Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Giving Birth in Greece

It would be best to start the story of my mini Mr Zeus with the kind of birth that I wanted. I know there are people who laugh at the idea of birth as an experience - a lot of women face it as a grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it event in their lives. But I started out as a converted caesarean fan and having decided that natural was the way I wanted to go, the next step was to find a good doctor, one I could trust not to lie/trick me into unnecessary interventions.

This step began even before Bolly Baby was a twinkle in my eye. Various friends recommended me their doctors, but suspiciously they had all had caesareans, and not because they necessarily needed them. There is nothing wrong with having a caesrean if that's what you want or if that's what is necessary for yours and baby's safety - thank God it exists. What I object to very strongly is Greece's 65% plus caesarean rate for very stupid reasons, women who want to have a natural birth and are robbed of it because the doctor got bored of waiting.

Friends I know were told the baby's head was the wrong shape (lies), the baby had to be born RIGHT NOW because it was a boy, we could have left it a bit more if it was a girl (lies) and of course that old chesnut which seems to strike pretty much every expecting couple we know: the cord was around the neck. When I brought this up with my midwives, their response was: We've delivered tons of babies with the cord around their neck, and some that are practically kokoretsi when they come out.

I eventually contacted an organisation called Eutokia asking them to recommend me a doctor who wouldn't pack me off for a slice and dice as soon as he got bored. They responded, and this doctor is the one I began visiting before and during my pregnancy. Having now finished with the experience, I personally cannot recommend him highly enough. Unfortunately, he has a private practise so I had to shell out a small fortune over 9 months for my visits (EUR 80 each time and EUR 50 in the last month when you visit every 2 weeks). But if any ladies are interested in who this doctor is, please email me and I'll respond with the details. His caesarean rate is roughly 18% and he admits it's "that high" because he deals with infertility and so sees more multiple births.

Next came the preparation, which I did at the antenatal classes of the Eutokia centre near Mitera hospital, http://www.eutokia.gr/. These classes are run by the midwives my doctor works with and they are worth their weight in gold. They cost EUR 20 per class or EUR 15 if you purchase the full 13 sessions upfront. The class schedule is available online so you can check in advance if you just are intersted in specific classes rather than the full course. Each session lasts from 5.30 to 8.30 pm so that's EUR 5 an hour if you buy them upfront. I'd definitely call that value for money! The classes provided me with a warm and welcoming atmosphere to relax and ask any questions I had, no matter how stupid. I miss going to them. Note that you can also find out from your local IKA office about antenatal classes that would be covered by IKA insurance.

When it came to where to give birth, my first choice was at home but Mr Zeus wasn't having any of that, so the next option was the natural birth centre in Ilion. Sadly, the centre closed one month before I gave birth because the owner of the building it was located in sold the building. This centre was operated by the midwives at Eutokia and my doctor who was there on request or if an emergency situation arose. In the end, they struck a deal with Leto hospital (http://www.leto.gr/) and moved their services to Leto's homebirth room, and that's where my little pumpkin made his entrance into the world.

As for the experience of the homebirth room, the midwives and my doctor, I couldn't have asked for more. I got to hospital at nearly 5am and had delivered in just under 4 hours in the way I wanted, peacefully, naturally and drug-free. General practise in Greece is that when you go to hospital to give birth, you will be shaved, given an enema and have a butterfly needle put in in case you need drugs and discouraged from moving around too much. None of this is done if you opt for the homebirth room. I was meant to stay in hospital just 2 days but stayed for 3 because bubs got a mashed up head coming out, but he's fine now.

Here I'd just like to add that since I was after a certain type of birth, I had to pay for it. The birth alone cost around EUR 4000. This is no reflection on public hospitals in Greece which are very good - I met women at the birth classes who had given birth at public hospitals and had no complaints whatsoever. The general rule in Greece is you follow your doctor to wherever he works.

I think that's about it fact wise. I was lucky to have a wonderful pregnancy and an easy birth, and managed to stay very active and kept going to the gym and dance classes throughout. As for how I escaped stretchmarks despite my ass being covered with them from puberty, your guess is as good as mine. I bought a block of organic shea butter from ebay and rubbed this on my belly with almond oil religiously every night even though I was 100% sure it wouldn't work. I don't know if it made a difference or if I just got lucky since being well enough to stay active means I've been left with just 3kg to lose.

I hope this info was useful and if you have any questions, go ahead and email me and I'll be happy to help!

Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_GPX1JrgEfuU/S8ocTG6WQRI/AAAAAAAAAnM/44-WSN-NeWg/s1600/baby-feet.jpg

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby, I Love You!

If I'm a little lazy about posting in the next few days it's because I'm busy welcoming little Baby Bolly into my life. More of the gory details to follow. Okay, maybe not the gory details, but plenty of info and resources plus my personal take on what it was like to give birth in Greece. Wishing you all good health!