a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

Giving birth in the UK vs the US – more different than you might think

having a baby in the UK vs US When I speak to my family who are in the US the first topic they bring up is the impending birth of the new Royal Baby. I think the Americans have more baby fever than is currently in the UK.  But thinking of Kate, and this being her first baby, delivered privately here in the UK I can’t help but think about how different the experience is here, private vs NHS from each other and even more different than the experience in the US.

You’re having a baby – how different could it be you might think. Having now experienced both, I can tell you firsthand it’s very different. In general the experience in the US is more interventionist. There are more frequent antenatal (called prenatal there ) appointments and at each there are more tests done. The US birth experience is more focused on the prenatal treatment and the development of the baby than the actual birth itself – leaving you with no support or care after the baby is born.  I’ve found that the UK experience is almost the opposite. It is very hands off. Even with a private Consultant OB, there are less frequent antenatal appointments, less testing at each appointment.  These appointments seem to be more milestone check-ins to get a general check-up that all is well for Mum and baby, the focus seeming to be more on Mum. Where there is no aftercare in the US, in the UK there is a tremendous amount of aftercare provided and available.

A community Midwife is assigned to you who comes to visit within a day or so of you leaving hospital, and again a few days later and more visits if necessary. She’s there to make sure Mum and baby are both recovering and doing ok, remove sutures etc if necessary and private health related aftercare in the home.  Following the visit of the Midwife, is a Community Health Visitor, a nurse who has experience with babies. She comes and discusses the health of the baby and mum, breastfeeding, checks the babies weight etc. You can schedule more appointments for them to come by if you like. Our Health Visitor also provided information on free local Mum & Baby support groups and classes provided free or at low cost nearby. These included Baby Massage Classes and Lactation Support Groups amongst others.

the midwife or health visitor will weigh your baby at home

As a third time Mum, unused to all of this post-birth attention, I found it actually made me feel rather uncomfortable. I had no way to refuse these visits – which to me felt rather invasive and unnecessary. I can see how being a first time Mum, these visits would be useful or helpful, or if unfamiliar with the healthcare system or country these could be great – but for me,  it just felt awkward. I research my physicians and health providers very carefully before choosing them and seeing one so having people turn up with little to no notice, with unknown skills or experience, wanting to discuss my medical details and judge my parenting techniques makes me hugely uncomfortable.  The Midwives and Health Visitor whom I met were very nice- my discomfort wasn’t with them specifically, it was with the general concept. On the plus side, it was nice not having to schlep to the Dr’s office a week after the C-section to get the sutures removed, having it done at home by the Midwife. But, that’s about all I found useful.

Besides the pre and postnatal care experiences in having a birth in the US vs UK – the actual delivery in the UK is different than the US. As previously noted, in the UK you can choose to go on the National Health System (NHS) where the birth is provided free of charge as part of your tax funded healthcare, or go privately where you are on a private wing of a hospital in which you pay for a more private and personalized experience. Kate Middleton is currently going private at the Lindo Wing, much like I did at the Kensington Wing of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

The NHS delivery in London hospitals seem to be somewhat of a communal experience. You give birth on a primarily midwife led wing, stay in a room shared by up to half a dozen other mums, and are discharged as quickly as medically possible, often within hours of the birth. From friends who’ve given birth on the NHS in London, it’s adequate, but basic, but difficult if you need peace and quiet or require extra assistance after the birth and there are no baby nurseries. You need to pay attention to your packing list and bring lots of stuff -  including bringing your own diapers and cotton wool (or wipes) and from some stories I’ve heard – some Mums have even had to get their own painkillers.

 

hospital food Kensington Wing private delivery UK

Giving birth Privately in the UK is a bit closer to the American experience. There are private rooms for each Mum, some private wings have baby nurseries, and all provide more individualized care and support. These are more quiet and relaxing than their American counterpart. You’re left alone for the most part, not woken by announcements over the tannoy or constant blood pressure checks throughout the night.  Food is generally better than the NHS or a US delivery and offers more choice. (the photo is of my lunch at the Kensington Wing of chicken cesar salad and fresh fruit salad) but private births cost about £10000 – £15000 on average. ($16000-$2400 USD) which is still cheaper than a birth in the US which can cost $20,000-$50,000 for a single birth, more for multiples. (You can read my review Kensington Wing of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London, here.)

Giving birth in the US is like the UK private experience in many ways. You generally have a private room and receive individualized care and support following the birth. Food is ok but depends on the hospital and is the same food provided to all patients. However, like the more interventionist prenatal care, the postnatal care follows suit. From immediately after delivery until the time you’re released you are inundated with people and and tests and noise. The nurses check your blood pressure and temperature every couple hours even throughout the night. Dr’s and staff are paged over the tannoy and called for urgent medical requests, providing a loud background of noise. Drs, nurses, cleaning staff, food porters, Lactation Consultants, interns and guests provide a near constant stream of people in and out of the hospital room. I think this is what makes the baby nursery necessary – giving Mom even just 30 mins or a few hours of time to rest (even though they’ll be awoken to check the blood pressure again ). In the US following a c-section you are required to get up and walk sooner and further than in the UK you are also required to do lung exercises which wasn’t required in the UK. One large difference is all of the baby stuff provided for you in the hospital. Diapers, wipes, nasal aspirator, comb, lotions, baby powder, onesie vests and knitted hats and more are all provided for you. But, I guess you can consider it as something you pay for (either you or your insurance) as all of these things are put on your bill. The nurses each time we delivered in the US made sure we packed up all of these supplies and took them with us as we’d already been charged for them. As noted the cost of delivery in the US is quite high when compared to the UK but I guess with all of those people and things they throw at you they need to have them paid for.

All in all – if you’re having a normal delivery with no complications you’d probably have a very similar birth experience in any of the situations noted above. Where the major difference would come in would be for a high risk pregnancy or complicated birth. Seeing as how mine have all been high risk and complicated – I’ve found things I like with both the UK private experience and US experience and would if possible would take the best from both.

For me – I’d prefer the US prenatal (antenatal) experience as I felt I had a better handle on how the pregnancy was progressing and felt more assured about the health of my baby and myself. I’d choose the UK for the actual delivery (in my case c-section), and UK private for the in-hospital recovery which was definitely more restful and restorative than it’s US counterpart.

So now you know what Kate is in-store for and how it may be the same or differ from your birth experience.

Other related posts you might enjoy:

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4 years ago 1 Comment Short URL

Review of The Kensington Wing, Private Maternity Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

So as you already know I’d decided to have the baby privately. To Americans reading this – this may seem an odd statement, so do please refer to my past post about this. In deciding to have the baby privately in London I had pretty much narrowed down my choices between the Portland Hospital and the Kensington Wing at Chelsea and Westminster. My Consultant would deliver at either.

I read as much info and talked to people who had been at both and for me the Kensington Wing won out due to it’s proximity and that they had a NICU and adult trauma center. I could be moved from private to NHS if an emergency merited. I had friends who’d been in the Kensington Wing, all of whom had a positive experience. Most private maternity wards and hospitals allow you to visit if you’re interested in seeing them before booking – you’ll generally need to call ahead though to book a tour.

When I first decided to go private (vs NHS) I was told to book my private place ASAP. For the Kensington Wing, they only have 16 rooms and can be booked up if you wait too long. They take the booking via your Consultant’s office. Mine delivered at both The Portland and Chelsea Westminster, Kensington Wing. I decided on the Kensington Wing as Chelsea Westminster is close to my home, has emergency care for both babies and mums. Further, I had friends who’d had positive experiences there.

When looking for more info and reviews, while I did find a few on Mumsnet.com I didn’t find as many as I’d like – as an info-mongering mum-to-be, so I decided to help others by writing about my personal experience there.

hallwayWhile we did have a c-section scheduled I ended up going in early for an emergency c-section. If you’d like the delivery details I’ve written of those previously. For this post we’ll continue on to the experience of the Kensington Wing. While vaginal deliveries do occur in the birthing rooms within the Kensington Wing (I’ve heard the birthing pool is lovely!) c-sections are performed outside of the wing in the surgery theater also used by non-private deliveries. You are wheeled on the gurney out of the wing and down the hall and back again. Not a huge deal as you’re generally more focused on baby in/out than who you might meet in the hallway. Further, its not a hall full of people but still worth noting.

When it comes to the rooms in the Kensington Ward itself, and the patient care – I found these to be very good.  Each of the rooms has windows, either facing outside, or the internal atrium and lavender walls. The rooms that face the internal atrium have baths with showers, seem a bit more spacious but require a sleeping cot to be brought in for husbands. The external facing rooms, while narrower – have built in murphy beds for hubs and only a shower not a bath.

I did have a Diva moment and ended up trying out both room types. As long as they aren’t full they are ok with asking for a room change (within reason of course.)

chelsea

When I toured the ward before my stay I had liked the exterior facing rooms because of the sunlight. So, when I arrived on the ward I requested one of these rooms. Living nearby, city streetnoise doesn’t bother me and the windows are fairly thick so while there was some noise I didn’t hear it as I’m used to filtering it out. It was handy having the murphy bed (pull-down bed) for hubs and just having a c-section, the walk-in shower was much easier to navigate. It was a bit cramped for space with my hospital bed, baby bed one side and hubs bed on the other but we managed.

kensington_wing

Layout of the Kensington Wing

Each room also had a chair, a small desk, flat-screen tv and fridge. They’ve replaced the usual tv remote with these mini remotes. I found this annoying as mine would stop working all the time, I’d ring the nurse and they seemed to be aware of the issue already as they’d often bring a larger remote to change or reset the tv then `i’d use my small one again until it would malfunction again. While they do provide meals, each room also has a mini-fridge for snacks or drinks. Mine in my first room wasn’t working. They kindly offered to keep my drinks and yogurt in the staff fridge, and that worked for about a day. I got tired of having to ring for someone to come, then me to ask them to go get a yogurt at 4am. It seemed like a really annoying thing for me to do to them, as if they didn’t have more pressing things to do – so I asked to move rooms, as most at that time were empty.

I decided to try out one of the internal rooms which faces the atrium. They wheeled in my bed while hubs and my Mum trailed with my stuff (and baby of course!) The room was larger, but being in there for just a few minutes I could already hear shouts and sounds echoing through the atrium. While perhaps the volume wasn’t as loud as street noise, for me – it wasn’t one I felt I could easily tune out, so quickly asked to be moved to another external facing room, this one with a working fridge. It was a total Diva moment – my entourage and I moving from room to room to room. Finally I settled in the room next to my original which was a bit disconcerting at first as it was the mirror opposite of my previous room.

In general the food was very good, someone would bring a menu in the morning so you could choose lunch and dinner etc. Having only stayed at hospitals in the US not UK I don’t have much to compare to here but I’d say the food was pretty good.

The midwives and other people there to care for patients in the ward were very kind and proficient. They were available when required but give you privacy and space to recuperate the rest of the time. That was the biggest difference between delivery in the US and UK. In the US it’s almost impossible to sleep in the hospital after delivery. While in the US you in general almost always automatically have a private room – which is not standard in the UK – in the US you are monitored and managed and interfered with on a regular basis.

I didn’t realize there would be this difference until after my first night stay. In the US there are constant noises – calls over the hallway speakers for Drs etc, beeps from machines, patient noises etc. The Kensington Wing was almost silent – only the very occasional faint baby cry.  In the US nurses come to check your blood pressure, blood oxygen etc every couple hours and if you’re sleeping, wake you up to do it. In the Kensington Wing, they tend to leave you alone at night unless you ask for assistance. No waking you up to monitor you, so you actually get to sleep in the hospital! While like the US they did try and get me up and moving soon after the c-section, I didn’t have to do the hallway laps, and breathing machine exercises that were required in the US following a c-section.

Assistance was on hand whenever I needed help for myself or baby. While they don’t have a nursery like in the US, they were available to take the baby for a bit if required, but as my husband was there, and it was so restful (unlike the US) there was no need to send the baby to the nursery or away to catch up on some sleep.

All in all – my experience was good. While the facilities are on-par or average for what’s expected in the US, the quality of care and service was tops for either US or UK. I’d highly recommend the Kensington Wing to other expectant Mums.

Here’s another review of The Kensington Wing

An American Girl in Chelsea – her review of the Kensington Wing and comparison to the Portland Hospital

and if you need more info or contact details of the Kensington Wing they are available on their website.

Feel free to share your experience or questions on the comments below.

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5 years ago 1 Comment Short URL

Mexican Food in London – Dinner at the Mexican Supper Club by Discovery Foods

Whilst Indian food might be the second national cuisine of England, the same could be said for Mexican food in America. Mexican, or even Tex-Mex  (an Americanized version of Mexican food incl Fajitas) can be found on most menus of “American” style restaurants. Salsa and guacamole are regular table condiments – and the heat from chiles are a customary addition to many a dish.

When I lived in London 10 years ago – there was absolutely no Mexican food available. I couldn’t find restaurants and stores were empty of salsa, taco mix or even tortillas. This time around – 10 years later, I’ve been delighted to find a little Mexican section in the International aisle of most large retailers. Because it’s so new here, it seems to be put together in packages so it serves as a complete set to introduce the market to.

A couple weeks back I was delighted to be invited to a dinner hosted by Discovery Foods, the chefs of Benito’s Hat and The London Foodie. The dinner was to introduce Discovery Foods line of Mexican Foods, prepared by the chefs of Benito’s Hat, a lovely Mexican restaurant in London in the supper club of Louis, The London Foodie. The event was delightful – and included both food bloggers and parenting bloggers as guests – along with hosts.

 

I think that by featuring the Discovery Foods ingredients in this setting was a brilliant idea . The food prepared by Benito’s Hat was amazing – and  it was a great idea to take you from the standard that you might have done at home – of tacos or fajitas and used the ingredients to take your meal to the next level. For the starter we had Taquitos Dorados de Papa con dos Quesos (a cheese and potato filled corn taco with avocado salsa) and 

the main was Tacos deCamaron (Garlic & Paprika Shrimp Tacos with Chipotle Mayonnaise)

So one of the things I’ve found having travelled a bit is that each in each country the “foreign” food gets adjusted to the local tastes. For example, in Belgium when they order Chinese food, their eggrolls are served with curry sauce! (I don’t think they even have curry in China!) The same goes for Mexican food. As a very broad generalization, I’ve found that the Mexican food I’ve had in England, have less heat or spice than their American counterparts.

When chatting with the hosts from Discovery Foods I learned that Discovery Foods sells their products throughout Europe, that while they offer the same products, Fajita kits, taco seasoning etc. the same products are spicier in the Nordics than here in England – and this is because they have a more evolved taste and palate for Mexican cuisine, having enjoyed it far longer than it’s been available or popular here in England. I found that fascinating! Who’d have thought? Well I guess the Vikings have been exploring exotic and different tastes for centuries so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

At home I cook Mexican Food or incorporate the flavors into my meals at least once a week. So I was delighted to be given a selection of Discovery Foods items to try out at home. To my delight – I’ve found that their “Medium” heat Fajita stir in sauce had a deeper flavor profile and a little more heat than others I’ve tried so far here in England.

Fajita’s are one of my favorite mid-week meals to make for the family. They are quick and delicious – even quicker using the stir-in sauce from Discovery Foods. To prep you slice the chicken, onions and peppers. You can then toss them into the same fry pan and cook it until the chicken is cooked through, adding in the Discovery Foods Fajita Sauce. You can then serve it with cheese, sour cream and salsa as condiments within it’s tortilla shell. Total time from prep to table is less than 15 minutes.

I’m delighted to have been invited to this event – it’s inspired me to go visit Benito’s Hat restaurant, visit the London Foodie for one of his Supper Clubs (Japanese tasting menu here I come!) and try out more of Discovery Foods line of Mexican food products – especially since I’ve found their “Medium” to have more heat than the similarly labelled “Medium” of competitors.

Do check out the blogs posts about this event from some of the other lovely guests:

Cherapeno has captured some amazing photos of each of the courses, and even better has shared the recipe for the delicious cinnamon flavored desert, Buñuelos (Cinnamon Fritters)!

Hot and Chili also has written about the event, is sharing some great photos and close ups of the dishes and has included the recipes for most of the courses we were served including the amazing Discovery chipotle and garlic mayo sauce! Yum!

 

The Bottom of the Ironing Basket has shared info about the event, and as one new to Mexican cuisine her delight at how tasty and light this cuisine can be – and how easy it is to make and serve with kids at home.

 

The whole Discovery Foods product line, recipes and party ideas can be found here: Discovery Foods

 

Also be sure to check out the blog of The London Foodie to learn more about his Supper Club, and his reviews of other London Supper Clubs and restaurants.

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5 years ago 0 Comments Short URL

The Hospital Packing list – so now you tell me!!

naked baby feet

This being my third baby I pretty much thought I had the drill down by now. But having this 3rd baby in a different country than the previous 2 has really thrown me some curveballs. I’ve previously mentioned my surprise about the differences in maternity wards in the US and UK. I thought I’d figured out all of differences and either planned around them and or made peace with them. That is until yesterday…. 

Ok UK Mums, please humor my naivety for a moment – it’s not based on a feeling of entitlement, rather, in my experience of having babies to date – this is how it’s been done (in the US).

When you pack your hospital bag in the US – it’s pretty much just for you. It’s stuff for the labor and after delivery, change of clothes etc. For the baby, pretty much the only stuff you need to bring is outfit for leaving/and or photo and a car seat or carrier (even then if you can’t afford one generally one will be provided). Everything else – and I mean everything is provided for baby. In fact – so much has been provided, you’re even supposed to pack up all of the extra diapers they give you to take home.

So they provide the little onesie, hat and blankie they put the baby in just after delivery. The nurses make sure you pack up the diapers, the wipes, the pacifiers, and nasal aspirator and comb etc. You seriously need to bring an empty bag to hospital with you for the baby stuff.

When perusing UK baby site yesterday I came across a few discussions about packing the hospital bag and couldn’t believe what I was reading. “You need to bring what? No they must be joking!” So I asked around in my office, and then to some Mum friends on Facebook and they confirmed it for me. You need to bring EVERYTHING for the baby – from the cap and outfit for just after birth, diapers/nappies, and shockingly, maternity pads! (My first thought – isn’t that a medical supply, can people even buy those??)

Seriously, not having discovered this now – I would have rolled up to the hospital with my stuff – nothing for baby and had a naked dirty baby! (Probably closely followed by a visit from family services for my clear ineptitude as a parent).

I suppose it makes sense from the perspective of NHS provided services, this would be a cost saving measure. In the US you (or your insurance) are automatically charged for these items – so if you don’t take them with you you’re leaving something you’ve already paid for. But I just find it so different, and I had no idea about this difference. My friends in Germany and Belgium, also expecting say there it’s just like the US and they too find this surprising about the UK.

Here’s a list a good friend of mine shared with me after I got over my initial surprise yesterday. I’m not sure where she got it from, so if it’s been copied from somewhere and you recognise it, please let me know so I can credit it.

What to pack for labour

  • Your birth plan and maternity notes.
  • Dressing gown. Hospitals can be very warm, so a lightweight one may be better
  • Slippers / flip flops
  • Socks. Believe it or not, your feet can get cold during labour
  • An old nightdress or a T shirt to wear in labour. It will probably get a bit messy, so don’t buy anything specially to wear in hospital
  • Massage oil or lotion if you would like to be massaged during your labour
  • Lip balm
  • Snacks and drinks for you while you are in labour
  • Things to help you relax or pass the time, such as books, magazines, games etc
  • A hairband. If you have long hair, you might want it tied up
  • Pillows. The hospital might not have enough to make you really comfortable
  • TENS pain relief machine if you are planning to use one
  • Toiletries
  • Music to listen to. Take a battery-operated machine, as most hospitals won’t let you plug things in. Some hospitals provide their own CD players or radios – again, check first

For the birth partner

  • Water spray, or a hand-held fan to keep cool down the mum-to-be while she’s in labour
  • Comfortable shoes. You may be pacing the corridors!
  • A change of clothes
  • Watch with a second hand, to time contractions
  • Swimwear, if you want to join the mum-to-be in a birth pool
  • Camera or camcorder. If you want to bring a camcorder, check with the hospital beforehand, because not all of them allow them in delivery rooms
  • Address book or a list of phone numbers. You and your partner will be able to use a mobile phone in parts of the hospital, but bring lots of change just in case
  • Snacks and drinks. If you take some with you, they can stay with you rather than leaving the room to search for food!

For after the birth

  • A going-home outfit. You’ll need loose comfortable clothes to wear while you’re in hospital and for the journey home. You’ll still be wearing maternity
  • Nursing bras. Take two or three
  • Breast pads
  • Maternity pads. Bring a couple of packs
  • Nightshirt or T-shirt. Front-opening shirts are useful in the early days of breastfeeding
  • Toiletries
  • Towels, hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Old or cheap knickers, or disposable knickers.
  • Ear plugs, in case you end up on a noisy ward!

For your baby

  • An infant car seat. Some hospitals won’t let you leave by car without one
  • One outfit for the trip home (all-in-one stretchy outfits are easiest)
  • Two or three sleepsuits and vests for baby to wear while you are in hospital
  • Baby blanket. Take a warm one if the weather is cold
  • Nappies and cotton wool
  • One pair of socks or booties
  • Hat
  • Jacket or snowsuit for winter babies
  • Muslin squares
So after perusing the list – and deciding to ignore the first 2 sections since I’m having a c-section, I was still a bit confused when I got to the “For your baby” section – they lost me at “cotton wool” and “muslin squares.”
So I went back to my UK Mum friends and apparently for wiping newborn bums – they use cotton wool here. It seems like it would be a bit awkward and fiddly but apparently it’s the done thing. They use cotton wool and water to wipe the babies.  I’ll be skipping that from my list and instead using wipes. The Muslin squares are apparently used as swaddling or burp cloths – an all purpose type of thing – in the US this would be the equivalent of “receiving blankets” although the texture seems a bit different.
There is a US and UK version of BabyCenter (BabyCenter.com and BabyCentre.co.uk) , it’s the same company but the packing list has been modified for the US/UK check out the differences for yourself on these packing lists.
US BabyCenter Hospital Packing List
UK BabyCentre Hospital Packing List

the essential one bodysuits

But have no fear reader! My baby will not be naked after delivery. I’ve received the most wonderfully soft and colorful newborn set from “The Essential One”  When they originally sent it they said they’d be sending me something for the hospital bag. I was thinking – uh huh, sure, just as soon as we get home from hospital. But now I know – it REALLY IS for the hospital bag! Good thing they’ve got me (and baby) covered!  They’ve sent over these really bright and lovely sets for newborns. Some red, white and blue bodysuits and sleepsuits as well as some matching hatsEach set came in it’s own matching little drawstring bag which will make it handy for packing in my hospital bag. So thanks to the kindness and foresight of some lovely people at The Essential One, my baby will not go nakey in the hospital.

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5 years ago 2 Comments Short URL

I’m Pregnant across the pond – and yep it’s different than in the US

So we’re officially expecting baby #3. I’m due in February and while we don’t know whether we’re expecting a girl or boy yet – my sons are pretty convinced it’s going to be a girl. In fact, that’s what they tell EVERYONE.  We’ll see in a few weeks.  (It’s soooo unfair that the gender scan is 16-18 wks in the US but 20 weeks here in the UK, it’s not like they grow faster in the US!!)

So, there are many differences I’ve found in being pregnant in the UK as compared to the US. Some good, some not so good.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I made an appointment with the GP. I went in and saw the GP and she signed me up with the midwives at the local hospital. Now in that visit she just talked to me, and took my word for it that I was pregnant. No urine test, no blood test, she didn’t even take my pulse or weight. I found it all rather odd. What if I was wrong – or what if I was just crazy? I thought it rather interesting that she took my word for it.

Being a working expat – I have a few more options, since I have health insurance from my employer that covers pregnancy and birth. So I could choose to go NHS or private. Given that this is my 3rd child, and my 2 previous pregnancies were high risk with extremely difficult c-sections (let’s just say the anesthetic didn’t work) I was interested in making sure that baby and I got the Dr’s who’d have the most experience with high risk pregnancies, and difficult deliveries. My friends here recommended a great high risk OBGYN who delivers at the hospital near my home and conveniently has a private Consultation office near my work.

He originally advised that I go NHS with the High Risk Unit at Chelsea & Westminster so I’d have him or his team and he thought this would give me good coverage of care if he wasn’t available. And I was OK with that – until that is , I learned more about what an NHS delivery would entail at that hospital – and how different that was from my expectations and experience.

I think the NHS is great – I love that so many people are helped, and the US system does fail a lot of people, but in this instance, for me, it’s not my first choice.

1. Room full of of Mums & Babies

When speaking with other Mums and with Chelsea & Westminster (and reading MumsNet) I found out that there would be no private rooms, I’d need to share a room with up to 6-8 other Mums and babies.  Ok not great, a little privacy would be appreciated and I’m not super keen on the babies waking eachother (and us) up but not a deal-breaker.

2. No baby nursery

When my first son was born after 3 days of labor, 4hrs of pushing and an emergency c-section with no anesthesia it’s fair to say I was in pretty rough shape. When the nurses offered to take him to the baby nursery so I could rest for an hour or two I felt like I’d be a bad Mother for sending him away and said “No.” By the time baby #2 came along I was ready for the opportunity to take a nap and recover from surgery. They brought him back when he was awake and we bonded and he nursed. Now if you’re reading this and in the UK – the baby nursery is exactly like you’ve seen it on TV. Americans reading this – from the previous sentence you’ll realize that baby nurseries don’t exist here in UK hospitals. Again, this is not a deal-breaker, but not ideal either.

3. No overnight guests 

And so we come to my total deal-breaker. Seeing as how you’re n a room full of other Mums and babies, that means no overnight “guests.” Seeing as how it’s my hub’s fault I’m in the hospital having the baby in the first place he better darn well be there to help me through it.  With my first 2, after having the c-section for the first day or two I couldn’t physically lift my babies out of their hospital bassinet. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom or take a shower unaided. The thought of my husband scampering off after dinner while I’m somehow left unable to care for myself or baby all night is terrifying to me. I know UK Mums magically do this everyday here, and I really think they are amazing superwomen. Given my previous experience I just don’t think I have it in me. This for me was the final straw and total deal-breaker.

So, I spoke to my OBGYN and have booked at the same hospital but in the private wing. This means, I’ll have my own room, they have a play-room where they can take the baby for a couple hrs to hold them (still not a baby nursery but better than nothing) and they have a cot for my husband to stay in my room.

After booking, I found out one of my oldest friends here is also expecting the same week and has booked the same place so it would be fun if we’re there at the same time :0)

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to make this choice. I know it’s not available to everyone as it can be quite a cost prohibitive option (especially if you don’t have private insurance to cover it). But funnily enough this expensive private option is still cheaper than having a baby in the US if you don’t have health insurance. For many friends in the US who are self employed they have to pay for this themselves. Our friends have shared that it costs between $30,000-$50,000 US and while some even had health insurance, because their husband transferred jobs while they were expecting – the delivery was not covered because the pregnancy was a “pre-existing condition”. They’ve advised me that it’s worth shopping around the hospitals in your area as they offer quite different rates and some offer discounts for pre-payment etc.

5 years ago 6 Comments Short URL

Are you fluent in International Boy-Speak?

Esperanto may be the “International Language” and “Klingon” is spoken by Trek Geeks everywhere – but what is the International Boy Language? I believe it originated on the Isle of Sodor – and if you have a boy, you know immediately the language to which I refer: Thomas & Friends.

Thomas the Tank Engine was created by a father for his son 67 years ago and has since been translated into 30 languages and is found across the globe. In Chicago, our boys would play with their Thomas train track, and Sir Topham Hatt – and speak to their friends at school in a shared language of “chug chugs, toot toot, clank and whir…”

When we moved from Chicago to London, the Thomas and Friends toys and movies were some of the few items that made it through the ruthless pre-packing purge.  Upon our arrival in London they were delighted to find that Thomas & Friends was on TV and other items more frequently than in the U.S. and here too at school was the language shared between boys on the schoolyard and at playdates.

The boys were delighted to watch to the Thomas & Friends DVD, Rescue on the Rails. This DVD seemed more action packed in the episodes than some we’ve watched previously – the engines brave the rails to rescue their friends and discover that being heroic is more than having speed and strength, it’s about teamwork and big heart.

As a Mom, I liked that there were multiple formats in which to watch the DVD. It had a long play which included all of the episodes – tied together with a live action actor who is preparing the station house for a performance by a magician – and then each of the Thomas & Friends animated episodes between. The first time one of the animated episodes ended, credits ran – the boys started shouting that it was over, but after having them settle and wait a moment, it continued the live action storyline, then resumed with animated episodes and so on – the total run time was 54 minutes. If we had less time – we could have played just the animated episodes individually.

The boys loved receiving the DVD and watching it. And of course told all of their friends at school about it (remember – it’s the International Language of Boys) and upon returning home from work, wasn’t allowed to fully enter the door or take off my coat before having to read a letter held in front of my face by my 6 year old.  It was in fact the very first written note I’ve ever received from my son – it demanded that his best friend come over and watch the new Thomas movie right away. They had in fact crafted the letter together at school after hatching their plan and his best friend had even told his parents that they had wrote this note and he was planning on coming over to watch the Thomas & Friends: Rescue on the Rails.

"Evan wants to see the new Thomas movie at our house Jackie."

If you and your children enjoy Thomas and Friends – the new DVD, Thomas & Friends: Rescue on the Rails is available from Monday 21st of May, for 12.99.

 

We were given a copy to review before the official launch – which my sons very much appreciated and were not compensated in any other way. The review and opinions expressed in this post are those of my own and my sons. Link to Disclosure Policy.

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6 years ago 2 Comments Short URL

We moved to England and found Baby Jesus and the Easter Bunny!

Holidays are a strange bag. Whatever country you’re in – there are always going to be people who do/don’t celebrate the national holidays or even the holidays that you do.  While there are some holidays that are just plain different in the US vs UK (think Halloween and Boxing Day), surprisingly I’ve found it’s the ones that should be the same that are so different for me.

Having grown up in the U.S. I’m used to Christmas being more about Santa than baby Jesus. In fact – the older I got – the further secularized this holiday was. In the work world, any party that happens in December is called a Holiday Party, so as not to offend or alienate anyone. ( Although you can call it Merry Christmakwanzakah if you want to! ) Not so here in the U.K.  I was actually on the “Christmas Party Planning Committee,” and kept getting blank stares when I’d inadvertently say “Holiday Party.” I’ve been so well conditioned not to say it that it almost feels like nails on a chalkboard when I do so.

But this Christian Christmas Spirit was limited to the office – oh no. My 6yr old (then 5) for weeks kept mumbling about “Baby Jesus.” He’d repeat over and over “2,000 yrs ago Baby Jesus.” over and over and over for weeks. We asked him about it since it wasn’t something he’d picked up at home and he told us he learned it at school and he loved singing about Baby Jesus. {que surprised eye exchange between hubby and myself as we send our child to a non-denominational, private, International School} A few weeks later we attended his Nativity Pageant. Honestly, I have never seen or heard of one of those outside of an old book, or Catholic School in the U.S. In any case it was a simple but jazzy stage-show with Wise-Men wearing sunglasses and of course my little Angel, singing not just about Baby Jesus – but stars and other things while representing the nativity. (Now Baby Jesus is now referred to as Baby Cheeses in our house by the kids – thanks to Modern Family) The kids all enjoyed themselves tremendously – but it wasn’t about faith or religion, for them it was the dramatic experience that resonated with them.

Having been in the UK just over a year – we’ve gotten to experience Easter twice already. The first time I was wholly unprepared. A few days before school was out for Easter term break – buried in a school newsletter was a mention of the kids wearing Easter Bonnets to school. Easter Bonnets??? OMG What is that? I’ve never seen or heard of one in my life. My first thought was some type of Little House on the Prairie deal with lots of ribbons. What to do but look it up using Google image search and then check my findings with a few English Mums.

My son was delighted with his hat – and this year I was better prepared. It was a masterpiece of glue-gunnery! (cowboy hat + John Lewis Easter decorations = awesome!) He was so proud of his hat that he designed (and I glued, because it’s hot you know) that he insisted upon not just wearing it to school – but on the trip to the Grandparents house in Belgium for Easter holidays.

And when I say wear it – I mean it. We took the Eurostar and our train to Belgium was leaving about 3 minutes after a train headed to Paris – which was full of Japanese tour-group. 200 of whom, now have photos of my son posing or dancing in his Easter Bonnet as a little souvenir from their trip to London. 

I like these traditions. And to me that’s more of what they seem than an observance of faith.

I hope they don’t go away like they have done so in the U.S.  But, in a way I wouldn’t want this to be suddenly picked up on in the U.S. and forced on people to adopt – because frankly I think we’d do it wrong. I feel like we’d make it so much more complex than the simple thing it is currently – making it bigger and more “meaningful” and bringing more faith into it – or just the opposite – making it so politically correct so as not to offend anyone and it’s just not the same anymore.

Growing up in a very secular home (my Mom’s family is very Catholic my Dad’s Protestant – neither have been churchgoers since childhood, and I studied world religions and attending every type of service you can think of at one time or another but never found something that spoke to me.) and my husband having grown up Catholic and attending Catholic school his entire life – overloading on it so much so that he now doesn’t believe in any type of religion whatsoever- I like that my child is being exposed to different levels of faith of and belief. But although it’s touched his life, here in the U.K. I don’t feel it’s been done with the same pressure as we’ve experienced in the U.S. While overtly Politically Correct – it can be overwhelmingly “Faith-full” as well. Upon moving to new towns/jobs – we’ve often been asked as a first question and repeatedly if we’ve found our Church yet, which can be extremely off-putting even though it was meant well.

I look forward to seeing how religion, faith and spirituality are addressed, adopted or rejected as my children grow both from a U.S. and U.K. perspective – and the choices they make and the beliefs they’ll hold.

 

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6 years ago 4 Comments Short URL

Bedtime stories, here there and everywhere… a U.S vs U.K perspective

While most nursery rhymes are the same on both sides of the pond, think Humpty Dumpty, Little Miss Muffet… popular bedtime stories and authors are different.

The bedtime classic

U.S.

In Chicago, the bedtime classic is any Dr Seuss book. Take your pick – starting with The Cat in the Hat all the way through Fox in Socks, each of these books has become a go-to for parents in Chicago and throughout the U.S. Like the rhythm of the Iambic Pentameter of Shakespear’s sonnets – anyone who’s read one of Dr. Seuss’s books is familiar with the rhythm or beat that flows through the words as you read. Those of you who’ve read his books as a child or to your children wouldn’t be surprised to learn that when writing his books he said he was trying to copy the sound of a boat’s clanging engine. In fact, the idea for the book had come to him while he was traveling from Europe to America by boat and heard the ship’s noisy engine.

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Seuss or his books and career, definitely check out Seussville – it’s a fun website and treasure trove of Dr. Seuss info, videos, games, activities and more.

U.K.

In the UK, the Mr Men series is a popular collection with kids and adults alike. Like the Dr. Seuss books once you see one bok you easily recognize the others and begin to enjoy the adventures of each new Mr Man you meet. As opposed to the Dr Seuss books, while the kids enjoy the silly pictures and stories, the words in the stories aren’t for early readers. Also, some of the words are maybe not those we’d expect to share with our kids at a young age (hello introduction of the word “nincompoop” to my kids vernacular)

The Mr Men series was written by Roger Hargreaves and includes 49 Mr Men books and later 42 Little Miss books with female characters – each book focused on one character and their personality traits. Mr. Tickle and Mr. Silly are favorites in our household.

The silly storytellers

U.S.

For funny turns of phrase, tongue twisters and tinglers Shel Silverstein has been an American kid’s classic of poems, short stories and silly songs. Shel was a Renaissance man – not just an author and poet, he was also a singer-songwriter, Musician, composer, cartoonist, and screenwriter. Whether it’s a snail in your nose that will bite off your finger if you pick your nose, or what happens if you refuse to take the garbage out, Shel Silverstein has been nudging children into the path of good behavior for generations. Besides being a children’s author and poet, he was also a cartoonist for magazines including Playboy Magazine, and songwriter, creating hits like “A Boy Named Sue,” famously sung by Johnny Cash.

U.K.

In the UK the storyteller who uses imagination and funny situations to turn kids onto the path of good behaviour is Roald Dahl. Sure, he’s known in the U.S. for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach – but there’s so much more to his oeuvre. was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, fighter pilot and screenwriter. If you appreciate dark humor and or Neil Gaimmon stories – you’ll love Roald Dahl’s children (and adult) stories. One of the traits of his books that makes it resonate so well with kids is that the stories are for the most part told from the children’s point of view. I think my personal favorite children’s story of his is Mathilda, it’s so satisfying when Mathilda discovers her powers and really lets the mean adults have their comeuppance! {For those of you in London – there’s currently a fantastic stage version of Mathilda being put on – you should go see it! }

It’s interesting to note that both Dr. Seuss ( aka Theodor Seuss Geisel ) and Shel Silverstein (Sheldon Allan “Shel” Silverstein) were from Illinois, Springfield and Chicago respectively.  In honor of the 108th birthday of Dr Seuss – Chicago blogger Tailor Made Momma, will be giving away $50 worth of Dr. Seuss books. You can enter to win between March 2-9th. 2012. (details to follow shortly)

How about you? Who’d win in a contest at your house? Dr. Seuss vs. Mr Men? Shel Silverstein vs. Roald Dahl?

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book and how much of it can you recite from memory?

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6 years ago 1 Comment Short URL

Goodies & Baddies

It was kind of surprising to hear about “Goodies and Baddies” at first. In the US the boys had played good-guy and bad-guy scenarios with their friends but they had always been someone specific – generally a branded character. For example they would come home and tell me that they were red Spiderman while their friend so-and-so was black Spiderman (aka Venom) and would tell me about their fights and adventures etc. However, within a week of the kids starting school in the UK it was all about “Goodies and Baddies.” It was no longer about Spiderman, Batman etc. When watching a movie now they will ask if the person is a goody? It’s not a huge change in the sense they are playing the same games – but it’s big in the sense that their imagination isn’t tied into the constraints of a specific character and they are free to invent their own goodies and baddies scenario. Now instead of being Spiderman when he grows up – my guy wants to be a goody who is a superhero scientist. (Hello Peter Parker!)

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6 years ago 0 Comments Short URL
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