Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Giving Birth

A few months ago my wife gave birth to our second child. Seeing as how a significant part of this blog has been about comparing life in the two cities, I think it's appropriate to share a comparison of our birthing experiences in each city.

Before moving here and actually even before our first child was born, a friend and his wife had their first child in Chicago, then had their second in Toronto. He reported back that his experience in Chicago was vastly superior and that he would really not recommend having a child in Canada. Just so you know he is a Canadian from Toronto and has a tendancy toward exageration.

Our first child was born in Chicago. Before the birth, we attended the regular check-ups with the OB-gynie at this big hospital downtown. The check-ups were great and the OB-gynie was a very very nice person. Even conducting the exams in French for my wife. The day of the birth came and we went to the hospital. We had chosen a well-reputed hospital downtown designed by a famous architect from the sixties (we're both architects). We went through the pregnancy triage and eventually made it to the birthing suite. It was a very large room with a stereo, a sofa, a lazy boy, and an alcove with all the monitors, incubators, and such. During the labor, there was always a doctor and a nurse who would each pop in from time to time to check on the state of things. During the time we were there, shifts changed so we had two or three different doctors and nurses. Our OB-gynie would not be there for the birth because it was not her shift. Nearing the time of the birth the doctor brought in an intern who would assist. And when it became evident it would be happening in a matter of minutes, a group of three or four others were brought in to care for the baby. The baby was born and was immediately wisked off to be cared for by these additional people in the alcove. It was in part due to muconium in the amniotic fluid, but I got the impression it was standard procedure. It was only for a few minutes, but of course for us seemed extremely long. Worrying that something was wrong. After they had finished their work, our newborn was returned to us all wrapped up along with relief that everything was alright.

Our accomodations for the following two days were in the building mentioned above. To a degree, we got what we wanted. It was a very cool looking building, but due to it's age, it was behind the times of modern post-partum care. The rooms were a bit cramped, though we had one to ourselves. It lacked some bells and whistles that something built more recent would have. During our two nights there, the baby was allowed to sleep in the nursery only returning to feed. This was done to allow us to get some sleep and recover from the delivery.

Our second child was born here in Montreal. Again we attended the regular OB-gynie appointments. This time in a small office in a residential neighborhood. I did not attend every appointment like last time because of obligations at work. The check-ups went well and again the OB-gynie was very nice. The day of the birth came and we went to the hospital. The hospital we had chosen was fairly standard from what we have experienced here so far. We again went through triage and eventually made it to the birthing suite. It was the size of a good sized hotel room with a lazy boy in the corner and a place to stash the incubator. We had the parade of nurses and doctors like before, but our OB-gynie came by and let us know she would be there for the birth. At the time of the birth, there was only my wife, the nurse, the OB-gynie, and myself. It made for a much more intimate experience especially since our doctor was there. Also the newborn was given to my wife immediately and all tests were performed while she was holding the newborn.

The accomodations were pretty much from the same time period of our previous hospital. As such, there were only a limited number of single-occupancy rooms. Our first night was in a double and the second night a single became available. The double was very cramped and as you can guess the single had ample room to spread out since it had twice the space. A difference from the first hospital was that the policy of this one was for the newborn to stay with the parents through the night. This was so for the parents to bond with the new arrival.

So those were our two experience. Now I must point out that these are one couple's experience and that I think the difference is only partly due to locales. For instance, the hospital here stressed that they had a policy of immediate and continued contact after birth. That may not be the case at all hospitals here and there are likely some with that policy in Chicago.

Did we prefer one experience or hospital over the other? Of course not. They both had their qualities and both experiences were positive and very special for us.

So there you have it from our little multi-national family.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. At least, it is a change from the funded or not complaints and horror stories we hear (on both side of the border anyway...).

Blork said...

This is an interesting analysis. If it were me, I'd probably prefer the more intimate arrangement, like you found here in Quebec. On the other hand, if there had been some serious complications, I would probably prefer the more clinical and medical setting that you found in Chicago.

On the other hand (I'll bet you didn't know I had three hands...) we should think about how much each of those births cost. In Chicago you were undoubtedly covered by insurance, and in Quebec you were covered by the public system, so you (likely) never even saw the bill. But somebody paid. And I suspect the "system" paid a heck of a lot more for the Chicago birth.

In Canada we like to talk about universal access to health care. It sounds like a great idea, although operating such a system can be buggy. And cost is a factor. I don't think it is merely a coincidence that the privately funded birth likely cost a heck of a lot more. In a private system, health care becomes an industry.

Unfortunately, in a public system, health care can become a bureaucracy.

It's a complicated question with compicated answers. Your observations are a fair and interesting contribution to the debate.

Anonymous said...

Blork: did you that in the US hospital, administration costs up to 1/3 of the total costs. It's like 5% here in Canada.

Think of all the insurance paper work, back and forth intercommunication (the insurances are the ones who pay, so they try to make sure every act is really necessary).

newmie said...

Hi, I'm actually moving to the Montreal area and will be there when I give birth. Can you tell me where the location was you spoke of in Montreal?