March 14

It’s hard to take your doctor seriously when she’s wearing a stethoscope and red sparkly slippers. But she was serious: we were expecting our fourth child in early October.

September 30

“Besides being pregnant, are you otherwise sane?” my OB-GYN asked in his very limited English. “Do you mean zdrav?” I ask. I tell him that the more accurate translation is “healthy”, rather than “sane.” But then some days, I’m not sure.

October 5

At 1:40 in the morning my water breaks. We wake the kids and drop them off with friends and head for the hospital. The doctor arrives shortly after us, but the epidural doctor (the only one in Slovenia) hasn’t come yet. We find out later that he wasn’t answering his phone, so my doctor drove over to his house to wake him up.

All the lights are off in the hallways (it’s night – why would they be on?), so I’m wheeled from floor to floor in the dark. No one (except Mark) speaks a word of English to me for the next few hours. Just what I’ve always wanted–a language lesson with contractions.

Luke is born at 6:35 in the morning! At 10:00, I’m moved to my room. “We have rooming-in—just like in America,” I’m told by a nurse. It may be rooming-in, but it’s not like in America: Three women and three babies in one room (with a bathroom shared by six women). There is no nursery for healthy babies; we moms are totally responsible for our own babies. So after being up all night, I finally get settled in my room…just in time for visiting hours.

After this comes lunch, then Luke cries (his lunchtime) and then visiting hours again. After dinner, no more visitors (not even husbands) are allowed. So at 6:30 the looong night begins: no television, no phone, and no lights. I risk the wrath of Mom #2 and turn on my light to look at a magazine, but a nurse tells me it’s not good for women who just gave birth to read. Mom #2 glares at me every time Luke cries that first night (which was most of the time). Mom #3 is a first-time mom and spends a lot of time staring out the window as her baby screams (it’s good we’re only on the second floor).

October 6

The new day starts (I’ve had maybe two hours sleep in two days now) with two nurses coming in at 7:30 to announce “Vstanite!” Hmmm, I know it’s an imperative verb for three or more persons, but I just can’t remember…Then I notice the other moms are getting out of bed. That’s it – “Get up!” We are to get up and tidy our rooms while the nurses change our beds.

Then they bring in the pot of hot chamomile tea – our drink for the day (it’s hot at breakfast, warm at lunch, and cold for dinner). We three eat our meals together at a small table in the corner of the room: three bleary-eyed, disheveled women in matching green gowns eating soup and bread in a semi-dark room. Somehow I’m reminded of a B-grade prison movie. Babies screaming nonstop: nurses speaking to me only in Slovene; roommates who won’t talk to me or to each other; 21 visitors (for three women)—I want out of here!

October 7

“Vstanite!” I not only get up, I also start packing. We’re going home – hurrah!!! We get home about lunchtime and a friend has made homemade pizza for us. Then I take a nap.

October 15

I finally wake up, and we begin to enjoy being a family of six.


©2000 Thrive

View the original print magazine where this article was first published.