The first thing I did after accepting a job in Turkey was google “Country of Turkey.” I had only the vaguest ideas about the place. What language do they speak? Is it a secular country? Is it a ‘first world’ country? Is it safe? The answers are not always so clear cut and, indeed, have shifted even in my short time here.
|Kaya & I|
When I was 4 months pregnant we took a trip to see my in-laws. My mother and sisters-in-law shared their birth stories with me. My mother-in-law has 8 children, all born in the East of Turkey in Diyarbakır. My husband, her last, was the only one born in a clinic. At over 4 kilos, and breech, it’s no wonder she decided to stop there. The baby of this big beautiful family, my husband wants a lot of kids. But, I remind him, we’re getting a late start and we have agreed to take it one baby at a time.
The summer of my pregnancy was hot and full of political drama here in Turkey. Our little hot box of an apartment near Taksim Square gave us a front row seat to the failed coup attempt. Nearby buildings were riddled with bullet holes and shattered glass from sonic booms. With just a little over a month to go, we moved across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul. We found a new doctor and a hospital walking distance from our new home.
|Pre-baby, with my husband and in-laws.|
I spent the first few days at our new place unpacking, washing baby clothes and napping in front of our glorious air conditioner. We knew our baby was on the small side so I was hoping to go late, maybe 41 or 42 weeks. One morning, not even two weeks after our move, at 38 weeks exactly, while assembling my new IKEA desk, my water broke. It was not like the movies. Thinking we had another two weeks at least, it was quite a surprise.
Our doctor said to meet her at the hospital. We took our time, I cleaned the kitchen and packed a bag while my husband finished the desk. I expected to be sent home until I was properly in labor, but we were admitted. For two days we waited for me to go into labor. We watched the Olympics in what we joked was our “expensive hotel with shitty food and no pool.” We ignored calls from our moms (how do they know?!) and generally laid low, hoping to avoid the crush of calls and visits. The risk of water breaking before labor is infection for the mother and or child. The accepted time frame before interventions maxes out around 48 hours. At the end of the second day things were finally happening. After 35 hours of waiting, blood draws and antibiotic shots, we were finally on a roll. At 11 PM on the second day I was in early labor when we decided to go to bed and rest up for the impending main event.
I turned off our mood music and blew out the candles. My husband and I got into bed feeling relaxed and ready. Seemingly even before my eyes closed an orderly barged in. Holding electric hair clippers she announced, in Turkish, that she was here to prep me for my C-section. I figured that she had the wrong room, I understood her just fine, but I was confused. The lights came on, the nurse came in and while my husband translated, it became clear that my doctor was on the way. My last blood test had shown a dramatic rise in my white blood cell count indicating the risk of infection was now high. Our doctor who literally wrote the book on “natural birth” was recommending a C-section. Even though I was in labor it could still be many hours until delivery. “We have waited as long as we can safely wait.” she explained, “The baby is not in distress, so now is the time.” Even though a C-section was not our “Plan A” we had discussed our wishes if that is how things turned out. It was an easy decision to take her advice, but the transition was a little overwhelming. The doctor left to prep for surgery and the nurse handed me a gown (I had been wearing my own clothes up until now). I got on the bed and suddenly, I felt like a patient, a sick person, not a pregnant lady. I cried for a second, but only a second as a big Turkish man with a big round belly and big broom mustache came in and lifted me onto what felt like a wooden slab. Naked except for my thin hospital gown, he wheeled me down the hall and we rode the elevator into the frigid, basement operating room. I could not understand a word he said – was this guy even speaking Turkish? He transferred me to the operating table – anesthesiologists, nurses and tech prep, were all business, speaking muffled Turkish to each other through their masks. No one talked to me. It was so bright. It was so cold. I missed our cuddly maternity suite. Just then my doula arrived in blue scrubs. She translated and talked me through the epidural. I was having contractions every few minutes, shivering uncontrollably and my teeth were chattering violently. “OK,” she said, “hold perfectly still. It’s very important.”
They threaded the epidural into my spine and I was going numb in no time. They strapped my arms down tightly to the table. My doula said, ”Ok, I’m leaving now but your husband is coming, he’s dressed like me, but blonde.” This gave me a much needed laugh. I somehow knew what she meant. My husband, with his black hair and big black beard, came in all calm and cool in his yellow (blonde) scrubs. A few moments later our baby came out screaming, eyes wide open. It was amazing and surreal. I couldn’t see anything so I watched my husband watch our new baby. “Boy or girl?” he asked. “Erkek.” They said, in Turkish. A boy. After a quick clean-up they brought him over to me and put his cheek to mine. He stopped crying while I talked to him. “He recognizes your voice,” my husband said. They handed our tiny son to him and they left the room together.
|My husband & Kaya|
It was the last time in 6 months that I have felt alone and to be sure, I will never be truly alone again. Because even for one hour, in a coffee shop, 15 meters from my front door, I can’t stop thinking about him, my son. What is he doing? Is everything alright with him? Is he cold, hot, hungry? Does he miss me?
My son is a Kurdish, Turkish, American. He is adorable and at 6.5 months he can say “mom” in 2 languages.
Thanks, again, to yabangee.com for giving me a platform to write about art and life in Turkey.