Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pregnant... and Living in Ukraine

Living in a foreign country is a true adventure in a lot of ways. There is always so much new to discover. I remember visiting Mexico when I was in high school and each of those experiences felt foreign. Living in (vs. visiting) a foreign country is quite different. Although where I come from and what I know seems "right" and "comfortable" to me, it feels foreign here... so instead of feeling like the place is foreign, I feel foreign. Of course, foreign isn't always bad, it has it's perks and it's disadvantages, just like everything else. Sometimes we're treated special and like famous people because we're foreigners (especially David since he's a Kiwi--imagine that, not too many people visit Ukraine from New Zealand), but other times we get treated like there's something wrong with us. Still, it's all an adventure.

Since we announced I was pregnant, the adventure has gotten even more interesting. Suddenly total strangers have taken an interest in taking care of me! In the states, one of the most common complaints I heard from pregnant women was that total strangers would come up and touch their bellies. Of course I'm still small, but I can't imagine that happening here. Instead, they come up and tell me what I'm doing wrong or ask questions to make sure I'm doing what they consider right. They thrive on tradition, and there are a bunch of traditions pregnant women should, in their minds, follow carefully. Here are a few examples of them, most of which have come from good friends of ours:
  • - Don't cut or color your hair. It contains important vitamins your baby needs.
  • - Don't knit.
  • - Don't eat meats or produce from the supermarket.
  • - Green apples are full of iron, one of the best sources you could eat. To get the most iron from it, poke the apple with a knife all around, let that sit out overnight, and eat it in the morning.
  • - Don't buy milk (and many milk products like butter and tvorog- similar to cottage cheese) from the supermarket, only the market.
  • - Don't sit near a window or door with a draft.
  • - Don't sit on any cold surface (especially not concrete).
  • - Don't fly in an airplane at all, even traveling by train is strongly discouraged.
  • - The parents aren't supposed to buy anything for the baby before the baby is born, it will bring bad luck. (Other people can, just not the parents)
  • - While you're pregnant, if you crave sweet things, you're having a girl; if you crave savory and salty things, you're having a boy.
  • - For the next baby: be sure to look at a lot of pretty things so it will be pretty as well. Of course, this only applies to the second baby.
We were attending a friend's birthday party about two weeks ago (I was only 21 weeks then, so I had just a small little bump), and I got told off by two nurses there for holding my nephew Max who is just over a year old. Apparently the time for me carrying things and holding things has expired. For the most part, we take the "helpful" advice that comes our way graciously, sometimes assuring them that my doctor says it's ok for me to do _____ (whatever I'm getting in trouble for), but most of all, I'm more careful what I do when I'm around Ukrainians. I'm only just half way through my pregnancy now, so I know this is only the beginning!

For me, these pregnancy traditions and tips are just traditions, not medical facts. For them, traditions are just as strong as doctor's advice, and most of the doctors will say the same thing because they grew up under those traditions. Which brings me to my most recent encounter and prayer request. The place we've chosen to deliver at is great, very modern and has what we need medically. Recently, however, we found out that because I don't have 20/20 vision, I have to get my eyes checked. If you wear glasses or contacts, they check your eyes to see if there is a risk of retinal detachment, and if there is, they won't let you deliver naturally, but insist on a c-section. David and I don't want to have a c-section if at all possible, especially because of something we had never even heard about until we moved here. So, be lifting that up in your prayers please. This is one tradition we can't sidestep!

Here's a recent picture of the baby bump at 23 weeks. Our little boy keeps growing and moving around, we're so excited and thankful for him!!


Jeannine said...

Ohh, Olivia!! So much to take in!!! And...I cannot believe you two had never heard of a C-section?! Honestly? Or did I misread that part?!!

I will definitely be praying that you can have a natural birth, Olivia! You are such a beautiful pregnant lady, of course!! I miss seeing you!!

Love always,


Jocelyn said...

Great post! Being a Labor and Delivery nurse I find that all very interesting...and no, I have never heard of doing a C/S for risk of damaging your retina! Seems quite silly to shouldn't be pushing that hard in your face anyway! :)
You look beautiful and I hope you are feeling as well as you can! Keep the pics coming!

Joanna Ashlock said...

Olivia, you look adorable. I love all the insight you give into the traditions there! We will certainly keep all aspects of your delivery in our prayers. I hope you had a wonderful mommy-to-be day!

By the way, we got to see the LST video ya'll made. It was wonderful! We are praying for a great response from Legacy.

Love you guys!

Kate said...

I just can't believe how tiny you still are!!! You're so cute!! Happy Mama's Day to you and to Lucy as well!! Love you both!!!

Gill said...

phew, I was so worried about you knitting furiously throughout your prenancy. Now we can all sleep at night.

Melissa King said...

Oh No!! I hope everything goes smoothly so you can avoid a C-section. That is crazy... I wonder what retina detachment even is? I haven't heard of it either.
I wonder what kind of pregnancy traditions Brazil has - I had never paid attention to it before! Thanks for reminding me to stay flexible and to take silly-sounding advice with a smile :)

Timbra Wiist said...

very strange. . .yeah, um. . .NO GO on the C-section for eyesight issues. . . if it came to it, I'd come back to the states. . . seriously!!! fiji had some funny things too, but not as much about pregnancy as about babies. . . i didn't find out until we were moving back and alani was already six months, but apparently it totally freaked out a lot of the women that I would sit her up on my lap, they believe babies spines to be very soft and only allow them to lay down all the time until they are like 10 months old or something. . . . odd, since both of my girls were sitting on their own before 6 months. . . but. . . there are a lot of traditions here in the US that aren't good for pregnant ladies or babies either that a lot of people just "do" because mom did or because "everyone else" does it and their kids turn out fine. . . so. . . we're not immune, they just don't seem as "silly"

Jeanette said...

pregnancy and delivery is a touchy subject all around isn't it?!
I'm wondering if you can deliver in a neighboring country you were forced into c-section. I don't know though you do have beautiful eyes...
I actually thought you couldn't dye your hair because of the chemicals. Some guy at a restaurant told me that I could eat gorgonzola cheese, I was like, "um too late like 10 times ago"

Allan said...

Is it OK to drink Dr Pepper? You'd better find out because Carrie-Anne and I are going to bring some when we come see y'all next month!

By the way, C-A says you will definitely use your face when you push!

Can't wait to get there!

Grace & Peace,

Zack said...

Praying for you and David both during your pregnancy :} Wow so exciting! So much y'all are taking in and so much advice too. Yes a few of their "traditions" and "advice" sounds reasonable, and some is definitely interesting sounding. It sounds like they are taking good care of you there. Keep up the good work y'all are doing in Kharkov :} Keep AIMing to be like Jesus and making disciples because we're all praying for you, David, and team. God bless. Grace and Peace.

Barb said...

So interesting! I remember the one in Slovakia about not sitting on cold concrete - even when not pregnant!

I'll be praying about the eye exam and it's relation to doing a c-section. I agree w/ Timbra - that'd want me to deliver in the States!

Love you guys!

Nadusha R. said...


I just randomly stumbled on your blog and found something very familiar in your post, so I thought I'd comment (I hope you don't mind).

I grew up in the neighbouring Belarus (in Minsk) and have been told about a C-section when I was 15. Now, being 27, living in Canada and pregnant, I told this to my obgyn. Of course, like the rest of the North Americans, she's never heard of this, but told me to check with my optometrist. That's exactly what I did. Turns out that women with high myopia could be recommended a C-section delivery, because people with high myopia (prescription of glasses being -6.0 and lower) have very thin retina. Your body experiences immense strain during labour and delivery, which could cause the retina to rip or detach all together (which causes blindness).

However, the cases are extreme and rare. Even those with high myopia can deliver normally, if their retina is thin and not thinning.

Unfortunately, in the former USSR countries many things are still done the old way... And many many many of the old wives tales are also present, he-he (although some actually have practical thought behind them). This one my grandma told me: if you experience heartburn, that means the baby's hair is growing. It'S sort of random, no? Turns out, the hormones responsible for hair growth are the same as those causing heartburn. Go figure!