Life has taken a bit of a turn since the spring. After our trip to Provence, I discovered that I'd come away not only with memories of lovely landscapes and food, but a rather more permanent souvenir of the time - a baby.
Well he's not quite a baby yet. A bun in the oven, as it were. I'm about 27 weeks pregnant now, which translates into almost 7 months, though it's not technically 7 months because of how due dates are calculated. Suffice to say that he will make his appearance sometime in the holiday season.
Though hopefully not on December 24th, which is when pretty much everyone important in my birthing scenario has warned me they'll not be able to be present, i.e. my doctor and my doula. On that day I will be at the mercy of the unlucky sods whose turn it is this year to be on duty at the hospital.
In the meantime I've been occupied with preparations for the baby. And by that I don't mean blissfully quotidian tasks such as buying a cot, oh no. It's all about the Hungarian bureaucracy for me - the necessary documents, translations, stamps and fees that come with any life changes in this country.
- It's par for the course for Hungarian women to take 1-3 years off for maternity leave. The money you get is a percentage of your salary, but even women in lower-paying jobs take the whole time off. Woe betide the mother who 'abandons' her child after a mere 6 months to go back to work!
- Speaking of money, the government does seem to be quite generous to its mothers though. Upon delivery you get a lump sum, and then a monthly amount deposited into your bank account until the child is 18. I mean, it may be the cost of one black leather boot per month, but still!
- Every pregnant woman is assigned a district nurse or védőnő who acts as a first port of call. She's particularly important if you don't have your own doctor, but that must be pretty rare in Budapest. I see her once a month, when she weighs me and bars me from eating chocolate and tells me my eyes might pop out during labour because of my short-sightedness. After the baby's born, she'll also come over and check me and the baby out. Apparently this is to safeguard babies who get killed by desperate mothers in the countryside because of abject poverty? Or perhaps that myth is outdated.
- Since I'm having the baby at a state hospital, that means payment is a choreographed dance of monthly visits to the doctor's private clinic which I pay for in cash, punctuated by occasional ultrasounds and blood/urine tests at the hospital which are free. On the day, you're expected to give a little something to the doctor, midwife, doula and nurses at the hospital for services rendered. Well, more than a little something perhaps for the first two, and the amount is calculated by a delicate formula of duration/difficulty of labour + attentiveness of staff + time of the year (huge exponent for me) ÷ your financial circumstances. All in all, it doesn't amount to as much as delivering at a private hospital here, but almost as much as delivering in a private hospital in KL.
-If you are an unmarried Malaysian woman abroad, your baby does not get to be Malaysian. In fact, until 1 June 2010, a Malaysian woman abroad, married or not, wasn't eligible to pass on her citizenship full stop! Woe betide the Malaysian woman who has the temerity to have a baby out of wedlock out of the country.