Wednesday, February 21, 2007


As I was sitting drowsily in the transit lounge at Santiago airport, waiting for the last leg of our 20-hour long journey to get home from Sydney, I saw two well-dressed kids chasing each other among the crowd, the luggage. Screaming and laughing, the boy dropped himself onto the grotty carpet. He rolled on the floor while screaming his giggles and then put his hand which had touched the carpet and who-knows-what-else into his mouth. At that moment, I knew I was back in Latin America and very close to home.

It had been a long ten weeks, especially so since I was counting each day. A couple of days before we left for Sydney, I realised I am preggers. Given our earlier experience, Guillermo and I were both excited and a little worried.

Once we got to Sydney, I contacted my GP who put me in touch with the fantastic ante-natal unit at Royal North Shore Hospital. I was told to go in at week 10 for genetic counselling, week 11 to meet the midwife and have the doctor perform a low resolution ultrasound to hear the baby's heartbeat, and again at week 12 for 1st-trimester tests which included a high resolution ultrasound to see the baby. All the ultrasounds were conveniently performed on my belly.

To me, this arrangement was perfectly reassuring, and the wonderfully caring staffs at this public hospital were leagues above those people at the privately operated Medicus I encountered during my short-lived pregnancy in BA last year.

Guillermo's initial reaction to the medical arrangements showed our cultural differences. Before our first appointment at the hospital, he bemoaned "the system" had left me unattended to for 10 full weeks. My mother had to reassure him that if anything happened at that point, we would end up at the hospital anyway.

I was also quick to reassure him that I was much more relaxed in getting on with my pregnancy than having to endue rather unpleasant and intrusive ultrasounds, as I did in BA, from as early as week 5 to satisfy the curiosity of the GP at Medicus in Recoleta, then at my gynaecologist's and then back at Medicus in Belgrano, all within the first 10 weeks. They obviously thought they were doing me a favour in letting me see the blob that had not had the time to develop while I felt stressed that I was railroaded into unnecessary intrusions into the baby's early development.

Fortunately, Guillermo's opinion of "the system" changed completely once he met the faces behind it. He was extremely impressed by everyone he met at Royal North Shore; unlike our private medical cover (Medicus) which we pay good money for, we were never made to wait for our appointments, the doctor even came out to the waiting area to greet us before walking us into his office.

At none of the meetings did we feel we were hurried, we took the opportunity to ask loads of questions and they also showed much interest in understanding what sort of care I would be receiving back in BA from the second trimester onwards.

The midwife was especially serious when she reassured me that no oxytocin is used in Australia except in inducing a baby that is 10 days' late or in rare circumstances – lamentably, liberal use of this drug is a "substance abuse" which seems to take place in even the most prestigious hospitals in BA, unless the mother explicitly object. All for no other reason than the reluctance of midwives and doctors to hang around for nature to take its course.

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