April 6, 2015

International Birth Stories – England

Welcome back to the International Birth Stories series!  If you’re just joining us, make sure to check out the previous weeks’ testimonies from Djibouti, Northern Ireland, and Brazil Up this week is Erin with a birth story from England!
International Birth Stories thebestofbaby.com
Erin gave birth to two babies in London in the past 5 years.  The first was with the national health service and the second was in a private maternity hospital, because they had insurance to cover it the second time around.  She says that the two experiences were quite different from each other.  Below are her general impressions she’s gathered from both birth experiences.
International Birth Stories www.bestofbabylady.com
Intro – What brought you to England?
My husband and I were living in New York for our first 10 years out of college. I was a book editor and he was a banker. He is a dual citizen, born in England, and we had always talked about moving there one day. London seemed like an easier place to raise kids (from the perspective of people without kids, though I think it is probably true, at least for us). But we had to wait until the time was right in both of our careers. Now we’ve been here for eight years and can’t imagine leaving. He is still in the same job but I ended up leaving my job as an editor and becoming a writer instead. My book, That’s Not English, about the differences between British and American language and culture, is being published in America in March 2015 and in England this November.

1.)  What surprised you about prenatal care in England?
What surprised and pleased me about prenatal care in England is that it is available to everyone, free of charge (well, covered by our taxes) through the National Health Service. My birth with the NHS, including all prenatal care and 48 hours in the hospital, cost a grand total of £5.00. (I wanted extra copies of an ultrasound picture–and the nurse actually apologized for charging for them.) So that’s pretty amazing. 
2) What surprised you about giving birth in England?
I was pleasantly surprised by how pro-natural birth they are here. Most births are supervised by midwives with doctors stepping in when needed. That said, my daughter’s birth was pretty difficult (40-hour labor, minimal pain relief) and though my doula and midwife were supportive and actually pretty heroic, when my son was born, I decided to go for a doctor-led inducement with an epidural! I consider both good births (as both resulted in healthy babies), but they were very different.
3) What surprised you about post-natal care in England?
 The NHS has a system of “health visitors” and after you give birth, they come to your house. You get a visit from a midwife shortly after the birth, and then someone else comes to check and weigh the baby and–to be honest–I suspect it’s also to make sure everything is safe and sound at home. I had mixed feelings about these visits. On one level it’s convenient not to have to take the baby to a clinic, and it’s astonishing that they manage the visits on the scale that they do. I’m sure it actually does save lives by helping make sure new mothers are educated about certain risks. On another level, the visits are rather intrusive and they usually came just at moments when my babies were peaceful and I could have been having a nap myself!
4) Overall impression of the English pregnancy and birth culture
I think England is a marvelous place to give birth and to be a mother. At times I hear English mothers compare their system unfavorably with that of other countries in the EU. (For example, in France early childcare is a bit cheaper and easier to find and mothers are given a higher standard of postnatal care; in Scandinavia, maternity leave is longer and men are allowed to split the time with their wives.) But to an American, what England offers is just amazing. A good baseline of prenatal care for every mother. You can take a full year of maternity leave here and not lose your job. Nursery school is subsidized for children for the couple of years before they enroll at full-time school. Support for mothers here is great, in my opinion. My English friends appear to me to have it easier than my American friends, when it comes to the first years of motherhood.
You can read more about Erin and her book (THAT’S NOT ENGLISH: Britishisms, Americanisms and What Our English Says About Us) at www.erinmoorebooks.com.
Stay tuned next week for another installment in the International Birth Stories Series!

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Iulia is a former educator turned stay-at-home mama of a spunky toddler and a squishy infant. With a touch of sass and a good dose of self-deprecating humor, she has an ever-expanding repertoire of bloopers, insights, stories, and impassioned opinions to share. Iulia likes to think she has this parenting gig figured out, but her littles remind her daily just how far from the truth that is.

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  • deliberatemom@gmail.com'
    Reply Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom April 6, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I am just loving this series! It’s so fascinating to read about the birth experiences people have in other countries.

    I don’t know how I would feel about the home visits either. I disliked taking my baby to the clinic… but I would feel uncomfortable with someone coming into my home.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…The Dances of ParentingMy Profile

    • Reply Bestofbaby April 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Jennifer, I can’t stand taking a newborn baby to the doctor’s office…I understand the importance of it but oh my gosh germs! When my son was born, we were at his first wellness checkup and a guy behind us coughed (practically in my son’s face) and I just about flipped.

  • twopluscute@gmail.com'
    Reply TwoPlusCute April 7, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Now I read this post, I wish I had given birth in England. Especially so I wouldn’t have to take my precious newborn to a – swarming with germs – doctor’s office like I had to do in USA.
    They put the sick kids in the same waiting area and they demand you take a three days old baby to them.
    They never do home visits either so, if your little one is ill, it has to withstand not only the germs-packed office but also driving there.
    TwoPlusCute recently posted…The Most Esteemed Hoarders Ever: BookloversMy Profile

    • Reply Bestofbaby April 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      Oh yes, I hate not having a separate “sick” waiting room. Usually, when we have doctor’s appointments, my husband will come with me and keep the kids outside until we’re called in. It’s a hassle, but I’d rather not go in for a wellness checkup and come back 3 days later for a sick checkup :/

  • suzannesanchez79@gmail.com'
    Reply Suzanne April 9, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I’m so jealous. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a whole year off with my children. Instead, my employers were counting down the days for me to return after 12 weeks. And, I wasn’t getting paid for my time off. Not a good feeling.

    • Reply Bestofbaby April 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Yes our maternity leave in the US is abysmal compared to most other countries!! And it doesn’t seem it’s going to significantly change any time soon…

  • sharonrowe@howtogetorganizedathome.com'
    Reply Sharon Rowe April 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    It is weird when someone tells you about childbirth in your own country and how it differs to other countries, it is eye-opening and it makes you question what you take for granted! Thanks for sharing on Monday Madness link party 🙂

  • mitchalycia.lowe@gmail.com'
    Reply ALycia April 13, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    What an interesting series! I am heading back to check out those others posts right now!!! Now I`m curious to see how everyones experiences are different than mine (Canada).

    Another great Saturday Spotlight link! THanks!

  • scglinn@gmail.com'
    Reply Stephanie April 15, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I just love this series! I hope for a day when BOTH men and women can get months of PAID leave after the birth of the child. I was saying at home then so I luckily got almost 3 months with him, but Tom only got 12 days. That is so awesome that other countries recognize this importance.
    Stephanie recently posted…Fit For Me 15/52My Profile

    • Reply Bestofbaby April 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Oh man, we can dream right? Paternity leave is such a foreign concept when maternity leave is hardly respected to begin with! And paid on top of that…

  • Reply International Birth Stories - Japan – Best of Baby April 18, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    […] If you’re just joining us, make sure to check out the previous weeks’ testimonies from England, Djibouti, Northern Ireland and Brazil.  This week, I am featuring Melissa, with a birth story […]

  • daffny@dontdareblink.com'
    Reply Daffny April 22, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    What a wonderful series! Again, I love the UK approach to birth. And now I’ve added her book to my wishlist!

    • Reply Bestofbaby April 23, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      Her book really does sound so interesting, doesn’t it?!

      • daffny@dontdareblink.com'
        Reply Daffny April 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

        I think it’s one my mom would buy for me. Two years ago she gave me Eats Shoots & Leaves for my birthday. 🙂

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