By Elizabeth Collins.
I was told I had simply gone mad! People questioned whether I had really thought through the notion of giving birth in Azerbaijan? Had I considered anything going wrong? What was my plan if I suddenly decided I had to leave the country?
The answer to all these questions was no I hadn’t seriously considered any of them. There are thousands of healthy children running around Baku, perfectly happy so I didn’t see why the standard of care I recieved in Baku would be less satisfactory than in the UK? And it turns out it wasn’t! If I have to make the decision again; UK vs. Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan would win. The care and the medical support I received was no doubt bizarre but definitely faultless.
I was four months pregnant when we first arrived in Baku and had little idea of the geographical location of the country let alone it’s healthcare system, so I kept an open mind and decided to go with the flow. Initially after hearing tales of expat problems with anything medical in the country, my plan was to return to the UK, but within a couple of weeks I met a lovely English speaking doctor who had experience in Europe and discussed my options with her. My decision was then made; keep the family together and no travelling, I was comfortable with the arrangements…… and then the drama began.
My first appointment was to have a scan so they could confirm my dates, so I arrived at a completely non-English speaking clinic and handed over my appointment card. I was then taken to the scanning room. Ok, so far, so good! The scan started and the lady (English speaking) performing it said everything looked fine, did all the measurements, checked vital organs and confirmed the baby was in perfect health. She then asked as they normally do whether I wanted to know the sex of the baby, my response was ‘no’, she said ‘ok but he is doing fine’. So I had some additional information I didn’t request but tried not to get too emotional (often difficult with hormones flying everywhere) and tried to convince myself that as long as the baby was ok that was all that mattered.
So, after that appointment I was called to see the doctor; the first question she asked was ‘when do you want to deliver’, I presumed I had misunderstood and replied ‘well, I hope to get to 40 weeks but my first child (also a boy!!) was 2 weeks late. A look of ecstasy came across her face – not only was I backing away from her at this point but was considering putting my two year old under my arm and sprinting away, but when the giggling started and she picked up her mobile to call someone I genuinely thought she was having some sort of mental breakdown. Ignoring my concerns, and slightly intrigued at this bizzare reaction, I decided to stay to attempt to establish what on earth was going on. After numerous phone calls and endless giggling it transpired that she had realised I wanted a natural birth. At this point I wasn’t aware that c-sections were the recognised method of delivery in Baku and although the doctor had assisted natural births in Europe, she had never seen one in Azerbaijan. It was then I started to have some concerns. However for some strange reason I did trust her and after much deliberation decided this was still the right decision for me.
The next couple of months past with only the odd blood test and scan and very little drama. The only point of confusion for me during this period was the clinic’s amazement that neither me or my child showed any signs of diabetes and the baby showed no signs of ‘retardation’. Good result I felt, as by this point I had been in Baku for longer and developed the skill of just smiling in agreement and nodding my head at times of uncertainty. Everything was on track we were both doing fine and then one phone call saw my blood pressure rocket.
I had hit 40weeks and no signs of labour, I was perfectly calm as I knew there was still a couple of weeks to chill out, but the doctor didn’t agree. She was convinced that something must be wrong as I had exceeded my due date and sent me for an emergency scan. Off I went with very few concerns and had the scan, where it was found that the baby was fine and a healthy 7lbs. Another phone call, ‘your baby is very, very small. We must act now’
Immediately I was on the phone to my UK GP who agreed with me that there was nothing to worry about, and advised that I just relax and wait for something to happen - which I did. At 42 weeks to the day I was in some discomfort so I phoned the doctor and she advised I meet her at the clinic and she would send an ambulance. I wasn’t in that much pain so I suggested that I catch a cab, this apparently was not an option, so an ambulance was sent and I was forced to lie down feeling like an absolute twit! It was only childbirth not a life threatening illness like as was being treated.
On arrival at the clinic I was greeted by a welcoming committee; they were obviously also excited that someone was having a natural birth (it later transpired that in the twenty years the clinic had been running a maternity unit, they had never had a natural birth on the premises, only pre-planned c-sections. None of the other staff had ever experienced it; this included midwives, gynaecologists and others). I was taken straight through to have my baby as by this point I was in quite a bit of pain, the staff were all lined round the bed, waiting for each stage of labour to occur and my doctor was teaching them what to do as the labour progressed.
The care the team provided was immense they couldn’t have done more for me; they were deverstated when the labour only lasted 40minutes (I of course was not) and my baby boy arrived weighing a healthy 7lb 2ozs.
How long we stay in Baku is uncertain, but one thing for sure is that one day I will be returning to Baku just to show Hugo where he was born!