Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gestante no Brasil (Pregnant in Brazil)

I realized that I only wrote about how hot I feel here in Brazil in
my 33rd week of pregnancy, but I forgot to tell you about all the other stuff!!! Here's my observations so far.

When we first arrived into Sao Paolo for the layover, and had to go through customs and immigration, I got in line as normal. I was standing no more than 10 seconds there when all of the sudden, a woman comes over from immigration and says "o! vem, vem!" "come come!" "a fila de prioridad esta aqui!!" " the priority line is here!" she then starts apologizing to me because she hadn't seen me and I had had to wait for 10 seconds. I was pretty psyched though as they scooped me out of line and whizzed me through a line for "gestantes."

And so, "gestante" has become the key word. I've benefited most on the buses, where I get to get on the front instead of the back where everyone else gets on, and that means that the "cobrador" (the guy who you pay the fare to) has to come and meet me at the front to collect it. When the bus is full, he almost never comes, so I'm practically riding for free... and, I almost always get a chair. If I end up standing it's just for a couple minutes til someone notices and then they get up and give me a seat. It's extremely different from NYC subways where people will act oblivious to your pregnant state. It may seem like a small detail, but actually, since Eder's
family lives wayyyyy outside the main part of the city (during rush hour it can take up to 90 minutes to get home), the difference between standing and sitting on a bus with 40-50 people alone standing up crowded in the aisle, is huge. And, it costs about $1.40 to ride the bus each way, that's no small amount in Brazil, where people earn about $25 a day on average for a hard day's work.

Other ways I've benefited - standing in line anywhere (bank, supermarket, etc) I get to go to a line for gestantes, elders, mothers, or disabled. There are special chairs available (even in supermarket) for you to sit and wait. At the pool where I'm doing laps, the lifeguard gives me a lane to myself, he doesn't want me to have to share with anyone - "She's Uma Gestante."

I think overall there's a fascination, appreciation, and adoration for gestantes here in Brazil. I think the men find it very attractive, and most people get really excited for me and are eager to talk about the pregnancy. They also get surprised and excited that I'm having a Brazilian baby!!! This whole concept of nationality and whether a baby is Brazilian or whatever depending on where they are born is so strange. I always thought it made more sense to consider who they are born to, how they are raised, and how they chose to identify. But, I guess the mainstream thinking is, if you're born in a place, that is what you are. Period. This philosophy has come in handy for road to Brazilian permanent residency. It was taking months to complete in the U.S. and several hundred dollars (nothing compared to Eder's permanent residency in the U.S. which is taking years and costing thousands of dollars). We weren't able to finish my application process with the Brazilian Consulate there, so I inquired about it here, and, noting that I was pregnant, the immigration official asked - "Will the baby be born here?" After I answered yes, he said, well, just come in a couple weeks after the baby is born with the birth certificate and you and the father's official Ids notarized, about U.S. $50 and you'll automatically get your residency. If it were that easy for immigrants in the U.S. Wow.

The downside here about pregnancy is that good quality health care with lots of respect for a woman's right to natural childbirth is a big challenge. The country's national health care policy is not ideal, so many people who can afford it, buy private care. The private plans don't cover home births, and so when women end up in hospitals, the chance that they will have to get a cesarean is really high. I'm part of a network of women here in Salvador connected by our desires to have natural childbirth. One woman just had her child at a really good quality private hospital and the night she did, there were 12 women in labor, she was the ONLY one who had a natural birth, all 11 others had cesareans. There are no midwives currently in Salvador. There are only four doulas that I know of, and most people have never heard of a doula (I guess that's not very different from the U.S.)

But fortunately, I am part of this group on email and have been able to access a really great doctor (I have healthcare through Fulbright that partially reimburses me for the expensive costs of care with her) and she does home births. She even brings a small birthing pool with her, so I may be able to do a water birth or at least labor in water. In the case that I have to transfer to a hospital, she's affiliated with a really terrific one, and will continue to be my doctor once I transfer. And, (sorry for the details, maybe not all of you are as obsessed with this stuff as I am right now in my life), since she is my doctor, she gets to make the rules about many things that will happen at the hospital. She has assured me that she'll let me eat and drink, walk around (not connected to the fetal heart monitor the whole time), and will do whatever she can to avoid a cesarean. In the case that it has to be a cesarean, she will be the one to carry it out.

So, to conclude, many of you have asked for photos of me pregnant. I will have better ones when my photographer/step-father comes down, but for now, here are a few. I can't believe i'm posting so much of me in a suit... hilarious. enjoy!!!

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