Thursday, October 29, 2009

Natural Birth in Turkey

It turns out that 99% of hospital births in Turkey are Cesarean. Don't quote me on that figure, but I've seen it elsewhere and that's certainly what it seems like to me when I ask around. But regardless of its accuracy, it's high. Of course the flip side is that 99% of rural at-home births are natural. But I don't live in a rural village ... And I would like to take advantage of what modern medical technology has to offer, drawing the line at having a C-section pushed on me!

I've been stressing about this for a few months now; have felt better since going over my birth plan with my doctor earlier this week and being convinced that she will do everything she can to avoid my needing a C-section.

All I want to say on this subject for now is to anyone planning to deliver a baby in this country, do you research; don't take anything for granted. What is 'standard procedure' back home is not the case here. Learn about each stage of labour and what decisions may need to be made; then discuss with your doctor which route you want to go at each crossroads. Because chances are, your doctor will want to do a Cesarean at the first sign of any difficulty.

You will meet doctors who refuse to do anything but C-sections, who truly believe it's the safest way to go. I was greatly relieved to learn that my doctor has delivered babies without a C-section, and that she was able to give me several different reasons for the high rate of Cesareans here, reasons which didn't apply to me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Fashion

I've recently started using the expression, ''It's in my bones.'' It's never made sense to me before, and for all I know I'm misusing it now, but it's the only way I can describe the feeling I get whenever I come across a little piece of my own roots here in my adopted home, Turkey. Since I live here, I don't realize how foreign everything around me is until I visit an American friend who serves BLTs and a glass of milk for lunch, or on a visit back to Canada, when everyone shows up at 7:15 for a 7pm dinner invitation. How did we all just know that would be the correct thing to do? It's in our bones.

I was at a mall yesterday for the first time in ages, and was excited by all the fall fashion I saw. And then I remembered it's mid-October, and my friends back home have been wearing their fall clothes since the beginning of September. I am a sweater person, and will come home with three new sweaters when what I desperately needed was a pair of pants. And then I'll realize that two of them are remarkably similar, and the third resembles one I already had. So it goes without saying I felt the effects of a sudden rush of endorphins.

But I don't get to wear sweaters as much as I'd like to in this Mediterranean climate I've adopted. And until I went to the mall yesterday, the annual appearance of ''fall fashion'' was something I'd completely forgotten existed! How could I think of sweaters and wool pants in warm browns, charcoal greys and winterized versions of turquoise, purple and mustard yellow, when the days are still swelteringly hot, with temperatures in the mid-thirties?

But the shops are full of lovely fall clothes, and I couldn't help but wander into Zara and Mango and try on a few sweaters yesterday. Never mind that I was already hot in the air-conditioned mall in just my t-shirt (I'm pregnant, remember?); I hadn't even gotten one arm into the sleeve of the asymetrical cardigan that flattered my current curvaceous state and would be just as nice next year, sans bump, when I started sweating. Which leads me to ask: how can these stores expect to sell anything in our city? I'm sure Istanbulites and people in Ankara and Izmir are enjoying their fall wardrobes, but it'll be a while yet out here. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy as anything these stores are here! I may not be able to buy celery or blueberries, but I can buy a GAP sweatshirt! I just can't wear it in September, October or November, when my 'bones' tell me I should buy it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving and the Olive Harvest

Although Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays, I have once again failed to celebrate it in any sort of satisfactory way. Perhaps once baby is born I'll be more organized, knowing that my failure to observe Canadian holidays will mean he or she grows up a stranger to them! But in the meantime, I am repeatedly surprised at the way these holidays creep up on me and I am too busy to cook an appropriate meal or arrange a dinner with friends.

Today, instead of feeling sad that I can't be with my Canadian family eating turkey, cranberries and mashed sweet potatoes, followed by pecan pie, I want to be thankful for the way I did spend the day yesterday.

C and I drove the short forty-five minutes it takes to get into the mountains just north of our city, where friends of ours have a chalet, or yayla. The drive alone is breathtaking; but even more amazing is the entirely different climate. You step out of the car and feel like you've flown twelve hours across an ocean, so dry and fresh is the air, so much cooler the temperature. There were yellow leaves on the ground (the way there should be in autumn!), and the smell of wood-burning fireplaces in the air.

The highlight of my day was picking olives from our friends' six-year-old trees -- mere babies, but the perfect size for a pregnant woman in her eighth month, since I didn't have to climb up any ladders! Come to think of it, it's the first time I've spent Thanksgiving doing what the holiday is originally about: harvesting the season's fruit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Macho Turkish Man

It is no surprise that Turkish women coo and cluck over my pregnant belly, ask the same questions (when is it due? will it be a boy or a girl? what??? what do you mean you don't know???), and then close the conversation with a string of blessings and prayers uttered too quickly for me to make out more than the word Allah repeated several times.

What has completely floored me, though, is the response from men. When I first moved to Turkey three years ago, I immediately noticed the uninhibited displays of affection men showed children. What a shame, what a loss to our society, that no one touches anyone anymore for fear of making someone 'uncomfortable.' But in Turkey, people unabashedly show their (platonic) affection for one another, especially children.

The security guards and custodians at my place of work melt into smiley girly-men when they see me coming, stop for a quick chat (when is it due? will it be a boy or a girl? oh, how nice, a surprise.), and walk away, eyes moist.