Congratulations, it’s an Italian!

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!

Just a normal Italian queue (photo courtesy of
Just a normal Italian queue (photo courtesy of

 – 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.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

 – 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!

Picture courtesy of
Picture courtesy of

 – 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!).

39 thoughts on “Congratulations, it’s an Italian!

  1. Wow that’s a lot of paperwork. As for the dignity doesn’t sound that different to Britain so don’t worry you didn’t miss much. Richard had to get up and shut the door to the busy corridor during some examinations. I also seem to remember during labour that I gasped out to the 18 year-old work experience student, between breaths on gas and air, whilst fully naked, that this was more embarrassing for them because “at this point I really don’t give a *&%^”

  2. That is too funny! Looks like you are becoming quite the pro with this Italian baby stuff and you’ve adapted beautifully! I was laughing at the part where you get all the praise, while your wife does all (well, almost all) the work because I get that all the time with my Italian mom. I do pretty much everything for her, and my husband will change a lightbulb or something pretty mundane, and she will tell all her friends how wonderful he is….in fact he sometimes even get praised when he didn’t even do anything but was merely present. What’s with this?

  3. Yep you gave a baby in Italy that’s for sure. The first time I came here I had a 3.5yr old and a 6 week old baby…I never stood in line for more than a minute and EVERYONE stopped me. Enjoy the fame!

      1. OMG when I had number 1, I was NEVER having another one! Enjoy not queuing and all the other benefits that come your way…just watch out for all the lollies the oldies shove in their hands! Lol

  4. Yeah……Nakey Dr. visits would NOT have been ok with me. Except, of course, when giving birth. At that point, WHO CARES?!?!? Finding out the sex would not have gone over well either. What? The last big surprise!!! Come on, Italy! Get used to fretting Italian ladies. God, My grandma would go apoplectic whenever one of the grandkids sneezed. “Ooo! Ooo! are you cold?! Go put on a sweater! You should have slippers on your feet. Why are you sneezing?!?? Oooo!” Thanks from the mommies of the world for being an attentive daddy!
    ~Dana in Alaska

    1. Thanks Dana, it’s no problem 😉

      I kind of wanted the surprise, but it just doesn’t happen here. I guess if you really didn’t want to know you could insist on it, but you’d have to be prepared for the strange looks when you tell people you don’t know the sex!

      Maybe we should do an exposé on giving birth in Italy!

  5. Great post. Did you really leave the baby’s arms uncovered??? Arn’t you aware of cervicale and all the other illnesses that befall Italians 😉 PS Mrs Sensible is chomping at the bit to see the baby. I managed to stop her from visiting the hospital with all the other Sicilians.

    1. We’re crazy aren’t we. Just this morning we got told off for not wrapping her up warm enough! As long as Mrs Sensible promises not to whisper really loudly we’ll love to stop in and introduce you. I’ll message you.

  6. I loved this – new parenting, bang on the nail! I would suggest telling any “know it alls” to keep their advice for when they will be parents or grandparents – even if it’s with the best possible intentions, people tend to appropriate themselves other people’s roles when a baby is concerned. Oops, I was giving you advice there.
    You forgot one point, or maybe you haven’t experienced it yet: New daddies with a baby tacked on their fronts have dangerously high pulling power, and should not be left alone in supermarkets. I remember having to fight through a gaggle of young women all pawing at PF when I left him for five minutes with Little My tacked to his front. I had to fight them off with packets of spaghetti.

  7. Congrats! How exciting!!!! Babies are always wonderful news! THE BEST! And yes….FOR SURE you and your family will be treated like celebrities! As you mentioned…Italians go nuts for babies. Enjoy and congrats again!!!

  8. LOL, great post! But you CAN do the surprise gender thing, everyone I know does. 🙂 Just tell the dr you want to wait till the baby is born, easy. And as for the dignity, it doesn’t sound that different to the UK, where I live now (but I am from Piemonte). Congratulations for your beautiful baby! 😀

    1. Thanks Maria! Most people here even seem to know the name of their baby long before it’s born, which always makes me slightly uncomfortable, I don’t know why… still at least if you know the sex you can start planning and buying clothes, so it’s no bad thing! I hope you’re enjoying the UK!

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