38 weeks

21 Jul

I am four days away from a scheduled c-section. My doctor thinks it’s the best option, as the birth of my daughter four years ago ended with emergency surgery. I had an ultrasound a few weeks ago and judging by the size of the baby, his weight was estimated at 8 pounds 9 ounces. If a baby gains an average of half an ounce a day, I could have another ten pound baby by week’s end!

The ultrasound also showed that my baby has managed to loosely wrap the umbilical cord around his neck. It looks like it’s only one turn, but I confess I feel more confident delivering in the more controlled environment of a cesarean. I have no idea what childbirth is like here in Pakistan once you enter the birthing room.

So far I have had to stress certain points that are not negotiable for us: 1) total anesthesia is not an option. The doctor says women are more comfortable if they are not aware of their surroundings as they deliver a child, but that the choice is mine. I cannot understand how anyone would want to be totally drugged as their baby enters the world. I want to be aware at that moment!

2) My child will not be given formula at any time. This is a concern because I will spend some time in the recovery ward, and babies are kept in the nursery until the mother is transferred to her room. The issue of breastfeeding has been a very interesting one for me while living in Pakistan. I remember conversations I had with my yoga teacher back in America around the time that my daughter was conceived. She and I had the impression that people in Third World countries have no need for lactation consultants, pumps, special pillows and all the fancy stuff that Western women surround themselves with, because they are more in touch with nature, more aware of what really matters. I idealized what I didn’t know, and managed to undervalue women at home who are trying to do the best for their children.

Getting to know mothers in Pakistan has made me see things differently. In short, breastfeeding seems to be out of fashion here. I know a girl who was brought her child for a feed in the hospital, and she was shocked. She actually asked the nurse “feed him from where?”. Feeding your child with imported, expensive formula is a status symbol here, and a few months ago I was present during a conversation between two sets of parents, in which they actually compared the price, the brand and the size of the can of powder they feed their children.

Of course, whenever I think about Pakistan, I always qualify my thoughts by remembering that this society is very stratified, not only along economic lines, but ethnically and regionally as well, and even depending on the role that religion plays in people’s life. What can be said about one section of society is not likely to apply to another. I would say that there can be very few general statements made about Pakistan that turn out to be accurate, so I should say that my observations pertain to the people I know and to the social setting in which I live.

3) I have also had to make a point of demanding answers to my questions, however trivial. Patients appear to keep largely silent when they go to the doctor, and though mine always gives me a longer time than the five minutes he seems to give the other women, I have had to insist on detailed explanations a few times. I want to know exactly what things mean, how things will proceed and what will happen once they do. I also have to keep reminding the doctor and the staff that my knowledge of Urdu is limited, because people here have a tendency to forget that, even those who know you personally. I am very used to it, because even when I lived in the U.S. I noticed this particular cultural trait, as entire conversations went on in my presence in a language that I did not understand. It’s fine in some settings, but not with my doctor, who has full command of English.

Anyway, I don’t want to sound fussy. I am quite happy to deliver our baby boy here. It really would not have been feasible to go back to the U.S. for such a purpose, with no insurance, no home of my own and a four year old in tow.

I went to the U.S. Consulate some time ago, and the application process to get an American birth certificate for an American baby born abroad seems straightforward. I don’t anticipate any problems in that regard, and that really was the deciding factor in our decision to stay here for the birth, because American citizenship for our child is important to us.


5 Responses to “38 weeks”

  1. charlotteotter July 22, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    Good luck, Lizzy, and well done on being insistent about your needs. I hope all goes well for you, your new baby and your family.

  2. Monster Librarian July 29, 2008 at 12:38 am #

    It is very refreshing that you are doing so much to make sure that you get what you want (and should have!) out of your birth process. I was fascinated to read about the Indian women’s move away from breast feeding. So strange how some things get tied into status symbols!

    Good luck with the baby!

  3. Kerryn July 30, 2008 at 2:15 pm #

    I hope that everything went smoothly and that your newly expanded family is doing more than fine.

  4. lvmg (Lizzy) July 31, 2008 at 7:52 pm #

    Thank you Charlotte, ML and Kerryn. We are well and happy.

    Kerryn, it’s so nice to see you!


  1. The First Year in Review « No.1 Mouse Place - October 20, 2009

    […] and my first baby nursed well from the very first day, but none of that mattered with my new son. I decided to give birth in Pakistan instead of making the journey back to the United States, for logistical and financial reasons, and […]

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