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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Mothers-To-Be Trust Nature Over Midwives




Last weekend, I went camping with the three kids and two other moms. We drove out into the dpths of a forest three hours from Moscow and pitched our tents by a little stream. It was all incredibly beautiful, the children were deliriously happy, and we felt positively light-headed from the fresh air. Since I've never actually been camping before, and it was freezing cold, and my husband couldn't make it, I was congratulating myself on being so adventurous (or foolhardy). At least until I got talking round the camp fire to the mothers and realized that, in comparison with them, I'm a lily-livered sophisticate.


Both women had their children with them and were also heavily pregnant. Moreover, once the summer holidays started they intended to go down to the Crimea to camp with the children in a national park miles from civilization - without their husbands. Since one of the women is due in July, she hopes to have her baby in the woods. The other, who is due in September, will have hers in Moscow with no midwife.


This might sound breathtakingly brave, but in fact it's just a reaction to the hair-raising experience of having a baby in a rod-dom maternity hospital. The tales I've heard over the years of the brutal attitude of mid-wives (one of whom actually tried to push an emerging baby back inside because the mother wasn't in the right room at the time) and the primitive conditions are bone chilling. Then there's the little drawback that fathers can't even visit, let alone be present at the birth. Oh yes, and babies are usually kept in a separate ward, where they're given supplementary bottle feeds in order to give the mothers a "rest." Not surprisingly, the mums then find it hard to breast feed.


Nowadays, you can find a few progressive, private hospitals, which are more Westernized, but still have their drawbacks. A French woman who gave birth in Moscow so as to be near her Russian husband paid $1,000 and got a private ward and friendly mid-wives. But the first thing they did was take all her clothes away and put her in a lumpy bed. When she went into labor she wasn't given an epidural or gas-and-air. Moreover, the father, though present at the birth, wasn't allowed in to visit her in the following week.


Not surprising then, that my Russian friends just want to have their babies by themselves. The problem is - you're not allowed to. So if you want to give birth at home here you're forced to do it without any professional assistance because any qualified mid-wife is obliged to take you to the hospital.


You also have mind-boggling complications trying to get a birth certificate for your "non-existent" baby because maternity hospitals are the only places that register them. But despite these hassles, my camping moms would choose the woods over a rod-dom any day.