I am pregnant for the third time, in a third country. This means a third hospital system to navigate, a third delivery style to discuss and a third birth registration process to figure out (more on that another time).
I started thinking about this post when a fellow expat got in touch on Instagram said she had been wanting to have another baby, but was nervous about going through the process abroad. At first I thought this was a bit daft (sorry!) but then it kept popping up in my mind and I realised that pregnancy outside of your familiar environment can be nerve-wracking and medical provision around the world can vary considerably.
My first baby was born in the UK. It was a mostly chilled out pregnancy. I walked across the village green on the occasional Wednesday morning to see the midwife who took any tests, measured my bump and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. I had two growth scans at the hospital and that was pretty much it. I did have one night in hospital at 35+5 after a small bleed but all was fine and I was back home the next day. I kept my notes with me, the process was easy to understand and I could follow it all online as well as in my notes. It was very involved and the process flowed naturally. Plus it was my home and I just innately trusted the system to deliver a healthy baby.
We are extremely lucky to have the NHS (for all it’s problems) but glamorous it ain’t! When my waters went, I was admitted to the pre-labour ward. A doctor grabbed a bright yellow torch bought from a well-known hardware store, like the one your dad would use to check the fuse box, and shone that up my lady parts! Classy. After Arthur was born we were moved to a ward and we were keen to get home. The nurses were so busy they couldn’t get our discharge talk and paperwork done, so in the end, mid-afternoon, the ward sister pulled back everyone’s curtains and just gave the talk to the whole room at once!
What was also lovely about the UK was the follow up process. The Health Visitor came to the house the day after I brought Arthur home to check we were well. I could take him to a number of clinics in the area to have him checked or learn about feeding, cleaning, you name it. The support was fantastic.
My second pregnancy was in Dubai, UAE, and was different. The main differences were that the system is all hospital based and was less transparent. Information was given on a need to know basis and all notes were kept by the doctor It was harder to find out where I was supposed to be and where I was supposed to go next. Tests were ordered by the doctor and then we went to the lab or radiology departments to get them done. Other mums kept talking about how doctors in the UAE encouraged C-sections or planned induction so that they could schedule in the birth. We were also told that doctors would tell you the sex of your baby whether you wanted to know or not. Now, as this was our second experience, we had a clearer idea of what we needed, but I can imagine this would have been trickier to navigate for a first-time mum. As it turned out, none of these things were a problem for us and we had the pregnancy we hoped for. We were also very lucky, a new hospital had opened and their delivery ward was run by a British midwife, so the birth plan part of the experience was very like the UK.
Eirlys started trying to escape while we were in the car on the way to the hospital…cue crossed legs and suggestions that Tom drive a bit bloody faster. We arrived at the hospital and Tom had to go park the car. I was trying to explain to the ER that the baby was coming out NOW. Eventually they took me up to a delivery room. Still no Tom. Turns out he was being asked to pay the first part of the bill and sign me in before he could come in!
The birth was quick and easy. I was encouraged to push while standing. Arthur had got a shoulder slightly stuck on the way out so I was told standing would help avoid this. It was a lot more comfortable.
After the birth, the midwife kindly moved the time of Eirlys’ birth slightly on my paperwork so that I could have one proper night in the hospital, without having to pay for two. That was the other big difference – the cost! I had no maternity insurance in Dubai so we were paying for everything. An antenatal package to cover all the scans and tests and a birth package. We were keeping everything crossed for a smooth delivery, not just for the sake of a healthy baby but for the sake of a healthy bank balance!
The big upside of the Dubai birth was the location and room. It was all absolutely gorgeous. We spent our first night together overlooking the Burj Al Arab, which was beautifully lit up. Delicious food was served when I needed it and the room itself was nicer than in most hotels we’ve stayed in!
I have just reached the end of the first trimester with this pregnancy. Hospital-wise it has been the trickiest so far. For us, Al Khobar means a private hospital, like in Dubai, and this time we are lucky enough to have maternity insurance. But, the actual hospital process has been a nightmare and a worry so far.
I wanted a confirmation scan early on in my pregnancy. I got very big and sick quickly, so we were beginning to tell people at around 7 weeks and I felt that I would be happier seeing something on the screen. It was Ramadan though, which in Saudi Arabia means adjusted clinic times. The only time I could seem to get an appointment was 9.30pm. Now, I have to be up for work at 5.45am and with first trimester exhaustion to boot, 9.30pm was not a time I was seeing, let alone getting to the hospital for! Eventually we drove over to a clinic in Bahrain and just had a quick check with a doctor there.
Next up was thinking about choosing a hospital in Al Khobar. The one we had been recommended on our arrival two years ago has now closed down and we haven’t been happy with the one we’ve been using recently. Other mums online had said that our second choice hospital didn’t like fathers being in the room for delivery and thatthe baby would have to stay in the nursery rather than with me. All this has been making me a bit nervous to be honest. The father being out of the room and the baby staying in a nursery does seem to be the norm for all the hospitals here. However, a friend is due soon and her doctor has said they won’t insist on these things if you ask.
We finally picked a hospital and tried to get an appointment for our 12 week tests and scan: too busy, walk in only. We arrive for the walk in, with both Arthur and Eirlys in tow. It was horrendous. We were in the waiting room for a total of three hours. The children had basically gone feral by the end, there is only so long you can expect them to sit nicely! We still hadn’t had all the tests, just seen the initial doctor. We still needed to go to the lab for bloods, radiology for a proper scan, the insurance window to have that approved and the pharmacy for vitamins. In the end we just gave up and left. Exhausted and cross!
And that is where we are at the moment! Wishing for the easy days of just popping over to the midwife. I have an appointment at a different hospital for Monday. We will still have to do the back and for to the various hospital departments for everything, but hopefully it will be a bit quicker and less stressful.
I really am looking forward to a third baby in a third country. I know we have been extremely lucky with all our experiences so far, with all their ups and downs. I am sure we will get this process sussed out soon!