Oh my, where to begin. It is not feasible to put all my thoughts down from the Serbian-Kosovo conference because I don’t yet feel knowledgeable enough to make claims that could easily be simplified and premature. I’ll have you know the conference featured three excellent lecturers, forty much more qualified participants than I from Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, and Germany, and two very successful discussions. Our accommodations were quite plush which I didn’t expect: every meal was three delicious courses of traditional Serbian starters, main dishes, and desserts. During one such meal I wound up talking to the two other participants from Novi Sad and discussing the system of prenatal care in Serbia since one of them is due in less than a month and the other is her husband. Completely random, you may be thinking. I am wholly aware but it was quite a fascinating conversation so I thought I'd share.
First off, this is the only person I’ve talked to about this matter and she had quite a strong opinion about it which maybe causes irrationality and she’s in her eight month so perhaps there were some hormonal exaggerations, but on the whole she is very rational and a women studies scholar so I highly valued what she had to say. According to her, men in the balkans have started being criticized by their female counterparts for having less of a presence in their child’s life. She continued this by saying how she was a strong proponent of this movement, but it isn’t only the men to blame for these gender spheres but that society also plays a part.
She first noticed this when her husband was told he couldn’t be in the room with her while she had her ultrasound in the hospital in Novi Sad. Then they signed up for a prenatal couple’s class where they were immediately divided: all the soon to be fathers whisked to one room and the mothers to another. The first day of the class the men were given a lecture about how to be a strong figure in their child’s life and when I inquired about what that meant, the husband said they were instructed to be present but distant so that the child respects them but doesn’t bother them with ‘petty matters’. While the men were told wise cracks about letting the women take care of the dirty work, the women were told to be there for the husband as this would be a difficult time for him! I eagerly wanted to hear about the rest of the classes but that was the first and last they attended. The wife in the couple has lived in Novi Sad her whole life and suggested that these were societal improvements from when she was younger.
Before I continue, please please note that this was one couple, one marital class, one situation. This couple is more liberal than average so they may have exaggerated or embroidered their tale with excessive personal bias. As long as that’s noted I’ll discuss the next surprise dealing with the actual birth. The wife was recently informed that she must have a Caesarean section, and though the husband’s mother is a pediatrician in Portugal (where the husband is from) and believes that it isn’t necessary for her to have a C-section, the wife was not able to get a second opinion since the hospital is strongly linked to the government in ways that weren’t clear meaning what one doctor tells you is the same as what every doctor will tell you. To have a C-section it’s an additional 400 euros and the wife (who is not in favor of current politicians) suspects that the government is taking every possible opportunity to require C-sections and additional costs to help their financial hurting. And C-sections are not case-by-case in regards to when the woman is to be released from the hospital. In Novi Sad at least a woman having a C-section must be in the hospital for five days once she is admitted as a universal requirement regardless of how she progresses after labor. During the pregnancy the wife said epidurals are not available because the hospital doesn't have funds to employ more anesthesiologists. And now the most sad part that echoes the idea of society distancing the father and child: during labor, no one is allowed to be in the delivery room and even after the baby is born the husband is not allowed to be in the recovery room with his wife and child until they are ready to leave the hospital. When you add this regulation to the required recovery period after a C-section you realize that the husband will not be with his wife or newborn babe for first five days of his or her life! The wife said that in Belgrade the policy is less strict, but Novi Sad has the primary hospital for the two million people who live in Vojvodina, the Northern autonomous region of Serbia, so at least for those families this seems to be the case.
As I mentioned above I learned a tremendous amount about the actual theme of the conference (Kosovo-Serbia relations) but this anecdotal information was such a wonderfully unexpected learning experience that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about it.
Plus the problems facing Kosovo and Serbia are vast and deep and I’d like to know more and talk to a wider demographic before I confront this situation with a pen. But when that day comes I will surely post!