It’s 6pm when the siren’s howling rises above the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv. Very calmly, hands on her stomach, the woman slowly descends two floors to the basement of maternity hospital number 3.
Without a word, they are put to bed in a windowless room.
They have only been in Mykolaiv Hospital for two or three days but are already used to it. Seven women about to give birth without warning of war.
Natalia Reznikova, a 30-year-old redhead, is expecting her third child. Another boy.
“I’m not scared,” he says as he carefully descends the stairs. “I hope she doesn’t give birth in that basement.”
In a room full of papers, three new mothers settle down with their newborn babies.
Natalia, who refused to give her last name, came to protect her first son, Maria, less than 24 hours ago.
She is tired but bright with her electric blue robe.
When the air raid alarm went off, she was returning to her second-floor room, accompanied by her partner Oleksander.
“We’re happy parents,” the young couple smiles.
Natalia thinks she’s lucky. She avoided childbirth in the underground delivery room.
The hospital staff have done everything they can to make the delivery room a pleasant one.
Next to the two beds with surgical stirrups are a sofa and a bubble-relaxing aquarium.
There is Alina Bondarenko with her partner. His water has just broken.
“In peacetime this area is used by plumbers and technicians. Four or five days ago, we had two women giving birth here at the same time,” says Andriy Grybanov, the hospital’s chief physician.
He remembers with great precision how much the newborns weighed – “5.18 pounds and 5.4 pounds.”
When the sirens go off and the bombing begins, the staff doesn’t always have time to take the women to the basement.
So they give birth in the hallway on the second floor. “Between the two walls,” says Dr. Grybanov. “That’s safer.”
The operating room is located on the fourth floor of the building, where doctors deal with childbirth problems and a caesarean section.
“But it’s very dangerous because we need light and then we become targets,” he continues.
Only three of the 49 babies born by hospital staff since Russia invaded Ukraine have been performed by cesarean section.
Nearly half of the women admitted since Feb. 24 have had to give birth in the basement.
Mykolaiv has been under attack for days. The city is blocking the Russian coastal route to the strategic port of Odessa on the Black Sea, and invading forces are giving strength to this latest obstacle.
“The health department advised us to put a big red cross on the roof of the hospital. But we’ve seen what happens,” says Dr. Grybanov. “There is no single international agreement that has not been violated.”
Several Ukrainian hospitals have already attacked Russian forces, including Mykolaiv Cancer Surveillance. The specter of Mariupol, where a maternity hospital was bombed a week earlier, hangs in the air.
There is also a corridor in the basement, decorated with soft-skinned children’s posters. It serves as a shelter for the locals: the elderly, women, children and the dog.
An hour later when the clean sounds are heard, they all go back up.
Among them is Bondarenko, who is expected by doctors to avoid the winery.
8 p.m. Another mermaid. Another tired walk downstairs. Everyone sees it drawn. Some women move laboriously, holding on to the walls and arms of nurses.
Bondarenko is completely dilated and the doctors have decided to keep him on top.
Despite the alarms, the night seems quiet.
In the delivery room on the second floor, Bondarenko’s husband is counting on the impulses. The young woman is terribly silent and the doctor, a kind man with a twinkle in his eye, puts on music.
Sting. Mylene Farmer. And “Pretty Woman” when Snizhana greets the baby world.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a union feed.)