Tag: culture

Are American’s ready to have babies the Irish way? Do you want a mid-wife or a maternity concierge?

I received a letter from my ob/gyn’s office today with an appointment date. I thought it was a mistake until I got a voice mail from the secretary requesting I ring back to confirm the appointment which was based on a referral from my GP’s office.

Sounds standard but just a year late!

I had gone to my GP with a complaint almost a year ago. The same week I got this letter, I also got an e-mail from my mother complaining about the Obamacare website in Maine and how much her policy cost.  I can not even bring myself to investigate the cost of insuring my family over there when we move over since we won’t have jobs for a few months. This all got me thinking again about the differences in healthcare between here and the US.

The main difference is price but the principle of universal healthcare leads to other differences that I am not sure supporters of healthcare reform (particularly liberal, well-educated, middle and upper class urbanites) would be ready to face themselves.  Social policy is personal and when I see FB posts about healthcare reform I chuckle at the thought of my friend’s having babies the Irish way.

I had two straightforward and uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries and found the mid-wife led service very good but there is nothing dressed up or glamorous about your choices.

For people not familiar with the Irish healthcare system, here are few general points:

  • I don’t actually have a ob/gyn – you are assigned one when you are pregnant and she supervised my pregnancy, labour and delivery and post-natal care but I only met her once.
  • Your maternity care is delivered by a combination of GP, nurses or midwives, registrars (this is like a resident
  • The GP is your first point of call for everything and then you get referred to Consultants (specialists)
  • It is not uncommon to wait over 12 months to get an appointment for a consultant
  • You can pay and make an appointment with the same doctor directly and it doesn’t take as long
  • You get standard red-tape letters about health matters, no phone calls (I always found this disconcerting, impersonal  and kind of inappropriate – what if it didn’t arrive or someone else opened it and you never got it?)
  • Because the health system is publicly run (even if you pay you are still using the public health system because the hospitals, doctors and management are all public) it is run by civil servants and in the same manner as say the DMV.

My maternity experiences were very different from my friend’s in the U.S. and I am frankly not sure American’s are really ready for universal affordable healthcare.  It is one thing to be a liberal educated middle-class woman who believes in equal access to health care for all Americans but it is another thing when it becomes personal.  The reality is that you will have the same experience as women who don’t pay and they will be next to you.  In the chair, room or bed next to you as is the case in Ireland.

There was an Irish Traveller in the bed next to me who had just had her 12th baby and was getting given free formula and bottles. I knew the husband from work and know they live in a free house and get a lot of social welfare.  They probably get paid about $2000 per month of universal payments for children alone. The nurses spent a lot of time finding extra formula and bottles for them to take home (for free) but they were in a hurry so the nurses made arrangement for them to collect them later.

You will continue to pay for your healthcare so that other women can receive the same healthcare without paying. You will have limited choices and we know American’s are obsessed with choice (just walk down the shampoo aisle in CVS). My friend’s shopped around for their doctors and their hospitals.  I think this is all just an illusion of choice  because at the end of the day the baby will come out one of two ways and it works the same for everyone but these choices let women think they have an element of control over things. I personally think this pretense that you can control your healthcare is  dangerous expectation that leads to a lot of misinformation and disappointment at the reality of childbirth and beyond.

Has anyone heard of a maternity concierge?? Well, I hadn’t either until a friend living in LA suggested that I look up this reality show called ‘Pregnant in Heel’s’. This show is fantastic.  This woman, a maternity concierge, charges about $500/hour to fulfill your every crazy wish and demand through pregnancy.  I can’t even begin to describe the craziness I saw on the show but much of it makes you wonder how have these people become successful – they are idiots?.

No one here has heard of a maternity concierge and when I try to explain the hilarity of the tv show, they think I am making it all up.  I wish.

I received an e-mail from a close friend right after having her baby in a city in the US. There was a link to a professional photographer’s website to see the results of his photo shoot…in the hospital. The pictures were adorable and the mother looked great except for the exhausted and confused look in her eye. She had clothes on and makeup and jewelry and the baby was in props.  I started looking more closely.  The hospital room seemed to have hardwood floors! There were suggested colors to bring and tips for looking good from the photographer that included clear nail polish.  What?? This was the day after giving birth to your first baby and the hospital arranged for professional photographer’s to visit your room and sell you a photo shoot.  First I had a bit of a breakdown – how could she manage a family photo shoot the day after giving birth when I was barely able to get my son to latch on and nurse without tears (both of ours)? Then I thought, god how awful for her to be forced to present herself like that and forced to make that choice in such a vulnerable moment.

In contrast the labor ward of my local hospital was described to me by a new father as dairy barn with cows trundling up and down ready to give birth to calves. He was describing (complete with agricultural references not really appreciated by my female colleagues) how his wife had to wait until she was fully in labor before getting into a delivery room because they were all full.  In the meantime you walk the corridors.  Up and down stopping for contractions and looking at County football jerseys hanging on the walls.

The mid-wives lead the unit under the supervision of a consultant but I never saw a consultant ob/gyn in my deliveries (thank god) and since there are only three I am sure more often than not, it is a resident doctor.  The mid-wives are great.  They have seen it all and at least one stayed with me the whole time.  They are funny, relaxed, helpful, straightforward, stern when needed and made me feel relatively calm.

Give me an Irish mid-wife over a maternity concierge any day.

Note: Midwifery is a medical profession in Ireland – I realize the term midwife can be used much more loosely in the US and Australia.  I am not an advocate of these self-determined midwifes who are more like doulas that advocate home births. Midwives here are nurses with additional training and experience in pre-natal, labor & delivery and post natal care.

A Hot Drop

The All-Important Cup of TeaI hate coffee and only sporadically drank tea while I lived in the US so I admittedly knew nothing about coffee-making & drinking rituals when I moved to Ireland.  I still can barely make a pot of coffee but I am most definitely a tea-making expert now.  I am not talking about fancy tea leaves and strainers kind of tea just the “quick put the kettle on I am gasping for a cup of tea” kind of tea-making.

Irish people are OBSESSED with drinking tea.  It is a crucial element to every life event and non-event.  According to some sources, Irish people are the biggest tea drinkers in the world, second to Turkey. I believe it.

I had never seen an electric kettle before I lived in Ireland the first time at age 20 and now I could not imagine living without one.  My parent’s both bought them for their respective houses after it became obvious how handy they are (and that my husband would not survive two weeks waiting for our ancient kettle to boil so he could make weak Lipton Tea).

The entire country stops between 10 and 11:30 to drink tea.  I have given up trying to reach anyone in an office around 11 because the phone will just ring or else you’ll get someone who is being forced to take a later tea break to cover the phones and will just take a message for the person you want who is drinking tea and then just run off to drink their own tea before giving the phone message so you are just wasting your time.   Direct quote from a co-worker when her supervisor asked her to come into her office and work through the plans for an upcoming event, “Ok, but I can only come for a few minutes because I have to have my tea at 11.”  The same woman regularly states “Your entitled to your breaks, they can’t make you miss your tea.” Never mind that I don’t think there is a legal requirement to let everyone down tools to boil the kettle and sit for half an hour and gossip around half ten, god help the boss who tries to stop public servants from drinking tea or even suggest they make  cup and keep working!

Some tea-drinking & making practices that I have found intriguing over the years:

  • People drink tea with their lunch or dinner and actually order tea with their meals in restaurants.
  • They drink tea when its hot and when they’re really thirsty and sweaty.
  • For some reason the kettle has to be boiled about 10 times before the tea is made in my office and immediately after the pot of tea is poured, the kettle has to be refilled and boiled again!  There is no reason that the water has to be boiled again but its a major faux pas NOT to fill the kettle straight away and boil the water again.
  • By the way, it also rude to make 1 cup of tea for yourself even if you’re the only person in the kitchen – you should still make a pot of tea just in case someone else comes in and needs tea immediately!!
  •  It is suspicious behavior  not to accept tea or coffee at meetings.   I have left work some days and actually felt dehydrated and sick from the amount of tea I’ve had to drink during the day. Day long meetings or conferences include at least 4 cups of tea:1 cup upon entering; tea break between 10:30 and 11:30; tea after lunch; afternoon tea break.
  • It is kind of stressful making tea for people because everyone has different methods and ways of drinking their tea and if someone changes their tea drinking habits it throws a major spanner in the works.  My colleague randomly announced one day, that she didn’t drink tea…after drinking three cups of milky tea in the office canteen for twenty years!!

In case you are American and wondering “how the hell can one cup of tea differ from the next?” here is a sample of a few tea requirements:

My husband drinks his tea very strong, must leave tea to brew in a HUGE cup for five minutes and stir around.  Splash of milk.  If I don’t put enough water in the cup, he will ask why I made him half a cup of tea and if I add too much milk he’ll thank me for his old lady tea. NO SUGAR – will gag and spit it out if there’s sugar in the cup.

Father-in-law – sometimes 2 tea bags in one cup depending on the type of tea.  Little milk. No sugar.

Mother-in-law – Strongish but with medium amount of milk (more than above two) and half a teaspoon of sugar.

Brothers-in-law – All no sugar, strong and a little milk.

Husband’s brother’s wife – weak and lots of milk – usually need to dump out lots of water to make enough room for the milk. All of the above have to be full fat milk.

A & M at work – decaffeinated tea now; one black and one with lots of skim milk

S – coffee

V, D and J – has to be a pot of tea no matter what – find single cups rude and wasteful I think.  Lots of milk, medium strength, no sugar and regular milk.

I haven’t even touched on the brands of tea or the tea accompaniments and implements – pots, sugar bowls, tea trays, milk jug, saucers, biscuits, cake, bread – all required at different stages depending on the relationship between the tea-drinker and maker and the occasion.