Thursday, December 3, 2009

Polish Hospital-ity and Having Babies

No baby yet, but to refresh my own memory I'm reminiscing about this (in a sort of jumbled way):

Greg and I watch a cool Polish drama series that takes place during WWII. A lot of scenes are shot in a hospital and about half way through the series it struck me: They probably didn't have to do anything to the hospital or use special props to take it back almost 70 years. Nope, those are the same white-painted (and repainted) metal framed "beds" and side tables they use in most hospitals I've been to. Those tiny sinks with ancient faucets: same. Strange, thick, stained and holey sheets? Check.

When I was pregnant with David I went into pre-term labor. Of course this meant a hospital stay. The Mielec hospital had recently been renovated and the maternity ward was in a new wing. What this meant was that the halls were a little brighter and the paint was fresh. All the equipment was still old.

When I went to my room, besides surprise at the condition of the sheets and the uncomfortableness of the bed, and the fact that you wear your own pajamas, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a bathroom in my room. What wasn't so pleasant was the fact that there was blood on the toilet seat and everything else there was not clean, either. The little table at the side of my bed had sticky rings from other people's cups and was dusty and grimy.

My friend went straight home, got all her cleaning and sanitizing supplies and did quite a number on my room, top to bottom. After that I felt much better.

After a few weeks back at home on bedrest, David was ready to be born. We went to the hospital only to find that the maternity ward was closed. CLOSED. Why? Because they close it down twice a year for a week at a time for a thorough sanitization. I sort of wondered if this is why my room had been so icky: they knew they'd just be cleaning it within a few months anyway?

We didn't have a car at the time so I was driven by ambulance, which looked almost exactly like a station wagon, or a (small) hearse, to the nearest hospital in the small town of Kolbuszowa*. In the hospital we went to the elevator, opened the ancient, creaky metal gate covering it and then opened the swinging door to get in. This little hospital was dark and cramped, but the birthing room was spacious with a wall of windows overlooking the countryside.

What's more, the doctor was terrific. He mostly chatted to Greg and commented repeatedly about how well I was handling my labor (while I wanted to die). He loved that Greg wanted to be there for the birth and said they're trying to get more families to do that. They did a great job with the delivery and they even let me have my own room! Greg stayed with me the first night.

Aaron was born in the Mielec hospital and my midwife was great. The doctor on call didn't care to make an appearance until the baby was pretty much out, but I'm sort of glad because he didn't seem interested anyway and the lady there was very good.

I have felt very confident in the doctors here (in general). Despite some of the scary experiences I've had, I (obviously) don't feel terrified about having children here. People do it ALL THE TIME. So can I. (although not all the time, please. Once more will suffice for me)

Aaron was born at 8:30 am and I was starving. Lucky for me they were serving breakfast just then. I remembered after Evie had been born and they asked what I wanted to eat and drink. I could have pretty much whatever I wanted. Not in Poland, you get three "meals" a day, on their schedule.

So it was Easter morning, and I was beyond exhausted and starved and my breakfast came in the form of a stack of three slices of dry bread and one peeled, hard boiled egg slipping around on the plate (no butter, no salt, no fork or knife). Of course only hot tea to drink (this is all they serve), which I passed on, so it was my lukewarm water from my bottle.

This isn't meant to be a food log, but Greg went home and popped the caramely french toast dish (which I'd prepared just an hour or two before my water broke the night before**) from the fridge into the oven and brought me a huge dish of it, all warm and gooey and crisp and perfect. Which I ate with relish only two hours after the birth. Mmmmm. So strange the different forms bread and eggs can be served in. . .

They have ultrasound machines and some other decent equipment, but nothing like what is the norm in the US. I had an ultrasound at every doctor's visit. That's what you get when you get rid of insurance and have public health care! You also get everything else that's written in this post (except the french toast. You only get that if you visit me). (and of course America will never have holey sheets and poor furniture etc. I mean socialized health care in a poor country. I didn't mean to get all political!)

* We took my mother to see it and she was rather shocked, without even going inside. I have a picture that I need to figure out how to get up here.

**I had actually been cooking (cheesecake, seven layer bars and preparing that french toast) cleaning and filling and hiding Easter baskets right up until midnight, when I laid down in bed and my water broke. If anyone was leaving home well prepared, it was me!

19 comments:

Josi said...

Wow, that was fascinating. Thanks for sharing, and good luck.

Chief said...

what an amazing look into pregnancy and birthing in Poland.

I am on my way over for some french toast

L.T. Elliot said...

I was curious about hospitals in other places. That bit about your friend helping sanitize your room? That's love.

Erin said...

When I had Lizzy, I thought the maternity wing was very nice. By the time I had Mimi less than two years later they had completely redone the maternity wing. It was very nice and I loved it, but it seemed so wasteful. The previous one was modern and nice and clean. It seems that something in between the American mentality and the Polish would be appropriate. Maybe we could do provide the hospital with new sheets! Here is to hoping that the hospital in Mielec recently had it thorough sanitizing. My 4th delivery was the best. Practice makes perfect. You are going to be great!

Erin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Girl said...

I LOVED this. Having given birth in another country, as well, I love hearing about other foreign experiences.

Most hospitals (like 90% of them - i.e. all the public ones) in Brazil are just like you described. Rather dirty. Dingy. Metal beds. Meals on schedule. The only difference I can see from this is that they do NOT allow husbands or midwives. Except during visitor's hours, of course. (3:30 to 4:00 only. One at a time - even husbands.)

We were fortunate enough to be able to afford a private hospital - where it was just as good (if not better) than the States. Like you - ultrasound at every visit!

Carolyn V. said...

Wow, It is so interesting to hear how it is done in other countries. I hope your baby comes soon and all goes well. =)

Barbaloot said...

I'm continually convinced of your bravery and patience when I hear stuff like this. Granted---I grew up the daughter of an OB/GYN so my view of birth is a little different than the one you just described...

Erin said...

I am kind of OCD about cleanliness in places that are supposed to be clean. That would have freaked me out a tiny bit.

What an interesting description. Good luck with everything when you have this little one!

Melanie J said...

You are making me feel so very, very grateful for what I have, especially since I'm pregnant. Holy cow.

Heather of the EO said...

Wow. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty grateful right now.

I'm so glad you had a friend who would come and clean the place to make you feel better! I would have really needed that! :)

Kazzy said...

Wow. So often we think most places are like the ones in our own little middle-American neighborhoods. I'll bet that was tough for your mom, huh?

Sue Q said...

I will never complain about my anesthesiologist who couldn't find the right vein to plug in my epidural and caused an air bubble in the tubes, thus resulting in no drug relief during delivery #3, ever again.

But I would really like your recipe for warm and gooey and crisp and perfect french toast. Yum. I want some right now.

Sylwia said...

wow. you have a wonderful attitude. even though i'm polish, i would never want to have children there. it sound horrible. i'm with your mother on this one. thank you for sharing and describing it. it's very eye opening.

Kimberly said...

And to think I was annoyed by the cleaning lady who came in every day when I was in hospital!

Melissa said...

You never said anything about whether or not they offer epidurals there in Poland. And I, too, would like the recipe for the gooey carmely french toast.

Andrea said...

Wow--it's amazing the things we take for granted in the States! We don't even question basic things like cleanliness. Hope this one goes great for you.

I think food tastes so much better when you have just gone through something as strenuous as labor (except that egg and pieces of dry toast--yuck). And I believe that after going through labor, all women deserve a delicious FEAST. Sounds like you got it with that french toast. Yum. Recipe, please?

Heidi Ashworth said...

You are a very brave woman.

Melissa Bastow said...

I am scared for you. I am much too germaphobic... also, 3 out of 4 of my pregnancies had complications so I'm a overly paranoid about the experience as a whole.