During the second day of the Russian invasion in Kyiv, mom-to-be Viktoria and her husband made their way to the hospital through the deserted streets of Ukraine’s capital, where she would give birth to her first child. Viktoria didn’t deliver in the “comfortable” room she was first taken to, however, but in a “crumbling” bomb shelter, on a narrow exam chair, the new mom recounted to The Guardian.
“I couldn’t believe I’d be giving birth during war,” the 32-year-old said.
Viktoria was cleaning her home to prepare for the baby’s arrival — listening to explosions outside — when she started to feel contractions. The journey to the hospital was nerve-wracking and surreal. The parents-to-be had to spend 30 minutes on line waiting for gas, then made their way through abandoned streets to the hospital.
Although the hospital’s lights were off, to protect against attack, the couple were warmly welcomed and shown to a “comfortable and colorful” room by the doctor. But after a couple of hours, sirens began to blare.
“It was unreal to look through the window and see all the beautiful Gothic architecture and hear the sirens,” said Viktoria. “While I was pregnant I had taken yoga classes, prepared for gentle birth-giving, took courses. It wasn’t like this.”
The couple were rushed to the hospital’s bomb shelter as Viktoria labored. It was “very wet and cold,” the new mom remembered, describing it as “built in Soviet times.” A shower curtain, she said, separated her from another 50 sheltering patients and staff. A photograph in The Guardian shows paint peeling from a brick wall, exposed pipes and an ironing-board-like contraption with stirrups, which Viktoria refers to as a “gynecological chair,” on which she would soon give birth.
“I was trying to not even look over there and hoping to go back to the hospital soon,” she said.
But then, her water broke.
“My doctor looked at me and said: ‘OK, we will do it here, it’s too dangerous to wait,’” Viktoria explained. “At that moment I wasn’t afraid. I trusted my doctor — the only thing on my mind was holding my son and ending the pain.”
In a photo taken during the birth, Viktoria clasps at her knees while pushing, still wearing her grey overcoat.
In spite of the grim surroundings and frightening circumstances, Viktoria says she felt a rush of joy upon seeing her baby for the first time.
“I was so happy when I saw my son, Fedor. With his black hair he looked like a small copy of my husband, who cut the cord,” she remembered. “I just felt, wow, love and pure happiness and all these mystical feelings.”
Her first words to the baby?
“You’re lucky, you’re unique, you’re born in Ukraine, you’re a new Ukrainian.”
The new mom hopes for peace, and that Fedor will “experience this war only from stories” — foremost of these being the incredible tale of his birth.