A Budapest Birth Story from Jade O’Connor

June 30, 2010

In December in Budapest, it’s cold. I mean, really cold. And on December 5th 2001, the roads were snowy and ice hung from the trees. I was 9 months and 10 days pregnant with my first child. A girl we had named Reagan. It was a good pregnancy. I took yoga, ate well (and plenty), and loved being pregnant. But like all overdue moms, I was ready.

My mom had flown in to be with us and rented an apartment nearby to help for the first few weeks. The nursery had been prepared. Our small apartment on the tree lined street Falk Miska on the Pest side of Budapest was filled with bottles and diapers and a custom made crib.

My doctor, Dr. Kostin, believed in natural birth. So when he called me to say he was sending us to the hospital to be induced, I was surprised but he said it was time. In Budapest, you don’t want to give birth at the State hospitals. There you have to take your own diapers, blankets, pads, everything. There is nothing given to you and it’s a very sterile, pre-war like environment. We chose a private clinic that was brand new just outside of Budapest called Telki hospital.

It’s modern & more like a spa than a hospital. We were all nervous as we drove the 20 miles in the snow to the hospital. We checked into a huge room with two twin beds, a large TV, and fresh flowers. A few minutes later, a bow tied man appeared to take our room service order. Really? Room service? Ok I could get used to this.

A few minutes more & they wheeled in a rather odd looking machine. In my broken Hungarian, I could understand that the doctor has ordered this to start my labor. But what was it? The nurses then proceeded to tell me to take off my bra. Yes. That’s right, Folks. It was a nipple simpulating machine that would clamp on & twist & hopefully start labor naturally. No way. No American book had prepared me for this. My husband was so embarassed he left the room. 10 minutes into the ‘procedure’ the nurses declared it was not working. They then called Dr. Kostin. He arrived a few hours later & informed us that early the next morning, he would break my water.

In the meantime, we were served dinner (from a real kitchen, not cafeteria food) in our room & given our chose of DVDs for the night. It was like a night at a getaway at a 4 star hotel!

At 5 a.m. Dr. Kostin broke my water & labor came. With Reagan, I had back labor. Bad back labor. By 3 p.m. I was ready for my meds. Getting an epidural in a former soviet block country scared me. But the doctors and staff were amazing, kind, and walked me through it. At 5 p.m. we were ready to bring Reagan into the world. I pushed for 45 minutes. Nothing worked. I was exhausted. Then they discovered the cord was around her neck & Dr. Kostin told me it was now or never. If I didn’t push her out in the next two pushes, he’d have to take her. He even told the baby that while she was still inside me and I believe she listened.

Less than 10 minutes later, at 5:55 p.m., she came out with her eyes wide open with a full head of black hair. She was beautiful and pink and 8.6 pounds of sweetness. She never cried. She just looked around out into the room, into my eyes, out into the world as if she was some old soul. Her eyes were as dark as her hair & the nurses nicknamed her Black Beauty.

She’s now 8 years old & the joy of my life. She has twin sisters who are 4 and so lucky to be loved by our Reagan. We left Hungary 3 years later but Reagan has a strong belief that she is actually part Hungarian. She loves hearing the story of her birth and says, “Why did I have my eyes open?” To which I reply, “Because you wanted to see all the people who loved you so much already.”

From Jade of Pretty Pieces.

P.S. — Here’s a funny little birth memory too.


Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. My baby has now arrived — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at gabrielle@designmom.com.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Design Mom June 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Thanks for sharing this, Jade.

I always love reading stories about birth in other countries. It’s so interesting to learn what’s different and what’s the same.


2 Sarah H June 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

What a fashionable family you have! Black Beauty indeed!


3 Krystle June 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I love that her daughter considers herself part Hungarian and that the nurses nicknamed her Black Beauty! That’s adorable =) & OMG the other birth story was hysterical…I laughed really really hard!


4 Ivy June 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Great story — and even cooler because I KNOW Jade in a round-about way. I worked with her husband back in Washington, D.C. while at Eagle Publishing. What a cool story, Jade — thank you for sharing. To hear about how baby births go in other countries is truly fascinating. Take care and tell Steve hello for me!


5 Sylvan June 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I had no idea that it was done this way in other countries. Just imagine if she’d gone to the state hospital. Gorgeous family and a fabulous designer!


6 Emily June 30, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I had my first baby on Dec 5 2010 in Provo, Utah. (It was cold there too, but probably not quite as cold as in Hungary. Maxwell also had the cord around his neck and didn’t cry for hours. (Not until his circumcision actually…that woke him up!) The Doctor had to use forceps to get him out.

Now he has three little brothers and we live in Japan. And…(wait for it…) my sister is moving to Budapest next week.




7 Emily June 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Oh, and Max had so little blonde fuzz that when he crowned the doctor asked if we had a wig ready for him.


8 Marissa July 1, 2010 at 7:39 am

I lived in Hungary during high school and visited those Hungarian hospitals….they were something out of a psych ward movie in the 50′s….I haven’t been able to go back in the last 5 years but hope to take our kids to show them my high school and the house where their daddy came to meet my family. Such an amazing place….I think I’m homesick now.


9 Abbey July 2, 2010 at 11:59 am

Beautiful family… and such precious little girls!


10 Vera June 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Beautiful girls, beautiful family. :) If you pronounce Reagan’s name in Hungarian, it means “a long time ago”, I’ve always found this name so special.

As for Budapest hospitals: I don’t know what maternity wards looked like ten years ago, but neither me, nor my friends had any problems with them in the last 5 years while giving birth again and again. :) Actually, I think most of them have been renovated and made modern and friendlier over the years. Very often, you have to bring your own diapers, that’s right – but our health care system is (supposed to be) “free and for all”, so, I think, this is one of the consequences, and I don’t think, it is a bad trade. It’s the right balance of professionalism and human sympathy that counts and not the color of the walls, I’m sure, we all agree. ;)


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