Although it requires a bit more paperwork, giving birth in New Zealand is easier than in the United States. This is true, in part, because Augusta is our second child. It also helps that my mom is here for three weeks. Another reason is New Zealand’s postnatal care.
Eliza was born at a very nice hospital in downtown Chicago, where my doctor announced, “Okay, the sooner we do this, the sooner we can all go to lunch!” The nursing staff was knowledgeable and attentive. I had an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. For two days, I was calm and well-rested.
Then they sent us home. Geoff returned to work five days later. His parents stayed in Chicago for the first week and my parents were unable to visit. My friends were either childless or working moms. That left me, the internet, and a few baby books to figure out things like breastfeeding, baby blues, and the general caring for a newborn. I worried a lot, cried a lot, and watched a lot of terrible daytime television.
Aside from sleep, what I most wanted was another person to affirm that we were taking okay care of Eliza. Postnatal care consisted of Eliza’s appointments with the pediatrician, and a two-week postpartum checkup for me. I also called a breastfeeding consultant to the house for a 30-minute, $200 (not covered by insurance) appointment. This short, expensive appointment with a midwife was reassuring in a way that the doctor’s visits were not.
Augusta was delivered by C-section (a “Caesar”) at Wellington Hospital. My doctor performed the surgery while the midwife held my hand and took pictures of Augusta. About seven other doctors, anesthesiologists and medical students stood by. For three days afterward, my doctor, the hospital nurses and midwives, and other specialists visited around the clock. While they did not take the baby to a nursery as they did in Chicago, Augusta and I were well cared for. We left the hospital knowing that a midwife would visit the house the next day.
Postnatal care in New Zealand takes the guesswork and isolation out of parenting a newborn. Our midwife, Carla, visits the house two to three times a week. She weighs Augusta, checks out how I’m healing, and answers questions. I can call her if I’m worried about anything. She’ll continue to visit us for six weeks. For New Zealand residents, this is included in their national healthcare. As a non-resident, I pay out of pocket; postnatal care is still not covered by my insurance. But the peace of mind I get from Carla’s visits makes it worthwhile. After she left the house yesterday, Geoff and I felt more confident and relaxed. I thought about my students’ families back home. “Imagine what this could do in the United States for first-time parents, parents of multiples, or single parents.” “Yeah,” Geoff said, “Someone should do a Fulbright project on this.”