As many of you know, I recently found myself jolted into motherhood … sour milk stains, dingy diapers, dodging a sprinkler system with every changing and more exhaustion than I ever thought possible. My bags have bags … my circles have circles … and yes, I’m loving it.

Tuesday was eight weeks since our little Max-just Max, no longer name, no middle name … just Max-was born in the Ospedale Pugliese in downtown Catanzaro. He was five-or six, my doctor now thinks-weeks early and noooo, we weren’t ready for his big debut.

However, the adventure really began two days earlier, on Saturday, December 18 when “I broke my waters,” as my husband told my mom and I was admitted into the hospital. Although we were taking a childbirth class, we had only completed about half of them and I had yet to tour the pale green corridor of rooms and baths that would be my home for the next five days.

Saturday night was a whirlwind of sights, sounds and emotions as I checked into the hospital and was pulled like a spoiled child in a candy store from my husband. “No boys allowed,” they told me at the entrance. “Say your goodbyes here.”


So, I crept through the darkened hallway-it was near midnight by this time-and was given a bed near the wall. The next two days I pulled around an IV that slowed my labor and spent most of my time chatting with the five other girls in my room. My husband was allowed in a couple of times a day during visiting hours and if I’d had a mother, sister or female friend around, she’d have been allowed to stay the night.

After lunch on Monday, the 20th, they removed my IV and told me they’d induce the next morning. I told my husband to go home and promised to call as things progressed. Around 1:00 AM that night I started having contractions and even though I’d have preferred to be in a private room surrounded by my family-or at least in this case, my husband-I walked the halls of Catanzaro’s maternity ward.

For the next hour and a half I rotated between the hallway and my room and bounced between a jolly, dark-haired nurse and my cell mates. Some of the girls and their mammas woke up and took turns rubbing my back. (We also played a game of robe-on/robe-off … meaning, I’d throw it off, they’d put it back on me … a dance that continued until I left the room.)

The hospital in Catanzaro doesn’t offer epidurals, so I’d planned to hire a private doctor to be there … just in case and I’d planned to take some of my doctor’s magical homeopathic medicine to prepare for labor and delivery. Both of these were planned for the following week, an irony that did not escape me, even in the throes of labor and the uncertainty of what was to come.

At 2:30 AM, the nurse told me to call my husband and led me across the hall to the labor/delivery room. Ten minutes and two mamma-mia-of-all-contractions later I was introduced to the bubbly, curly-haired OB nurse who would deliver Max.

She did a quick exam, told me Max was ready to be born and grabbed a clipboard and pen.

“Can you spell your name for me?” She asked ….

“What are you doing in Catanzaro?” Her assistant wanted to know …

“What is the highest level of education you received?” … again from the nurse …

“What about your husband?”

“I studied English in school,” the assistant said. I’d love to visit America …

“What is his job?” The inquisition continued …

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I told her between breaths, wondering how much more she could possibly need to know to deliver my child.

“A writer!” They both said, surprised.

The nurse put the clipboard on the table … “What do you write?”


“I feel like I should push now,” I told her, bringing the attention back to, uhm … me.

“It’s ok,” she said, as she stayed happily planted up near my nose. “Go ahead and push.”

“But my husband isn’t here.” I told her, wondering what was taking so long.

“He’ll be here,” she said. “Don’t worry.”

A few minutes later he did, indeed, show up, wearing a cute little green paper gown, shoe covers and matching hat. (You should realize that I was instructed to pack a white gown I could deliver in, but my husband’s “daddy attire” was provided by the hospital.)

I remember him being introduced to the nurse and her assistant, who realized they all grew up in the same neighborhood. He took over answering the remaining questions … someone else walked in and asked me to sign something … and about 30 minutes later-at 3:23 AM-Max was born.

About 10 seconds after that, my doctor walked in.

life in calabria - dr. leonardo conte

Cherrye, Max and Dr. Conte a few weeks postpartum

My husband and I got to hold Max and spend what seemed like a few minutes with him before they took him to NICU. My husband got to stay another hour with me, then I was rolled back across the hall into my room.

The next day it was business as usual and my husband was, once again, only allowed in during visiting hours. Our experience with NICU is a post in itself but suffice it to say that we all eventually made it home and we are settling into some semblance of a routine.

life in calabria-cherrye moore and peppe mannella

Cherrye, Peppe and Max preparing for the fountain

If you’ve had a hospital experience in Italy, I’d love to hear about it. Write about your experience in the comments!

Speaking of new moms, dads and getting settled, I’d like to wish a very special Buon Viaggio to my friend, Stephanie and her husband who, after waiting for this day for over a decade, are leaving today for China, where they will meet their new daughter, Andi, and bring her back to Texas. I’m over-the-moon-excited for you both and I hope you enjoy parenthood as much as we do.

Traveling to southern Italy with your kiddos? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip.

25 Responses
  1. Wow Cherrye, first: congratulations! I’m sure you’ve heard a million times that the sleep deprivation is so temporary (blah blah blah) But I’m still stuck at the part about the hospital in Catanzaro that “doesn’t offer epidurals”?!? Well done mamma!!

    Apart from birthing 2 children in hospitals both in Chicago (and just 1 epidural) and being born myself, the only other significant hospital experiences I’ve had have been in Italy. One about-to-burst appendix and one knee surgery.

    Thanks, Madeline. So … can you tell us the difference between your “with epidural birth” and the other? Like Sonia mentioned, it was incredibly painful during the labor, but I didn’t have any pain during the actually delivery, either.

  2. Denise Blackman

    I remember when my cousin in Caserta told me he was only allowed in his wifes hospital maternity room during visiting hours to see her and their new son-so different than in the states! You make a lovely family and I am so happy for you all!

    Yep, that’s right, Denise. Max was in NICU the whole time I was in the hospital, but even if he had been “with me,” Peppe could have only visited a couple of times a day.

  3. Congrats! Your baby is beautiful.
    And that shot of your husband bending over Max……well I am pretty sure he is inhaling that new baby perfumed aroma that emanates from infants heads!!!!
    p.s. have been in Italian hospitals(in Lucca) with my daughter, twice!…lots to tell

    Oooh, do tell. And yes, I think he was getting a sniff in that pic!!

  4. Max is adorable! I love the picture of you & Peppe with Max; just adorable. Seems odd that a lot of hospitals in Italy abide by the “no epidural” rule. Mine didn’t offer it either so, I had V natural and while the labor was painful, I didn’t feel any pain during the actual delivery.

    Carlo was able to be with me the entire time I was in labor and was able to take pictures during the delivery. I loved having roommates during my hospital stay. It made the transition into motherhood a bit easier since we were all doing it together.

    I wrote 2 posts about V’s birth, if you have time take a look. Keyword: Birth

    Thanks, Sonia. I’ll definitely go check out your stories. That is great that your husband could be there the whole time. Woulda been nice!

  5. I was horrified to read that your husband was not allowed to be with you a lot of the time, but relieved that he was there for the birth. Do you follow Leanne’s blog From Australia to Italy as I think you would find her recent birth experiences interesting.
    Take Care and enjoy Max xx

    Yes, I agree – it would have made all the difference to have had him there. I do know Leanne. It was nice to have a fellow expat in Calabria to go through this experience with!

  6. Valorie

    Congratulations!! You are absolutely beautiful, your baby is so precious. You all make a very beautiful family. I’ve never given birth, so…. no stories to share. I enjoyed your post very much. I wish you and your family all the happiness in the world!! Valorie

    Oooh, wow – my tired ‘ole head is aswellin’! 🙂 Thank you.

  7. Congrats! What a story and I love reading about birth stories in Italy! I don’t know what it is like to have a baby in America but I imagine it is very different! I will have been in Italy 8 years this summer and we just celebrated our third child’s first birthday. I am new to blogging but wrote about my birth experience last year.
    As difficult or inconvenient or uncomfortable as Italian hospitals might be, I truly believe the Italians themselves make up for it. I love the doting grandmotherly type nurses, and the outwardly stern, but soft on the inside doctors who mix routine coffee and cigerette breaks into the workday. I especially love how you wrote about the camaraderie between you and the other ladies. That probably sums up the difference between an American birth experience and an Italian one. Loved it!!!!!! Enjoy that baby!

    I’ll go check out your post – thanks for sharing!

  8. Gail Brown

    Great story, Cherrye, and with a happy ending! Max is adorable, and you have a beautiful little family! By the way, new mom, what bags? What circles? You look fantastic!

    My husband Jere broke his arm badly in a cycling incident and spent one night in a hospital in Conversano, Puglia. We were on the very first day of a cycling trip with Ciclismo Classico, and it was my birthday too! We attracted more than a little attention as we clomped (we were still in our cycling shoes, the ones with cleats and stiff soles that make you walk like a duck) around the hospital in our brightly colored, snug-fitting cycling gear. The staff was very kind, and my husband was well cared for. The pain medication given to him, though, was very mild and hardly made a difference. Maybe Italians handle pain better! We opted to return to the US for the surgery needed to repair his arm. Thank goodness we had purchased trip insurance, the first time we had ever done so, otherwise it would have been a financial disaster.
    Looking forward to hearing more about your bella vita with Max.

    Your description made me laugh out loud – I could SO see those looks you were getting. Too funny.

  9. Thanks for the great post… gives me the willies to think about birthing a baby so congratulations on surviving it. Probably was good to have other mothers around you – comforting to be with peers. Your photos are lovely, especially the one of the three of you at home.

    I like the name Max. And you look fabulous!

    Hopefully the sleep deprivation will ease as Max gets a bit older.

    “hopefully the sleep deprevation will ease …” – that’s what I’m counting on! Thanks!

  10. saretta

    Congratulations Cherrye on your beautiful son! My experiences giving birth in the hospital here in Puglia were quite similar to yours. But I had to stay for three months with my first son, born 8 weeks early and about 3 weeks with my second son, also born prematurely. Both ended up being emergency ceasareans.

    I could complain about the hygiene in the hospital…appalling! Or about how inconsiderate the neonatal nurses were (not calling me to nurse my son when he cried in the NICU, snide comments about my milk-producing capacity, etc.) Or about how after I had been there for months, a doctor or nurse would ask me, “oh, by the way, do you speak Italian?” – I mean, come on, how had we been communicating up to then?

    But my wonderful doctor made up for all of that. He was kind, patient and considerate. He stopped by at all hours of the day and night to check on me. He even gave up going away on a weekend trip to deliver my first son. When I thanked him for that, he jokingly said that I would be the cause of his divorce. He made me feel not only cared for, but cared about.

    I would have DIED if I’d been there three months or even three weeks. I was only there 5 days. What IS it with these NICUs? I couldn’t get in to nurse, either-that is one of my biggest complaints. I *love* my doctor, too – I’m so grateful he was working when I went into labor, but he’d already said he would hang around the next day if they had to induce.

  11. Dawn

    OMG!Congratulations Cherrye! Max is the most”bello” bimbo in Calabria(got it all from his mom and dad):-) I’m so sorry,sweety about your hospital stay because I know how the local hospitals are here. However,that precious boy you brought home was worth it. I’ve been so busy teaching at public school that I haven’t time to breathe,but I always think about you all and have you in my prayers. You did a wonderful job on Max and you’re the greatest mom in the world!! Hugs and Love to you all!! Miss ya!! Auguri per il vostro piccolo Max!!:-)

    Hey! I was just thinking about you. Hope things are going well. Thanks for the note!

  12. C… I just wanted to smack those nurses for you as I read your post.. cause when you are going through labor, inane questions are over the moon maddening! You and Peppe look oh so happy.. such a beautiful family! See, I told you that you would make beautiful babies together, Max is a gem! I hope to get back to Calabria to see you guys again someday soon.Parenthood is THE best.. hugs..Betsy

    Thanks, Betsy. I hope you get back soon, too!

  13. Maryann Loiacono

    Lovely pix. I sent you guys a little something, but I screwed up your last name. Hopefully it will get to you. Best wishes!

    Ha, funny. Thank you so much, Maryann!

  14. Auguri!! Max is adorable! I am surprised in 2011 husbands are still not allowed to stay with their wives. Glad he was at least able to be there for the birth. You must have been thrilled when you finally were able to go home. What a beautiful family!

    Thank you, Girasoli. We were thrilled and RELIEVED to have him home!

  15. Valentina

    Congratulations Cherrye on this beautiful event. You have a great smile and look like you are just beaming 🙂
    I wish you and your family all the best in this new adventure!

    I think rather than “beaming” it should be described as delirium! ha ha

  16. Big congratulations! You look fabulous, Max is cute, and you all look happy! Can’t wait to read about the adventures that will follow…

    Grazie mille, Carina.

  17. So exciting! Congratulations Cherrye. My son was born prematurely 21 years ago, and it was quite the experience as he had to stay for almost a month in the hospital. I stayed at Ronald McDonald House nearby (an inexpensive place for parents wtih children in the hospital). At first I felt bad for you that your husband could not be there all the time with you, but then if you were with 5 other women in the room, I can see why. I was in a birthing room with husband, and 3 friends during the whole labor. I hope you have a girlfriend or family member with you next time for support, but you look glowing. Enjoy each moment! Max is beautiful.

    Thanks, Lenora!

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