Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Phyllis in Russia (Now in Ukraine)

Welcome to the first post from the “Pregnancy and Birth Overseas” series! I will be posting a couple of your stories each week (along with other posts) for the month of April, including one fun surprise at the end of the month! Enjoy this first story from Phyllis!

Phyllis’s Birth Experience in Russia:

Our son with our wonderful midwife

All three of our children were born in Russia.  I’ll tell mostly about the first.  He was born when we lived in Moscow.  We had a home-birth with a wonderful midwife.  I highly recommend the pregnancy and birth classes that she teaches to anyone in Moscow, whether you’re interested in home-birth or not.  (  She taught about basic pregnancy, birth, baby classes.  Her class really got me into the baby part of culture and language and brought me into contact with other new moms.  A mom’s club or anything similar would work just as well. In fact, I’d recommend looking for something like that to anyone who is having a baby overseas.  Those classes are what really helped me to feel comfortable about pregnancy and birth in Russia.  They provided the vocabulary that I needed and lots of cultural insight.

“Swimming Lessons” (one cultural thing I learned about)

I’ve only experienced pregnancy and birth in Russia, so I can’t compare, but I do have a friend who had her first in the states and her second in Russia, and she was happier with the second birth!  (And she’s expecting #3 soon!  I know that I love the princess treatment that pregnant women get in Russia; is it the same in America?  Oh, here is a funny story about that: When I was 8 months pregnant, we went on a visa trip to Estonia.  I got on a bus there, and no one gave me a seat.  Finally, a Russian babushka started yelling and made someone let me sit down.  Russians know how to treat pregnant women!

To be fair– here are babies #2 and #3, our daughters born after we moved from Moscow to a small town.

Thank you so much, Phyllis, for sharing your story!!! Does anyone have any questions for Phyllis about her experience?


14 Responses to “Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- Phyllis in Russia (Now in Ukraine)”

  1. 1 Ashley L April 5, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I totally hear you on the “princess treatment” in Russia! It is so nice that people are so caring! Were you nervous to have a home-birth? Did you have to go to the doctor for check-ups and such afterward? What a cool experience!

  2. 2 Sarah P. April 5, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I’m curious about the “swimming lessons”! Could you tell us more about that?

  3. 3 Karen April 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Wow! I am also curious about swimming lessons! I’ve had 4 c-sections, and I have to be honest when I say that I cannot imagine having a baby over here in Russia. It’s hard to even think about a dentist here—although I have gone and even had cavities filled—not too bad, just made me super nervous when they just stop when your in pain, no more additional drugs, just wait to start working again!!!

  4. 4 Phyllis April 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Was I nervous? With Baby #1, yes! But that was just general overall first-time nervousness. My nerves actually calmed down a little once we settled on having a homebirth. I don’t remember being particularly nervous with the others. People asked me that a lot: “Were you scared?” By then we were living in a small town with the certified worst roddom in the oblast, so I always answered, “I would have been much more scared in the hospital here!”

    Check ups… after Jaan was born, the midwife did call a doctor in to stitch me up. And after a week or so, there were some minor complications, so she set up an appointment for me with a friend of hers at a nearby hospital. With Raia (#2), no, I didn’t need or want any extra care. We had a midwife come out from Moscow and check Asya (#3) and me after she was born, just because that was such a hard pregnancy. I’ve read and studied a whole lot, and I was quite confident doing my own care and knowing when to call on a professional; I realize that’s not for everyone! 🙂

    Swimming lessons: they’re certainly not a part of mainstream Russian culture, but if you get into talking with “counter-culture” (i.e. homebirth) people, you’ll probably hear about this. As I remember, the whole idea was developed by a Russian doctor who wrote about water births and such? Anyway, it’s something our midwife did with our son during her visits soon after he was born and we continued with him and later with our girls. We just filled the bathtub and “swam” the baby around in it, holding him/her like in the photo. He’s all scrunched up there, but after a few minutes in the water, he’d relax and often even go to sleep! It was wonderful, especially with him, our collicky, fussy, sleepless baby.

    This is a fun conversation and series! I’m looking forward to reading more stories.

  5. 5 Jamie April 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    bravo for your bravery, phyllis! your first being born in a foreign culture, and a homebirth to boot! there are so many fears associated with that first birth, glad you had a good experience.

    i’m looking forward to reading more, too 😉

  6. 6 Emily April 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    How did you get into midwifery in Russia? I delivered our 1st stateside with a midwife and wanted to use a midwife if possible here in St. Petersburg, but was told midwives are practically nonexistent. I’m expecting to deliver sometime this next week and will deliver in a Roddom here but would like to know for future reference about finding midwives & about Russian midwifery in general (we will be in Siberia, so maybe it would be even less likely to come across).

  7. 7 Phyllis April 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Midwives aren’t quite non-existent, but they are rare, and they fly under the radar. They certainly don’t advertise that they do home births. Usually they teach birth classes and offer to help like a doula in America. Then, if you ask, you find out that they are VERY experienced in home births. 🙂 I only know the community of midwives in Moscow, but there are also quite a few in Saint Petersburg. I seem to remember that there was an international midwife school there, but I can’t find anything on the internet right now, so maybe it’s not there anymore?

    Beyond Moscow and Saint Petersburg, it is definitely hard to find a midwife. We couldn’t find anyone in the Vladimir region, but the ladies in Moscow are very willing to travel.

    If you do get to the point where you want to find a midwife, I would be happy to try to help!

  8. 8 Emily April 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks, that is good to know. I’ll keep that in mind.

  9. 9 Stephanie April 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    This “Pregnancy and Birth Overseas” series is absolutely fascinating! What a good idea!

    Questions for Phyllis:
    1. Are home births common in Russia?
    2. Do most women in Russia give birth sans drugs?
    3, How expensive is it to give birth in Russia?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  10. 10 Rebecca Chavez May 28, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Hi there! Really interesting blog. It’s nice to read even though you’re in a completely different culture than I am but all the same – all the info that you read from the US doesn’t always apply. I’m almost 5 months pregnant with my first and my husband and I are missionaries to a remote village in southern Mexico. What I find frustrating is that lots of info I get from the internet just doesn’t apply to someone who’s lived, conceived, and married into another culture. Traveling in dangerous places where there is little to no medical care I’m sure is frowned upon but what can you do when that’s your life? We do excercise extra caution now but still – my world is surrounded with typhoid scares and sure, when I got it while not pregnant I figured that it was all part of the “job” but now that baby’s in mind – I can’t seem to feel comfortable leaving the house without major worries crossing my mind. Were you like that with your first?

  11. 11 Erin McLaughlin December 6, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    My husband and I moved to Ekaterinburg only 3 months ago and recently found out that we are expecting our first baby! We are very excited but a little nervous as well. I had no doubts at first that I wanted to have our baby here but now I feel very uneducated about the system and our language is still limited. We are interested in home birth. What is the best way to look for a midwife? Do you have any suggestions on where to begin?

    This blog is a true blessing!

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  1. 1 Pregnancy and Birth Overseas- An opportunity to share! « Missionary Moms Trackback on April 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm

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