On Monday January 12th, the one year anniversary of my move to England, I had my first ultrasound, which was firm confirmation that another huge life-changing event is on the horizon.
I’m getting my health care through the NHS, so I have the benefit of not needing to pay for private insurance, which, as a US citizen, is a little bit like living in opposite land. However, because I’m not paying for the health care, the experience has been different than what it might have been if I were in the states. For example, I met with both a general practitioner and a midwife before the 12-week scan I had on Monday, and neither of those medical professionals confirmed the pregnancy (through urine or blood). I also wasn’t offered an early ultrasound (at around 8 weeks), like I might have been in I was back in California. So, for the first three months, until I saw the little babe kicking around on the ultrasound screen this week, I could have basically been making the entire thing up like a hysterical crazy person and no one would have been the wiser, myself included.
As a notoriously high-strung individual, it was really strange for me to have very little medical intervention during a time when all I wanted was as much reassurance as possible. Thankfully, I have my midwife’s cell phone number – that poor woman probably hates me.
As I understand it, because there is very little that can be done in the first three months of pregnancy, the ethos here is to just let it happen. It’s all very c’est la vie.
That was very, very difficult for me.
Additionally, the NHS keeps sending me totally vague and absolutely terrifying text messages as my various blood test results are received by my doctor’s office. Nothing says peace of mind like getting a text at 4:55pm that reads, “Your test results are now available. Contact your GP as soon as possible.” So fun trying to frantically contact a health center administrator in the last five minutes before the office closes. Fortunately, as of now, all results are normal.
In England, prenatal care – and often, birth itself – is managed by full trained, highly educated midwives, not OB/GYNs. I think this is excellent, because in theory, it should cut down on the amount of unnecessary intervention suggested to women as they prepare to have babies. That being said, the strangest thing that’s happened thus far occurred during my “booking in” appointment, the first time I met my midwife. We went through family ancestries and histories, I told her my height and weight, she took my blood pressure, and then after this extensive testing, she deemed me “low-risk” and advised me to have my baby at home.
As an American, this casual suggestion was similar to hearing a nurse tell me that I look pretty competent so I should just handle the stitches myself. For years, I’ve harbored some obnoxious ideas about how medicalized pregnancy and birth can be in the United States, so I absolutely appreciate living in a place that treats this like a natural process, and not a terrible disease. However, having a midwife use 30 minutes of conversation to determine that I wouldn’t need any medical help was a teensy bit surprising, even for a liberal granola nutcase like me.
Luckily, the options are basically endless here, so as of now, I’ve decided to use a birth center inside a hospital, staffed with only midwives, but an elevator ride away from some serious surgeons, just in case. I’ve read that for a home birth to be truly effective as an experience (and also, I guess, as a way of getting an 8 pound human being out of your body), you have to be relaxed. I, queen of the tightly wound, would not fare well with a potentially life-threatening situation intentionally scheduled away from a hospital.
Luckily, I am slightly less anxious now, as I’ve got four photos of our tiny martial artist and I know it exists. However, now that I know this is for real, I am ramping up tons of anxiety about making sure I don’t screw it up.
I’m such a well-adjusted human being. It’s just amazing.