Home > Family and Children > Pregnancies > Giving birth in Zurich

We welcomed a new entry in the team: Deborahexpat’s little girl! In this exciting article, Deborah, who gave birth in Zurich at the UniversitätsSpital, shares her exciting experience.


31st December 2016. Everybody is getting ready for the night. Well, in a way I am getting ready too…to give birth in Zurich to my first daughter.

Time: 5am

After 4 days of irregular contractions and little sleep, the pain has intensified and the contractions are strengthening in my lower back. I can’t lie down or sit. We call a taxi to go to the hospital to ask for some pain relief for my back, because I can’t bear the pain. We are pretty sure they will send us home to wait for the appropriate time…but what I haven’t realised is that it’s already the appropriate time! When the midwife examines me the verdict is clear (…nobody believes that I am ready because I am quite relaxed, so three midwives check me): I’m 8 centimetres dilated and they can feel the baby’s hair!

Time: 7am

They move me into what will be my labour room for the next 9 hours. The baby is still “high”: she needs help to move lower. So I have to fight the tiredness (I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours) and I have to stand up and move my hips. So far I have been coping with the contractions quite well and I think I can make it without an epidural. This room doesn’t have a pool. My options are: bed, armchair, ball, stool. My lovely husband sits on the armchair eating biscuits that he brought from home and watches me. He planned it well: he brought his backpack with all he needed for hours at the hospital. I didn’t, because I thought it wasn’t necessary. I have to pee. The midwife shows me a curtain…Although we are in Zurich, this room does not have a proper bathroom and the toilet is hidden behind a curtain…OMG, it’s 2016 (almost 2017) and there isn’t a toilet with walls and a door?

The sensors attached to my big belly show that my little girl is doing fine.

However the vaginal examinations show that she is stuck between my hips in the wrong position. I have to help her move up and then down again into the right position. The two very kind midwives explain two positions to me: one to be held during a contraction and one when the contraction is gone. Ok, I am ready, we can proceeeeeed…OMG…the pain is killing me!!!

I can’t do it, I need to sit down to be able to work through the contractions, not to hold strange positions…I ask for pain relief. They offer me “happy gas” and they tell me to inhale deeply when each contraction starts and to do it at least six times to be able to feel the effect. This gas makes me more confused and dizzy, but the pain in my belly doesn’t get better…I ask if they can please give me any other medication. The answer is to keep breathing the “happy gas”, which probably hasn’t worked yet because I am not inhaling it properly…What? Even better, they give me some homeopathic pills that should help. No, my dear husband, I can’t stand this any longer…I need something stronger!

Change of plan: I ask for an epidural!

The anaesthetist is busy with an emergency and we have to wait (happy I’m not the emergency!). After a while (30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours?? No idea) the anaesthetist arrives, a crazy woman younger than me, smiling! She makes me laugh a lot, even if I am in pain. Just one example: to describe the position I have to hold while she is inserting the epidural catheter, she tells me to curve the back like a “Gipfeli” (“Gipfeli” is the Swiss-German word for croissant). Great, the epidural catheter is in and the anaesthesia is working, and so I can’t feel the contractions. I hope they will let me know when I have to push!

Now it’s time to try to get my little baby into the right position.

The first step is to stay on all fours while a midwife gives me little spanks on my bottom. This should disengage the baby from my hips. The second step is that they put a bed sheet under my back (I am lying down on the bed, face up) and they jump onto my bed, one on each side. When the contraction starts, they shake me, pulling up the edge of the sheet. I am not feeling any pain, so all this makes me laugh a lot! Even my lovely husband is busy helping out to give the midwives a break. After a while, the pair give up, exhausted….my baby doesn’t seem interested in moving. With a very sad face the midwife in charge murmurs to me that they have done all they could…(OMG, what’s happening?)…and…(What? My baby isn’t well??)…I need a C-section. Aaaahhh, that’s all? OMG, you scared me, lady!

A C-section can be traumatic and I have to admit that I find it difficult to accept, however I have been aware of the possibility the situation already since she was breech till the beginning of the ninth month. For this reason, I wasn’t upset when a few minutes ago I was told about the C-section.

Time: 2 pm, new shift.

My husband is sitting in the armchair eating more biscuits (poor man, he is surviving on biscuits and water). I welcome the two midwives who will be with me till the end of this long day. One of them doesn’t speak a lot, but she gives me huge smiles, she strokes me often and holds my hand…she makes me feel safe. While waiting, my husband takes pictures of me and makes videos….aaah, modern technology allows you to record lots of moments of your life, even those “unforgettable” moments…however, with all this anaesthesia in my body, I am probably going to forget some details of this day!

Time: 5 pm

Finally, the operating room is available and I am escorted in…. It’s chilly and I shiver a lot, probably because of the anaesthesia too. They put a kind of plastic bag over my arms and chest and they fill it with hot air: I feel better, much better, even if I keep shaking….My teeth are chattering so hard that I’m afraid of chipping them. The team is made up of smiling women who make me feel safe. And of course my husband and the midwife are there with warm smiles. Ready, steady, go!


birth in zurich

Time: 5:22 pm

.I hear crying: she is born! I cry too! What an enormous feeling of relief to hear her voice. Up until now she had been kicking and punching me in the belly and was just a white profile on black paper. I don’t see her immediately, first they take her to warm her up and do a little check-up. My husband goes with them. They come back and put her on my chest, while they continue to stitch me up… OMG, I can’t even see her with the tears that fill my eyes, but I can feel her. And my husband is next to me with tears in his eyes, holding my hand and caressing our little girl!

It is all over

They take me back to the room where I was in labour. I will stay here for an hour while I try to breastfeed the baby for the first time ever… what a strange feeling. They ask me if I want dinner here or later in my room … Here, here, please, I am starving…The menu is a sort of Russian salad with meat in jelly … on other occasions I would not have eaten it, but I am so starving that I would even eat cat food! Meanwhile, my husband has gone home to get my “hospital bag” and eat a little something (other than cookies).

It is time to weigh, measure and dress the baby, while I am brought to my room.

I am alone in the room

What a beautiful view I have over Zurich, wow! They bring me back my little baby and soon my husband arrives. After an hour he goes home to rest. We could have had a “family” room, but we would have had to pay extra (the costs of the check-ups during pregnancy, the delivery, and hospitalization were covered entirely by our health insurance). In the following 4 days I will share the room with a woman who also had a C-section, who is in a lot of pain and complains a lot (poor thing). Right next to our room, there is the room where the babies are changed and checked … it sounds like a slaughterhouse: lot of screams come out from that room!

The nurses of the department are all very nice. One drawback is that they all have their own theory and so I get conflicting advice … and as usual, we new parents must embrace the theory that we think is most appropriate and hope that it is the right one … if there is a right one! Another flaw is that despite being a university hospital, sometimes I have to deal with people who speak little or no English and this is disappointing in a city like Zurich.

Time: 12 am

I am awakened by fireworks and I can see them through the window from my hospital bed. Who would have ever thought to spend New Year’s Eve like this?? My baby is in the crib next to me. We are illuminated only by the dim light of the bedside lamp. I try to figure out if she’s breathing by looking at the movement of her chest … I touch her hand … she’s not moving… oh, are you alive? I shake her. She screams (pissed off) … welcome to the world of parenting!


Deborah Patroncini (Deborahexpat)
Telford, United Kingdom
April 2017
Photo @DeborahPatroncini
Translated from Italian by Deborahexpat


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