We are truly thrilled about having another baby! All three of ours have been born in different places: Chambers in a hospital in Birmingham, Lev at home in Foley + Mila at our midwife‘s in Mississippi.
Now we add a fourth birthplace to the mix — Ukraine! And we are totally at a loss about how things work here. It’s almost like being pregnant for the first time.
The medical system in Ukraine is socialized, meaning public healthcare + birthing hospitals. In Odessa there are a few private clinics, but no private birthing hospitals. Most often things like blood work, ultrasounds, even urine analysis are all done in separate places instead of one office.
Our first appointment
Wednesday we had a consultation appointment at the American Medial Center in Odessa to understand the process a little better. We chatted with the very kind, experienced doctor for about an hour. He eventually asked how far along I was — when I told him 13 weeks, he said we needed to go get a blood draw + ultrasound immediately to test for chromosomal abnormalities because that would no longer be effective at 14 weeks.
Yura + I were both confused, as with the other 3 pregnancies we had not done any ultrasounds or tests at that point (I prefer to have as few as needed). The doctor was shocked that we didn’t know about this European standard + rushed us along to the hospital with the high tech ultrasound machine.
It’s in those moments that I start to feel like a pinball – being popped from place to place, not understanding options, filling out lots of papers, being told scary things if you don’t do this or that… when I’m in the States, I know my options, my people, my care providers. It’s different here, + that’s okay.
The doctor brought us to the other private clinic at the hospital, but had to leave while we were waiting in line. Then we were really confused seeing as he was the one urging us to do these tests. After we finally finished, we rushed in the car to pick up the boys from preschool (by the way – Mila was a CHAMP at all the appointments. It was actually her first day potty trained out of the house AND I forgot all the snacks. So proud!).
“I just want to go home”
I got in the car + just LOST it. I was done. Even in that moment I knew it wasn’t the craziest or worst or hardest experience, but it was the first thing that drove me to say “I just want to go home.” I hardly ever refer to the US as home — Odessa is our home right now, wherever we are living with our little family. Yura gracefully gave me space to just cry it out. Obviously my raging hormones played a role, but in my heart I realized that I was afraid of that tossing around, lack of control happening at birth, like it had 5 years ago.
I had a really intense, traumatic, borderline abusive situation at the hospital after Lev was accidentally born at home. It caused a subsequent panic attack after Mila’s birth – I haven’t shared about this publicly because it’s taken me a while to get my head around it. I am so fearful of something like that happening again, + truly praying against it.
After crying out all the tears I had, it was a tough next 2 days. I have been processing, dealing with discouragement + sadness. I finally opened my Bible today to continue studying Genesis. The study guide asked how Joseph responded to his suffering + trials – I wrote in my journal, without deep thought “Joseph didn’t respond to his brothers based on his feelings or circumstances, but on God’s sovereign plan” (Gen. 50:20).
The Holy Spirit hit me real hard, right in the heart. I had been responding in my mood, words, attitude, complaints based on my feelings. My fear. My circumstances that are out of my control. Do I really believe God placed us in Ukraine? That this is where we are to live out His call to make disciples of all nations? Yes, 100%. Alright then, Madison. Your emotions are a real thing God made, but they aren’t the lens through which you see this pregnancy + birth (or whatever hardship might be in play).
I was also allowing this experience to grow a bitter root in my heart against this culture + place that I truly do love — within just a few days. I kept reading in my study + was struck by this statement:
Joseph would not allow a root of bitterness to spring up in his heart, to trouble him + defile others.Kay Arthur, Teach Me Your Ways
I am praying against it + for God to give me the strength to see that no trial has overtaken me beyond what is common to man — hello, sinful nature! (1 Cor. 10). He is faithful.
We still have a lot to figure out + a few more options to explore, including delivering in a different city. Several people have asked if we could just come back to the States. In theory we could but it’s very expensive for all of us to fly, plus that is at minimum 2 months away from life + ministry here. Since we just came for a visit, it doesn’t seem like the wisest decision, though the thought of having my birth team with me brings such great relief.
It was really sweet to see the baby – even for the fourth pregnancy I am amazed at all God creates in such a short amount of time, at this point in a human the size of an orange! He or she was really active, with little hands squirming around the tiny little face!
I measured a few days ahead of what I thought — 13 weeks, 6 days which typically happens because our babies are really long (#tallpeopleprobs). I’m hoping that this bumping up of my estimated due date won’t cause issues down the road when I inevitably go past the “guess date”. All our babies have been around 41 weeks at birth!