In my first couple weeks in Austria, I met women who are bound to become my new friend. They are the long time friends to my husband and people that I am bound to run into during social events. A huge benefit to moving to a small village that my partner has spent the better part of his life in was a built-in friend group that zero effort for me to obtain. They are warm and welcoming; even excited about adding new person to their group. While most of the conversation I do not understand; the people who make an effort to speak English with me made me feel welcome. During casual conversation, it has become quite apparent that every culture has their own outlook on the delivery experience.
Yes, there are thousands of women who have gave birth naturally, no drugs and felt all of the pain. These women do not live in United States. While I have personally known American women to go the all natural route; this is becoming an alternative lifestyle in American culture. More than half of all women who take the plunge use an epidural. When I told my new Austrian friend that I wanted to be numb from the waist down, she was very polite and did not throw figure or facts at me. In Austria, doctors and midwifes do discourage women from using pain killers. My American stance on this issues: Do You, Boo! The less I know the better.
Hand Sanitizer VS. Soap
My mother bought me all these sweet smelling hand sanitizer before coming to Europe. The idea that I would bath my hands and potentially whole body in it 😉 Thus, reducing the chances of ever getting myself or the baby sick. On a night out on the town (a local village pub), using the bathroom for the third time in one hour made me a bit lazy about hygiene and I used some of the hand sanitizer that my mother gave me. A girl ask me “What is this?”. There I found myself explaining what hand sanitizer was a to group of European adults that just over heard my request to take drugs during labor and now viewing my alcohol based bathroom paraphernalia with a bit of mystery. One guy joked that it must be used to get high with 🙂 I offered some to my new friend who politely declined. I must admit their assumption of hand sanitizer was not completely wrong. Unless it is hospital grade and has a very high percentage of alcohol, it is doing nothing more than spreading germs around. My “Christmas morning” smelling hand sanitizer that I was possession in, was mostly not going to make the cut in any hospitals and was in fact spreading bacteria around my hands verses killing it. It seems like these folks already knew the best way to kill germs, fight infection and live to see another day: USE SOAP!
Placenta: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Several of my American girlfriends talk about having your placenta encapsulated to take after pregnancy. This would help wean my body off all the hormones that a pregnant person grows accustom to in last nine months and a new way of preventing postpartum depression. My Austrian friend gave me some advice “We know American’s do this; we do not eat our own organs in Austria. Just tell the doctor that you want to keep it and do not tell them why. Maybe bring a beer cooler to bring it home in?” Okay, maybe I exaggerated what she said; it was not that far off from the conversation. In my personal experience, making a placenta is one of most exhausting thing I have ever done in my whole life. If there is anyway to reduce energy, reuse my placenta and recycle it for the next pregnancy then that is the path I would like to take. In fact, I would like to take pictures of this organ with my phone and post on Facebook as one my greatest achievements. Since this is not social acceptable in earthier cultures then “Yes, I would like to use it for any nutritional value it may have.”
While all of this conversation is meant to be a generalization, not hard science and certainly not anything to taken too seriously. It is apparent that cultures have their own way of doing things. I see it in the way my friends approach motherhood. Both my American and European friends want whatever is best for their families. Their are just differences in how this goal is achieved.