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!
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.
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!
The following two tabs change content below.
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.