Notes From Hairenik
April 10, 2011

Areg is gorgeous. I never imagined how beautiful he could be. Both of us were trying to picture who he would look like, and I kept saying that he would resemble Anushik perhaps in all ways, inheriting her big brown eyes and button-like nose especially. Turns out I was right about that, yet people keep telling us via Facebook or in person that he looks like me. He certainly seems to have my goofy ear lobes and spider hands with long, slender fingers that will form one day to be those that any pianist would die to have. The first week was not without sleepless nights, which goes without saying, although my wife has a lot of energy, being continually recharged by the electricity Areg naturally provides. But I on the underhand, last evening finding myself about to collapse, decided to spend the night on the couch to get a decent night’s rest. If I don’t get a minimum of 6 hours of steady sleep a night I can’t function the next day, which was the case consistently during the week. Now I’m able to finally enjoy spending a maximal amount of time with my son during the weekend.

A few notes about the hospital experience. Areg was born in the "8th maternity ward" located in the Kanaker-Zeytun district of Yerevan. Despite the obvious meticulous professionalism of Anush’s obstetrician, who led her every step of the way from pre-conception to childbirth, the maternity ward was in a horrid state. Their policies about limiting guests to prevent the spread of germs, in parallel with the dilapidated conditions of the place, was the ultimate example of surrealism I’ve ever observed in Armenia. I actually felt like I was being mocked.

Upon my first and only afternoon visit, for sanitary purposes I was given some kind of flimsy fabric shawl to wear on my shoulders, the material of which resembled a cheap dusting cloth found in a home goods store here. It kept falling off my shoulders every few steps that I took. In the corridors I found exposed electrical wiring from seemingly random holes in the stained walls. The walls were noticeably thin and crumbling with chunks of plaster having broken off from the corners. The doors were not hanging on their frames properly, and the glass on some of them had cracked at one time, and rather than being replaced they were repaired using transparent “Scotch” tape. I entered the room to find my wife holding our child sitting on a cot that was giving her no proper support and my wife was barely able to find the necessary posture to feed the child. She was literally sinking into the bed, the mattress having evidently been worn out. The frames of the beds and cradles were deplorable. The room’s walls were also grimy and cracked, with paint at one point sloppily applied to them that had dripped on the filthy linoleum floor, which was also worn out and had not been in one piece when installed, so that there was a strip of exposed cement running across the room. The furniture in kind was also in disrepair, and the room overall seemed dirty. I couldn’t even find a wastebasket for depositing dirty diapers and papers. And after only 10 minutes—although I was supposedly entitled to a full visiting hour to spend with my newborn son—the doctor of the mother sharing the same room as Anushik rudely dismissed me from the room. I never returned during their three-day stay, and there was nothing we could do to have them discharged from that horror show any sooner.

Then there was the birth certificate to deal with. You would think that presenting a note from the hospital to the ZAGS—the governmental department that processes marriage and birth certificates—would be enough to get working on it. Not a chance. Since I am not a citizen of Armenia my US passport had to be translated and notarized. For some reason my special residency visa—which is identical to a passport issued by the Republic of Armenia—did not fly with them, when in fact it should since virtually the same information printed in my US passport appears in it, with the exception of my father’s name (Armenians are obsessed with knowing that, I never understood why).  When my father-in-law—whose help and patience with the absurdity of the situation was invaluable—and I returned to ZAGS we realized that the translator use an “m” instead of an “n” in my last name, and he had to do it all over again along with the notarization (which of course is done separately and you have to wait in an chaotic “line” to have a document examined and sealed). When our papers were finally in order after a few hours of running around I learned after we had returned to ZAGS that I had to fill out an application for the certificate. That was when I lost it. The worker there claimed that by law she had no right to fill out the form, which I naturally thought was ridiculous. On top of that--and I can't wait to find this "law on first names"--we could not legally name him Areg Raffi as documenting a middle name is apparently illegal in the Republic of Armenia. All in all it took four hours to receive the certificate, which was given to us after the official there approved the documents as being valid. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that it was filled out by hand by the same woman who refused to fill out the application for us in the first place. They couldn’t have even typed it. Amazing. And all those photocopies of passports, our marriage certificate, and the hospital note attesting to Areg’s birth are just going to either be filed away somewhere never to be seen again or tossed out at some point. In that disorganization I can’t imagine that they would ever be able to process a copy of the birth certificate on request if it was ever needed. I assume we’d have to go through the entire rigmarole again.

In any case, even after a week has gone by since Areg’s birth, I keep finding myself being shocked that I am finally a dad. I’ve wanted to be one for years, but I’m so thrilled it finally happened that I am in disbelief. It’s going to take a little while to get into the groove of fatherhood for me.

Photos by Gohar

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Blogger Marash Girl said...
Come home and bring your wonderful Areg and Anushik with you! What you describe is beyond the pale!
By the way, the baby looks exactly like you, dear friend!

Anonymous Areg said...
Way to pick a great name!!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
First of all, congratulations! I hope the mother and child are well and at home. Now you know what we "ordinary Armenians" have to go through - the conditions according to your notes haven't changed since we had our first child in 2002, and the absurd of government departments is the same: unhelpful, corrupt, incompetent people trying to earn a living by all means while doing as little as possible. Where is the dignity of the human person?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
My heartfelt congrats to mother and father. Bari Galust Areg-in.

The birth of this wonderful baby boy is a celebration of life that outshines the hospital experience with all its deficiencies and hang-ups.

Here's to a brighter future for all - young and old.