Sunday, July 05, 2009

special delivery

Yesterday I took our pregnant friends to the MD so they can decide where to have their baby in a few weeks. The options are slim, there is a government hospital here so decrepit and awful that I am literally afraid to even go inside. The other option is a private hospital, better than the public one but still far below any lowered expectations I may have. The problem with the private hospital is that it costs money to have the baby there, around $500 US which seems like a steal yet far too outrageous a cost for most of the folks who live here. As our baby gift to them we'd already offered to help with some of the costs with the agreement that the rest would come from them. Problem is, they were quoted an inaccurate and lower fee the first time they inquired so now they are looking at about $200 more than they were planning, a cost that exceeds their budget.

They've been going back and forth, their stress level rising. The other day they decided to scrap the idea all together and go back to the public hospital but rumors, unfounded or not about the level of care have got them scared. We went to the private hospital so they could get the information again and hopefully accurately because they have to decide now, the private hospital won't deliver the baby without a couple of prenatal visits first.

When I picked them up their usually happy faces were grim. I asked how they were doing and was met with silence until the father said Jen what would you do if you were us? and I responded carefully, it's not my place to give advice and yet it's hard to watch young scared kids about to become parents not having a plan for what to do. I would learn as much as I can about my options and then go from there and they nodded and off we went. We went to the private hospital, the same place I took J those months ago that scared me silly and talked with a nurse. We learned the true costs of the delivery (the 500 US with 80% of that needing to be put down as a deposit two weeks before) if there are no complications, an additional 1500 US if things were to go south and a C-section was needed.) She hasn't had some of the blood work she needs and they will want an ultrasound (this is the only hospital in the area with an ultrasound machine) so that will cost extra too. I see their eyes roll back in their heads, I know the standard delivery costs are probably manageable but if costs go up they would have no way to pay. The other option for a few hundred dollars less is to go to a private doctor and birth in his office without equipment and hope for the best.

I tell myself babies are born this way all over the world every single day but no matter the mantra I feel like I might throw up.

So we get back in the car and the mother is silent and on the verge of tears, the father is getting agitated, he needs a decision and still isn't sure what to do. I decide to be direct and ask them how much money they have and he tells me what is in his bank account, all the money they have in the world isn't quite enough to cover the standard private hospital fees so I ask them then if money wasn't the issue where would they choose and it was the private hospital hands down.

The mother looked at me and asked where I would have wanted to have M and I couldn't tell her the truth, that every fiber of my being is screaming NONE OF THESE PLACES NOT ONE BECAUSE THEY ALL SCARE ME THEY SCARE ME A LOT but there are no other options so I looked at her and smiled I think I'd choose the private hospital too so we talk about options and they decide to ask an uncle for the rest of the funds they need and he agrees to give them the money and now strapped but decided they can move forward.

So tomorrow we'll go back to the private hospital and open an account, she'll see a MD and get her tests done and hopefully the birth will be routine and all will be well. They've asked me to come along and I'm awkward, I am not family and I am unsure of my place and yet they have asked and so I will go, not sure if I will be sitting in the waiting room or invited to come along. On the way home I carefully inquired about how much she knew about what to expect, the village is full of mothers so I have to assume they've talked it through. Do you know how to recognize when you are in labor and how to time your contractions and she nods slightly and I have to assume it's true. If you ever want to talk the whole thing through I am happy to just let me know and she nods again and I leave it at that.

There is no such thing as epidurals here and so she's in for it once it starts, there are no breathing classes or those cozy little mommy-daddy circle groups talking everyone through the routine, just a woman and her body as women and their bodies do what they do all over the world every single minute of every single day but my own lily-white body still can't quite manage it, knowing the luxuries of the West and the ways we are unbelievably coddled with soothing music and doulas, water births and prenatal yoga. And with machines that measure the baby's heart rate and medicine to help with the pain. Again I am reminded I do not think I am tough enough for this.

There are few cars out in our village so we offered to be on call so we can drive them to the hospital when her labor starts and J and I have agreed that when the time comes I should be the one to take them and he'll stay home with M, generally these things happen in the middle of the night so I expect this will be the same, a long drive down dusty roads without a clear sense of what will happen when we arrive but the fervent prayer that nature will naturally take her course and while it has nothing to do with me it still comes down to this: my own uncertainty of the world and it's struggles and how things are unfair and why some are privy to so much more and how many things can go wrong and how money makes you cautious and how money can solve your problems and even now I sit here scared for all the things I never had to think about before coming here.

Bookmark and Share


deezee said...

Launching off from this post, I want to sit down and ask you about a thousand questions regarding where you now live, what was most seductive to prompt your move, how you are feeling about the vision that this would make you live more sustainably...

Every time I read here, I stumble in posting a comment because I become overwhelmed by my curiosity and questions, but please know that I'm reading and interested and wanting to know so much more.

(And I'm really curious about J's take on it now that you're all living there.)

Here's to a quick and healthy delivery!

(and you do realize that you left your job behind in the States, but you haven't really left it behind. this generous helping of others appears to be your default setting!)

Capital Mom said...

I am surprised that the hospitals are the only choices. Are there no midwives?

krista said...

before having my own, i would love to think that birthing is much simpler and that, considering women give birth in remote villages all the time, that perhaps they have antidotes we don't know about and are better equipped to deal with everything.
after having a complicated birth in which it quickly became clear that i was never ever going to have my child naturally, after a serious infection that would have endangered one or both of our lives, after so many drugs i should have been comatose and yet STILL i was able to feel the surgery....
i am so scared for this poor girl.
knowing how bad it can get at the drop of a hat, the blink of an eye. *sigh*
sometimes i worry that maybe too much information is a blessing and a curse.

Beth said...

I'm with Commenter #2, no midwives? I had my son at home, I live in a country that offers free health care, and still opted to have him at home. I will be having my daughter here too.

By the sounds of the hospitals there I wouldn't want to go near them in labor.

Would home birth be an option? I am sure you have thought of it, but you'd be saving yourself a lot of grief if you found someone you trusted who would assist in delivering at home, and at a fraction of the cost!

However, I am not there, nor do I know all the circumstances and beliefs.

Best of luck either way.

Amber said...

Every time I come here it's just driven home to me how terribly, terribly privileged I am. It's sort of baffling to think of this huge divide that exists, that most of us here in the affluent world don't even really understand.

I hope the birth goes as smoothly as possible.

Nick said...

"I sit here scared for all the things I never had to think about before coming here."

Oh my god. How that hits home!

flutter said...

This breaks my heart.

jen said...

Capital Mom / Beth,

Midwives. You'd think so, right? I've not heard of any professionally but am sure in more remote villages women birth at home regularly. She hasn't given that as an option for herself and more than anything, the decision on how to go needs to come from her. But I absolutely agree.

I think the difference is if something was to go wrong during a homebirth in the West, you could easily get to a hospital. Here, not so much.

Kim said...

Jen, my thoughts and prayers are with you both. I hope everything goes smoothly and for her sake, quickly.

I don't have a lot, but I would like to help (financially) if they would hear of it. Although it isn't much, something is better than nothing, right?

I am not sure of how to go about it, but please feel free to email me with suggestions if you have any.

Amy Y said...

Wow... Thanks for keeping it all in perspective, Jen. I am sending her healthy labor vibes!!

Kelly said...

Oh boy. We are so spoiled. I went the midwife route, but here in the US, where hospital transfers and pain medications are available.

I hope it all works out well, that nature works as it should.

luckyzmom said...

Sending good thoughts.