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.