Born in Ukraine: Expat Women about Childbirth in Kyiv

18.04.18
Born in Ukraine: Expat Women about Childbirth in Kyiv

The birth of a child is a miracle that is awaited with trembling and anxiety. The joy of the soon appearance of the baby in this world is closely intertwined with the excitement of the birth itself.  Parents-to-be are worried about how and where to give birth and if a couple is foreigners in Ukraine, then their excitement, as a rule, is multiplied by several times, and very often reasonably.

What is true, but what is a myth about childbirth for foreign women in Ukraine? What is it to take a chance of childbirth in this country and what is it like to be a mother in Ukraine? We talked about this with three women from around the world who decided to give birth and bring up their children in Kyiv.
Hilde Drevsjømoen from NORWAY gave birth to her child in Ukraine in the age of 34 in ISIDA clinic. Now she is a happy mother of 2 kids.
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Why did you decide to give birth to your child in Ukraine?
I felt comfortable with the clinic that I went to during my pregnancy, and decided that it would be the best for the whole family that I'd give birth there. It was much easier to stay there and being able to go home to our own house after the birth, than having to stay with my parents for two months in our home country. Then my husband would not be there the whole time, and the journey to the hospital there would be 2,5 hours. Also now our toddler wouldn't be taken out of her routines for quite a long time, as well as getting a baby brother.
We had then lived in Ukraine for 2 years and had quite a good network of friends around us. As it was my second child and my first delivery went smoothly, I had not worried about that one either, as I also had an unproblematic pregnancy.
What were your main fears and feelings? What came true in real life?
I wished to have a natural birth (without medication and doctors involvement); and one of my concerns has been that here it is a more medical approach to childbirth, than in Norway, where it is very much advised to go as natural as possible. I worried that my wishes would not be taken into consideration while in labour. I was also worried about not understanding if there was a problem, as my Russian is quite limited (and even more so during labour when the brain switches off), and they couldn't guarantee an English speaking doctor/midwife. As my delivery was quite quick, I didn't need to worry about the medicated side, and as I had an unproblematic delivery the language wasn't an issue. But I would have liked to have an English speaking person there nonetheless, as it would have made me feel more secure on that I got all the info right, both before and after. I would have preferred to give birth not in an operating room, but it wasn't a problem.
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What was the cost of birth in Ukraine compared to the country of your origin?
I think it's about the same initial amount, however in Norway it is subsidized by the state, so everything regarding pregnancy, delivery and childcare is free of charge. So it is a BIG difference, because it's quite expensive here, especially at a private clinic.
What was your husband's attitude towards giving birth in Ukraine and what about his participation in childbirth?
As previously stated, we had to discuss what would be the best for the whole family, and we agreed on the conditions. We are both very happy that we made that decision as it was very nice to start the life of having two children in our own house without any other stress. He was with me in the delivery room same way as he was in Norway, and then he went home to stay with our toddler.
What is it like raising a baby in Kyiv? What are the main difficulties and advantages?
Kyiv is a very child friendly city and kids are welcome and cared for in any restaurant. It's not a very stroller-friendly place, with too many under-paths and bad sidewalks, but during the 4 years we've been here we've seen many improvements. It's a bit difficult to find good children’s clothes, not too expensive, but that is also improving a lot.
What advice would you give to those women who are just going to give birth and think whether it is worth doing it in Ukraine?
I would say that it's absolutely worth doing. They have great doctors and medical personnel here, you're being well taken care of. And it's a lot easier than having to move back and forth, especially if you have another child. And to make that time with the tiny newborn the best for all parts, it's the best for both parents to be together and in the familiar comfort of your home. Then your family can visit you instead of you staying with them.
Valerie Stulíková from Czech Republic was 29 years old when she gave birth to her first child. In 32 she became mom for the second time and in her 35 her third child was born. Valerie gave birth to her 3 kids in ISIDA clinic in Ukraine.
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About decision
As my husband was working in Ukraine, we had been living here already for one year. We found it more comfortable for the family to be together during that important moment of our life. I did not have to move with a newborn to Ukraine from my home country to join my husband and move with us all the baby stuff. We also planned that my husband would be present at the labour, this way it would be easier for us. As we could not plan the exact date of the labour, it would have been more probable that my husband could have made it if we were in the same country which meant Ukraine. Even though at the beginning of the pregnancy I wanted to give birth in Prague, I changed my mind.
About fears and feelings
Of course, as every woman I was scared to give birth in general. I was not too scared to give birth in Ukraine, I was trusting the doctors in ISIDA. I somehow thought to give birth was the question of nature and basically I could happen to have a good or bad doctor in Ukraine or my home country. I believed if go to give birth without big fears and in a good mood, everything would turn out good :-)
Even though I must admit for the first birth I was a bit afraid that I would not understand Russian or Ukrainian, but at that moment I could speak already pretty well. My husband was there as well, who could help me to translate if needed. After all, the question of different languages was not so important.
About cost of birth
In my country all citizens, even though employed or unemployed, students, can benefit from the insurance that is granted by the state. Basically people do not even know what the real costs of the medical services are. They just give the card of the insurance that deals with the contract and payment. In public hospitals in Czech Republic the natural birth costs about UAH 25 000 plus UAH 8000 for the care of the newborn baby. In private clinics the price would be higher. If a mom-to-be would like to have a higher standard, she would need to pay extra price which is not covered by the government insurance. In Ukraine in the private clinic the price was about twice much higher.
About husband's attitude 
My husband did leave that decision up to me. He agreed that giving birth in Ukraine was a good idea. He wanted to assist at the birth as he knew that it would be an important support for me, so I could feel more secured.
About raising a baby in Kyiv
At the beginning I found Kyiv not very friendly towards moms and kids. I felt also very lonely because I did not know anyone and I was missing my family, friends with their babies from Prague. But as I joined IWCK (International Women’s Club in Kyiv) Baby group where I met moms from the whole world, my maternity time in Kyiv became very colorful and interesting. I was enjoying a company of international moms, who were dealing with the same troubles. It was interesting to see how different nations were bring up their kids, what was the most important for them. It helped me to overcome some prejudices and to become more tolerant and relaxed mom. The most important was that this network of moms helped me to create something what I was missing: my family, parents and relatives who were so needed when the new baby came. Later on I even created Art classes for moms and kids for IWCK women, which were not only social meetings but a moment that we could concentrate on some creative work and make our minds peaceful. That is something you need when you are always in the turbulent life with kids. 
Within nine years I see that Kyiv has become friendlier for moms and kids. Some ramps have been built for the strollers. More places have been opened where you can bring your child and meet with other people. It is prohibited to smoke in the restaurants.
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But in comparison to the EU countries Ukraine should catch up in many ways. Especially traveling by public transport with a stroller is almost impossible here. That was the first thing that I noticed when I arrived to Kyiv. There are no strollers with babies in metro. Come to Prague, metro is full of moms, push chairs, bicycles or even dogs... Another problem is about the cars on the sidewalk, sometimes you cannot pass with a stroller and you have to go on a street with cars. I soon learnt that the best way to transport a child is in the sling on my tummy or my back.
Another thing that I do not like regarding the childcare here is that it always seems that doctors prescribe too many medications for the kids. I think that children are being too often hospitalized compared to other countries. Luckily we never had to call ambulance. But when I see that ambulance just stands in the traffic jam and no cars make the corridor to pass I think of the worst scenarios… What if they are bringing a child that needs an urgent help to the hospital?
On the other hand I would like to highlight that I really admire about Ukrainians how they always help with a stroller if you go by stairs. There are always gentlemen or even ladies who offer to help. I experienced in the Western Europe that people do not do so; this we should learn from Ukrainians.
Some advice
I think it is worth giving birth in Ukraine. I told myself that Ukraine has a population of about 45 million so there surely must be doctors who know how to deliver a baby. I would suggest to every woman to give birth at the place where she feels the most comfortable and secure.
Aylyan Feliv from Bulgaria was 25 when she has born a baby in Ukrainian state clinic. Now she has 3 happy kids.
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About decision
My husband is Ukrainian, that is why I live in Ukraine and due to this reason I never felt myself as a stranger here. So, it was logical for me to give birth to my child here.
About fears and feelings
At that time my Russian was just good enough for my daily communication but not enough to understand the terminology which was used by the doctors. My husband was together with me at all “our” visits to gynecologist with our first baby. I had a few fears at the end of my pregnancy: How will I communicate in the hospital with the staff? How will I stay in the hospital (Thanks to God till than I have never stayed in the hospital for any treatment) and how will I give the birth, of course? :-)
Actually the last question was the most essential! When the expected “big day” came, I forgot about all my troubles and tried to concentrate (it sounds easy, but it’s painfully difficult to exercise) and all my care about the language issue wasn’t important, because I saw the trustful eyes of my gynecologist and I could rely on the whole team. Even if I couldn’t understand something I followed my instinct. With the second and the third birth I got more and more confident, but to be honest, each new pregnancy is a new challenge!
About the cost of birth
I suppose that due to Bulgarian health insurance policy, the cost of birth in Bulgaria in the state clinic is cheaper than here in the state clinic.
About husband's attitude
As I mentioned before, he is a Ukrainian. From the first visit to the doctor till the moment of birth he was with me; for that I’m really thankful to him.
About raising a baby in Kyiv
Actually the child/children are raised in the family, the city is not so important. If you decide to have children, it doesn’t matter where you are living, the most important is the family and that the children are feeling your love that helps to overcome all the difficulties which can appear.
Some advice
If you are an expat, there are nice private clinics in Kyiv as well, where the staff is English-speaking.
I had a very professional and nice team in the state clinic and that is why I decided to do that way. I stayed in the room with preferred conditions. Every time I gave birth in the same hospital with the same medical team. It was possible due to the difference between my each next child which makes one year and eleven months.
To give a birth is a physiological process, but with a much bigger spiritual value! It’s the most important occasion not only in the woman’s life but in the relationship between you and your spouse/partner as well. I had possibility to do it in Bulgaria, but I decided to share those emotions with my husband and I gave birth to 3 kids in Ukraine.
Editor: Let your children grow healthy and happy surrounded by their loving family!
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Interviewed by Anna Vishtak
Photos provided by the characters.

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