Birth Turkish Style

28 Aug

Truthfully “Birth Turkish Style” isn’t much different from being in America (this according to my mother because I’ve never given birth before).  I was nervous about my c-section and not because I didn’t trust my doctor.  Turkish hospitals are c-section factories, so I knew it was something he could do in his sleep.  Most women don’t even consider normal vaginal birth.  I had one family friend tell me she was too scared for vaginal birth.  Well of course it’s scary, you’re pushing a baby out of your woman bits.   The day before my c-section (the one I sadly needed) I met with my anesthesiologist who luckily spoke English.  As we chatted in a waiting room I noticed a door near to us labeled “dogum oda” which they had translated into English as “birth pain room.”  Wow!  Horrible and scary translation.  It was indeed the birthing room, which obviously no one was planning to use because the hospital was storing the rolling beds in front of it.  I guess it’s c-section or bust. 


Did I really just spend a whole paragraph explaining the Turks love for c-sections?  Moving on . . . When I was pregnant I spent lots of time looking on the Internet for experiences from expats who’d given birth in Turkey.  Women were always asking for doctors who would actually consider vaginal birth and could speak above average English.  Well I was lucky enough to find the guy. If by some chance some yabanci (foreigner) living in Turkey stumbles upon this blog shoot me a message and I’ll gladly provide his name. 


The Main Event!


A few days before the arrival of Willy Wonka

After no more than 4 hours of sleep I showed up at the hospital for my 8 am c-section.  I placed my things in my suite (another blog, another story, another crazy day adjusting to the Turkish culture).  My MIL arrived with her live-in helper. I was too busy vomiting from some medicine to notice the party the preparations.  As I would later discover there were plates, table clothes, cups, evil eyes, cookies, pastries, salty treats, and a giant urn of a sweet traditional drink.  Let’s pause while I Google the name because I just know it as the super sweet, nasty drink.  Would it be wrong to hand out tequila shots after birth, because after my first day in the hospital I needed one … or five?  After consulting Google the name is Logusa Serbeti.  It appears to be two different sugars, plus cinnamon, cloves, and water.  Basically it’s pink sugar water.  Sadly the small shot glass looking things were for the pink drink and not shots. 


The traditional drink

From my best guess I experienced a typical c-section; nice, fancy dissolvable stitches included.  I just remember my husband coming in, talking some gibberish about a football deal, a little pressure, and a screaming baby.  I kept begging husband, “look at the baby, is he okay?”  Well husband is too afraid of blood and guts so I had to wait for a few grueling minutes to meet my crying, soft, perfect little man.  Sigh, we both survived. They stitched me up and as I was being wheeled to the elevator they whisked by me the next pregnant lady to the c-section factory.  


It’s a party (not a real party, just people calmly chatting and eating)


While the doctor was stitching me I just kept thinking about getting to my baby.  The elevator ride seemed long, but finally I reached my floor.  Wahooo it’s baby and mommy time, but before I reached my room I saw my MIL’s close friend.  Before I go much further I should clarify that all of my visitors couldn’t be sweeter people who I have great affection for.  They’ve welcomed me into their “family” and always gone out of their way to help me out in this foreign land I call home.  Great people, wrong timing.  The friend was gushing over the beauty of Willy Wonka.  At this point I realized visiting hours had begun.  From 9 am to 10:30 pm I had a steady stream of visitors.  Gold was brought for us, chocolates were laid out to be shared, and many many people saw my nipples as I attempted to learn about breastfeeding.  From what I could tell the second room of my suite was a celebration for baby Willy Wonka.  People didn’t come and go; people came ate, drank, and chatted for an hour or more. 


Here was my problem.  I needed time.  Time alone with my husband and Willy Wonka.  Time to practice breastfeeding. Time to rest.  Time to process what had just happened.  Time for my body to recover from a major surgery.  In and out, In and out; from nurses to visitors I was almost never alone. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with making pleasantries.  At some point during this whole hoopla of visitors and nurses I started to experience extreme pain and later discover my pain meds dripping down my arm.  I almost snapped! 


Now it must be noted that most of visitors did not loiter in my room and took turns coming from the “party room” to my room.  My FIL was the most wonderful.  He came in, asked about me, looked at the baby, gave me the biggest gold coin, and then let me rest.  But by 10:30 pm I was fake sleeping just so I didn’t have to talk with more people.  I appreciate the excitement and love people showed for the arrival of Willy Wonka, I just regret not making visiting rules.  I should have told my MIL that I didn’t want anyone except my mother (I needed that emotional support) or my husband to come before noon.  Remember when giving birth in Turkey, there are no “visiting hours” 


The favor tree. Mini cardigans, on mini hangers, filled with chocolate covered almonds


Other Highlights:

  • The nurses will push you to drink apricot compote (kayisi kompostosu).  Another overly sugary drink. They claim it helps bring in your milk.  I never drank it and I’m plenty milky. 
  • They refused give my baby a pacifier, “nipple confusion, nipple confusion, NIPPLE CONFUSION.”  Bring your own and use it.  It will help you get some rest.  Trust me Willy Wonka got one the day he got home from the hospital.  No nipple confusion.  My nipples give him milk, his pacifier doesn’t. 
  • The nurses and doctors were so patient and kind to me.  It must have been difficult with the language barrier, but they spoke whatever English they could throw together.  It was much appreciated.
  • The facilities are modern and beautiful.  People from America are always asking about giving birth in Turkey, “How was it?”  It’s like they think I gave birth in a village.  It’s Istanbul.  There are 15 million people.  Of course they’ve got modern, high tech hospitals.  My hospital even had valet.
  • I almost passed out from heat numerous times.  The nurses kept shutting off the AC in my room and I’d make my mom go right behind them to turn it back on.  If you know Turkey you know how paranoid they are about cold.  Willy Wonka was wearing a short sleeve onesie, a footed sleeper, a hat, and wrapped in a blanket.  Hell, it was hot and he wasn’t going to die or get sick from the AC.  I’ve just accepted that people are always going to be worried if Willy Wonka is cold even if it’s 90 degrees outside.  It’s what the Turks do. 
  • There is a hairdresser available to style your hair after your first shower.  At first I made fun of the idea of paying to get my hair styled while in the hospital.  I must admit I caved.  After feeling subhuman for 24 hours I needed something to make me feel normal.  It probably cost me 100TL for a simple styling, but I didn’t care.  It felt great. 
  • Don’t forget the favors.  These baby favors should be handed out to your visitors.  
  • Willy Wonka was circumcised.  They brought me the skin in a medical cup.  I did not keep it.  I did not take a picture. 

Willy Wonka all warm and snuggly (good thing because I was running the AC)

I’m done.  There is so much more to write, but this is just getting excessive. So this is my story of birth, Turkish style.

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