Friday, December 14, 2012

Guns, health care, and this country is stupid.

Today is gross. I swore I wouldn't be an obnoxious Henry James character of an ex-ex-pat -- one who constantly speaks about "how things are in Europe." I've found the cultural jetlag difficult, and I've never wanted to return to the comfort of Scotland more than today -- with the news of yet another tragedy in America.

I won't even go into the gun control issue, though I do hate guns with a passion, ever since my dad had to stay hidden in a walk-in refrigerator to keep away from a madman with a gun at his local pub, 17 years ago this month. One of his best friends -- a man who was already in a wheelchair --  was killed that day, and I'll never forget how my uncle called our house that afternoon and to ask where my dad was. I told him, innocently, that he was up at the bar. I've never been so thankful to not watch the news and never so thankful that my uncle did not tell me why he'd asked.

But despite gun control ... let's talk about mental health.

I've been quiet on the blog lately, mostly because I've been dealing with postpartum depression. How's that for airing my personal life? People don't talk about PPD enough and seeing Facebook posts from other new moms ooohing and aaaaahing over how their 'hearts overfloweth' and they've 'never felt so happy in their lives' only makes me feel worse -- more of a freak, for sure. I know it's normal, prevalent, and chemical, and I know I'll get over it.

I also know that America is THE WORST when it comes to getting mental health care.

And if I -- someone who is educated, pro-active, and wants to get happy (like Judy Garland says) -- can't find and certainly can't afford mental health care on my shitty individual health care policy, how in the world is someone who is severely mentally ill going to even be diagnosed? I would never have been diagnosed had it not been for my home health visitor -- yes, that's right, they send someone round to people's homes to check in on new mothers to look out for and treat just this type of mental issue. I'm quite sure I would have just dug a winter hole and cried myself to sleep every night not knowing what the hell was wrong with me.

Anyway, I don't want any pity here, I really don't.

I'm just sick to death over yet another school shooting. I truly believe things like this could be prevented with universal health care and a country that cares enough to help people who need help rather than making everyone fend for themselves. (update to this sentence: AND ALSO, TAKE AWAY ALL THE GUNS. Yes, ALL OF THEM. I used to think, "no, I don't want to take away everyone's guns," but you know what? After all this insanity, YES, I DO. Humans do not deserve such weapons.)

You want to know about the cultural jetlag? For me, the American way-of-life of fighting-for-what-you-need hit us hard the minute we landed. I'm all for hard work and paying your share, but I do believe that things like health care should not be part of the fight. Just because you're poor doesn't mean you don't get sick. And if you're sick, it's really hard to be a good worker, much less a contributing member of society.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday shopping ideas: A new tradition.

Last year, David and I came up with the most perfect holiday shopping game. We made a deal with each other that we really and truly would not buy each other anything (and we stuck to it!). Instead, we "shopped" for each other and "gave" each other gifts.

Let me explain my quotation marks.

Imagine strolling down the narrow streets of Venice, arm-in-arm, on a drizzly December afternoon.  You pause in front of a shoe store, point to a pair of handmade Italian leather shoes, and tell your partner, "I got those for you." He tells you he loves them, and you both giggle.

It's really a lot more fun than you would think, folks.

This year we aren't in Italy, but we're still sticking to our new tradition. We don't go as far as printing photos of the things we "got" for each other and exchanging them on Christmas morning, but it's pretty fun to text your partner a picture of something ridiculous. Or maybe to spend an hour browsing the internet on a cloudy Thursday afternoon, when there are a lot of other things you really should be doing.

This is what David got for me today (the big spender!):

I got him some cashmere and sheepskin driving gloves and a swanky briefcase. Good times!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday CD Spcials - $5 and free shipping.

I've seen a lot of talk on the interwebs today about Cyber Monday specials not actually being very good deals. So here's a good deal for you: my full-length albums are only $5 each and FREE SHIPPING (in the US). 

How's that for buying local/independent? Happy shopping!

Check out or to see track listings and more details. Or just click below to add to your paypal carts. 


p.s. I'm back to blogging soon ... sorry for the vacation:)

West 28th Street featuring "One More Last Kiss" and "You Make Me Wanna Go to Church"

Keep Your Secrets  -- featuring "Ballad of Motorcycle Joe" and "Future Mr. Used-to-Be"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hello, Louisville!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, we're back! Over the past year, we made a lot of really great friends in Scotland, and there was a week of teary goodbyes before leaving. It was sad to go -- probably more sad than when we left Louisville last summer. You see, leaving Louisville was okay because we knew we'd be back someday. And while I know we'll return to Edinburgh someday, I doubt it will ever be as long-term as it was this past year.

We would have loved to have stayed, but work visas for non-EU citizens are hard to come by these days. I also felt a bit guilty keeping the grandchild an ocean away.

So ... hello, Louisville! It's nice to see you.

I'm going to post a few baby pics today because otherwise I'd rant and rave about how much I miss the NHS and how horrible the American health care system (that for some reason, many of you believe to be the "best in the world") is, especially when it comes to maternal and infant care. Well, there I go starting my rant ... I'll save controversy for another blog. Instead, here are pics!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember, remember, the 5th of November.

Before there was the Alamo. Before there was 9/11. Before there were many other events that we must all remember, there was Guy Fawkes Day.

Work backwards with me...

It's a day of celebration, but Guy Fawkes was actually the bad guy -- depending upon whom you ask, of course. On this day in 1605, Fawkes was arrested for being part of a plot to blow up the Parliament and kill King James I. (The celebration part is that the plot failed, which I think is a funny thing to celebrate, but that's England for you.)

King James I survived, of course, and Scots know him better as King James VI. You see, he became King of England in 1603 when Queen Elizabeth died child-free (not child-less -- there is a difference). But he became King James VI of Scotland when he was a mere thirteen months old, after his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate.

Mary Queen of Scots became Queen of Scotland when she was a mere five (or six) days old.

My wee boy, Graham, had his passport pictures taken when he was a mere five (or six) days old.

And this train of thought leads me to today's announcement:

We are using that brand new passport to take wee Graham back to the USA.

How's that for a history lesson?

Don't get too excited though. We booked a round-trip, just in case the crazies win. They won't, though, so get used to having me in your time zone, America.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A touch of the crazy.

I feel like I'm going a bit mad. Maybe this is something I should be talking to my health visitor about (did I mention the NHS sends medical professionals to your HOME during the postpartum weeks over here?), but why not discuss it with the blogsophere, right? I'm pretty sure I know the source of the problem anyway.

I made the conscious decision to stop writing about a week before the boy was born. Like I explained before, it was an attempt to savor -- rather than document -- the moment. Well, three blogs and a mere three pages scrawled in my journal later, I'm pretty sure not writing was a bad decision.

My brain is backlogged.

I've got lots on my mind and no outlet.

I've got pictures to post, people to thank, and stories to share.

I lie awake making lists and worrying, but I can't get anything done.

Basically, I've got a touch of the crazy.

Sleeping has not been my forte lately, but it's not because the boy has been keeping me up. He's actually a pretty decent sleeper. I've just been unable to fall asleep, despite my attempts at self-hypnosis and various relaxation CDs.

Today I'm making an earnest attempt to revert to the journal. I think if I can just pour my crazy onto the paper, I'll feel more like myself. In the mean time, if I've ignored your messages, ignored your phone calls, or inadvertently hurt your feelings, I am really, really sorry.

But enough of that ... how about instead of more moping, I post a few pictures of some sweet moments over the past month?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Surprise visitor and baby belly.

I love surprises, but I normally prefer being the one to plan and execute -- not the receiver (see me in action when I flew home without anyone's knowledge!). Every so often, my friends get together and pull one over on me. Last summer, my college roommate flew in from Austin for my birthday -- just a week before my wedding -- to treat me to a spa day. And, yes, she flew BACK to Louisville less than a week later to be my Matron of Honor.

I got another fantastic surprise one Sunday morning after the baby arrived, when Tyra knocked on my bedroom door . She'd been telling for weeks how bummed she was that should couldn't come visit me and the new baby. I don't know if she's a good liar, or if it's just easy to trick me over text message, but I believed her.

Need a spot of baby belly to brighten your day?
It was perfect timing, as I was deep in the baby blues and really missing my friends. She was only here for a couple of days, but it was enough time to take us out for some great meals, sing bawdy sea shanties to the boy, rub his baby belly, and catch up on Downton Abbey. Come to think of it, she may have actually flown 4000 miles across the ocean for the sole purpose of previewing Season 3...

Surprise! I've come to hold the baby, while you take a nap.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Whiskey Monster, the Dish Fairy, and video of my boy.

It's quiet in the Kaelin/Caldwell household this week. Our wee boy (you have to say "wee" if you are in Scotland) was born on the 16th of September, and we've had non-stop house-guests since he was 5 days old. It's been fantastic.

My mom was the first to arrive, and I was a weepy mess greeting her as she got off the train. She slept on an air mattress in our one-bedroom flat for two weeks, all the while cooking us dinners and taking the 6am shift of baby-holding during those early days when he refused to sleep anywhere but someone's arms (can you blame him?).

All familial units have now returned to their respective homes. We've had three nights without backup, and we have survived somehow. No one has consumed any of our whisky, so that's good. But also, no one has done the dishes ... it turns out the whisky monster and the dish fairy were one and the same. I am so grateful for the family help and the fact that both D and I have nothing to do except be together and take care of the boy (oh, and plot another international move, find a job, battle American health insurance companies, find a place to live, buy a car ... mmmm ... makes those 3am feedings seem easy).

Our boy is one month old and is steadily gaining a pound a week, the little piggy. He's outgrown his newborn clothes and started rolling over at three weeks and three days old. I'm trying really hard not to be one of those mums who constantly brags about her child (it's genetic, though, as I'm sure you know, if you've ever sat by my mum in a pub), but apparently rolling over isn't expected until the child is at least four months old. He's a genius! Or rather, he's very strong. I used to think intelligence was better than strength, but in looking at projected college tuition fees for the year 2030, I think I'm going to encourage this strength/agility prodigy. Athletic scholarships are much bigger than academic ones.

Here is video proof of his first feat of strength:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nick Keir's new CD

If you're anywhere near the Edinburgh area tonight, you should go to Nick Keir's CD Release Show tonight.

Details first, then I'll get sentimental:

"The Edge of Night" CD Launch 
Friday, October 12
The Bongo Club
Moray House, 37 Holyrood Road, EH8 8BA
7:30 pm (doors at 7)
Support from Dick Lee and Fraser Fifield.
Tickets: £10

Link to Facebook Event

Okay, probably the entire reason David and I ended up moving to Edinburgh for a year, we owe to Nick. I didn't even know anyone in Scotland had heard of me, but esteemed Scottish musician Nick Keir, through a bizarre series of events, heard my song "Ballad of Motorcycle Joe," and recorded his own version. We exchanged a few business emails about publishing organizations and such, when Nick offered some great advice and suggestions on touring in the UK. Then I booked a tour and finally met Nick in October of 2008. This artist I'd never even met before not only had given me the confidence to book shows abroad, but he gave me and my tourmates the keys to his Edinburgh flat while he went and stayed with his mother for several days. Scottish hospitality is Southern hospitality times three.

I've been a huge fan of Nick's since we first met. He manages to balance a distinctly Scottish folk sound and storytelling with contemporary Americana ease. He's an unbelievable performer -- confident and deservedly so -- with excellent guitar skills and an ability to engage every audience I've ever seen him woo. His songs about Edinburgh make me love this city even more.

When my son was ten days old, he went to his first concert: Nick Keir at the Leith Folk Club. It was a perfect first live music event, and I'll never forgot dancing in the back of the room to "Slow French Waltz" (a song off Nick's new album) with David and the wee boy. I admit to being a bit weepy during that one, but, hey, who can resist a waltz? (You can hear the tune here.)

Anyway, you should go to Nick's show tonight and hear him for yourself. He's managed to finish this CD and plan the launch party (and several other shows) all the while undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer; he's in between treatments right now. How's that for dedication?

If you can't make tonight's show, I'm guessing you can pick up his new album at Coda Music in town. You can order it online here. And if you're nowhere near Scotland, but are now intrigued by this man and his music -- he's on iTunes, Spotify, and all the other usual channels.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Baby passport photo shoot.

I am trapped. No, I'm not trapped by motherhood or anything metaphorical. I am literally trapped inside the country because my child does not have a passport. This means I cannot flee or seek asylum elsewhere or take advantage of any cheap airfares to the French Riviera -- at least not for 7-10 business days until the wee boy's US passport arrives in the mail.

When I was a nanny in NYC many moons ago, I remember the newborn having to get passport photos less than a week after birth. Her mother was on maternity leave and figured she'd use that time to take a trip to Paris. I thought it was genius, as newborns are much more portable than toddlers, but the tricky part seemed to be actually getting a regulation passport photo.

Years later, I took my own five-day-old to the photographer for his own passport photo shoot. He was totally passed out, and once we woke him, he was a squirmy little pig. We managed to get one photo that we think will work (fingers crossed, everyone ... we need one last trip to Amsterdam!), but we thought you'd enjoy some of the rejects.

Baby passport photo shoot.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dumb pregnancy advice made useful.

I wrote a blog called "Obnoxious things people said to me while pregnant," but never hit "publish" because it seemed more angry than funny at the time. I'll wait for better timing with that one, when I can look on those things with enough distance to laugh rather than roll my eyes. For today's blog, however, let's discuss the most annoying thing people said: sleep while you can!

Yes, even you probably said it to me, my good friend.

Reasons that is dumb advice:

1. You who said it, have you ever been pregnant? Have you forgotten? I'm actually able to sleep more than 45 minutes without having to pee now. I'm not saying I've enjoyed a fabulous night's sleep since the baby arrived, but I've definitely slept more deeply and for a longer stretch of time than when I was pregnant.

Cute baby photo of the day.
2. Newborns sleep, like, a million hours a day. We aren't yet masters of sleeping while the baby sleeps, mostly because he's not a big fan of his crib just yet, and we live in fear of smothering him. But we'll get there. And tag-teaming with a great partner, not to mention a grandmother who came to live with us temporarily (it takes a village, remember?), has allowed at least one of us to get a nap. We don't know what day it is, and we haven't returned a phone call in two weeks, but life is definitely not miserable. Besides, the no-sleep high is the best high of all.

3. You can't bank sleep, so there's not much point to sleeping while you can.

I'm thinking that the "Ha ha ha, sleep while you can, sucker!" advice could actually be made useful with a mild adjustment: don't take it literally. Rather than actually sleeping while you can, take it as a modern Carpe Diem or YOLO or Gather Ye Rosebuds, etc. You know, it means to enjoy every peaceful, quiet moment because life is going to change. That's pretty good advice. Although, to be fair, that's good advice to anyone -- future parent or not.

Another similar piece of advice that would actually be useful? Rather than "sleep while you can," how about: train yourself to fall asleep quickly. I find the hippie Hypnobirthing techniques that were useless during delivery were actually really useful to help me fall asleep during pregnancy. If I remember to do the relaxation techniques as soon as the baby falls asleep, I'm actually able to sleep while he sleeps. But if I'm awake worrying or making lists, then I only actually drift into dreamland just as the baby is waking up. So, yeah, better advice? Get a meditation CD or self-hypnosis app -- anything to help you fall asleep in 5 minutes rather than 30.

Okay that's my rant for the day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Babies and rosebuds and taking our time.

It's been two weeks since I last blogged, but I only had the baby a week ago (surprise! I had the baby.) I decided at some point that week that rather than document all the sitting around and waiting for the baby to come, I would just sit around and wait. If we heard any advice from people, it was to enjoy our time together because apparently babies change your lives.

The problem with living in the moment is that the moment still passes by -- and not at any slower a pace. So even though David and I did a bunch of eye-gazing and hand-holding and walks in the park and lattes at the cafe and movies in bed, the week still flew ahead. And now we have a baby.

He is a perfect baby boy (we even have his 1-minute APGAR score on the fridge), and, yet again, we are absolutely taking nothing for granted. We've pretty much spent the week sneaking naps, staring at the boy, and repeating how lucky we are.

I haven't blogged since he was born -- not because I haven't had the time, but because I'm focusing on enjoying that time rather than documenting it. Forgive me. Babies grow up quickly, or so I'm told.

As requested, here are some tiny fingers and noses.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad (part six): Appointment Schedule,

Previously on "Having a Baby Abroad:" Brigid was labeled "high risk" and was ushered to meetings with multiple obstetricians and hematologists...

Guess what? I'm not high-risk! We went back for an in-person appointment with the hematologist at the Royal Infirmary, who had thoughtfully decided to re-test my bloods after my original results had been borderline. This time they were well into the normal range, and with my mom's DVT being more likely related to chemotherapy and various surgeries, it was determined that I'm not genetically predisposed to blood clots. The doctor wrote a letter officially discharging me from the high risk centre, and I was able to skip happily back to the community midwives.

I've got to say I was shocked how pleased I was to not have to go back to the hospital. I mean, the hospital was modern, sleek, and clean, but just being there -- even in Labor & Delivery -- reminded me of all that can go wrong, rather than all that usually goes right.

On that note, several of you have asked about what goes on at my appointments, how many I've had, how often they are, what tests were run etc. At every appointment, they check your urine, blood pressure, hands/feet for signs of swelling, and discuss how you're feeling, offering advice, clarification, or referrals for physical therapy should you be having major back or joint pains. I'm fortunate enough to have had a smooth pregnancy, so there's no need for the weekly check-your-dilation appointments that my US counterparts seem to be having. Anyway...

Here are the particular appointments I had. You can always call for more appointments if anything is wrong, but we've been very lucky:

8-10 weeks: Booking Appointment. Approximately one hour. Blood tests and medical history taken. Discussed whether we wanted hospital or home birth (don't have to decide then and there).

12 weeks: Ultrasound. Optional NT scan and bloodwork for genetic/chromosomal disorders. They run some magic logarithms based on age, BMI, and various other things, and let you know results in a week. If your results require further testing or you are particularly worried, you can discuss amniocentesis and other tests.

16 weeks: Midwife. Listen to the heartbeat for the first time.

20 weeks: Ultrasound -- fetal anomaly scan.

22 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump.

28 weeks: Midwife. More bloodwork taken to test for various things like iron, blood sugar, etc. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump.

32 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump.

36 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump.

38 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump.

40 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump. Optional membrane sweep.

41 weeks: Midwife. Blood pressure, heartbeat, measure the bump. Optional membrane sweep. Discuss or schedule induction at 42 weeks.

One more shocking fact:
-The medical office is closed for a bank holiday on my would-be 41week appointment, so at my 40 week checkup, the midwife offered to COME TO OUR HOUSE later this week to check on us. She'll be here Thursday morning, and I already want to make her cookies. Seriously. I mean, she didn't want me to have to wait too long past 41 weeks, so she's making a house call!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Things We've Lived Without for a Year

We moved here with a small, drab wardrobe and two Kindles (key to a happy marriage is two eBook readers), and while we've amassed a few textbooks and loads of paperwork, we've lived much more minimally than you'd expect from two Americans.

Here are the more impressive things we have managed to do without:

Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle. Has little to do with this blog,
but isn't it pretty here?
It's amazing how many people assume we have a car here. It's also amazing how uninterested we are in buying a car when we move home. We'll probably give in and get one, but I definitely don't see why we would need two. To be honest, I rarely drove back in Louisville. When I did, it was because I had a ton of gear to haul to a gig, or I was going out to a late-night show, long after public transportation hours ended.

True, Edinburgh is an easy city to navigate without a car -- much easier than Louisville. But it's funny to think that the nearest grocery store is exactly the same distance that Kroger was from our Louisville home. We wouldn't even consider driving to the grocery here, but every time we walked to Kroger, we thought we were being sooooo green.

Paper Towels/ Paper Napkins
How about that for saving some trees? From what I've seen, people over here generally do NOT use napkins at meal times in their home. Somehow they manage to eat without slopping food all over the place. It turns out that you don't need napkins. If you can't get past a home-cooked meal without a napkin, guess what? You can use a cloth napkin or "tea towel." We've got about ten of them. They stay clean a lot longer than you'd think, if you don't eat like an American slob. As for needing paper towels to clean? Well, you don't actually. Cloth works fine -- even better, I'd say.

You're doubtful. I challenge you to live a week without using a single paper towel or napkin. Or at least ask yourself if you really need it before you automatically wipe up a spill with a pile of paper towels.

Our first flat didn't have a television, and we didn't miss it. Our current flat has a swanky flat-screen. The only time we turned it on was for the Olympics, which we could just as easily have watched online. To be fair, we weren't really TV junkies before (at least I wasn't). That's not to be an ass and say, "I don't watch TV," haughtily. It's just that I used to work in television, and that made me lose interest. It reminds me of deadlines and Nielson ratings -- stress I don't need.

Without the television on to suck up our time, we've gone on loads of walks, played cards, enjoyed long meals, and talked to each other. David managed to read at least fifty books for pleasure in the past year, not counting all those horrible textbooks and the 130-something sources he had for his dissertation, all the while getting an MBA.

Okay, enough bragging on David. Really, this post was originally going to be all about how to live a year without paper towels, so try out that challenge ... at least for a week. You'll be surprised.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Our UK Anniversary!

A year ago today -- after five days of travel and six different airports -- we arrived in the UK. It would take us a further three days of waiting around in Manchester for our luggage (which didn't actually make it to us for another two weeks) before we drove to Edinburgh, but by that point we didn't care. A chaotic month of having a wedding, a honeymoon, and less than three weeks to rent out our house and move everything we owned into storage, and we were just glad to be starting a new adventure.

So, yes, we've been here for a year now.

I haven't written that novel. I'm disappointed about that, in that I kind of thought this would be my year of writing, traveling, and adventures. Truthfully, it has been a year of writing, traveling, and adventures, just not of the kind I was envisioning. Living off of a student loan, while liberating in many senses, does not allow much room for takeout and foreign travel. There has been a lot of soup, cereal, and daydreaming. And apparently, a fetus in utero saps not only your energy and nutrients, but ... your attention span. I've been unable to focus on anything for the past nine months. Even this blog has taken a few hours to finish.

Thankfully, Edinburgh itself is a magical city. I still get goosebumps when I see that castle, or turn down our adorable cobblestone street to see our little cottage in the centre of town ... the sea just over the steep hills leading to our neighborhood ... that poor lone swan who lives on the riverbank by our house. This place is a fairy tale, and it's been grand living our fairy tale inside it.

Reflections on the move!

Our last piece of luggage to arrive...

A few days stuck at JFK isn't all bad...
Why not go to Wales for a day?

Taking a break in Holyrood Park, after a long day

The amazing family who took in some
homeless ex-pats ... we made blackcurrant jam!

First day of school!

There are rainbows all the time here. Seriously.

We look good dressed Scottish!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad/NHS (Part Five): High-risk Obstetricians and Hospitals.

Previously on "Having a Baby Abroad" ... Brigid is pregnant, goes to first midwife appointment, where they take her family medical history, and notice that her mother had a Deep Vein Thrombosis. Ergo, Brigid is labeled as potentially high-risk... 

In today's blog, we learn that they DO have obstetricians over here!

Apparently the risk of having a DVT increases tremendously during pregnancy, particularly if you are genetically predisposed to the condition. In looking over my maternity records, an obstetrician appointment was made for me. Yes, made for me. I received, in the mail, an appointment time.

Two comments:
1) Notice how they do actually pay attention to potential problems, right? It's not all yoga balls and midwives and The Secret. It's modern, preventative medicine.

2) I did not choose this appointment time. This annoyed me at first, in a typical you-can't-tell-me-what-to-do American kind of way. Now, it so happened that the appointment was actually at a really convenient time for me, so we didn't need to reschedule. But it turns out, if I hadn't been able to make it, I could have absolutely requested another time. So while this appears limiting, it's not really problematic. Also, in general, employers in this country are required to give you time off work for doctor's appointments, so it's not actually a big deal anyway.

Doctors over here don't seem to wear white coats. The woman we met with dressed more like an English professor than a doctor, which was, at first, a bit disarming. I mean, what kind of authority figure doesn't wear a uniform? But wardrobe aside, she took us into her office, went into depth explaining the potential risks of DVTs during pregnancy, inquired about my mother, and took some more bloods from me to run a few tests.

At this point, my mind immediately shifts to: How much is this going to cost? In the US, as a small-business owner with an individual health insurance plan, agreeing to any "tests" generally means incurring at least a thousand dollars in hospital, doctor, and lab fees. If a US doctor suggested running these tests, I would likely go home, read five books, make lots of phone calls, and Google the hell out of DVT risks during pregnancy, and only agree to the blood tests if it was seriously life-threatening (which, it turns out, it kind of is).

The fact that cost isn't an issue over here, and they only want to make sure I'm healthy, doesn't occur to me for several minutes. I let them take four vials of blood. Note: Just like in the US, nurses seem to be better with needles than doctors. Ouch!

A few weeks later, we received another appointment letter in the mail (which we had to reschedule because of conflict) -- this time to meet with a hematologist at the Royal Infirmary to discuss my results. This didn't bode well.

Just like our meeting with the OB, the appointment was not rushed in the least. When she told us that my antithrombin 3 levels were slightly outside of the norm, which suggested a higher likelihood of DVT, the doctor sat with us until all of our questions were answered. She explained all those fancy medical terms, suggested reading materials and a plan of action, but first said one more thing: I'd like to run another blood test. "Your results were borderline, and I don't want to prescribe the twice-daily shots of heparin unless we are sure you need them. Is that okay?"

I hate taking medicine, so I was all about re-testing. I don't know if my aversion to meds is because of my hippie-nature or because I've never been able to afford prescriptions on my US health insurance plan anyway. But I knew I did NOT want to take shots for the last half of my pregnancy. So, yes, please! Re-test.

After about 25 minutes of discussing my results and potential plans of action, the hematologist asked us if we had any other questions. Why, yes we do! Unrelated to blood, but while we've got you here...

We'd been advised by a few US doctors (and every friend who has ever had a baby in the US) that I needed to make sure I had an updated Whooping Cough vaccination. My last booster (tDap) was in 1994, so, yeah, it was a bit out of date. This shot is apparently given out standard postpartum in the hospital to new moms back in the US and is considered an absolutely-must-have-or-your-whole-family-will-die. We just wondered how to go about getting it.

"I'm not sure about that, that's not really my department," the doctor answered. We figured that was that and we'd have to call to schedule a whole other appointment. But no... "Come with me, let me see if someone else can find out for you."

What? We were so shocked, and I think we actually protested a bit, telling her not to worry and we'd sort it out. She knocked on the door of the next office over, introduced us to a nice man in a Cosby sweater (one of the high-risk obstetricians), and explained our question. Dr. Campbell was clearly on his lunch break, but stood with us for about 5 minutes in the hallway discussing various vaccinations. He then invited us into his office to sit while wandered down to the hospital library for medical journals and research. We must have spent a good 20 minutes with him going through the literature and discussing vaccination options for me and David, pros and cons, and the differences between the health care systems.

We were neither rushed nor condescended to. We got our questions answered. We left the hospital feeling like the system as a whole was looking out for us. And a doctor spent his lunch hour trying to help us sort out one simple question!

I have a lot of doctor friends in the US, and they are all caring people who truly want to help their patients. Each of my doctors in the US is really great, but I also know they are always in a hurry to see tons of patients. I always spend more time in the waiting rooms than I ever do with the doctor herself.

I don't blame American doctors. Clearly, they are rushed. I just know that in America, we're told about the overworked NHS doctors who have to see hundreds of patients a day and never have time to spend with patients.

Again, from my experience, it's been just the opposite. 

Previously on NHS/Baby Abroad blogs:  Part One: Having a Baby Abroad
                                                                      Part Two: Registration, Doctors, Midwives, etc.
                                                                      Part Three: NHS, midwives, home births. 
                                                                      Part Four: Waiting Lists, Emergency Room Visits.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fireworks at Edinburgh Castle.

This city is beautiful. Wandering down the cobblestones, peering into quaint little Scottish gardens, turning a corner and seeing a massive castle jutting out of volcanic rock -- it never gets old.

Last night we wandered to Inverleith Park at 9:00 to watch the 45-minute fireworks spectacular. Louisvillians, don't worry; it doesn't come close to Thunder Over Louisville. Still, the show was beautiful, particularly because it was set at Edinburgh Castle. Inverleith Park is a perfect view of Edinburgh's medieval skyline, and the cool-if-you're-in-the-US/warm-if-you're-in-Scotland 60degrees was ideal for sitting on a hillside and watching the show. It made me a bit sad that we are likely going to have to leave this gorgeous country in a couple of months (you think the US immigration laws are strict -- ha!).

Anyway, our photos are terrible because we only had my phone, so here's someone else's YouTube video.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Puppies are Still Cuter than Babies.

I'm in my 40th week, and I still think puppies are cuter than babies. Also, "nesting" is a crock of BS, though I really keep hoping I'll feel inspired to pick, well, anything up off of the floor. Seriously, I look around the living room, and there are three tea towels, two an a half pairs of socks, and various receipts and junk mail. This does not bother me.

Don't get me wrong -- we are super-excited about this baby and are gracious/blessed/happy-as-clams to be having it. I'm just really hoping that I end up thinking he's cuter than a beagle puppy. Although, come on!! Look at this! One google image search, and I'm swooning.

Speaking of cute animals, here are some YouTube videos I like to watch when I'm feeling a bit down.


Anyway, David's gone off to play with some friends at the Castle. I am too waddly to keep up with the crew today, so I'm going to force myself to do some yoga and nest. Otherwise known as "clean." Ugh.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Delicious Tasting Menu at The Kitchin ... 7+ courses of yumminess!

Let's talk about food. All this talk about health care is making my blood boil, and that can't be healthy.

I haven't been drinking for the past nine months, but I managed to get a fantabulous buzz a couple of weeks ago -- the kind of buzz only a fine dining experience can offer. David, Danny (the best houseguest ever), and I spent a good four hours at The Kitchin, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Leith.

If you're going to go to a restaurant of that caliber, you might as well go all out and order the full seven-course (plus gorgeous crudités) Tasting Menu and let that be your entertainment as well as your nourishment. Also, I love forward-thinking restaurants that not only offer consistent farm-to-table food, but also understand that vegetarianism doesn't have to be a portobello mushroom sandwich. There was a Chef's Surprise Tasting Menu that was entirely vegetarian and sacrificed none of the quality.

More restaurants should acknowledge the buying-power of the vegetarian -- that a single vegetarian in the party has veto power over group restaurant choices. Don't offer anything good and vegetarian? Well, then you lose the whole group. I'd go back to The Kitchin in a heartbeat.

I guess eating meals like this isn't really something I could handle everyday -- well, maybe someday -- but it's definitely worth saving your pennies and avoiding a month's worth of lattes to enjoy a meal like this on occasion. It's like splurging on a massage, only better, longer, and best savored with good friends.

As each course was served to us -- always with multiple servers explaining the ingredients and preparation in great detail -- we oohed and ahhed and drooled and exclaimed variations of, "Oh my god, this is amazing." David commented that he could never be a food writer because what was there possibly to say besides "delicious/amazing/awesome/so good/divine?" We could babble about umami and stuff, but that's not so fun.

I must say I don't envy my food writer friends the task of writing about every fine dining experience they've had. It's probably akin to English professors attempting pleasure reading or trained music theorists going to concerts (would that I could turn off the theory-ears); sometimes it's best to just experience without trying to analyze -- if you can.

I'm not going to attempt to describe each course in detail, but know that they were all creative, fresh, served with utensils we weren't sure how to use, and absolutely delicious, all in a non-stuffy, modern dining room. Instead, enjoy the photos. Yes, I was that nerdy person taking pictures of food. You're welcome.

Also, the woman in charge of re-filling water glasses deserves a raise. I'm glad it wasn't wine, or I would have been hammered.

Monday, August 27, 2012

More having a baby abroad (part four). Waiting lists, emergency room visits, and a clarification.

I talk about lots of things on this blog, but I don't always like to talk about deeply personal things. Pregnancy health care is about as personal as it gets, and seeing as it took me a long time to even announce my pregnancy on this blog, I feel like I'm over-sharing here when I talk about an emergency room visit. The conversation on health care is too important to be quiet about, however. In America, we've been fed lie after lie about 'national health care,' and, while I'm not at all advocating we institute a carbon copy of the NHS in America, I feel some sort of civic duty to talk about the quality of care I have received over here.

UK friends who have lived with the NHS their whole lives have read my blogs recently and responded with shock and disbelief. Why? Just as most Americans are fed lies about "death" lists, absurdly high taxes (my tax rate here would actually be less than my tax rate in the US, had I been working, thanks to self-employment tax I pay in the US), and lack of proper medical care, it seems as if many Brits accept things such as less flexibility in their appointment times as something only they have to suffer through.*

My midwife was running ten minutes behind schedule at last week's appointment. She apologized profusely when our name was finally called. The last time I went in to see my lady-doctor -- whom I adore -- back in the United States, I waited thirty five minutes past my schedule time and thought that was pretty reasonable.

So, yeah, we are told that national health care means hours of sitting in waiting rooms, but that is not at all what we've experienced. I'm sure there are exceptions, but personally, I've had far more US doctors be late for appointments than UK docs. (I don't blame the US doctors; I blame their over-loaded schedules.)

Even our one and only (I hope) pregnancy freakout emergency room visit back when I was only 8 weeks was incredibly easy. Everything was perfectly fine in the end, but when we called the NHS hotline with our concerns, they decided I should come into the emergency room. We made the frantic phone call at 11:00pm, and they booked us into the emergency room for a 1:10am appointment. I wasn't bleeding or anything -- just having horrible leg cramps, with a family history of DVT. But no fever or shortness of breath or anything. They offered to send someone to pick us up, but opted for a taxi. I mean, we can't take complete advantage of the system, right?

But let's get back to the idea of making appointments at the emergency room. Rather than sit around a waiting room with sick people for a couple of hours, they tell you what time they'll be able to see you. How is it that that idea hasn't caught on? At least for people who aren't bleeding to death or having heart attacks?

Point of clarification/information that someone kindly emailed to me:
- I'd mentioned previously is that we didn't see a midwife until I was 8 weeks along because I was healthy. It turns out (thanks to you folks who told me about it) that they offer an Early Intervention program to women who have had previous miscarriages or are worried about their pregnancies for whatever reason. It includes extra scans for health checks and peace of mind and even counseling, if you like. How's that for taking care of people?

Next time ... I'll start getting more specific about my medical details and doctors (gulp).

Previously on NHS/Baby Abroad blogs:  Part One: Having a Baby Abroad
                                                                      Part Two: Registration, Doctors, Midwives, etc.
                                                                      Part Three: NHS, midwives, home births.

* I've been able to reschedule every appointment time that didn't work for me with absolutely no problem here in the UK. Granted, my schedule is fairly flexible, but even when I needed to reschedule, I was able to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad (part 3), NHS, midwives, home births.

We had the option to pay for private doctors for this childbirth. To be honest, going that route would still have been far less expensive than having a baby on the Anthem individual policy I had back in America. I never ruled it out, but after our first "booking appointment" with our community midwives, there was no need to consider going private. Even if I'd chosen to pay for private care, I'd still be delivering at the same hospital, with the same doctors as if I'd stayed NHS, as most private doctors also work for the NHS. Besides, I'm healthy and low-risk and, again, pregnant ... not sick.

I mentioned in previous blogs that we were surprised when our first appointment wasn't until I was already 8 weeks along, the reason being that there's nothing they could do for me at that early stage, other than make me take my clothes off and shove an ultrasound machine in places I'd prefer they not shove anything. The waiting-till-8-weeks thing took some getting used to as I'm used to seeing lima-bean ultrasounds from friends on Facebook, but ultimately the waiting made a lot of sense -- and put me in a much better place about the pregnancy. You see, I'd been slightly terrified, and hearing the midwives' calm attitude made me feel better.

Why midwives and not obstetricians? Well, assuming you don't have any major health issues and your pregnancy goes smoothly, you are tended to by midwives over here -- the way pregnant women have been for most of history. If there are any signs of a problem, you are sent to an obstetrician.

I did end up seeing an obstetrician for a bit (more about that in another blog), but the majority of our appointments have been at the neighborhood midwife centre, a short walk from our apartment. The main difference from most US care seems to be a glass half-full approach. Rather than scare you with all that could possibly go wrong, they try to keep you healthy, while watching out for warning signs of potential problems. 

Our first appointment was with the kindest midwife I've ever met. Her name was Ruth, and she spent almost an hour with us.

Let me repeat that: one hour.

When is the last time you ever had a doctor in the US spend more than ten minutes with you? Ruth was in absolutely no hurry, and after taking a urine sample and four vials of blood (see, they do actual medical testing here in these backwoods parts of the world0, she took both mine and David's complete family medical history, discussing how different conditions could play a role in our medical care. For example, when I told her my mother had had a DVT at one point, she explained that the obstetrician might want to see me to further check my bloods, as DVT's are often hereditary and more likely during pregnancy.

To further freak you out, one of the very first questions we were asked was: Do you want a home birth?  I'm pretty sure David and I guffawed mightily with great American disdain. To be honest though, at this point, if we had a few more months of pregnancy, I think we'd both be wanting a home birth. For the sake of keeping our families calm (and the fact that the birthing rooms at the Royal Infirmary resemble a Napa Valley day spa), we'll be going to the hospital to give birth. But the fact that home births are offered to those who want them (and are low risk) is a huge advancement in care, if you ask me.

Has having this baby abroad turned us into crazy hippies? Not any more than usual. Like I said before, it has just made me more comfortable with the basic fact that my body is designed to have babies. It's been a much more relaxing pregnancy than I ever could have imagined, and I'm pretty sure that's all due to the quality of care I've received.

Next time on "Having a Baby Abroad"   : why I get sent to an obstetrician and ... spending time with a few doctors in the Royal Infirmary.

Previously on NHS/Baby Abroad blogs:  Part One: Having a Baby Abroad
                                                          Part Two: Registration, Doctors, Midwives, etc.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Warning: baby update and last weeks of freedom.

According to biology, this baby is coming sometime in the next month.

I've been working on a separate blog for all things baby-related, so I can keep this one focused on travel/food/music. It turns out that graphic design and professional website -- even a blog -- layout is my nemesis, so even though the new blog is up and running, I've yet to share it with anyone. (Try to find it if you can, ha ha! Clue: it's on wordpress, not blogger...)

A few folks suggested just morphing The Red Accordion Diaries into a parenting/craft blog, but I need to have something to preserve my sanity and sense of self. Also, I can't tell you how many friends I've hidden on Facebook once they started posting nothing but baby photos and baby statuses and baby comments and baby questions and baby talk.* I need a little grown-up space, and I also don't want to subject you to my homemade boppy pillow instructions -- at least not regularly.

In the mean time, the goal is to take advantage of my last few weeks of alone time as much as possible. That is what I'll miss most of all. Don't get me wrong, this baby was planned and wanted (amazing how many people have asked me about that...), but I know myself pretty well. I don't need mani/pedis, but I do need my space. I've gone out for breakfast solo twice in the past week, despite the student loan money dwindling away to nothing. Somehow I feel it's worth the price of my sanity.

On that note ... with my last few weeks of freedom, what should I do? I can't leave the country, but that's about my only limitation. (Also, no running, but that's just a general rule.)

* and subsequently unhidden, out of guilt and voyeurism.

Friday, August 17, 2012

That time I interviewed Helen Gurley Brown.

Namedropping alert! Most of you don't know about my sordid past in television, but today's blog is about that time I went to interview Helen Gurley Brown, RIP. (I may have been just assisting on the interview. I can't remember exactly, as it was 10 years ago and my journal is in storage. But anyway...)  We were producing a documentary on Giorgio Armani, and Ms. Brown was one of our talking heads.

I've never been a fashionista, but Ms. Brown's name was a name I'd known for years. You can argue all day long about whether she was a feminist, but you can't argue with her influence on women or her power as a businesswoman. I'd read Ms. Brown's books, magazines, articles, had prepared questions, and was ready for the interview -- except in one respect.

What the hell does one wear to talk with the International Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo about Giorgio Armani?

If you're me, and all your clothes are vintage-before-vintage-was-cool (or rather just "old"), and you make $22,000 a year living in Manhattan, well, you borrow something. Now my job wasn't exactly a The Devil Wears Prada thing where there's a back room full of name-brand samples. I borrowed a dress from a friend because I knew I had shoes that matched the dress perfectly. Both the dress and the shoes were in that strange plaid tan, white, and red plaid I always saw the dashing old men wearing around their necks and under their raincoats.

Here is where you say to yourself, "Oh, Burberry plaid, of course."

Did I mention I've never been a fashionista? Yeah, I had no idea what Burberry was. I'd even acquired an umbrella in that same pattern -- a gift from someone I'd been dogsitting for while they were in London. I thought it was rather weird that they were so excited to present me with a plaid umbrella, but it was well-made and very useful.

So when my friend offered her plaid dress, and I had matching shoes, AND a matching umbrella, I thought, "Right! This'll do."

From the minute I showed up to work that day, it started. "Hey, Burberry girl!" said the receptionist. "Ooooooh, lookin' sharp, Burberry," whistled my cubicle-mate. And a few other comments. I wasn't quite sure I'd heard the words right, until I'm sitting in Helen Gurley Brown's office at Cosmo. After a quick introduction and chit-chat about growing up in the South (she was from Arkansas), she winks at me and says, "Love the Burberry!" I grin and thank her, but still have no idea what the hell she's talking about. Is there some famous movie called Burberry where the main actress dresses how I've accidentally dressed? Is "burberry" just fashion code for having a perfectly coordinated shoes, dress, and umbrella? Is it "Burr Berry" and it's a color?


Anyway, the interview went well; Ms. Brown was sharp, professional, and spoke in soundbytes. My favorite quote was pre-tape when the sassy 78-year-old unbuttoned her shirt, exposing a lacy bra to the soundman who had asked her to clip the microphone to her collar. "Why don't you do it?" she grinned.

As for me, I made it back to the office just in time to ask my cubicle-mate who the hell Burberry was.
Enjoy my blog? Don't click away, please! Consider showing your love:)
(i've been putting backstage photos with Elvis, Damaris, and more on that site)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thoughts on Folk Clubs.

I played a fun gig last night (that's right, at 37 weeks pregnant!) a few towns over, at the Dunfermline Folk Club. Folk Clubs have a bad connotation in America conjuring images of old hippies snapping their fingers at Peter, Paul, and Mary covers (what's wrong with that, by the way?).

Over here "folk clubs" seem, to me anyway, more about a culture that listens to music differently. I haven't written a thesis on it or anything, but I think it must nod back to the respected traveling troubadour. The idea of a traveling musician wasn't always skinny jeans -- well, I guess they wore tights back then, maybe the ultimate skinny jeans -- and a trust-fund purchased guitar. It was a way of spreading stories, true and exaggerated, of telling people of faraway cultures and lands, and of providing professional entertainment straight to your hometown. Who wouldn't pay a shilling for that kind of opportunity?

Today people balk at a $5 cover charge (how is it that I was paying $5 in the 1990s for Louisville shows and now $5 will make people turn around and leave), but that's another blog...

Anyway, I love the Folk Club scene in Scotland. Each club is different. Dunfermline's was all about audience participation, in that everyone was welcome to share a song if they wanted. Some were professionals, and some would never desire to be. But they all shared a love of music, stories, and togetherness, things that should always go hand in hand.

It made me wish I could go to Monday night bluegrass at Molly Malone's in Louisville for some Hog Operation fun times. If you're there, you should go and steep yourselves in live folk music.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two Beauty Secrets: shampoo and socks.

There's a Huffington Post blog today on mismatched socks that has just validated something I've been doing for years -- something that's not really an idiosyncrasy, but a secret to life. My socks rarely match. (Read Patrick's blog for a more comic look at the benefits of wearing mismatched socks)

I, too, dump my socks in a drawer and pull two out. I generally try to make sure they are of the same thickness, but even that doesn't bother me much. Taking the time to make sure your socks not only match, but are folded and put away neatly in pairs, is the biggest waste of time I can imagine. I mean, I never claimed to be a fashionista, but I do know that life is short.

As an obsessive sock-matcher, David finds this quirk of mine both charming and frustrating. He's probably a bit concerned now about the times when I will be dressing our baby because you'd better believe I won't worry about his socks matching. I mean, seriously? Washing and organizing an infant's socks? Not on my time...

Another thing that is a waste of time? Shampoo. I haven't used shampoo in ten years. You are shocked and disgusted, yes? Well, check out that mane to your right! I don't have many beauty secrets, but I do know I've got great hair. Sorry if that's arrogant, but every woman should know her best feature. It got unruly for a bit before I learned better (thanks to Su!), but since I stopped using the shampoo, it's been a happy, curly, and more importantly tame crown of luscious locks. A dab of conditioner to clean it and that's it. I don't even own a comb, if you can believe it (maybe that's why I'm always able to travel light -- no toiletries!).

But back to socks. I know that mismatched socks isn't technically a beauty secret, but letting go of that little bit of order in your life is very freeing -- as is not having to buy a bunch of hair product. So when I say "beauty secret," think of it as a tip on relaxing and enjoying yourself. Nobody's looking at your ankles, especially when you've got those great cowboy boots covering them.

You're welcome.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Edinburgh Floatarium ... birthday adventure!

I specifically told David not to get me anything for my birthday, and I meant it. We have accumulated enough "stuff" during our year abroad, not to mention the fact that whenever we move home, we'll be bringing a brand new PERSON with us. Nonetheless, David was a bit naughty this year and surprised me with an appointment at our neighborhood Floatarium.

What, your neighborhood doesn't have its own Floatarium? (she said, laughing haughtily). Hee hee. I first read about this bizarre spa treatment in the 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall Smith, and I was excited to find out, when we first moved here, that the Floatarium not only existed, but was right down the street. Living the past year on a student loan, however, meant that we don't exactly have the budget for such luxuries.

Lucky me, however, got to enjoy an hour-long birthday float. Yep, that's it: a float. It's basically a pod in the basement of an old stone building that is filled with about a foot of warm (body-temperature) mineral-enhanced water. It's extra floaty -- not that I would have had trouble floating, especially with this baby weight, but those of you who say you don't float would have no problem in this salt water.

After several minutes of lying in the darkness with yoga music playing, you start to lose touch with your senses. You don't even realize you are wet, and it feels more like floating in space than floating in a pool. I tried to meditate or whatever, but being that it was my birthday and I was extra-excitable, my mind never fully zoned out. At least I don't think. Come to think of it, it definitely didn't seem like I was in there a full hour, so maybe I was all floaty-high after all.

I have to say that it was the perfect thing to do in your third trimester of pregnancy. My joints had been a bit achy, and I felt brand new for about 24 hours after the float. Might have to return before this baby makes his escape...

Anyway, here's the extra funny thing: I'd actually stopped by the Floatarium the day before my birthday and bought a gift card for David for our anniversary (despite the no presents rule). The woman at the counter totally knew that I'd be coming in the following day for a surprise birthday float, but she didn't give away a thing! Nor did she give away to David the next day that he had a similar surprise coming his way.

How cute is that? We got each other the same thing! It's like Gift of the Magi, except without the whole tragedy part or twist ending. Which I guess makes it nothing like Gift of the Magi, but who cares? It's still funny.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Edinburgh Festival shows

The Edinburgh Festival is in full swing, which means walking down the Royal Mile is like walking through Times Square on New Year's Eve. Well, it's less smelly, and the people are nicer. Still, this city is crowded.
Nick Keir -- performing at Valvona & Crolla
today and tomorrow for the Fringe Festival.

We've had a super-fun houseguest for the past week, so that means lots of time spent taking in the sights of Edinburgh. I've been to Portobello Beach, Duddingston's Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh Castle (twice!), the Royal Military Tattoo, pub trivia, a restaurant/7-course meal so amazing it needs its own blog, and a few Fringe shows in between wanderings.

I love that the Festival lasts a month, so there's no pressure to see everything. I've also taken to not reading anything about the shows and basing my show choices entirely on how far I feel like walking. Last week, when I was wallowing in my 9th month of pregnancy, I talked the boys into seeing the closest show to our house -- an Australian musical called "Crab House" at Fingers Piano Bar (why did I not seek out a job at this piano bar when I first arrived?? I love playing cabaret nights!).

We also saw a one-woman-show called Folken Britain, featuring an adorable woman, Susan Harrison, who does a fabulous impression of an English Bulldog (at least, that's what I thought it was) and made us giggle lots. She was also kind enough to not involve the extremely pregnant woman in the 3rd row with any of the audience participation moments, and for that, I thank her (if you've got yourself on Google Alert, Susan, then thank you and great show!).

There is one Fringe show I'm really, really excited about, and that is the return of Nick Keir! Nick is my favorite Scottish performer (to call him merely a singer-songwriter is an extreme understatement). He's actually got a show today (3:00pm at Valvona & Crolla, an Italian cafe that will make you drool) as well, if you Edinburgh folks are looking for something to do. I'm not able to go until tomorrow's 5:45 show, but I can't wait to hear him. Nick's been seriously ill for the past several months, and he's powering through these gigs in between treatments. I'm pretty sure that beats playing a show 9-months pregnant (which I'm doing on Wednesday in Dunfermline, if anyone cares to see a vaudeville act of trying to play guitar/accordion with an enormously pregnant belly).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baby abroad: registration, doctors, midwives, timeline (NHS part two)

A lot of people over here complain about the NHS. A lot of people over here also complain about all kinds of things that aren't really that bad -- like the rain, for example. Edinburgh literally gets half the annual rainfall that my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, gets. Complaining about things is a way of life -- something people even joke about. (Although, truthfully, it seems complaining is really just a form of conversation with friends or with strangers in an elevator. I've not seen anyone complain to authority, in a way that we loud Americans so often do.) When I tell my UK friends here how much I paid for health insurance in the US (a plan that didn't include dental, much less maternity), followed by what percentage of medical bills that "insurance" actually covered, suddenly the NHS is a source of pride.

David and I arrived in the UK on student and dependent visas, and we thought we were supposed to register with the University Health Care. That's how it was in college back home. Your college insurance covered university medical care, not your private doctors. In January, when we found out I was pregnant, we (probably I) complained to a friend about having to trek across town (a whole 2 miles, ha ha) to the University doctor.  She then informed me you could register with any doctor office in town.

So we walked into our neighborhood medical center and said that we lived over here and would like to register with a doctor. Three minutes later, we were in their system -- no calling to see if their practice took my insurance or whatnot, just a simple form.

When you switch doctors (at least at this practice) you must come in to see a doctor or nurse to discuss your medical history. Seeing as scheduling a physical or any other sort of basic wellness checkup can take months back in the States (the last US doctor I saw before I moved was my dermatologist -- an appointment I had to set up four months in advance, despite the fact that I had a strange new asymmetrical mole and a history of precancerous cells), I figured this basic NHS appointment would be a few months out.

Wrong. Both David and I were booked in the following week.*

To schedule a maternity appointment, we needed to call the central midwife office, or something like that. David called (I hate making phone calls) and was told we'd need to wait about a month to come in for our booking appointment. Ahhhhh ... the wait list! There it was! But ... no ... the real reason? Well, that's how they do it here -- wait to see you until you're 8 weeks along.

That is probably shocking to my American readers (it was to us, at first), but think about it for a minute. If something bad was going to happen, it would happen regardless of having an early ultrasound. There's really nothing they can do for a healthy woman at five weeks pregnant. I mean, I'm not sick; I'm pregnant.

They do offer the NHS published book, Ready, Steady, Baby, which is basically a streamlined version of What to Expect, except with Scottish-specific advice, such as "Safety during lambing season." If you're a nerd, like me, and had already read several books about pregnancy, well, just return to normal routine -- minus alcohol and unpasteurized cheese, of course -- and await your 8-week "booking appointment."

After all, you're not sick, you're pregnant.

*Since then, I've had the both the doctor and the dentist offer me a non-emergency appointment the next day.

Next NHS blog: I get red-flagged as high risk and am sent to a multitude of obstetricians and hematologists at two different hospitals. Remember, they do check bloods and things...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad ... thoughts on the NHS (part one)

If there’s one question I’ve gotten since we announced this pregnancy, it’s, “What is the NHS like?” I’ll answer this over a series of blogs, and I’ll attempt to remain as objective as possible. If I had to give a one-word answer, however, it would be: amazing.

More recently, friends have asked me if I’m now to the point now where I’m going to the doctor once a week to be checked out. My response?
1) I don’t go to a doctor; I go to a midwife
2) I haven’t had to take my clothes off for anyone (except for that one time that caused this whole baby thing, but that’s another blog)
3) I had my 36 week appointment today. Before that I had a 32 week appointment. My next one is two weeks from today (38 weeks), and again, I don’t have to get naked.

Tell most Americans you see a midwife rather than a doctor, and they will think you’re in some sort of backwoods country getting unreliable care. To that, I respond that the midwives who’ve been looking after me have checked bloods and all that good stuff, listen to the heartbeat when I come in, palpated my belly to feel where the baby is, and have informed me that I’m a perfectly healthy woman doing something that other women have been doing for thousands of years.

So, yeah, I don’t have an obstetrician, and I love that. No one is worried or panicking or testing for a thousand different things or sticking their hands or other instruments in places they don’t belong. And you know what? I’m no longer terrified of childbirth – and believe me, six months ago I was a worried mess.

That’s enough of a blog today, but I’ve loads more questions to field and more stories to share about various preventative measures they’ve taken here, the “wait-list” you hear so much about, technology, doctors, classes, and the hottest issue: how much this baby has cost us so far.

To be continued...
Actual birth story:

Like this blog? Follow it on Bloglovin' for updates.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The cutest thing ever.

On the heels of yesterday's stressed-out-about-life post, I come to you today with a cup of tea and a pitcher of sunshine. It's a balmy 68* in Edinburgh, and I've dragged a table and chairs into the front yard for a bit of writing and catching up.

I've also been working on a blog specific to baby-related posts (still private, but will post a link soon), as I don't feel like they belong on The Red Accordion Diaries. Y'all come for tales of travel, adventures, and music, not anecdotes about homemade nursing pillows and poop.

But, just because it's sunny enough to do laundry and hanging tiny clothes in the front yard might be the cutest thing ever (besides a pile of beagle puppies), I thought I'd share this.

Have a wonderful sunshiney day, wherever you are!