This is part of an on-going interview series that shares the experiences of expat moms who have given birth in Florence. The aim is not only to tell their stories but also to provide pregnant foreign moms with an informational resource on the different birthing options in Florence and what to expect, from natural home birth to fully medicalized hospital birth and everything in between.
This Mom was from Oregon and first came to Florence as a student in 1994. She came back often for long stints, teaching English in one case. After she started translating (from the U.S.) in 2000 she went back and forth until 2004, when she moved to Florence full time.
Why did you decide to have a home birth?
I wanted to be with a midwife. After my miscarriage [a traumatic experience with an incompetent doctor at Torre Galli], I didn’t trust the standard system. I also come from Oregon where it’s much more the norm. I started out with doctors—and not that they were bad doctors, I just felt treated like a cow. They tell you all the things that can go wrong. It’s too mechanical. I went to a doctor that my friend suggested at seven weeks. I had miscarried two years earlier. I said, I don’t know if I want to see an ultrasound—because it makes it harder if you miscarry later. She basically insisted and when I saw the printout I started crying because it reminded me of the printout from after the miscarriage (of my empty womb). She was totally freaked out and tried to prescribe me all these random things. I was thinking, You’re a gynecologist and you’ve never seen a woman cry?
It just felt out of synch with what I wanted and what I thought was best for the pregnancy. So I decided I needed the midwife approach, because the point was not home birth vs. hospital birth but this approach to the whole person. I interviewed two midwives and liked Gabriella better. The first interview was for having her as a midwife, not necessarily for a home birth, because she can accompany you during the hospital birth.
How did you find these midwives?
Word of mouth.
Gabriella asked me about my medical history but also about my fears, what I’d been dreaming since I’d been pregnant. So it’s much more holistic and thorough than through a mechanized system.
So your original plan was to have her help you labour at home and then go to the hospital with her. Were you planning to go to Ponte a Niccheri?
Yeah, I’d heard good things about it. But then I gradually changed my mind. I took a pre-natal course with her, which was really helpful. It was with different women, some of whom weren’t going to use her at all.
Where does she hold this class?
Near Piazza Savonarola. People either like her or they don’t. She has a really strong personality. I think you have to. She has thirty years of experience and she’s a very strong believer, very impatient with doctors. She’s on a mission to protect everyone. All my friends here in Florence who had children after me made me feel like her feelings were justified. Everything home birth advocates say they do too much of, they did to almost everyone (vacuum suction, ungentle treatment, fetal monitoring, screaming that the baby is in crisis and has to come out NOW, high C-section rate, not listening to mothers). When I was reading your description, there are parts of it where she would get really upset. They should know better. There are studies in the medical system, without being at all alternative. But instead they establish facts by doing old-fashioned techniques.