This is the story of Anastasia, a Russian lady who fell pregnant and gave birth in Lima. Ellie has helped her to share her story with our readers.
This is my story about becoming a mother. I am originally from Russia and after living in Lima for a year on a tourist visa, without work or insurance, I fell pregnant for the first time. I would like to share the decisions I made based on my own situation and beliefs, please do not take it literally as guide to follow, it was simply my personal experience.
A year ago I went to my local Inkafarma with a Google translation of how to ask for a pregnancy test and in fifteen minutes realized I was unexpectedly, but very happily pregnant. My world didn’t quite turn upside down until the next morning when I paid seventy soles for a blood test. There was no doubt about it, so my brain started to switch between yes and no algorithms, a no to having an abortion and a yes to staying in Peru with the baby’s father.
Once the decision was made I felt like the only thing I could do was completely trust in my body. I felt so stressed without the support I would have received back home, no fixed salary, no understanding of the health system, poor Spanish, a tourist visa and topped off by living in a noisy expensive apartment. All I could do was let go and enjoy the simple things; walking next to the ocean, sleeping a lot, eating tasty food and reading for hours and hours about what was happening inside my body.
From reading so widely and feeling lost in the health system here, I literally became my own doctor. I controlled my blood tests and ultrasounds according to what I had read on the internet and I also sent scans to my previous gynecologist in Russia. So the most important advice would be to try to keep in touch with your own doctor in your country of origin. I also realized later that your mental state plays an important role in overall health, so I worked hard to stay informed, relaxed and positive.
Everything was perfect right up until we needed to decide where to deliver the baby. I needed to find an English speaking doctor in a hospital in San Isidro, and so the search began.
In the first hospital we tried the gynecologist was always busy, with her cell phone in one hand and telling me that I needed to stay in hospital from that point on as I was at high risk, as was the life of my baby. This was her diagnosis despite my tests being ok, despite having swum my daily kilometer just before the appointment and despite showing no signs of ill health. I didn’t accept her diagnosis and was then asked to submit to a huge list of tests in the same hospital which would cost around five hundred dollars. Needless to say, I never returned to the gynecologist or the hospital, as not only did I feel worried but I also felt like I was being taken advantage of.
So be prepared to have to make the important decisions regardless of what a medical professional tells you and always ask for a second, independent opinion. This is exactly what I did in another hospital; it cost me another three hundred soles (paid under the table of course), however it was was worth it as the doctor confirmed that I was totally fine and wouldn’t need further assistance until the labour.
These trips from doctor to doctor, answering the same questions, having the same tests taken because they don’t trust tests from other hospitals and want to make more money, was the worst part of the pregnancy.
The final decision of which doctor would deliver the baby was made easily as it ended up being a friend of a friend, a very Latin American situation in the narrow world of San Isidro. Despite there being an element of friendship, I still needed to re-take my tests, be billed again and appointments were always delayed with no excuse and the exact cost of the delivery was never clear. These inconveniences are just facts of life here so be ready to always have extra time and money on hand.
The more contact I had with the doctor the more pressure I felt to go into labour. Although I was fine I had passed my delivery date so the doctor started giving me times that were convenient for him; not on a weekend, nor the first of May or any other day when he was busy. I was asked to come the next day at a set time to be induced, however in my country a baby comes when it’s ready to, and not when the doctor has free time. So I had to be strong and make the decision myself, to spend the next few days at home waiting for the miracle to come, which of course it did.
I was called a crazy European so many times, however I don’t regret any decision I made, as I worked hard to do what was best for me and my baby, when we were both ready. Saying that though, I wouldn’t deliver a baby in Peru again.
About the author: Ellie Ryan is an Aussie expat working and living in Peru. She is the Founder of TEFL Zorritos, a TEFL training institute which trains people to become English language teachers and places them in positions in Peru and abroad. This was originally published on the Living in Peru website as part of the “Expat Ellie” blog series.