The journey of baby Joana to this world

I gave birth to my second daughter on Sept 7th 2020 in Maichin Dom, Varna.

I gave birth to my first daughter in Denmark. When I found out that I’m pregnant with her, I was in Bulgaria. I went to Maichin Dom to confirm my pregnancy. I was only one month pregnant and the doctor told me that most probably they will do a Cesarean section, because my hips (pelvis) are too small. I decided then that I was going to give birth abroad.

I used to work in Denmark, so I went back there. The first doctor I met wasn’t nice to me at all, he didn’t really like foreigners. But in Denmark midwifes take care of the pregnant women and my midwifes were extremely nice. They worked in a small hospital on a small island, they had no ultrasound or other machines (only Doppler), they checked the position and the weight of the baby with their hands. And at the birth it turned out that they were more exact then the ultrasound 🙂 They gave me a lot of emotional support too and they fought for my right to be in the medical system there, even though that first doctor tried to make this impossible.

I would have loved to give birth with them, but in the last month of the pregnancy my baby didn’t really grow. So, after I went past the due date, they advised me to go to the mainland to a bigger hospital and to start the birth there with a pill called Angusta.

In the hospital, one female doctor did a membrane sweep without informing me about it. That wasn’t very nice, but everyone else was very helpful and kind. I literally fell in love with them during the birth. After an easy vaginal birth they waited for the umbilical cord to stop to pulsate. The father, who was with me all the time, cut it and then they immediately gave me the baby. After that they brought me food and they left us alone a little bit. Then one more last check-up on me and the baby and we were ready to go home.

It was amazing experience to spend the first night with our precious baby at our home, in our bed, together with daddy. I have no words for the happiness we felt. My midwifes- those that had been monitoring my pregnancy, came regularly to check the baby. One month after the birth we came back to Bulgaria.

So, after this wonderful experience, I decided to give birth to my second daughter in Denmark again. We were ready for the trip, all the luggage was in the car already, and then we heard the news that they closed the borders of Denmark and other countries in Europe due to Covid-19. I got scared.

We needed a plan B.

I started to look for groups on Facebook to find some people who could help me have the birth experience I wish for in Bulgaria. First I found ЖЕНИ & АКУШЕРКИ and there they gave me contacts of doulas in Varna. I also joined Раждане във Варна: информиран избор и подкрепа and I got in contact with Yoanna Rachovska. She advised me to go to Dr.Tsonev who respected all my wishes about the prenatal care and agreed to help me have a birth as natural as possible without any unnecessary interventions. And he was the only doctor in Maichin Dom who spoke English, so with whom I could actually communicate.

Then I had to get a midwife, but the one I contacted first was very rude. Thankfully, Dr.Tsonev helped me to change her to Reni, who was very sweet and caring. Since she didn’t speak English, and my Bulgarian is very weak, my boyfriend was allowed to join me at almost every check-up, despite the deteriorating situation with Covid-19. This made the time of the pregnancy much calmer, since I didn’t really like to be in Maichin Dom in general.

I already had the experience from my first pregnancy when they wanted to do a C-section without any reason. And at the information desk, the girls were often rude and everything but informative. They couldn’t give me any official paper about the prices, they said that what was written on their website wasn’t relevant and every time I asked them about something they gave me different information. I felt that they were trying to trick me to pay more. And they managed. When we got the bill at the end, it was much higher then what we expected, even though we had asked about all the details so many times.

I remember one time when they didn’t let my boyfriend in. I was crying while I was waiting for my check-up, because the whole place made me feel so vulnerable. As if they just wanted me to shut up and pay. And as if I didn’t have any right to receive information and make decisions about my own body and about my baby and my birth experience. But with my midwife and at my doctor I felt safe and cared about and heard.

And just when I believed that with their help everything was going to be all right, Dr. Tsonev told me that he would be on vacation at the time when I was supposed to give birth. I got terrified.

I needed a plan C.

But there are not many doctors like him in Varna who are so open-minded, so professional and respect women and support them in their choices – maybe also owing to his work experience from Western countries. I went to talk to Dr. Anna Atanasova, but she didn’t want to spend the time to discuss how I would like to give birth. She just told me to call her when I’m already in labor and that’s it. So I contacted Dr. Zhasmin Kostov, who was nice, but he told me that he was on vacation at the same time like Dr. Tsonev. I didn’t know who else I could ask.

I decided to not make more plans, and just hope that everything was going to be the way it should be. What else could I do? There were new restrictions all the time, it was impossible to plan anymore. No one knew what tomorrow would bring. I hoped that I would give birth after my due date, so Dr. Tsonev would be back. That way, even if because of some new law my boyfriend would not have been able to come with me, I would be with a doctor who speaks English and who I trusted. And if I would have gone into labor earlier I was thinking to just go to the hospital as late as possible and give birth with whoever is there.

Three weeks before my due date, one night I didn’t feel very well and I had some not-so-strong, irregular contractions. But they went away and the birth didn’t start. Every now and then I started to worry or I got afraid of what is ahead of me. But then I just wrote to Yoanna Rachovska or I went to meet her in person and she always made me relaxed and helped me to be positive. She told me what kind of things could make the birth easier. She taught my boyfriend massage techniques to ease the pain during the labor and many more things. She gave me a huge amount of support.

Then time was passing and my due date came and Dr. Tsonev was back in town, yeah!!! After my due date passed, the plan was that I would go every other day to check the heart rate of the baby and see if it would be safe to wait longer for the birth to start by itself. But now Reni went on holiday and I was monitored by another midwife. She was awful.

She didn’t let my boyfriend in. She thought that I was lying about being in the Bulgarian health care system and that I was trying to sneak around and get the examinations for free. And she didn’t really give me any information about my results, which made me worried for my baby. I hated to go to her. And instead of having to be checked every other day, I had to go every day, because the baby was often sleeping during these examinations, so they couldn’t get good results.

I felt that everything was fine with the baby. She had always been like this. If I lay down to rest, she got quiet too – unlike her sister who always started to kick me as strong as she could when I wanted to rest. But otherwise she was active during the day. I was also checked on the ultrasound and they found everything all right. I really really wanted the birth to start by itself. I was so sad and disappointed when last time they had to induce it with the pills. I would have loved to have the experience of a totally natural birth so so so much!!!!

So, every time I had to enter Maichin Dom, I was stressed because I was very scared that they would not let me out and the birth would be induced again. I knew that this new midwife wants to keep me in.

The second day after my due date I had a very exhausting day. I was out in the Sea Garden till 10 o’clock at night with my daughter and her new friend. The day after, the baby in my belly wasn’t active at all. I got worried. Maybe she was just tired too, like me, but maybe there was something wrong with her. I had to go have a check-up to find out. But I just felt so bad around the new midwife… I got physically sick if I was around her. I didn’t want to be monitored by her again. And I knew that if I went to her one more time, no matter what the result would be, she was going to keep me in. However I had to know if the baby was safe or no. So we called a midwife who comes to your home with a Doppler, check the baby’s heart rate and make an examination. But she could have come only in the evening, and I didn’t want to wait so long.

Then my boyfriend told me that the day before he saw Reni going into the hospital. So most probably she was back to work. At the reception when I asked, they couldn’t tell me on which day would she come back. So we decided to go to Maichin Dom, but not to the new midwife, but to try to find Reni. When we got in, I passed the door of the new midwife very carefully, so as not be seen by her, since she was expecting me that day too. It’s good that the room of Reni is a bit sequestered, so I could hide there till she came out.

Then my boyfriend explained to her that I would like to be checked by her, because I don’t feel good with the other midwife. She said that Dr. Tsonev asked that I be checked by the other woman while Reni was on holiday. And in Bulgaria it’s only possible to choose the doctor, not the midwife. But she saw how desperate I was, so she smiled at me and agreed to examine me. The heartbeat wasn’t very good, baby was sleeping again. But when she checked with her hand she said that the baby reacts to her hand so it’s fine.

She consulted a doctor and they decided that everything is good enough and I can go home and she will check me the next day, even though her schedule was full. Wow, such a different experience!!! She explained everything, she gave me advice, she was caring and she payed attention to me. The other midwife just put me in an empty room and left me there and sometimes came in to shout at me if I removed my mask from my nose.

I was happy and calm again.

The next day, the results of the baby’s heart beat were very good. Luckily, because the other midwife started to pressure Reni to keep me in the hospital, but tat way I was free to go one more time. But then the weekend came, and Reni was not working.

When we went to the hospital the next day, it was like a ghost house. We were wandered around for a long time before we could find anyone. It was also a national holiday, the Uniting of Bulgaria, so I think thanks to this I could go home again after the examination, since no one wanted to have extra work this time. The baby was very active again and I was having some contractions too. I talked to Dr. Tsonev and he said that he will work next Monday and he would like to make an ultrasound and then decide if he would induce he birth or no. But he would prefer to induce it.

On Sunday, the results of the heart beat weren’t very good. I think it was because we made love with my boyfriend in an attempt to start the birth. As a result, my belly became very hard and stayed like that all day long. But it made Dr. Tsonev change his mind and he said that he wanted me to go back to the hospital in the evening and take Cytotec to induce the birth.

So that was it, no natural birth again. We thought it was also because Tsonev was on shift the next day, so he had to stay in the hospital all day long anyway. But I didn’t want to put the baby at risk and with the not-so-good heart rates, I didn’t feel that everything was good enough for waiting more. Probably it would have been okay to wait more, but I wasn’t sure. So I agreed to the induction.

But I still had one last chance to not take that pill. I made a mixture that is considered a way to induce birth within 3 to 6 hours. I drank it at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and I had to be back in the hospital at 9 p.m. Just when we arrived at the door of Maichin Dom, I felt that I had to go to the toilet immediately. After I finished my business in the toilet, the contractions started.

I was happy and hopeful. In the hospital they examined me and we had to fill out thousands of papers. We finished with this at 12 o’clock. The contractions were continuing and getting slightly stronger. Even the midwife could see them through my T-shirt.

At 12:30 they brought me the Cytotec and left us alone. But I didn’t take the tablet. I was still hoping that the contractions would get strong enough for the birth to start. I waited till maybe 3 o’clock at night, but nothing happened. The contractions went away totally. So I took the medicine. But the only reaction I had from it was my belly getting very hard and staying like that, just like after making love – after all, in this pill there are the same hormones like in the sperm.

In the morning, Dr. Tsonev came to examine me. I was 4 cm dilated. He though it was from the Cytotec, but it could have been from the contractions I had after I drunk the mixture. Since taking the pill I didn’t feel any pain or contractions, only the hardness of the belly. He did a membrane sweep and said that we would wait for one more hour to see if I continue to dilate; if no, I would be started on oxytocin.

Unfortunately, nothing happened in that hour, so the midwife on duty put me on oxytocin. It wasn’t an easy task for her. Before this, she had already had problems operating the machine for checking the heart rate of the baby. Even when she did find out which button she had to push, she had difficulties pushing it because of long fake nail. Otherwise she was sweet.

After she managed – with the help of Dr. Tsonev – to put me on a mobile oxytocin IV, so I’d still be able to move, nothing happened for like one more hour. They increased the dose every 15 minutes, which I thought was too fast, since I read on the internet that it should be increased every half an hour. I said this to the midwife, but she said that these were the instructions of Dr. Tsonev, so she would do it like this. I had no experience with oxytocin and I’m not a doctor, so I let them continue it like this.

Then painful contractions started, but they were not coming very quickly after each other yet. They were very different from the contractions I experienced at the my first birth. At the first birth, they came like a wave, arriving slowly, getting stronger and stronger, then going away. With the IV oxytocin, the pain was very sharp, arriving from nowhere but super strong and then disappearing in a second. It didn’t feel natural at all. I missed my wave-like contractions, which rocked my body to gently open up for the baby.

I lost interest in the process of giving birth, in listening to my body, because I felt that the things are not in the control of my body anyway. First I went to bounce on the fitness ball, then when I got bored with that, I went to the bed to watch some stupid movie.

More or less one hour passed like this and suddenly, out of nowhere, the bearable contractions turned into unbearable ones. I just wanted to smash my head into the wall from them. When they came, I hugged my boyfriend as strong as I could. Feeling his body close to mine was the only thing which made me survive this part. And while I was hugging him, I was watched from the corner of my eyes the cleaning ladies who were a few steps away from me, observing my suffering. I didn’t understand why they had to be in the room. I also felt huge pain in my vagina, as if it wanted to erupt.

Since it wasn’t my own body producing the oxytocin, I didn’t produce endorfins and other hormones which would have helped me to cope with the pain and put me in an euphoric state of mind, and give me the joy of giving birth (yep, joy, my firth birth was an orgasmic birth, it was nice).

I started to beg to the midwife to turn down the oxytocin, because it was hell like this. She called for Dr. Tsonev. When he came, I was screaming from the pain. He tried to examine me, but the pain was so strong and constant I could hardly open my legs. But when finally he could check me, he said with a bit of surprise in his voice that the head was coming out: a few more pushes and I would have the baby.

But I felt that it was not the time yet. My tissues were not ready, they were resisting and not letting the baby out. I needed more time. I told him too that I wanted the oxitocin to be turned off immediately and I want my own body, my own hormones to work out this birth. He said that he strongly disagreed but we will do whatever I decide. I said turn it off. All these things were happening very fast. I had only around 4 from these super painful contractions.

When I got free from the oxytocin, I suddenly felt the need to get out of the bed. The staff weren’t very happy about this. But I just wanted to run away from them and do the things my body commands me to do.

I didn’t listen to the staff anymore, only to my body and it made me feel free and strong.

But they followed me on my runaway of course. I managed to get to the “donkey” when the next contraction came. They were begging me to sit on it. They were scared that I was going to give birth standing and they won’t be able to catch the baby and she will fall from too high. But I refused to sit on it. It wasn’t the position my body needed.

Then Dr. Tsonev found the solution.

Very fast, he put the yoga mat in front of me on the ground, the fitness ball at the end of it and he told me to kneel down on the mat with my upper body on the ball and he put my boyfriend at the other side of the ball. They tried to apply the warm compress I asked for before the birth. Dr. Tsonev prepared it with my favorite oil, but somehow it didn’t feel good, so I asked them to not do it.

Dr. Tsonev told me to push, but the contractions were still so uncontrollably painful that I couldn’t push hard enough. We tried a few times, and with time, the contractions started to normalize and my tissues felt slightly more ready. My water broke. In the meantime, they tried to monitor the heartbeat of the baby, but this midwife had a hard time finding it even when I was lying in the bed. So in this position, on the ground, on my knees, it was impossible for her. 1-2 pushes later Dr. Tsonev said that it had been like 5 minutes since they had not been able to find the pulse of the baby, so we can try one more push and then he would like me to go to the bed to check if everything was all right.

I got worried for my baby: what if her heart is not beating? So with the support of my boyfriend, who was motivating me to push hard at the next contraction, I collected all my power and I pushed the baby out. Dr. Tsonev gave me the baby (he had to help the midwife catch her because of the unusual position of giving birth).

I must say I didn’t feel the same way as after the birth of my first daughter. Back then, because my body was producing all these mixtures of hormones, I was in another word. Naturally high, I didn’t know at all what was happening around me. I was so much under the spell of this experience and I fell in love with all the midwifes who helped me. And when my baby was finally out, I was so so happy to hold her in my arms. She was so soft and warm and cuddly and perfect, my heart got filled with love.

This time, without my own hormones, my head stayed clear and I was just happy that the baby was finally out and fine and the birth was over. We waited for the umbilical cord to stop to pulsate then dr. Tsonev offered to my boyfriend to cut it. He offered me oxytocin for the placenta to come out faster, but I refused, so he patently waited for it. I was bleeding though, so he asked me to try to push and when it was out, he checked me and sewed me. They measured the baby in the meanwhile.

After the birth I felt very good physically, almost like nothing happened. All in all, it was a super easy and fast birth. It wasn’t the birth experience I wanted, but still I’m extremely thankful to Dr. Tsonev for being so flexible and understanding and supportive and for giving me the freedom of choice. It made me feel very happy and proud about my birth.

I wanted an early discharge from the hospital, to go home to my first-born as soon as possible. But the Bulgarian health care system didn’t allow it. I find this very stupid, because it would have been cheaper for the healthcare system too if they wouldn’t have to pay those days I was forced to stay in the hospital. Me and my baby felt perfectly well, breastfeeding was going amazingly well, there was no reason for us to stay. For my first child this was very hard (and to me too). It was the first time she had to spend 3 days away from me and it took a long time for her to get over it.

It felt good to rest there in the first day, but after that I found it very annoying and disturbing that people came in and out of my room all the time. They were loud, waking the baby up all the time. They woke me up 6 o’clock every morning to check my and my baby’s temperature (I just gave birth, let me sleep!!!!!).

The staff in the hospital must have found me a bit annoying since I wanted to be present at all the examinations of the baby and I wanted to be informed about everything, but they tried to be sympathetic.

Finally, the three days passed and we were discharged and we lived happy ever after.

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