by Melinda Gallo

Visiting the maternity ward with Adriana

The video started with verses from the Bible and then showed paintings of women suffering. A group of pregnant women, their spouses, and friends (me included) were all present to hear about getting an epidural (anesthesia administered in the spine) during labor. A rarity in Florentine hospitals due to many religious and traditional ideologies.

My friend, Adriana, is in her 28th week and is quite nervous about giving birth. I don't blame her; it seems quite impressive that a baby will be coming out of her in November. She has been thinking about many options and since many hospitals in Italy do not offer epidurals, she has been searching for where she can go and what she can do. We found out that only one hospital in Florence offers an epidural if the doctor thinks you're suffering enough and the other one (where we went today) only gives you an epidural if you sign up in advance and pay between 600 to 1000 Euros. After you sign up, make sure you qualify, and pay, you need to pray that the anesthesiologist is not busy when you deliver because if the on-call anesthesiologist is busy, you won't be able to get an epidural.

After we finished watching the ten-year old video, which showed women before and after childbirth espousing its benefits, they showed us around the hospital: the nursery with only one crying baby in it and no one attending to him, the four single-bed labor rooms, and the delivery room (which was split in two so that two women could deliver at the same time). We left the visit before she showed us the hospital room with six beds and no room to really put the baby once he/she is born.

The nurse who took us around explained how the doctor (not clear as to what kind of doctor) is in the delivery room, but doesn't supposedly do much. They made it clear that only one person can come into the delivery room with the mother and that the mother must decide beforehand. The nurse added, "Non siamo qui per occuparci del marito" (We're not here to take care of the husband).

After our visit, Adriana told me that she was feeling much more comfortable especially after meeting the anesthesiologist and getting his home and cell number. She was introduced to him by a friend of her husband who works at the hospital. The doctor told her that she can call him and he'll come and administer the epidural for her.

As is always true in Italy, you have to know someone...and money doesn't hurt either.

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