Monday, October 14, 2013

Giving birth in the UAE vs. the USA

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about sifting my recent birth experience into the differences between here and the US. It's not an exact science since birth experiences can be (and are, in my case) wildly different even when they take place in the same country. But here's my best shot at what was really different between here and there.

Food. There was very little food available to me during labor. The only thing I could get was a "sandwich" (kiri cheese and flatbread) from the hospital kitchen, and a bottle of water. Both of which took over an hour to arrive. That's why Jeremy went out and bought our own food.

The situation was slightly more dire after midnight in the recovery room. The awesome food service I talked about in this post wouldn't start until the next morning, and in the meantime I was famished. Again, all that was available to me from the hospital was flatbread, so Jeremy went on another food run for me. We asked if we could get Subway or someone to deliver to the hospital, but they said security wouldn't let the delivery guy in the door. That policy should be changed, at least during nighttime hours. Because when you've just given birth to a baby, flatbread is not enough. Nope.

Bedside Manner. In the US, I feel like they explain a procedure, then they do the procedure, then they talk to you about the procedure they just did. Not so here. They just did the procedure. I don't want to freak anyone out, but for a few days after the birth, I kept having a weird reflex that someone was trying to check me and I was totally surprised by it and then I would realize that although that happened a few times, it was not happening anymore. The L&D nurses' attitudes were a little brusque as well.

Modesty. The hospital gown they put me in was just dripping with fabric. It covered me from neck to wrist to toe, with lots of billowing pink gingham in between. Shortly after birth, when the male pediatrician came in to check Sterling, they closed the curtains around the bed so I couldn't be seen. Similarly, in the recovery room, anytime a male member of staff was going to come in, the female nurses came in first to make sure I was decent and to give me a heads up. I'm not saying that in the US these precautions aren't taken, but this was a level of protection of my decency that I haven't experienced before during the childbirth process.

Jeremy's Comfort. Poor Jeremy basically spent 10 hours sitting in a hard plastic chair. The L&D room did not have any couch or soft chair for him to sit in. At one point when I was in the bathroom, he asked if he could lie down on the hospital bed, just for a minute. Poor guy. It actually affected me during labor, knowing how uncomfortable he was.

I mentioned in another post how we would have had to pay almost $100 for him to stay in the recovery room with me. I thought that was a little weird, but whatever. Maybe I was the weird one for considering having my husband there with me - when we left recovery, we did so at the same time as a Saudi woman, who had a female entourage with her and an honest-to-goodness hotel luggage carrier cart for all her belongings/gifts/platters of food/etc. Then there was me and Jeremy and my purse and the baby. So maybe we're the ones doing it wrong.

On call? The doctor who delivered Sterling was the doctor on duty at the hospital when I went in. I was disappointed that it wouldn't be my regular doctor, but I figured there was nothing I could do about it. So imagine my surprise when I saw my regular doctor the next day and she chastised me for not calling her mobile when I arrived at the hospital. I didn't even know that was an option! I guess it is.

Culture clash. The doctor who delivered Sterling came here about five months ago from Damascus. It was clear in many little ways (and when it came time to push, in a big way) that she was used to doing things the way they do them in Syria. In some ways, I feel like I got a Syrian birth and a UAE birth all in one, thanks to my very Syrian doctor and the way she managed things.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some details. It's hard to separate what is different because it's here vs. there, and what's different because it's now vs. five years ago, or because it's this doctor vs. that doctor, or whatever. This was my best effort.

Now, the differences in obtaining birth certificates/passports between here and there - that is quite the story. I'll tell it to you when it's finished.

23 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

Out of pure curiosity, do you know what the cesarean rate is in the UAE, and/or in your particular hospital?

Also, they would just check you?! Without warning?!

I'm also curious to hear how much your experience lines up with other ex-pats (and Emiratis) who have given birth in Sharjah. Do you think your experience was pretty typical? Or was it out of the ordinary in any way?

I LOVED THIS POST. Thanks for feeding my birth culture fixation. :)

Susanne said...

I remembered you wanted to give birth abroad so when you told us you were pregnant I was happy that you'd finally have that opportunity. Interesting post!

Bridget said...

I'm going to go ahead and put this out there. DO NOT READ THIS if you may be uncomfortable with what goes on in the throes of labor.

(At one point, I actually yelled out, "get your hands out of my" [well, you know] "!!!!!!!")

Yvonne Anderson said...

When I had Rigdon the nurse came in and woke me up at 4am and told me I HAD to take a shower right then.

I had to laugh at your comment that you and Jeremy were "doing it wrong". Matt and I did it wrong as well. I was the only person in my hallway that didn't have about 20 other people hanging out in my room or have balloon archways to walk through and flowers taking up half the hallway outside my door. Seriously, think funeral flower arrangements and there were even a few statues...STATUES!

Bridget said...

Statues?!?!?!?!

Bridget said...

I think my experience was fairly typical for a private hospital in Sharjah. Gov't hospital would have been a different story - probably not a private room, etc. On the other hand, it would have been free or almost-free.

Things seem to be done more in the "Western" way in Dubai, or in Sharjah with a Western doctor. But you always hear stories of weird things. Like my neighbor who had a c-section at my hospital...and could totally feel it. Yeah. I'm really glad to not have had THAT particular adventure.

Liz Johnson said...

FWIW, after 30 minutes of googling, the most recent number I can get for the cesarean rate in the UAE is 15.2% (from 2003). Obviously that number is really outdated, but that's the last number the World Health Organization has, and the last one I've seen reported in any medical journals (in English). Interesting.

Liz Johnson said...

And... did they get their hands out???

Crys said...

One of the interesting things about how our health system has developed (interesting and expensive) is that due to insurance and the fact that we are often unaware of cost differentials instead of competing on price which is what most market use hospitals compete for patients with services and experiences. http://media.ecommunity.com/north/pov/ldrp.asp This hospital is 30 minutes from where I live. There are at least six hospitals that are closer but guess where almost all of my friends have delivered! When I watched this video the first time I was like, what the heck! Are you having a baby or going away for a spa weekend? But in America it seems to be Health Care cost be damned! Meanwhile I've gleaned from friends who have had babies in other places (or you friend who had that surgery in Russia) that in other countries you are expected to bring a lot more of your own comforts. My friend from England said you had to bring your own food and pads for post delivery and the nurses yelled at her when she bleed on her bed :( But still you think they'd at least have a place for the father to sit. Poor Jeremy on that plastic chair! I remember my first experience with having a baby they had these plastic covered rocking chairs and my midwife even sat in it and gently rocked for a good thirty minutes waiting for me to be ready to push. Although with the exception of Captain E, Dr. J has always just gone home after delivery. It's hard when you have other kids and family isn't close. The friends are willing but I always feel like I'm inconveniencing people :( I've noticed the same thing about the beside manner of doctors and nurses from other countries. When my appendix burst I went to my Korean doctor Sunny Lee. I was on the examining table and before I even knew what hit me she had me on my side and had her gloved finger up my buns doing a digital rectal exam. It's not like I would have been happy about it in any case, but I would have preferred a little warning first if you know what I mean :) Love this post! Hope you are getting a little more sleep and the nursing thing is working itself out!

Crys said...

Do you think that maybe more fathers there don't actually come in for delivery?

Myrna said...

My worst birth experience was in San Diego, California. And the only thing I was allowed to "eat" during labor was ice to suck on. I was not allowed to drink water. Only suck on ice. My other babies were born in Canada, and were wonderful experiences. So, I am biased AGAINST having babies in the USA. A small, rural hospital in Southern Alberta, Canada, where Nancy was born was a wonderful place to have a baby. Great meals, snacks between meals, a private room with a bathroom, I could have my baby as little or as much as I wanted to, back massages a couple of times a day, a week of recovery time in hospital, all at no cost to me beyond our monthly Alberta Health Care premium. Heaven!

Jeremy Palmer said...

So the take home lesson here is that husbands should bring a comfy camp chair, right? :)

Hannah Singleton said...

I had the same experience as Myrna (but in Arkansas) - nothing to eat or drink during labor. Just ice chips to suck on pre-birth. Seems insane. But reading Crys' comment made me glad that I got ice chips in a comfortable room with plenty of other "basics." Loved this post.

Bridget said...

That time, yes, with a sheepish "sorry."

Bridget said...

Very interesting. It's so hard to get at statistics like that here. I have no idea what the rate is at this particular hospital and I didn't even ask. Options were slim so if it was bad news there wasn't much I could have done about it.

Bridget said...

I think it's possible. I'm at least glad Jeremy was allowed to be there!

Bridget said...

I think the ice-only rule is still in place at some hospitals, even now. Something about "just in case you go under general anesthesia." I was so spoiled in Middlebury - they had all kinds of food and snacks and drinks for me, no problem.

Bridget said...

I can't imagine not being able to eat! Laboring takes a lot of energy. You wouldn't ask someone to run a marathon on ice only. Sheesh.

Jessie said...

I'm fascinated by this. How can they tell you what you can and can't eat during labor? What if you brought your own food - can they really tell you that you aren't allowed to eat it?

Liz Johnson said...

Jessie - Yep. I see that happen ALL OF THE TIME. Many hospitals and OBs don't want you to eat in the very, very, very rare case that they need to put you under general anesthesia, because there's a small chance you could vomit and aspirate (although most will allow clear liquids, like broth/jell-o/apple juice). We're talking like 0.005% chance of that happening. BUT they also can't take food out of your hands or refuse to treat you if you DO eat - it's just usually the policy and they get really, really annoyed if you do eat. I've heard of nurses being stationed in the room 24/7 to keep an eye on secretly munching patients.

Around here, though, the hospital-based midwives actually encourage you to eat if you're hungry. And all of the hospitals provide a big post-delivery meal to keep your blood sugar/iron levels steady after you deliver.

Jen said...

I would have kicked someone.

Laboraide said...

birth is an amazing feat. It is amazing how much there is to know about it. Especially if you want to reduce labor pains.

http://www.laboraide.com/article/1588-what-to-know-about-birth

Sherwood family said...

I've had four births in four different hospitals in four different states, and the most I got was water (in one hospital I let the ice chips melt to make water). The last birth was AWFUL - after staying all night and laboring until 5 pm, my nurse brought me a sandwich, jello and orange after I begged at 6:30 for some food. When I asked for more, she said the kitchen was closed for the night. I had to call Brandon (who had left to take care of the other kids) and beg him to bring me a burrito! I asked my sister, who is a pediatric nurse, if we could at least have glucose in the IV, and she said it's possible, but they're just too lazy to stock it in L&D. I'm jealous you got food!!

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