I’M A GREEK WOMAN WHO LIVES IN CANADA AND HAD NATURAL BIRTH (BREECH PRESENTATION) IN PANAMA. 
We had the most amazing experience in our lives, thanks to the wonderful people and great OBGYNs, Dr. Rodrigo Aybar and Dra. Graciela Anhel-Aybar 
 
The Doctors here in Canada, at least most of them; they see and treat you like a file number. It’s not a nice feeling at all. When I found out that I was pregnant, I started thinking about what my husband had always said about the medical system here in Canada and how nice it would be to have an intimate home birth. A home birth felt instinctively natural to us. 
 
Sounded like a very nice idea but we didn’t know anyone who had done a home birth. 
 
WHEN I WAS 4 MONTHS PREGNANT, we decided to embark on an adventure and to take off for a month to travel through Costa Rica and Panama… our last trip as a couple before we had a child. As Fortune would have it, during the tail end of our trip we met Sara Zomer, a prenatal Yoga instructor and doula. While I was checking her website, I saw articles about Water Births. I got all exited. This is a sign I told my Husband. Last day of our trip, Sara made sure that we had an appointment with Dr.Aybar. 
 
He was great; he took the time to know us and had a genuine interest in how my pregnancy was progressing (actually, I had a very good pregnancy from the beginning until the end). He took time to answer all our questions with much patience. Everything he said resonated with me!!! 
After our experience with Dr. Aybar, deep down we knew that we were coming back to Panama for the birth of our child, but we nonetheless took a wait-and-see approach when we returned to Canada. In Canada, the Doctor’s appointments became less and less pleasant. DURING MY 31st WEEK appointment, the Dr. told us: “We should do a C-Section at 38 weeks because the baby is too small and in breech position”. I almost cried, maybe I did. 
 
As soon as we returned home, I sent an email to Dr. Aybar in Panama for a second opinion! The answer came in less than an hour: “It’s too soon to make decisions about C-sections or about the baby’s size. The baby will grow. You are a small person and you don’t need a big baby. It may yet turn, and even if it doesn’t, a birth from breech position is possible and natural.” 
 
That was it: my husband and I decided to go to Panama! I know some people thought we were crazy to go to a foreign country where we know no one to have a home water birth with a doctor that we had met only met once? And this, to have our first child? Of course, these people wanted what’s best for us but their reactions were coming from fear (victims of the system) and from unawareness about natural births, home births or water births. 
We were glad that both our moms believed in us and supported our decision!  We knew that we are doing the right thing! We felt it! We are people who trust our instincts and our instincts told us to go to Panama and Dr. Aybar. 
 
AT 35 WEEKS, ON MAY 1st, slightly more than a month before my due date (which was June 9), we flew to Panama, rented a nice apartment in Casco Viejo (Old City) and made sure we had time enough to make it feel like home before our baby arrived. And very soon felt like home. 
 
Marie –Andre and her husband Ricardo, who both live and work in Casco Viejo and who also helped me to find our apartment, made us feel very welcome in Panama. They shared with us their water birth experience with their 3rd child, Manolito, and had nothing but the nicest things to say about Drs. Graciela and Rodrigo. I was amazed from their story and I told her that I wish to have such a wonderful experience as hers. Then we met our lovely friends Michelle Toose and her husband James and little Alex, they were there for us from the beginning. 
WE HAD REGULAR DOCTOR APPOINMENTS at Dr. Aybar’s office but some of the appointments were in our home. We were looking to see if the baby would turn. My husband wanted to try a version . Deep down, I didn’t feel that the baby needed to turn for me to have a natural birth.  
Drs. Aybar and Graciella managed to turned the baby but only for a few seconds, because it turned back to its original breech position. “Terca”, Dr Aybar exclaimed! Terca, I found out meant “stubborn” in Spanish. My husband was worried when the baby turned back to breech, but Dr. Aybar told us that “we need to trust our baby. If she returned to breech position, it is because that is what she wants and that there is a reason for it. WHEN THE TIME COMES, MUM AND BABY KNOW THE WAY. IT’s NATURAL, IT’S HUMAN NATURE.” and he was right. 
 
My husband made sure that I have a Doula… my mom! My mom Despina came all the way from Kastoria, Greece to Panama city on June 1st! A great supporter and a huge help! I was so happy to have her with us and to share our life experience with her. 
THE DUE DATE PASSED. Days were going by with no sign of contractions. I was feeling fine, going to the pool upstairs, walking almost 7 km every day, having nice dinners; we even went dancing, but nothing, I wasn’t feeling ready to give birth. All our friends and family waiting on Skype. No news 🙂  We asked Dr. Aybar how long we would wait? I was a week late but everything in the examination seemed perfect (we could wait). Baby was so comfy in my big belly that she didn’t want to come out.  
Almost 42 weeks and still no signs that baby was ready to come out. It was Thursday morning when the Dr. examined her last and said that we could wait a little bit longer, but that if she didn’t come out by the weekend, we should do a C-Section.  I cried. 
But that night, something amazing happened. I knew that I would be having a natural birth on Saturday night with the full moon and that it was going to be a girl, just like that Kuna lady predicted. There were still no signs, but I just knew. In the meantime, everyone around me was trying to help induce the baby naturally. 
I don’t know what helped: Maria’s special tee (boil oregano in hot water)? Some lubricating concoction my husband went and bought? Positive thinking? Baby understanding when I was rubbing my belly and telling her that she is Safe and it’s time to come out because we didn’t came all the way to Panama to have a C-Section? 
MY CONTRACTIONS STARTED EARLY SATURDAY MORNING. I called my Doctors and they told me when I have contractions 5min. apart, they will come. We went for a walk, came back home and waiting…waiting… During this time, Vasili and my mum were trying to make everything comfortable for me…My husband  prepare the house, the lighting, put some relaxing music and my mum massage my feet. 
The Doctors arrived around 8pm. They checked on me and told me that I needed another 5 to 6 hours. They were very respectful, sat in the living room, reading books and they were there for me only if I ask them to be. We also joked and laughed at some point. I remember Graciela holding my hand. I mostly stayed in the bedroom with my husband, very supportive from the beginning till the end. He was giving massages and bringing me anything I asked for. 
The Dr’s encouraged me to eat and drink water…. to move and do whatever I felt like.  I even took a shower… which relaxed me for a bit.  I meditated and made sure that my baby feels safe.  Around midnight (00:10am), the Doctor told me to get inside the birthing pool. Finally the time was coming. 
When I entered the pool, the warm water was a relief. It relaxed me and my muscles; Vasili was holding my hand and bringing me tea with honey. The doctors guided me: How to breath, how to push and how to keep my energy for the end when it is really needed. While I was pushing suddenly I felt it, I put my hands down and I felt my baby. . her butt 🙂 and then she went right back inside. 
But now I was happy; there it was! The reason I was labouring in pain for so many hours. _
 I got my energy back! I knew the baby is coming!
 
Graciela offered to hold a mirror so I can see the baby coming out. I told her no. I just wanted to concentrate and just feel everything that was happening. Also my mum was there going back and forth, praying for a healthy and safe birth. At that moment my husband got into the pool for support. 
On June 23rd, around 1:45am Sunday morning, under the big full moon which I could see from the living room balcony, another push and here she is, half way out! Legs and back were dangling out but the rest of her body was still inside. My next contraction took longer than expected. My baby was just floating there, very calm and relaxed. Me too the same, we knew that everything was ok. She didn’t even move, just floated there. I trust her and she trust me. It was after a minute when I hear the Doctor say: NOW, PUSH HARD and I did. and there she is!!!! All out.  She did it! she just knew her way out __
Rodrigo place her on my chest. OMG what a moment !!! She had eyes wide open and was so alert. She looked at us. She knew. She was the most beautiful baby ever 🙂  
We couldn’t believe what just happened. It was a miracle!Me and Vasili kissed each other, amazed and bewildered. I remember Graciela telling me to talk to the baby , and I did… and I kissed her, we were all so happy !!! 
I started breastfeeding her right away…she just knew how. After a while sitting in the pool, Vasili cut the umbilical cord. 
After a little while in the pool, he gave Aliana(my  to Graciella for tests. She was 3.200 kilos (around 7 pounds) and 9/10 on the Apgar score. Dr. Aybar check on me, everything good! No tears, no stiches.  
I took a quick shower, laid down in my bed and they brought my beautiful baby girl Aliana to me. My mum made sure to bring me plenty of water and Graciela showed me how to breastfeed. I just stay there with Aliana skin to skin, I think all night long, while everybody else, Drs included, were having a late dinner at 3am in our dining room! Next day, Doctor Aybar and Graciella came by to check up on us. Everything was perfect! _
Coming to Panama was the best decision we ever made!!!! The journey was wonderful thanks to all the nice people who met and gave us so much  help and support!  
I encourage all the women out there to trust their feelings, to believe in themselves and to nature!!! _

Tessie Kalafatidou 

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