Monday, April 15

Giving birth under the bombs in Ukraine

The images of the bombing of the pediatric and maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol have gone around the world. Images that have been accompanied by heartbreaking news, like the one announcing the death of the pregnant woman that the whole world could see as she was evacuated on a stretcher amidst the destruction.

Many other women, in maternities throughout the country, live with great anguish the moments that under normal conditions should be of maximum happiness. Because you don’t have life and under the bombs, creatures continue to be born. Agence France Presse has spent a night in the mikolaiv maternity, city ​​near Odessa. This is the story.

It is six o’clock in the evening and the ominous sound of the siren rises over Mikolaiv. Very calmly, with their hands resting on their swollen bellies, the women slowly descend the two floors that lead to the maternity basement No. 3 of this Ukrainian city under Russian fire.

In silence, they settle into their beds, arranged in a room with a dirt floor. They have arrived at the maternity hospital only two or three days ago, but they are already used to it. Seven women are about to give birth in a city suddenly overwhelmed by war.

Natalia Reznikova, a redhead in her 30s, is expecting her third child, another boy. “I’m not scared. I just pray that I don’t have to give birth in the basement,” she explains, before going down to the shelter.

In another room, three women have moved in with their newborn babies. Among them Natalia and her little María, her first child, born less than 24 hours ago. Before the alert, the young mom, exhausted but radiant in her electric blue robe, would return to her room, supported by her partner Oleksander. “We are happy parents,” smiles the young couple. Natalia says she was lucky: she didn’t have to give birth in the basement delivery room.

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This room, the doctors have tried to make it as warm as possible. Two beds with footboards, a sofa and a reassuring aquarium. Alina Bondarenko, A young woman who is already beginning to have contractions is in this room, along with her partner. “In times of peace, it was a place used by plumbers or technicians. Four or five days ago, we had two women who gave birth simultaneously in this room,” says the head doctor of the maternity hospital, Andriy Hrybanov, who recalls touching the weights of newborns: “5.18 kg and 5.4 kg”.

Mariupol in mind

During alerts and shelling, if there is no time to bring women down to the basement, delivery takes place in the hallway of the obstetrics department, “between two walls” because “it’s a little bit safer,” explains Dr Hrybanov. The surgical room, for complicated births or caesarean sections, It is installed on the fourth floor of the building, “but it is very dangerous, because we need light but we become a target,” she adds, and is pleased that of the 49 births since the beginning of the war, there have only been three caesarean sections.

Almost half of the 49 women had to give birth in the basement since February 24. Indeed, Mikolaiv It is the scene of violent clashes as the Russian forces want this city to fall before proceeding to the great port of Odessa130 km further west on the Black Sea coast.

“The Department of Health had advised us to place a large red cross on the roof of the maternity hospital, but we have seen everything that happens, no convention is respected” explains Dr Hrybanov recalling the bombing of the Mariupol hospital

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‘pretty woman’

The maternity basement corridor, lined with ‘baby posters’, also serves as a shelter for neighborhood residents, the elderly, women, children, and even a dog. When the alert is raised, an hour later, everyone goes back up. Including Alina, the young patient who, the doctors hope, will be able to avoid the basement.

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At eight in the evening, a new siren, and another descent to the basement. But the doctors have decided that Alina, who is already having contractions, will stay upstairs. Despite the alerts, the night seems calm.

In the second floor delivery room, her husband is heard counting for her, between contractions. The young woman remains silent, and the doctor, a man with a kind face, puts on music. Mylene Farmer. Sting. And “Pretty Woman” when the baby is born, little Snijana.

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