As you probably know, just before Christmas, our family welcomed our third daughter. Needless to say, I have all things baby related on the brain. Plus, now that I’ve birthed more children in this country than I did in the states, I figured it is as good a time as any to talk about how one enters the world...in Arequipa, Peru.
For starters, I know many are surprised by our decision to use the medical care available here rather than return to the states to birth our children. The reality is that our experiences, while less cushy than with our firstborn, are sufficiently modern to avoid real concerns that a situation might arise beyond the capabilities of my doctor. I even had an ultrasound at every single prenatal appointment, as that is her preferred method to do a checkup on the growing baby. The hospital isn’t fancy, but it is nice enough, and much nicer than most of the people around here can afford, so we count our blessings on that front.
For the most part, it’s all the same. The few differences include that the epidural is administered by doses rather than with a pump, so I had to request additional doping when I started feeling the contractions more strongly and that labor mostly takes place in the patient’s room until she needs to be moved to a delivery room, then she returns for recovery in her room again. Also, I was assigned an obstetrician that was basically my own personal nurse through the whole process. We had the same woman both times and enjoyed chatting with her. Her job was to track my progress, report to the doctor, and assist as needed. Really, besides it all happening in Spanish, nothing else varies all that much.
The main thing that our family chose to still do differently than Peruvians has to do with the new baby. We learned through the experience of others that we would have to state our intentions beforehand in regard to the newborn. The typical approach around here is that the baby is whisked out of the delivery room to the nursery, where she is cleaned, clothed, bundled up and laid in bed with hot water bottles. They are very concerned about temperature regulation. This is more important than the baby’s need to nurse, so they keep the baby as long as they need to, giving formula by bottle feeding. The mothers don’t mind, because they take advantage of their recovery time in the hospital to catch up on sleep before going home. If the mother requests to have the baby to nurse, they will bring her, but mostly the nursery keeps the baby and the mom rests.
I requested a different approach with both of our Peru babies. I visited the pediatrician to ask that the baby not be given any formula, be brought to me as soon as possible and that I keep her in the room with me. He had some interesting comments on whether that was really healthy for the baby, but in the end, agreed to let me try it. The amusing twist was that my doctor, upon realizing we were caring for the baby ourselves in our room, sent me home almost immediately. “If you’re already taking care of her” she said, “you might as well be at home.” So, both times we have taken home a less-than-one-day-old baby. This time around, she knew to expect it and came in to visit me the next morning, greeting us with “I know you do things differently, so do you want to go home already?” Considering I had also gotten up to walk around just as soon as my anesthesia wore off, the answer was yes, that we were ready to go home and have all our girls together.
Now navigating life with a 5 year old (which is the new preteen, I think), a 2 year old (not terrible yet...here’s hoping) and a newborn—that’s crossing into a new culture!