Monday, August 3, 2009

Things Are Different Here (part V)

Being pregnant in Ireland has been a very different experience to being pregnant in the States. For the most part, the Irish seem to have a much more laid-back, go with the flow, your-body-knows-what's-best attitude. I don't buy that crap for a minute. My body has betrayed me on more than one occasion. Hello? Sweat much? IBS, Missing teeth, and, pray tell, does my body really think it's best to store that much fat in my thighs and upper arms? Oh and sweet heavens, the double chin!

Someone near to me said it straight - to look at me is to see more chins than in a Chinese phonebook.

But I digress...

My cousin lived in Argentina for a few years and she said one time one of the most eye-opening experiences was to realize how America looks from the outside. Ethnocentrism is alive and well in the States and I realized very early on I would have to overcome a lot of pre-conceived ideas about my great homeland living abroad. And I did welcome the challenge. So when the doctor suggested that a lot of the antenatal tests performed in the States may be more for the insurance payments and reimbursements than for the benefit of the results, I said, Alright Dr. Pepper... I'm picking up what you're putting down.. Let's roll.

And some things are great. The doctor doesn't make you get on a scale every time you go for a visit. Nothing was more demoralizing than the sound of the creak and clank as you stepped up on the platform and the nurse took her time inching the weights over more to the right, the right, the right... Doc says what does your weight tell us? We'd only check if you were grossly obese to start with (phew) or we suspected an eating disorder and wanted to make sure you WERE gaining. (um. so my gaining is obvious?)

I also love that you are called back from the waiting room BY the doctor. He comes and gets you, sits you in his office, HE takes your blood pressure, HE checks your temperature and then HE, without gloves (!), takes your urine specimen and dunks the reagent strip into it - all just over the garbage can in the corner of the room! That I could live without. And the fact that you bring in your specimen from home. They give you this glorified (and apparently reusable) test tube with a lid and say bring this back full at your next visit.

Seriously, I thought aiming into the dixie cup in the States was a challenge, but this is impossible. First off, I can hardly reach around my belly to hold the cup while I hover and pee. Second, something about having a baby's head squashing down on all your lady parts makes a single stream of urine a physical impossibility so I am reduced to chasing drops of pee around, trying to catch them in the tube, wetting my hand more than anything else while trying not to pass out from holding my breath because I am doubled over trying to see around a giant beachball belly and keep my balance all at the same time. And then what do you do with the tube of urine while you are walking to the doctor's office? Does it go in your purse? Back pocket? Dangled from your key chain? I have yet to find an appropriate urine specimen caddy.

And that's not all on offer from the pregnancy take-out menu. When I queried the doc as to the Group B Strep test, standard in the states, he said they do not commonly find GBS in Irish women ergo it is not a routinely performed test. However, seeing as how I am American and thus "potentially infected", it may be wise indeed to test me. He then proceeds to hand me a swab and instructions to bring it back with me on my next visit! WHAT?! Okay, so I am nurse. I can handle a swab culture. IF I COULD REACH IT! My poor husband is traumatized still from his role in "Vaginal Swab: the play-at-home edition".

In fact, I haven't had to drop trow once for my good friend, Mr. MD. His table HAS no stirrups! How does he know I'm not tragically malformed all up in there? Is that not something the Irish have to deal with? I guess they figure if the sperm got in, the baby can come out. I asked him on a recent visit when he would start checking me for dilation and effacement and he said, "labor".

Allrighty then.

As Ireland boast socialized medicine, we had a choice as to whether we wanted to go "publicly" or "privately". As I have the history of a c-section/breech birth and wanted to go for the vbac (vaginal delivery after cesarean) we thought it best to have the best and thus coughed up the 3000 euro plus fee for the top obstetrician in Kilkenny. I am beginning to wonder what our money has gotten us.

When I suspected I was pregnant, I was instructed to go to my GP where I got a handshake and a referral to the obstetrician to be seen in 3 months time. No pregnancy test even performed. I took 3 tests at home and got a yes, a no and a maybe. I was sorta hoping for a tie-breaker. They said, nah, their tests are as reliable as mine and that was why you don't even go to the obstetrician for the first 3 months because "its still so early and anything could happen" (reassuring...) and provided I never get my period, I should keep my next appointment.

I had to ASK at my last appointment (36 weeks, mind you) what exactly I should do when I go into labor. Didn't think I would have to ask, thought maybe they would OFFER that info... but however. I was told I call the hospital. Do I then call my super-expensive doctor? No. Just the hospital. The hospital-staffed midwives will be doing my delivery, I am told, provided there are no complications. "They are the ones that do this sort of thing every day". But my doctor will be at the hospital with me, right? Well, he is obligated to LIVE within a certain distance from the hospital, so if he is needed, he can be there asap. Eh, no. For 3 grand, I want my doctor in the room, holding my hand, rubbing my feet, and telling me how beautiful I look doing my "tee, hee, hee" Lamaze breathing. And a mint on my pillow. And a stocked mini-bar.

Have I mentioned that I am hoping for a natural childbirth experience? No epidural. No pain medicine. No forceps. No suction. Just the beautiful and horrific agony of pushing out a baby... 'Cause, my body knows best.

Ah... can't wait to see how this fucking disaster turns out...


Debbie said...

LOL!!! On the floor, laughing my butt off as usual. I am SO jealous - you are getting to experience exactly what it SHOULD be like. You're going to do so great, Malinda. I can't wait to hear that birth story.

Clodagh said...


I had to fight to get a B Strep test done in the UK, but in the end all was good. Here they tell you to go to hospital when your contractions are 3-5 mins apart. When I was in labour with Esme Simon and I watched the whole of the 1st series of Heroes before it was time to go to the hospital. We had a midwife deliver Esme, there was not a doctor in sight. She was amazing and stayed with me though out the last 6 hours of my labour. She was the one to top up my epidural and she also did my episiotomy and stitches. Rock on midwives we love you.xx

Erin said...

I'd MUCH rather have it done the way they're doing it there than the way they do it here. Have you SEEN the story in the news about the woman in New Jersey who refused to sign a C-section consent and subsequently had her child taken away and handed to CYS? Because she was "acting erratically" while IN LABOR. Sure, I'm in Ohio, not NJ, and ours is a Catholic hospital, but I'm scared to death to go there once my water breaks now! Keep on bloggin' and keep us up to date!

Much love to all and good luck!!

Paula said...

Is there still time to book a flight? You could hide you advance state by posing as an overweight American!
Seriously, you've done this before so how hard can it be?