Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Paula’s birthday

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 December, 2005

Thursday December 22nd, 2005. When we woke up Erika was complaining of some small contractions. I say “small” because that’s how she described them, but as everyone knows, women basically have no realistic concept of pain.

Man (slightly cuts finger): Arrrgggghhhhh. Expletive deleted. Expletive deleted.
Woman (partially amputates own arm with a rusty fish slice): Ooooh. That stings a bit.

So, anyway, she’s suffering some level of pain that would probably lay low an entire troop of battle hardened Marines, but thinks that “It’s nothing”. As the morning goes on, I keep solicitously enquiring after these contractions, but they are still regarded as nothing much, and certainly nothing to get worried about or to start driving over the mountain to the hospital for. I, on the other hand, am frantically consulting our dog-eared copy of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” every few minutes to work out if there are any visible signs I will be able to pick up on to offer up as conclusive evidence that this is in fact the onset of labour, and hence get her to the hospital.

We make stuffed cabbage for Christmas dinner. I do the heavy work, such as grinding up the pork (this at least makes me feel that I’m contributing in some small way as this kind of thing is an odd activity for a vegetarian to be indulging in). Erika does the mixing, and subsequently the stuffing. It is thus, then, that at 2pm on the day in question a visitor would have witnessed Erika bent double over the kitchen counter, gritting her teeth against the pain, and rolling pickled cabbage leaves around a kind of pork/rice paste. By now the contractions were coming every five minutes (by a curious coincidence, my enquiries after her well being were coming at similar intervals). Eventually at 3pm she agreed (in an effort to shut me up perhaps) to call someone at the hospital. There was no answer, but it seemed that she felt she had done all she needed to at this point.

Eventually I convinced her that we really should probably go, as from what she told mne about the frequency and length of the contractions it was certain to me that the baby’s head was out by now. We called our friend Gyözö, who had offered (nay insisted) that he drive us over to the hospital, and he came over to pick us up (he has winter tyres on his car). We finally left the house at 4pm.

The road over was not too bad, a little slippy in places and with a light dusting of snow, but at least it was daylight and there were no real problems. I was glad that I was not at the wheel, though, as I was knotted up inside with tension and I think my fists were clenched in traditional white knuckle style. By this time, Erika was timing her contractions down to about three minutes apart, and I wondered whether we’d have to pull over and deliver the baby somewhere on the Harghita Mountain.

Finally, at 5pm, we made it into Udvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc in Romanian), and drew up at the hospital. We found the midwife on duty and she examined Erika. She came out and said that she’d called the doctor as she thought the baby would be here in ten minutes to one hour. Ten minutes! I was extremely grateful that I hadn’t known this ETA while on the road.

An hour later she told us “I think, about an hour”. At this point Erika’s doctor arrioved and told us, “an hour or two”. We went off to buy Erika some slippers (Romanian hospitals don’t provide you with any of the stuff, and the ones that Erika had packed, the midwife had looked upon rather disdainfully). By 7pm we (Gyözö and I) were back in the corridor, looking at bits of old sterilisation machines that had been dismantled and left to clutter up the hallways. Time passed. I sat, I wandered aimlessly, I tried to read a book (without success). At about 8.30, at the edge of the two hours that the doctor had suggested as the outer limit of this wait, a nurse came sprinting past us from some other corner of the hospital and into the delivery area. This did nothing for my nerves, since I knew that Erika was the only person in there, and why would a nurse need to be sprinting unless there was something seriously problematic. By now my wandering had turned to pacing and trying to strain my ears to hear anything at all from behing the doors.

But then, 15 minutes later, out walked the same sprinting nurse from earlier carrying in her arms a little bundle of cloth with a baby stuffed in the middle. My baby. Our baby. Who was fine and healthy and perfect. Apparently, behind the doors, everything had gone very smoothly and normally. Paula got taken away to wherever it is that she was taken to, and Erika had to remain in the delivery room for four hours to rest before going up to the ward where she would be reunited with Paula. I started texting people and taking phone calls. So overcome was I that I completely omitted to slip the doctor his envelope when he came out past us and went home. (There is a system of wage supplementation for doctors here, and for delivering a baby the going discrete backhander is 1.5 million Lei. Had the baby had to be delivered by caesarean, it would have been 3million, so I was all ready with various denominations. The midwife gets a mere half million, which seems a bit unfair, but thems the breaks).

Eventually, with no reason to wait around any longer, Gyözö drove me home. Mother and baby are still doing fine and everyobody is happy and healthy. Two pictures below:

12 Responses to “Paula’s birthday”

  1. Anonymous nitpicker said

    I enjoyed this piece (in general, I appreciate your use of the place names in Hungarian first and Romanian second, refreshingly realistic in the light of the local population and history as opposed to the misplaced political correctness that insists on using the Romanian to the exclusion of every alternative). The sentence concerning the “bits of old sterilisation machines” made me shudder, a chilling reminder of the past.

  2. Andy H said

    I have made a conscious decision to use the name used by the majority of the population of that town. Hence Csikszereda and Udvarhely before their Romanian equivalents, but Cluj and Brassov (for example) before the Hungarian ones. It gets a bit tricky with places like Marosvasarhely/Targu Mures though.

    However what do you mean by political correctness? In what way is using the Romanian names for the towns political correctness? I suspect PC is an expression used to actually mean “something that I disagree with”. Really, I have no idea what you mean by that piece of your comment.

  3. Romerican said

    Congratulations on a healthy birth!

    (While I am not the original comment poster, I do believe I understand what they said. And, furthermore, I strongly empathize with the sentiment.

    Political correctness is, essentially, a social phenomena wherein the powers-that-be convince most of its population to adopt new taxonomy based on perceived social inequities or injustices… and then some of that new terminology gets out of hand with reasonable thinking persons… yet is subsequently defended by the would-be-intelligensia with loud feverence.

    For example, in the US, the use “crippled” was depricated for “disabled” which in turn was replaced by the PC crowd with “differently-abled.” The first change seems ‘nice’ while being reasonable whereas the final version seems something of a stretch.

    If I understand the basic point of Anony Mouse, the idea here is that reverting most Romanian city names to their Romaneste origins may be all well and good given the political authority of these times as well as the population statistics of those areas. But it might be objectionable to blindly apply these names changes in a sweeping generalization, with no regard for the seemingly-obvious silliness of doing so in overwhelmingly non-Romanian-ethnic areas… and then screaming bloody murder should anyone dare to continue using the, in this case, Magyar name publicly.

    That’s PC. New social taxonomies which seem to eminate from good reasons but then are over-applied, or carried away, only to be defended with irrational vigor as the Politically Correct thing to do. Many rational folks then object to the idea [or more rightly, the consequences] of PC and its sometimes anti-intellectual flavor.)

  4. Anonymous nitpicker said

    Andy, I think Romerican fairly well encapsulates the meaning of the section of my comment, which you queried. Although there is a certain anti-intellectualism in some of the populist declarations of aversion to politically correct language I should point out that what I object to in the automatic application of the Romanian term to Csíkszereda, for example, is, as Romerican pointed out that it denies the authentic claim of the local population to belonging there. I have visited Csíkszereda for research purposes (the anthropological atelier having a reputation beyond Romania’s borders), which is the chief reason I peruse your blog.

  5. ovidiu said

    I don’t get the PC comment either. I am Transilvanian, have Romanian, Hungarian and German blood but had always trouble understanding the high intensity behing the bilingual names argument. Tomato/Tomahto. Anyway, cute baby!

  6. Andy H said

    No, I still don’t see how it is politically correct. I understand what politically correct means, but I think to use it in this context further devalues the term beyond all meaning. Romanians refer to Csikszereda by its Romanian name – Miercurea Ciuc. I fail to see what is PC about this. I (as a native English speaker) refer to Venezia as Venice, Al Quds as Jerusalem, and Krung Thep as Bangkok, without regard for the population of those places. Am I being PC or non-PC?

    Hungarians refer to Wien (or, as I would have it, Vienna) as Becs. Where does this lie on the PC/nonPC continuum?

  7. Soj said

    Hey Andy congrats! I’m glad to hear all are healthy and welcome little Paula to the world!

  8. Anonymous nitpicker said

    Andy, fortunately for you, unlike me, you do not seem to have been exposed to attacks by virulent Romanian nationalists who would like to expunge the use of Hungarian place names from all but Hungarian. They would censor/censure the title of your blog, demanding that you use the Romanian name since the territory belongs to the Romanian state may only be referred to in English with the Romanian name. It is politically correct to avoid giving offence by pandering to this, thereby denying the local Hungarian population’s perfectly legitimate sense of belonging to ttheir home. It is politically correct to overlook/ignore the history of Transylvania as part of Hungary, regardless of the population mix. I did not want to have to spell this out to you as it leaves me open to charges of being a retrograde Hungarian nationalist or some other similar slur on my reputation (the reason I prefer to preserve my anonymity).

  9. Romerican said

    Yes, I think PC does not so much entirely refer to one’s individual choice (or reflex, if you will) but more that the peer pressure, public scorning, and/or government intervention (of the negative sort) in order to institutionalize a change in the citizenry.

    For what it’s worth, I often opt to use the native names for cities as opposed to English. Of course, I fail entirely too much, but I make the effort wherever possible. (And by native, I mean the generally-accepted name used by the population who lives in said locality.)

  10. Kristen said

    Paola is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful! She looks quite content, too.

    Why weren’t you in the delivery room, Andy? When I thought about Paola’s birth, I pictured you there to witness the event.

    Happy 2006! It’s going to be a very memorable year.

  11. Kristen said

    I just realized that I misspelled Paula’s name in my recent post. I’m sorry. I like Paula better than Paola too.


  12. Thai Radio said

    ‘women basically have no realistic concept of pain’

    verry funny ! ;-p

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