they're both speaking in English. So, I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is.

UK vs. Czech Births
My first son was born in the UK, in a very calm, very intimate, very long home birth. It was an incredible and powerful experience. It was also a little traumatic, and I avoided the room where it all took place for weeks afterwards. (Right over here is where I was in the most pain of my life. Care for another cup of tea?)

For a number of reasons, including an institutional hostility to home births, such a birth wasn't something I considered this time around.

This birth was also incredible and powerful, though somewhat less intimate. In some ways it was better (no need to worry about the state of my rugs or sofa); in some ways, it was worse (I really wanted gas and air again). Overall, though, it was pretty much the best hospital birth experience that I could imagine, and I would highly recommend Nemocnice Hořovice.

And, finally, it's amazing how quickly This was a mistake! What was I thinking?! I don't suppose there's another way to get it out?! is over-written by My gods, you're perfect! I'd do it all again tomorrow for you and your sweet, pouty lips. 

Bloody biology.

04 April 2016

A visit to the ER: Czech versus the US (with gratuitous swearing)

A few weeks ago, one of our 'Amazingly Ever-Sharp!' ceramic knives was on the hunt for blood.

It started by attacking L as he reached into the basket for it.

'Ow! F*ck!' L growled.

I had two sentences fighting for control of my tongue.

Sentence 1: 'Hm, are you sure that's a word we want to teach Smalls?'
Sentence 2: 'I'll get you a plaster.'

It is a very fortunate thing that Sentence 2 won, because not five minutes later, that very same knife deviated from my plan to slice through a hunk of rather old bread and instead sliced through my finger.

'Oh, f*ck,' I said, and two thoughts made their way into my brain.

Thought 1: Probability of Smalls gaining a new vocabulary word: much increased.
Thought 2: This is going to require more than a plaster. 

One of the things I've gotten very used to here in the Czech Republic is the 'socialist' healthcare that is often decried by my conservative American Facebook friends.

While in my experience, Czech hospitals aren't as glossy as American hospitals, they are not without their advantages.

First off, I pay under $200 out of my paycheck a month for all of my health and social insurances. I had the choice of two official health insurance companies. And even better, I don't have to talk to my insurer - all of the billings are handled by the medical offices.

And let's talk co-pays. There have been some changes in recent years about how much Czech healthcare users are required to pay, but recently, following outrage and controversy, the mandatory co-pay for visiting a general practitioner has been reduced to....nothing. The shocking amount required before? 90 CZK ($3.79).

Since my bloodied finger happened in the evening, we headed off to the emergency room, which still requires a co-pay, though probably not as much as most American health service users pay.

Case in point: a few years ago, when we visiting my sister and brother-in-law in the US, my brother-in-law came into the house with a very large, blood-oozing wound on his head. L and I were getting ready to sort out getting him to the emergency room, when my sister said the immortal words:

'I'm not paying $500 just because my husband was doing something stupid.'

Here in the Czech Republic, the amount L had to pay because his wife was doing something stupid: 90 CZK.

Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was when we walked into the examination room and the on-call doctor looked up from his desk, laughed a bit, and said, 'Ahoj!'

So, L had a chance to catch up with a childhood friend while my finger was expertly stitched.

And, on an equally positive note, not only has the 4 cm gash healed nicely, the only time Smalls has used 'f*ck' remains the time he solemnly looked me in the eyes and said, 'f*cked.'

While I was still scrambling to think of the best way to deal with the situation, he added, 'It's true!' and I realised he had, in fact, said 'fakt' (i.e. the Czech word for 'it's the truth/a fact').

And so I'm pretty sure his vocabulary, unlike my poor finger, has emerged from the bloodbath unscathed.