So, fate and a lax attitude to family planning have combined to leave you expecting a baby in Italy. Here, with the help of my lovely wife, Allegra, is what you can expect…
– Prepare to become a sieve
Italians like to take blood. A lot. From start to finish Allegra gave blood an incredible 15 times. Now when she drinks water, if she holds her arm straight out she looks like a garden sprinkler.
– What dignity?
Wave goodbye to your dignity, you won’t be seeing it again for at least 9 months. You will be naked in front of lots of different people, though probably not all at the same time… There are no gowns and no sheets. Walk into an office, take your clothes off and spread ‘em. There’s a reason the Italians don’t have a word for dignity.
– Naming rights
Not finding out the sex of your baby because you want a surprise isn’t really an option in Italy. And as soon as you know the sex you have to give it a name. People will then refer to your unborn baby by name for the next four months as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s not though, its quite disconcerting.
– Queuing conundrum
You will never have joined more queues. You queue at the hospital to make an appointment, then you queue to pay for that appointment. You queue for blood tests, then you queue to pick up the results. You may even have to queue for a hospital bed. But when you go to the supermarket, the home of the queue, you suddenly don’t have to queue anymore. You and your belly will be swiftly ushered to the front of the line. And you often get to park in special, slightly wider, pregnancy parking spaces too!
– Visiting Time Schmisiting Schmime
The hospital where Allegra gave birth is very strict about its visiting times. “Just one hour a day,” they, quite sensibly, insist. “It’s important for new mothers and their babies to get a lot of rest.” We adhered to the rules because we’re English and that’s what we do. Sadly, nobody else did. Allegra’s room was packed with Sicilians all day every day. Not just random Sicilians, they were all related to the girl in the bed next to hers, but still… And they knew they weren’t supposed to be there so they whispered. All day. REALLY LOUDLY.
– Bureaucratic babies
Bee completed her first form five minutes before she was born and things have continued in the same vein ever since. You have ten days to register the birth, but the first hospital appointment comes when she’s just five days old. If you haven’t registered by then, your baby “doesn’t exist” and therefore doesn’t have a codice fiscale. No codice fiscale, no appointment.
– Dress to impress
We nearly gave Allegra’s aunt a heart attack yesterday. “She’s got bare arms,” she screamed, her face visibly turning paler. To put it in context, we were indoors, in the warm and the bare arms were covered by a blanket. But Italians put a lot of clothes on their babies and if you choose, quite sensibly, to not do the same, you will be judged. Be ready.
– Fatherly duties
It turns out it’s pretty easy to be a Super Dad in Italy. Change a few nappies, take your turn on night feeding and you will soon be the best father anyone has ever seen. It seems many Italian fathers aren’t quite as hands-on as their English counterparts. It’s great to receive compliments, but I feel a bit bad when Allegra is doing all the hard work and everyone praises me. Actually, who am I kidding, I love it!
– Stardom awaits
So, you’ve done it, you’ve got yourself a tiny Italian, now it’s time for your 15 minutes of fame. There is nothing Italians like more than a baby. No longer will you be able to take a quick walk through town; every five yards someone will stop you so that they can coo and pull funny faces at your baby. People you don’t know will ask how you’re feeling, how the baby is getting on, how the birth was (no, really!) and whether Allegra’s milk has come in (actually, really!).