Without trying very hard, I’m certain that, by now, most people have realised that I have given birth already and this is at the heart of why I have not updated until now. For those who are curious: yes baby is happy and healthy and their parents are too – to say nothing about being overjoyed by the newest addition to our family.
That out of the way, we have a final update in regards to our experiences with the NHS. There are several options when it comes to where/how one can chose to give birth in the UK – a good portion of them limited only by the degree of risk each individual pregnancy is, so it’s all on a case-by-case basis.
What are the options? Generally speaking (and keep in mind that all of these services may not all be offered in all hospitals), in terms of where one can choose to give birth the options are as follows:
Home Birth (for those who are very low risk and/or have had a child before that was low risk); the Midwife-led Birthing Unit (again, low risk) and the Delivery Suite (higher risk) this also includes but is not limited to C-sections.
By their nature, anything that is low risk will have more options for both pain relief and coping methods. Within reason/safety, doctors and midwives will do their best to stick to someone’s birthing plan, though it is often stressed that, just because you plan for it, it does not mean that delivery will go exactly as one would hope (yes, that’s kind of obvious, but it was stressed that much so it bore repeating).
So, if I were to offer any advice to anyone giving birth in the UK, it would be this: don’t set your birth plan in stone; throw in a plan B and a plan C in case plan A goes snaky. This may also save you valuable time/energy as the professionals won’t have to ask questions on what to do next if there is a hiccup – I certainly appreciated it (I’ll spare you the details… you’re welcome).
If shows like One Born Every Minute can be depended on as a representation of what a “typical” birth in the UK is like, then most seem to stick to the midwife-led unit and cope with Entonox (“Gas and Air” as it is more commonly known) and precious little else.
Now, for those of us who come from the USA and/or are squeamish about pain, this may actually be a representation of one of the nine circles of hell (if you’re into that kind of thing). Why single the Americans out on this one? Well, if the USA version of the aforementioned TV show is any indication (to say nothing about the horror stories that friends and family of mine have drummed up leading to the actual birth – thanks guys for the input: you can see I’ve put it to good use), the mindset is that, while natural is all well and good, one ought not suffer needlessly.
Of course, it goes without saying that there are exceptions to these “rules.” Examples of such would be the slow, but steady, increase in popularity of Water Birthing on both sides of the pond.
If I’ve learned nothing else throughout this process, it is the value in having a wide range of normal. “How long is a piece of string?” is a question/response that has underscored the weeks and months leading up to and past the point of delivery.
In the UK, as I have stated in a previous post, so long as all is well they do not keep you in the hospital any longer than necessary. In my case, the child was born at 10:09PM on the 7th of January and we were discharged by 6AM on the 8th.
While discharged from the hospital, one is not discharged from care; typically speaking a Midwife will visit the family the day after they have been let out of the hospital and follow up several times over the next couple of weeks to make sure that everything is going well. Health Visitors (which was explained to me as being something akin to mobile HeadStart/SureStart units, focusing on ensuring that by the time the child is old enough they are ready for school) are also supposed to take active roles in the coming weeks, months and years to follow – though they usually begin their visits before birth; alas, sometimes they can’t make it to every expecting family in time.
Which takes us to where we are at now, which isn’t a bad place to be, all things considered. So I am happy to conclude the NHS series and turn my focus (however little of it that I can spare) to Working and Volunteering in the UK which will take a more predominant role in the coming weeks.