Monday, 28 November 2016

Baby on board in BAires: To ask for a seat or not to ask?

I’m lucky that I don’t have to use public transport that often in Buenos Aires. Not that it’s bad; on the contrary I can get a bus from where I live in the burbs to Capital in about half an hour… and all for AR$11.80, equivalent to 60-odd pence. No, my issue is more of a biological one as I’m now pregnant, which makes standing up on a journey that goes via the motorway slightly more problematic.

On the whole, I've been touched by how considerate fellow passengers have been here. Once on the way back from Capital to Quilmes, a girl came up to me to where I was standing in the middle of the bus and offered me her seat. The bus driver had noticed my belly and had kindly told the girl to give up her seat. Another time, a lady shouted out for someone to cede their seat for me because I was too shy to ask.

Transport for London Baby on board badge
However, there have been a couple of occasions where I have not fared so well, particularly in the mornings during rush hour. I was about six months gone at the time and was pretty noticeable but we all know what it's like on the way to work. Admittedly I didn't try very hard to protrude my belly and instead plonked myself down on the floor, probably to the annoyance of other commuters.

My husband said I should have asked someone if I could have taken their seat. Maybe so, but I can’t assume that people will automatically give up their seats for me, even if I did have a 'baby on board' badge... which I don't.

Pink Light system

Interestingly, South Korea has trialled the Pink Light wireless system for pregnant travellers. The bluetooth technology alerts train users to give up their seats for pregnant women. In the City of Busan, women carried sensors that activated pink lights fitted near priority seats on the Busan-Gimhae Light Rail service over five days.

While the Pink Light system may be a step too far, Buenos Aires had made its own progress in helping pregnant woman on public transport - or so it seemed. Buenos Aires province had approved a law in 2012 to allow pregnant women to travel on buses for free twice a week. 

The aim was to protect women’s health during their pregnancy and to make it easier for them to travel to their health appointments and check-ups. A worthy initiative, but I’m not sure if it took effect as I’m still paying for my bus fare. Not that I at all mind for 60p a pop. I just don't like drawing attention to myself, but maybe I should. I'm sitting down for two after all.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Preparing for childbirth? Try an antenatal class in Spanish

Mine and my husband’s efforts not to reveal the name of our unborn child before delivery may well be in vain. On Friday, we attended our first antenatal class, in Spanish I hasten to add, and the mid-wife not only asked us our names but also the name of our baby. Hang on, after five scans and six and a half months in, the gender still hasn’t been confirmed… affirmatively anyway.

I don’t know how most first-time parents feel when they attend their first antenatal/NCT class but Alistair, my husband, and I weren’t thrilled with the prospect. Firstly, they're on a Friday at 7.30-9pm, just at a time when we'll be trying to ignore the hunger pangs. Secondly, the language. Listening to tips on labour and delivery in Spanish will be great for our audio skills, but maybe not so great in helping us look after our baby when we don’t understand what the mid-wife's saying.

We really hoped that it wouldn’t be a group therapy session, where we all sit round and talk about how we're feeling. It’s bad enough in English. I’m so glad the mid-wife said that Alistair had to come too.     

Parental bonding..?

So off we went to our little clinic, which is pretty much like sitting in someone’s converted lounge but with rows of plastic chairs that no one can get through. Other couples seemed to recognise each other and had already formed a bond. This did unnerve me a bit as that's why many people in the UK go to NCT classes, to meet other parents-to-be. Don't get me wrong, everyone seemed lovely but our limited Spanish may not go as far as talking about contractions.

Luckily, Ceci, the lovely girl who works in administration at the school that my husband teaches at, also turned up with her husband in toe. She beamed at us and shouted out a big hello in English. Her English is far better than my Spanish, but, hey, I’m trying here.

Next, the midwife hands us a checklist of what we’ll need in our hospital bag – ositos, batitas etc – I have no idea what they are but thankfully Ceci does. Mental note to text Ceci later to ask where we can get all this stuff from.

So the topic of discussion for today is caesarean and post-caesarean. Erm I didn’t realise this is what I had opted for. Well apparently, the topics follow a 10-week cycle and we happened to join during topic no.9. Phew, we didn't have to form a circle and hold hands etc; we just watched a powerpoint presentation and drifted off occasionally.

Vow of silence

One interesting thing I did learn was that if one has a caesarean, the mother should not speak for 10 hours until after surgery. I can’t remember why now, but we also learnt some other new words, such as the Spanish word for gauzes. That will certainly come in handy...

I was looking forward to the breathing and relaxation exercises, which the handout said would be during the break, as my back has been hurting lately and I've been finding it hard to nod off. Five minutes to nine and still no sign of a break or any relaxation techniques. 

Instead we had a Q&A session on what to do if your waters break. My guess is that you’d go to the hospital…? So, that was the end of our first session. Next week is paediatrics, I think. Shame, we’re away next weekend. Still, there's nothing like perseverance so maybe I will be shouting obscenities in Spanish come labour. Although I don't think that will be part of our course.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Babies: What’s in a name?

My husband and I joked that if I we had a child out here in Argentina we’d have to name it Maradona or Evita, boy or girl respectively. Apparently there’s an official list of approved names allowed by the Civil Registry of Buenos Aires. Some of my friends think that the locals are having us on. However, an official name does, or at least did, indeed exist from which one had to choose a name for their new bundle of joy, even foreigners.

So now that I’m finally pregnant, and given that the child will be born on Argentine soil, we decided to consult this name book. An official name list is not actually as strange as it sounds. Many countries –including Germany, Iceland, China and Japan – regulate names for various reasons, from saving the child from possible embarrassment to preventing gender confusion.
In Argentina, names started being registered in the 1880s and this practice was turned into a formality by Juan Peron in 1952. Oh well, either way we were pleasantly surprised that the list we consulted online was pretty expansive. It not only included some English names, but also ones that sounded a bit more exotic. As I’m Indian and my husband is English, our fears that we'd struggle to find a name that reflected both cultures were put to bed.

After all our endeavours, many Argentine friends have since bunked the idea of having to adhere to the official list. You can choose any name you want, they reckon. No one really knows, it seems. However, an article in La Nacion last year said that the provincial Registry of Buenos Aires had approved new names and removed others to respect people’s dignity. Hola Coco, but chau Fox. Yet with 4 million names to choose from, even if we have to follow the list, there has to be something that will take our fancy.

The new civil code says that names no longer have to denote the gender of the sex, they don’t have to be translated into Spanish and can take either the mother of father’s surname. I was happy to adopt my husband’s surname so it looks like the baby will have to follow suit.

Name, name, name…

So official name list aside, what I have found really astonishing is that Argentines expect you to tell them the name of the unborn baby. To me it seems that they treat a fetus in the same way that we, in the UK, would treat a child post-birth. It is simply expected that the parents-to-be will find out the sex of the baby. They will not just think of a name, but announce it on Facebook with an image of the scan.  

Of course, it is a different culture and in many ways it's lovely that they feel comfortable about having this sort of a relationship with their unborn child. I just feel like it’s tempting fate. I guess I view the relationship with my child with cautious excitement. Call it British reservation, stiff upper lip etc, but my nine months aren’t over yet.

Finally, yes we have thought of names but after five scans, the doctor still cannot confirm the sex of the baby with 100% certainty. IMaybe I should just say Coco or Fox … Oh but the second one is banned.