Well ladies, I did it again. Had another baby that is — this time in Argentina. This was our third baby and third country in which I have delivered. If we get stationed overseas again, we may just have to go four for four (ask me when I am not deliriously tired).
Our first was born stateside but was not the typical hospital experience. My prenatal care was the standard prenatal experience, and then we PCS’d when I was 33 weeks along and I opted for a birth center in downtown Phoenix. So from that point on, things got pretty hippie, and I loved every minute of it.
Our second little girl was born in Italy. I cannot claim that I had an Italian birth experience though because I received all of my care, including delivery, on base at the military hospital. It was a pleasant experience filled with wonderful people. I will never forget the nurse in the delivery room with me, she was an incredible advocate for me, and I will always be thankful for her.
That brings us to today. There are no military bases where we are in Argentina, and we truly have no military affiliation while we are abroad for this assignment. It is the world’s greatest opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in a culture, and my husband is home every single day. I will forever be grateful to the Olmsted Foundation for this incredible experience.
That said, everything about this was completely different than the first two babies but also comfortingly similar. Here’s how:
Prenatal care is remarkably similar. Unsurprisingly, it is more relaxed as well. My doctor was warm and friendly from the start. There is never a rush to get you out of the room, and doctors are not given a specific amount of time they are allowed with a patient. The doctors actually give you their cell numbers to Whatsapp them if you have any concerns. Just send them a text, and they will get back to you! It is so generous and makes it feel more like a relationship rather than a stuffy, sterile experience.
My doctor’s main concerns were that I was taking my prenatal vitamins, using lotion on my stomach to help hydrate my skin, and that my blood pressure was healthy. Other than that, he was not concerned about much.
At the second appointment here, I started to justify why I had not gained any weight yet because with my previous two, I didn’t gain anything until after 20 weeks. In the past, it was something I had to explain and here my doctor was so confused. He told me that the baby is healthy, my blood pressure is low, my uterus is growing, therefore, it does not matter because everyone wears pregnancy differently. It was just such a small example of how it is more chill here.
In regards to scans and tests, there are a couple more standard ultrasounds given. However, they will not do genetic testing such as amniocentesis or lab work without a just cause. Therefore, you have to qualify as geriatric maternal age or have an abnormality on the nuchal cord measurement to justify those tests.
Lastly, my doctor was very hands-off. He only measured my stomach and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. They did not do a pap smear in the beginning of pregnancy or any cervical checks of any kind until I was past my due date and my doctor decided to see if “any action was happening.”
Oh and everything was in Spanish, so it was a whole new set of vocabulary to learn.
Delivery was pretty standard. I had two completely non-medicated natural deliveries before and this was no different. The only differences were that hospital protocols were more relaxed.
For example, I arrived at the hospital in transition. They showed me to a “Pre-Parto” room (laboring room), which is separate (only about a 10 foot walk) from the delivery room. It was a tiny closet room where the bed touched the bedside table and the bedside table touched the bathroom door. They hooked me up to the monitor to make sure the baby was handling contractions well and after a while, I had to use the bathroom. The monitors are stand-alone monitors that are not linked to a central monitoring system, so unless the nurse is in the room with you than they don’t know what is going on with you and baby.
The room was too small to take the monitor with me, so I unhooked it and then was stuck in the bathroom because contractions were so intense I literally couldn’t get off the pot. My husband went to ask if he should try to bring the monitor over and somehow get it on me and they were like, “Oh no, the baby was fine during very intense contractions so she is fine where she is.”
Then when I told them I had to push, they asked me to walk over to the delivery room. UH, yea that was not going to happen without some help, so two nurses just put their arms under mine while they made my husband go change into scrubs and walked me over all while I was saying, “Estoy empujando!” (I am pushing).
Haha! When I made it to the delivery bed, they didn’t put any monitors or cords of any kind on me either. FREEDOM!
In addition, they let me drink water from my water bottle in between contractions and never tried to place an IV. After delivery, they just gave me a shot of Pitocin directly into my muscle to help with afterbirth contractions because they had never placed an IV. I was only there two hours before I delivered and the entire time I was in transition or pushing so it would not have been easy for them to get one placed anyway.
HOLY HOSPITALITY! The staff on the postpartum floor was incredibly hospitable. They were concerned with what kinds of foods that I eat and how I take my coffee or tea. They never rolled their eyes when I needed them to explain something again because my tired brain was translating Spanish to English all the more slowly and just overall, they were incredibly kind. We had a fantastic experience.
Within the 48 hours that I had delivered, there had been 24 babies born and only 15 rooms. I had to share a postpartum room the first night in the hospital. I delivered my little guy at 21:37 so it was already late when we arrived to the postpartum room and again, it was like a closet. So, I sent my husband home to get some sleep since he couldn’t even fit his long legs in the space between the chair and the bed.
It is a requirement to stay 36 hours in the hospital due to blood work they do on the baby at the 36 hour mark, so I stayed two full nights. The morning after I delivered, they moved me to a big room with a couch and much more space and curtains from the 1980s that made me giggle every time I looked at them.
The only things I would recommend: Take your own pillow because theirs are like every hospital pillow (cement) and baby clothes because they only had one onesie to put him in due to the overflow of babies! Also, if you can get your hands on a peri-bottle, that would be helpful because they just give you a pitcher of water with a bar of soap in it to pour down the front of you every time you use the bathroom. Thankfully I had asked about this ahead of time and asked my parents to bring one. They couldn’t find one and improvised by bringing me a condiment bottle.
Yes, I was using a ketchup bottle as a peri-bottle. But hey, it worked!
Overall, we had a delightful experience from prenatal to postpartum. I would endorse having a baby in Argentina anyday!
Have you delivered outside the U.S.A.? Tell me your story in the comments!