Mamma Mia! I’m Going to be Mamma Gina!

I’ve been dreadfully MIA with the blog. In what action have I been missing in, you ask? Well, we were on holiday this summer (post is comin’ up) aaaaand…I’ve been busy making a human for the last 15 weeks. We’re expecting a bambino/a!

Mamma Gina

Growing a baby in your body is no easy task, at least for most mammas. It’s been exhausting for me already. The few women, like my very own dear sister, who coo at me “oooooh, isn’t pregnancy the most wonderful time of your life?! Well, other than when you have your newborn, of course!” make my “pregnant glow” turn to a fiery red. I’m convinced that those who even tell me I’m “glowing” are just saying that to be nice. It is nice and all, but part of me inside is like, “don’t make me puke on you. Seriously, it’s about to happen.” It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s the hormones.

Several times I’ve sat down at my computer and either got all nauseous or fell asleep with it in my lap. I’m hoping now that I’m into second trimester at least some of my energy will return so that I, and the blog, can come back to life!

It’s not all bad. Babies and creation are a flippin’ miracle! I have the honour of being part of a miracle in the making! Thoughts like these help me through nauseating days and sleepless, sniffling nights. Achoo.

Another great blessing I definitely don’t take for granted is having a supportive husband who keeps this hormonal mamma stable and comforted. He’s over the moon excited about becoming a “babbo” (the Tuscan way to say daddy). Sharing the news with our family was a thrill of a lifetime, even if we had to via Skype! We’re so happy to have their love and support close in spirit even if we’re miles apart. My family is all in Vancouver and Alessio’s is in Milan, 3 hours away from us (a hop, skip and a jump away compared to Canada though!).

My first

My first “bumpie”

Though we love that Florence is home, it’s hard being in this exciting time of your life without being in the presence of all your loved ones and without having fellow baby-makers around you as a support network. We’re grateful to have a few friends who have been through it and are there for us, and we are ever-thankful for technological communications so I can be in touch with those who live far away. If you’ve been one of those people taking the time in any way to show us love that knows no boundaries, we sincerely, wholeheartedly want you to know it is deeply appreciated. You’re awesome at being awesome.

I admit it isn’t as difficult as I once feared, but it’s still another level of challenge being pregnant in a country that is still somewhat foreign to you. Definitely foreign in the creating-and-raising-humans department. The way you obtain doctors, complete necessary tests, the language in it all, it’s all unfamiliar. We’re going through the public system, I should add. You always have the option of being followed by a private doctor, and you can have both private and public at the same time if you want to. Private doctors usually cost 90-120 euro a visit, which is not an option for us right now. Even if we had it, I think we’d still just stay on the public line. As we go, I’m realizing more and more that public healthcare in Italy is actually very good. This is coming from a Canadian, which says something (in humility, Canada is known for having great healthcare).

In any case, like in many sectors of Italian life, even if principles on paper seem fairly straightforward, it’s ultimately people who run it…Italian people. So sometimes the experiences of pregnancy here are like what they are when you go to the cursed Questura or Comune (municipal offices). They give you the run around, even in the gyno office. The same manner in which I’ve run between offices with paperwork for permits to stay, live and work in Italy, I recently ran between one clinic space to another with a cup of my urine. I kid you not. One person would tell me to go somewhere, then when I arrived, they sent me elsewhere, and so forth. None of this was for ignorance of my own, but rather confusion on their part. Thankfully I found there to be a level of hilarity to it and have learned to just roll with the ways things “work” around here sometimes, and I wasn’t wildly gesturing with rage this time, thus avoiding splashing medics of all sorts with said substances… When it finally got sorted, my young and probably traveled gynecologist uttered, “pazienza, eh, siamo in Italia” with an empathetic eye-roll.

Maybe you’re a mamma-to-be in Italy and you need the basic lowdown laid out for you in first steps of pregnancy in this paese. I’ll give you a run through of the first few steps in our experience, so you have an idea of where to go.

Step 1: Well…you know…get busy makin’ that baby. 😉 That’s amore!

Step 2: When you suspect a little extra magic happened, get an at home pregnancy test (or two!). You can find them at most supermarkets and of course at pharmacies. They are called “test di gravidanza.” They’re pretty expensive here. An average test is about 12 euro each and I paid 18,50 for a single Clear Blue digital test!

Step 3: If the two lines show up or your digital test says “incinta” that means you’re preggo! Say a little prayer, do a little dance, cry a little cry…and tell your partner. I playfully daydreamed of how I wanted to share the news with Alessio “when the day arrived” but thought I had a heck of a lot more time to scheme a sweet little plan. That day arrived a lot sooner than we expected! I had no words the morning I took the pregnancy test, I just walked into the bedroom, opened the window to let in a little light, shook my way over to the edge of the bed where Alessio was just waking up, and through teary eyes and a trembling smile, I simply showed him the positive test. He beamed and repeated “really? REALLY?!” a few times as we embraced. So no it wasn’t the cute “plan” but it certainly was a magical moment I wouldn’t change at all!

Step 4: Go to your private gynecologist or if you’re using the public system, go to your general practitioner and tell them you think you’re pregnant. You’ll be “prescribed” a urine test to prove it and then get everything you need in the public system. Here it’s not your family doctor who follows you. You are assigned to or choose an obstetrician and a gynecologist who will be alongside you through your pregnancy. FYI, however, they will not be there at your delivery (in rare cases, like ones where your gyno works at the hospital where you give birth and they happen to be on shift, maybe they deliver your baby, but probably not. It’s whatever doctors are on duty who deliver the baby). Once you have the “ricetta” paper from your GP, take that to the ASL office to do a pregnancy test that confirms you’re pregnant in their system. A positive result gives you the hailed, green “libretto.” This is a little gem of a booklet that tells you when and what tests and appointments you need done through the whole of your pregnancy. Hold up though, it’s not that easy, you’re in Italy still, remember?! When you arrive at the ASL office closest to you, you’ll find a little machine at the front door that will spit out various numbers. You push letter “L” which gives priority to certain people, such as you being pregnant! Find the waiting room you need to go to for doing urine and blood tests. Show the prescription from your doctor to the person at the desk. They’ll give you the pee cup. Go ahead to the toilets in the back of the room… Wait for your number to show on the callout screen. Yes, you’ll be holding on to your little tube of urine, but so are most of the people around you. Wash your hands, people. When your number pops up it’s not time to give the test yet, you’re just being registered. They’ll give you a paper that tells you when you can come back to pick up the results and you go back a wait a shorter while before you’ll be called in to drop off your urine for them to test! Wash your hands again (I would), and jet on outta there!

To get the official pregnancy test results, you’ll need to wait at least 24 hours for results. It’s not like in Canada, where you just waltz into a walk-in clinic, pee in the cup, twiddle your thumbs for a few minutes and the doctor will tell you then and there if you’re pregnant or not. When you’re due to pick up your results you just go to a machine in the entrance of the ASL office, punch in your codice fiscale, and it will give you a receipt. Take that to the people at the front desk and they will hand you your results. Congratulations, you’re “officially” pregnant!

Step 5: Take the positive test results to the CUP (or call them) to book an appointment with an obstetrician and get your libretto. For me, the CUP was in the ASL building. Go back to the magic number machine, but this time push “C” to get the CUP call number. They tell you a date to come back to meet the OB with your fancy new libretto. They will explain more of the process to you, the appointments you will have like when your first ultrasound will be, and you decide if you’re going to get chromosomal tests done (for Down Syndrome and such) etc. Then for whatever silly reason you have to take that green libretto to your family doctor so they can stamp every page since each one is like a prescription. Here in Italy an obstetrician is more like a midwife, and if you need anything prescribed or have more complex medical issues, it’s a gynecologist who deals with that. Regardless, you will meet with an OB and a GYN in your initial appointment so they can give you a screening that looks at your health history, family history, your first round of blood work, and confirm whether or not you need to be followed by a GYN or just stick with an OB. And it’s easy as ABC 123 😉

Then you go home and make yourself a mocktail to celebrate getting all these first steps done towards caring for your little one!

Auguri! Best wishes!

Have you been pregnant in a foreign country? What was your experience like?

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