Saturday, December 8, 2007

Siobhan's Interview

This isn't the meme interview. The questions are from Siobhan, a fellow Istanbul Mommy.

1) If you could go back to day 1 with LE what, if anything, would you do differently and why?
For this blog, I've vowed to myself not complain about my mother-in-law (I think I do enough of this on forums and in real life) except to mention funny things she does, because I never know who might be reading. My brother-in-law and cousins-in-law speak very good English, and I don't want to cause problems or hurt anyone's feelings. But I really could have done without her being being around within an hour after LE's birth creating stress and trying to make the whole thing about her. In fact, I really wish my husband and I could have spent the first night alone together with our amazing new son and held off the flood of in-laws until the next morning, but it was not to be. One reason MIL was put out was because we didn't have her come to be with me during labor. So in light of that, one hour after the birth was pretty good.

More importantly, I wish I'd been stronger standing up to the doctor about the induction (Warning! Detailed birth information to follow! I won't mention my vagina, but if you're squeamish you might want to skip the next few paragraphs!). LE was 12 days late, and she said the water was getting worryingly low, creating a danger of the cord getting compressed and LE going into fetal distress which would mean emergency Cesarean. Given Turkish doctors' love of cutting women open (the Cesarean rate is over 90% here, though that includes elective ones, as almost no one does natural births, and in fact, many OB/GYNs aren't confident doing natural deliveries), I was dead set against having a Cesarean. All the first babies on both sides of my family have been late, so for awhile, I tried not worry. I put her off about inducing as long as I could stand, but by 12 days, we were scared. I mean, she had scared us. In fact, I was having contractions by that time, but I didn't recognize them as such, and just thought it was LE pushing his bottom out and up against my ribs really hard. The night before the induction, I drank the midwife's magic recipe for causing contractions, and by morning, I still wasn't in hard labor, but I could feel things starting to happen. The doctor mislead me a little by telling me she'd give the oxytocin just enough to 'jump-start' the labor. I expected she'd examine me before putting me on the drip, and I'd hoped I'd started enough on my own for her to change her mind. But she wasn't even in the hospital yet when we arrived, and before I knew it, I was attached to the IV and crying because it wasn't how I wanted it to go. She did examine me an hour later, and I had indeed started dilating, but she kept me on the drip anyway.

This is where I wish I'd stood up to her, or had the sense to call the midwife (she and the midwife were friends and worked together often) to lean on her a little. There was no 'jump-starting' of labor. It was using chemicals to control the entire thing and to push it as fast as it could go. After the birth, I told the midwife the number on the drip machine (indicating cc's per minute or something), and she said it was three times the amount she had ever seen used. By noon, the non-stress test was showing LE's heartbeat to be not quite right, and I got whisked up to the ultrasound machine to have a look. All was well, but for that hour I was absolutely furious that this goddamned intervention was endangering my baby and making it possible they'd have to cut me open. An hour after lunch, I was feeling the contractions. Two hours later, I was hurting. Three hours later, I was screaming in pain, with hard contractions coming every minute or so, with no breaks in between. It was like one long contraction that ebbed and peaked. The midwife later told me they should have turned the drip off at this point, which I was repeatedly begging them to do. It turned out my cervix dilated 8 cm in less than an hour. Of course, birth and labor should be painful, but that was unnatural, suddenly laboring like that without a chance to breathe between contractions. They finally took me off the drip before taking me into the delivery room, and the contractions became more 'normal,' giving me a minute or two to rest in between. It was such a relief that I actually dozed off in those little breaks. The labor hurt so much that pushing the baby out was a breeze.

It's a long story, I know. But in retrospect, I wish I'd either waited another day or two for LE to come out on his own (I still believe he would have been born on my birthday if he hadn't been forced out two days earlier), or that I'd been stronger about controlling the induction and made it work more for me and not for the doctor.

2) You've lived in Istanbul for quite a few years now, what advice would you give to a newbie?

When I first came here, I had an attitude about things that I could probably do with a bit more of these days. Back then, I just went with the flow, didn't get surprised by much, was easily delighted, and never had a fixed plan. It was like a big adventure for three years straight, nothing was serious, and most things were fun. Fixed plans only result in stress. Better to just set things in motion and wait and see how it all turns out. So you woke up in Maltepe 2 hours before a lesson in Bakırköy? No problem. Even if you're unsure as to how you ended up in Maltepe, or where Maltepe even is? Whatever. Takes 8 hours to get a stamp in your residence permit? People-watch. Stuck with 7 days of split shifts a week? Tea garden. Cops at your door to bust up a party? Give them 20YTL, a sip of whiskey, and invite them in to look at the girls because that's the only reason they're there anyway. Since when does it take 17 cops to bust up a party?

It's not so easy to be this laid back with a baby. Babies are the most conservative people on earth, and it doesn't do to mess with their schedules. But one thing I still love about Turkey is how well everyone can do nothing. It's so nice to spend a few hours just sitting somewhere nice and chatting, and not having to worry about when you're going to do 'something,' or kicking back on someone's balcony in the summer not worrying that you're keeping them from doing 'something.' In America, we always had to get somewhere and do something. Here, doing nothing is doing something, and it's a good feeling.

3) We're both married to Turks, does the fact that you've entered into a 'mixed marriage' say anything about you or was it just down to fate?

I think I may have been fated to marry a foreigner, though I don't know why I think this, except that maybe I've always been fascinated with foreigners. There was also an element of fate in the time BE and I met, I think, in that I was starting to be ready to settle down. I'd been in love before, no illusions there about my innocence, but BE was the first person I fell in love with who seemed like someone I could make a home with, who I could keep loving even when everything sucked, and who would be a good, reliable husband and father.

I think that having a mixed marriage does say about me that I tend to do things the hard way, or that I'll always choose the more difficult path with the most unknowns. I don't know that I set out to do this on purpose, but it always ends up that way.

4)What is the one best and the one worst thing about bringing up a child in Turkey?

The worst thing about bringing a child up here is actually two related things-- doing a huge, scary thing in an unfamiliar setting without the kind of support I'm used to, and being away from my mother and family while I'm doing it.

By unfamiliar setting, I mean many things that seem 'normal' to me for what is needed to take care of a baby just aren't here, or if they're available, they're prohibitively expensive. Some of these, like things you buy for a baby (food, certain toys, baby equipment) can be improvised (like jamming the front seat of a taxi back against the carseat to hold it in place while crossing your fingers you don't actually get into an accident, because I've yet to get into a taxi with working seatbelts in the back), some can be splurged on (like a decent carseat), some can be gotten on trips home (like clothes that are actually made for babies and aren't just shrunken versions of kid clothes that don't have snaps int he crotch or don't fit over a diaper or a baby's big head), some can be shipped (like an ear thermometer), and some can be done without (like nice organic baby food in a jar so you don't have to make it all yourself, which I do but it's time-consuming). Other things, like parks you'd let your kid play in, are rare and overcrowded. Places like a Gymboree are like 40 bucks a pop to use, and are across town in the posh neighborhoods anyway. Changing tables are virtually non-existent. On the other hand, these things can be made up for. I have a nice playgroup that I go to every week so LE gets to hang out with other babies and play with someone besides me, plus I get to hang out with other foreign mommies. Where things are hard with babies, Turkish people can be really kind and accommodating, like they'll jump to help you get a stroller up and down the stairs which are suddenly everywhere (and now I wonder what on earth handicapped people do here!), and waiters are happy to let you change a baby on an unused table (though as a diner this troubles me to think about). As for the kind of support I'm used to, I just have to go home to America for that. My husband is great about backing me up on my crazy foreigner ideas, like that the baby doesn't need a snowsuit and 40 layers in 70 degree weather, and he's quick to shut up family members who think you should ride in the car with the baby in your lap because it's cold and someone doesn't want to wait for you to strap the seat in. But a lot of what some people here think of as 'support,' I think of as 'meddling' or 'not listening to me or respecting my ideas.' When I'm in the US, I can trust that I can leave LE alone with someone, and he won't be told 'Shame on you!' for crying or pooping, or fed lots of candy, or given pens and lighters to play with. But here, this child has been (literally!) attached to me from day one, because I don't know anyone who thinks my ideas for my child are worth respecting or who I trust that he'll be okay with. And again I'm seeing my lifelong trend of doing things the hard way, with the most obstacles and the most unknowns. I took LE home to the US this summer, and I couldn't believe how easy everything was.

Being away from my family for the pregnancy, birth, and these early baby months is really devastating and feels totally wrong to me. My father and I have always had an easy relationship with a lot to talk about, but pregnancy and birth and babies are something you need your mother for. I can't say my relationship with my mother changed when I got pregnant, because we've had a great relationship since I got over my lengthy pubescent and adolescent period of serious stroppiness. However, I can say our relationship deepened somewhat in that one never gets over needing one's mother, but it had been a long time since I felt so consciously how much I need her. I'm just loving it how thrilled my parents are with having a grandchild, and they're absolutely fascinated with every little thing he does, but at the same time, I feel so sad and guilty that they're not nearby to enjoy every minute of it.

The worst things are easy to go on about. The best thing about having a baby in Turkey, though, is by far the most important to me, which is here, I have this wonderful luxury of getting to stay home with him. I say 'luxury,' because economically, it's possible for us to get on nicely on one salary. I can't imagine having to leave him in day care so I could work, and what it would feel like to have to work. When he was 6 weeks old and my leave was over, it broke my heart imagining dumping him on strangers when he was so small, which I would have had to do if I had to work. Culturally, it's also a luxury in that no one really looks down on me for choosing to stay home with him. I think in the US, feminism has reached a point where women are expected to be mothers and have careers, and people maybe think women are giving up or selling themselves short if they choose to be 'only' mothers. But my mother stayed home with us, so to me, this is normal, it's the best thing for the kid, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Of course, I don't believe staying at home is the best thing for every woman, and nor do I think anything negative of working mothers, but having a choice about it is so important, and I'm glad I made this choice. Despite the difficulties, every day I think about how lucky I am, and how lucky LE is for us to be doing it this way.

5)What 3 things would you grab (apart from LE) when running out of your house in an earthquake?

Hmm. It's not quite the same as the burning house question, unless we assume my house is about to be rubble. But the answer in any case is practical and boring. Passports, glasses, shoes. With a little more time, I'd make sure I had LE's birth certificate thingie from the consulate. With a little better planning, I'd have all this stuff ready in an earthquake kit, plus a working cell phone and some spare diapers and a blanket for LE. Then it would be earthquake kit, CDs, and my wedding rings.

So that's the interview. Thanks Siobhan! It was fun being so self-centered and writing only about myself there. I apologise if it was boring.

If you would like to be interviewed by me on your blog, drop me an email at I'll write 5 questions for you, and I promise not to ask anything I wouldn't want to answer myself.


ms.bri said...

I would like to be interviewed by you. Send me questions!

I wish you could come visit me. I miss you.

Stranger said...


I'll mull it over and email you, hopefully before we set off.

I wish I could come visit too :( I'm aiming for summer now...

siobhan said...

Thanks for your answers. Very interesting read. I didn't know about your birth experience, don't know why I was surprised to learn that being bullied into a c-section wasn't the only kind of abuse going on in the labour wards. Here's hoping we both have a better experience next time round

Stranger said...

I think being bullied into a c-section was closer than I thought. My husband later told me the doc had come out of the delivery room and told someone to prepare the OR. It was probably because I wasn't pushing well at first-- the contractions had come on so fast, I didn't have a chance to pee, and I was probably pushing carefully because my bladder was so full. But she figured it out and did a catheter to drain my bladder, and after that, there was no problem.

But yeah, hopefully now that we're armed with a little knowledge, we'll be able to stand up to the docs. After all, we're the ones paying them a shitload of money...