Welcome to the International Birth Stories series! If you haven’t already, check out last week’s testimony from Brazil. This week, I’m featuring Tiffany, who gave birth in a public hospital in Northern Ireland.
Intro – What brought you to Northern Ireland?
We were living and teaching in Central Illinois and decided that we wanted an adventure, a break from the track we were on, and for our children to experience the world (at that time we only had two). So we quit our jobs and found this amazing opportunity volunteering at a peace and reconciliation center in Northern Ireland where we could live and work on the northern coast – on a cliff overlooking the sea. We were mentors to the international volunteer team for two years – it was challenging and amazing.
1.) What surprised you about prenatal care in Northern Ireland?
They never weighed me! It was so amazing and wonderful and lovely. They totally trusted me to tell them if I felt bloated or miserable. I have absolutely no idea in the world how much weight I gained during that pregnancy, and for some reason I felt better and more healthy than I did with any of my other pregnancies.
Also – my urine samples. At the beginning they gave me a bunch of urine cups and told me to bring one in every time. Nothing says “I’m pregnant!” like a sample of your pee sitting next to your lipstick in your purse. And the biggest thing was that I was in charge of my own “file”. Every pregnant woman is issued a giant green binder at her first neonatal appointment. This folder is way too big to fit in a purse, and I felt like I was carrying around a giant sign that says “Baby on board!” At first I was completely intimidated by it, but when I was bored I’d read over the details of my pregnancy, and eventually my labor – it was so interesting. Unfortunately they took it from me at my first post-natal appointment. It was a very sad parting – like losing an extra limb you had grown accustomed to caring for.
2.) What surprised you about giving birth in Northern Ireland?
They really prefer for the mother to avoid an epidural unless absolutely necessary. They seem to have a more holistic approach to birthing, and the midwives do all of the work while the doctors stand by in case of emergency. (I realize that there are many practices that are going this way in the United States as well.) After the fact, I was put in a room and all but forgotten about after my son was born. It was glorious. No one was asking me if I had fed him exactly 15 minutes every two hours. They trusted my instinct and checked on us every once in awhile to make sure we were well. They also let me go home the same day he was born. (He as born at 5:00 in the a.m. and we left the hospital at 6:00 pm.) I didn’t pay a dime for his birth. Of course taxes are higher there, but everyone is given the same care because none of it is based on insurance or money. I realize that this may have its disadvantages, but in my case – a healthy pregnancy and birth – it was ideal.
3.)What surprised you about postnatal care in Northern Ireland?
EVERYTHING! This is absolutely the most amazing thing about healthcare in the UK…The midwifes come to you. Every day for the first few days, and then every other day for two weeks the midwife comes to your house to check on you and the baby. She brings a little scale and checks the state of things in your life. I have no doubt that this helps with postpartum depression as well. The midwifes are there to check on not only the baby, but also the mother and the general state of things. This is also true for all well-baby visits. The nurses always come to you and bring all of their supplies. You don’t have to lug your three wild and unruly children to the doctor’s office and wait with all of the sick people for 45 minutes.
4.) Overall impression of the pregnancy and birth culture in Northern Ireland.
My general impression is that it is easier to have a baby in Northern Ireland than the US. Honestly though, I might also feel this way because I’d already given birth before, so was more chill about everything. Overall the country has a more holistic and laid-back approach to birthing. In my experience, it is more about the mother and her body than I felt like it was here in the US.
You can read more from Tiffany at her blog How To Paint The Sky.
Come back next week to read about birth in Djibouti!
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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.