I’ve got one in the oven!
After many months of charting cycles, weeing on ovulation sticks, trying to time having sex with those magic fertile days, taking my prenatal vitamins and wishing and hoping for a baby, I finally found out on January 7th that I was pregnant!
I wont lie, I had begun to worry that I was getting too old and my eggs were not as plentiful as they were once upon a time. Had I been cruising along in life, ignoring the quickly passing years and ignoring the fact that the big 4-0 was approaching? Not likely! I seriously wonder sometimes though where the last 20 years have gone? Our parents and grand parents were right – the years pass much too quickly as you get older.
So now the adventure begins. Having a baby in Italy is already proving to be an interesting and eye-opening experience. Once I had the positive Clearblue digital test that told me I was ‘incinta‘ +3, I made an appointment with my gynecologist, who promptly did an ultrasound which confirmed the home pregnancy test. I could see the small gestational sac and this small dot which I was told was the heart pumping with a strong rhythmic beat. It really was quite amazing to think that this was our baby’s heart and that it was already beating.
I was then given a certificate confirming that I was 6 weeks pregnant plus was told that I would have to go to my general doctor so that he could write me the prescription for the ‘libretto di gravidanza’, a book with all the exams and tests I will need to have over the next 32 odd weeks up until delivery. Each page of the book lists each blood test, ultrasound and urine test for each trimester. My doctor then has to sign each page so that I can take this with me to the pathology lab or clinic where they do the ultrasounds.
So I made the appointment with my doctor, get the prescription for the pregnancy book, then thinking I can go to the specified pick-up place for the book during my lunch hour as it is close to the office, arrive there promptly expecting to wait for half an hour max! Boy was I wrong! I arrived to find 6 women in front of me and after waiting about 20 minutes, finally the next person went in to see the doctor. I asked one of the women before me how long she had been waiting and she advised me that each person was taking about 20-30mins!
As this office was only open from 1 – 3pm I didn’t quite see how we would all get seen today. I considered going back to work and coming back another day, then realized that I would only come back to the same queue so sent a message to my boss advising that I would be late and decided to wait it out. At one stage the doctor came into the waiting room and was clearly not impressed with how many women were waiting (she obviously didn’t want to run overtime). Interestingly the next visits with each person seemed to get shorter and shorter and then finally after an agonizing TWO HOURS it was my turn.
After giving me the pregnancy book and signing a few documents, the doctor then explained the prenatal tests that were optional should I choose to take them. I asked her if it was advisable for me to have these tests considering my age (or should I say Mature Mum Therese?) She looked at me and replied, “Signora, these tests are not obligatory, if they show an irregularity, these are not illnesses that can be cured so you will have to decide whether or not you want to have an abortion!” I was quite shocked at her coldness and insensitivity and at that stage couldn’t wait to get out of her office. I asked her for a certificate which I would have to give to work for the hours I was absent. She had the nerve to say to me that she had not seen me walk in at 1.15pm so how could she know for sure how long I had been waiting! I gave her a look of ‘you’ve seriously got to be joking?!’ when deep inside I really just wanted to tell her where to go!
That night on the way home from work, I dropped off the ‘libretto di gravidanza’ at my doctor’s so that he could sign each page, then picked it up the next day so that the following day I could go and have all the blood tests required for the first exam. At the Azienda Sanitaria Locale, ASL where you go for blood tests, when you arrive, be prepared to face a lot of people in front of you, even if you get there at 7.30am when they open. It is a first in, first served system with a number given on arrival. I arrived at 7.30am and had 30 people in front of me. I have learnt to not get impatient or frustrated with this system – this is Italy’s health system in action!
After having what seemed like 2 liters of blood sucked out of me, I was also asked for a urine sample. Typical that I had just gone before leaving home and had no desire to go again. The urine sample cup you are given in Italy is like nothing I have ever seen in Australia! It is more like a test-tube than a cup and just when you have imagined all the possible ways you are going to manage to get your wee in there, you are handed another plastic picnic cup. You must wee in the big cup and then pour this into the test-tube! Such an ordeal! God knows who the genius was who invented this system! I considered taking the cup & tube home and bringing in the sample another morning but the thought of having to take a number again and wait and wait and wait some more made me somehow squeeze out enough drops to fill that bloody test-tube then and there! (Don’t worry! I don’t have any photos of that!)
I started to feel the dreaded morning sickness from about 6 weeks and for me it was more appropriately called All Day Sickness that will only go away if you eat Carbs!’ I have never wanted to eat so much pasta before – clearly the baby is Italiano! Pasta and bread were the one thing that made the nausea ease somewhat. I have continued to travel for work but felt I had to advise my boss of my little situation when we were in Berlin for a fashion show and at the bar one evening, he handed me a glass of champagne and some prawns! I started to laugh, knowing that I couldn’t eat the prawns or drink the bubbly. He asked what was so funny and I said, “nothing, I’ll tell you another time!” The next day, we walked around the trade fair and didn’t stop for lunch. Luckily I had some almonds and dry biscuits in my bag so was grazing on those throughout the day to ease my nausea and hunger. We finally got back to the hotel at around 5pm. Dinner was booked for 9.30pm and I knew that I could not last that long without eating proper food. I promptly called room service and ordered a schnitzel with baked potato. I wolfed it down as soon as it arrived, then had a hot bath, a little snooze and then got up and went out for dinner number two at 9.30pm!
Telling the office that I was pregnant was great. We are mainly women so there were a lot of squeals of happiness. This will be the fifth baby born in the last two years in our company so we are used to having preggy tummies waddling around the office.
One thing I had not anticipated though were the comments, advice on what I should and shouldn’t do and observations of my changing body on a daily basis! One girl said as soon as I announced I was pregnant, “You can see that you’ve already put on weight.” She wasn’t talking about my tummy either and to be honest, I was left a little speechless. I have been told not to run up and down the stairs so quickly, I have been given looks of shock when I mention going to the gym and I get daily reports on my growing belly and observations about whether my hips have started to get bigger yet or not. I have been told not to cross my legs as this will make the umbilical cord wrap around the babies neck! (another friend was told she would squash the babies head). And when they found out that I had ridden the scooter for a few weeks after I knew I was pregnant well, let’s just say I was scolded severely! Not because of the danger of having an accident, no. It’s because the bumps in the road could cause me to have a miscarriage! In Italy it seems that the pregnant woman should be wrapped in cotton wool for nine months. I am having to bite my tongue a lot but sometimes I just can’t help myself and have to voice my opinion, stand up for my beliefs and tell them what rot all of these old wive’s tales are!
In Italy, you will also get asked what we consider to be very personal questions about your pregnancy and delivery. It seems they are obsessed with knowing how many stitches you’ve had when you give birth! I’m not talking about caesarian stitches either, no!! Episiotomy stitches!!! Like the more you’ve been ripped in half during the delivery means that you deserve extra praise! And not all the hospitals here use epidurals!!! I’ll go more into detail about the hospitals in another post.
I also tested negative for Toxoplasmosis (a bacteria usually transmitted via cats and eating raw meat) which means that I also have been told to soak my fruit and salad ingredients in ammonia for half an hour to kill any bacteria before eating! The smell of ammonia is enough to put anyone off ever eating salad again! I did read that toxoplasmosis is very common in France so maybe it is more of a European concern and that is why I have never ever heard of any pregnant woman in Australia having to disinfect their food before eating it! (correct me if I’m wrong anybody!)
Emiliano and I have decided not to find out the sex of the baby until it is born. This seems to be shocking to everyone (especially my mother in law!) How can she buy the baby any clothes? I feel that in this day and age, when everything is so instant and attainable, what more beautiful surprise in the world is there than to discover the sex of the baby when it is actually delivered. I know that I may change my mind with the next baby but for now this is our choice and I just wish everyone would respect that instead of constantly asking why we don’t want to find out. Or, how can you buy anything for the baby if you don’t know the sex? I certainly had no problem shopping for this baby on my recent trip to the States – but I do have a degree in the art of shopping…………… I have had colleagues offer to examine the ultrasound for me, read my CVS results and the Italians are also famous for predicting the sex of the baby based on the shape of your tummy and body so I am getting a lot of examination on the shape of my growing tummy each day!
Last Wednesday I had the ‘Villocentesi’ exam. In English this is the Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) test. This is a prenatal test that detects chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders.
A rather big needle is inserted into the abdomen while the ultrasound shows the position of the baby. Instead of taking a sample of the amniotic fluid like the amniocentesis, a sample of cells from tiny fingerlike projections on the placenta called the chorionic villi are taken. It was actually quite painful and I was surprised that no anesthetic was used. After the procedure you are sent home to rest for 4 days. The first 24 hours are to be bed rest and the other days alternating between bed and the couch. You can only get up to go to the bathroom and to eat. I was quite pleased to have the forced rest at home but I really did feel pretty uncomfortable for the first two days. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling great and so went to the gym for a swim. Disapproving looks and comments from the office when I mentioned this on Monday!
The results for the CVS will be posted to us but the sex will be listed so we wont be opening the envelope but taking it to the doctor so that she can go over everything for us.
1st March, 2011, 5.10pm
Just had the ultrasound to check that everything was ok after the CVS. It was the most amazing ultrasound as the baby was moving around so much, waving both it’s arms around in front of it’s face, almost as if it was saying ‘hi mum & dad, here I am’ We also heard the heart-beat for the first time which was equally thrilling – so loud and strong. I can’t believe this little creature is moving around so much and I can’t feel a thing!