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Birth stories: International arrivals!

Ever wondered how maternity services in other countries compare with what happens in the UK? Sharon tells us her experience in part two of our latest birth story trilogy...

Posted: 17 January 2008
by Becky Seery

Sharon Convery Walsh, 37, is originally from County Down, Northern Ireland. She now lives in Boston, USA, with her husband David and children Dylan, three, and Quinn, 16 months. Now 22 weeks pregnant, she is experienced in the way they do things on the other side of the pond

Birth facts
Baby's nameQuinn Ann
Weight9lb 7oz
Length of labourLess than 10 hours
Pain reliefEpidural
Worst bitBeing woken up both nights in the hospital for routine checkups.
Best bitGetting to hold Quinn straight after the birth.

Sharon and family

In the US you need insurance to cover your medical needs, and you really get what you pay for. Before even thinking about pregnancy, we picked an OBGYN doctor (equivalent of an obstetric consultant) from those available through our insurance, so when I found out I was pregnant with Quinn we already knew we had a great doctor and hospital assigned to us.

Because I’d been seeing a fertility specialist I had an ultrasound as soon as I found out I was pregnant, at around six weeks. This was to ensure the baby was actually in the uterus, but there wasn’t a lot to see. Two weeks later I had another scan to check for the foetal heartbeat, and there it was! Once the fertility specialist was satisfied that everything looked good we booked an appointment with our OBGYN doctor. The only other scan was at around 18 weeks, to check the gestation and take all the measurements. We could also find out the baby’s gender, but we decided to wait.

Labour Day
I worked up until the day before my due date in the middle of July. I didn’t have a birth plan – I just knew I’d probably want an epidural for pain relief, and my husband there as my birthing partner. I actually went into labour on my due date: I’d had a doctor’s appointment that morning and they had done a sweep of the cervix, which did the job! I went on to feel a little “something” all day, but I was so busy running errands that I didn’t give it much thought.

By the time David got home from work around 7pm, however, I was beginning to think that this was it. It was 10pm by the time we had found a babysitter for Dylan and got to the hospital, but it was all very relaxed – we filled in the paperwork and when the doctor examined me he found I was already 5cm dilated.

Managing the pain
I was a little nervous about getting an epidural, because during my first labour I ended up with a severe headache after the birth, but I still requested one. Epidurals seem to be far more common in the US, perhaps because there aren’t many other options for pain relief – there’s no gas and air, for example. I was given a low-dose epidural with a self-administering pump, so I was able to manage it myself.

Then they broke my waters. The epidural seemed to work really well, and the delivery room was quite comfortable. They pulled out a bed for David and we were both able to get some sleep – with the odd interruption now and again for an examination, of course. New arrivals
At around 4.30am I started feeling something, and started pushing. My OBGYN doctor works in practice with four other doctors and wasn’t on duty, but the doctor on call was great, and by coincidence had also delivered our first baby. It was all pretty straightforward. I didn’t really feel the urge to push – they had to tell me when it was time by watching the monitor – but after five to 10 pushes our beautiful baby girl was born. I nearly fell off the table at that point, as I’d been sure I was having another boy!

I fed Quinn immediately. I was lucky as I only needed a small episiotomy, and after I had been stitched they moved us to a private room, which was really like a hotel room, with great facilities. They really took care of me in hospital. They tried to get me to go home after one night but I took advantage of the two nights allowed, as I just knew I’d get a lot more rest there! I can honestly say all the medical staff were fabulous and I had a great birth experience.

This story first appeared in the February 2008 issue of our magazine, Pregnancy, Baby and You.

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