"It was like a hotel!"

“It was like a hotel!” said my (Aquabirths at Home) York agent Lis, describing the relatively small Swiss hospital she stayed in after breaking her leg on her ski-in holiday. And being an assessor for British maternity units and the maternity unit being just opposite her ward . . . she could not help hobbling across and asking if she could have a look around!

Her report was this.

70% water birth rate in this small 2 room suite. The birthing pool is at the centre of the room and the bed is tucked away in the corner. The rooms are beautiful with a lovely bedspread on the (hospital) bed and ordinary curtains and net curtains in subtle pink and blue stripes (!) at the window. Not costly or adding to infection risk but looked lovely. The floors were bare but there were tables and chairs and an easy chair for relaxing or for partner. The medical kit was around but seemed very much in the background.

There is just a 2% homebirth rate (this is nonetheless greater than Bradford’s where needless to say the water birth rate is much lower also). My agent said that she did not blame women for having a hospital birth in the circumstances with such stats. and 5 days of first class care in hospital and no quibbles about staying longer if the woman needed more support with breastfeeding. Post natal accommodation was mainly 2 bed rooms with babies in with the Mums.

Lis was told that they never induced prior to 42 weeks without a real medical reason. Induced women were still allowed to use the pool. Access to the pool was just a simple step. They didn’t worry about hoists or fancy kit for lifting women out of water: Everything kept very low tech. Seemed much less of a culture of claims if anything went wrong.

Generally CS rates are low both here & in general through Switzerland. If women had high blood pressure or just a few minor problems they still stayed in this local hospital. They were just monitored more closely or moved down to a room in a different area of the hospital to be monitored. If they knew that baby might have problems then had to be moved to different hospital as didn’t have intensive cots for newborns at Frutigen hospital.

In terms of staffing the head midwife there said that they enjoyed their work and had a good relationship with the doctors who took a great deal more interest in normal birthing than do our doctors but tended to interfere less. The doctors would see women on admission and pop down later to check how things were going but unless called in would otherwise leave the midwives to it. Needless to say it is ‘one mother one midwife care’ during labour. Women could, in this unit, even choose the MW who they wanted to have for the birth prior to the birth – though this is not true of all Swiss units

Midwives only care for women in the intrapartum period (birth). General nursing staff admit the women and care for the mother and baby dyad during their 5 day stay. Nurses who looked after new Mums & babies saw it as their role to get the new dyad/partnership established well prior to departure – for best start in life. Breastfeeding rates: Lis does not know the figures but they were good and breastfeeding seemed to be accepted normal more than in UK.

The health insurance support is generous with 5 days full accommodation with excellent food and care (my agent said the staff were amused that she kept referring to the hospital as a hotel – she responded to them that the care and food etc were more akin to hotel quality and she had never seen anything like it at any hospital in uk she had visited). However, the monthly statutory health levy for this care is substantial for say the average family. (Well, don’t we say: ‘You get what you pay for?’)

I leave with you this picture of how one small hospital in Switzerland cares for birthing women. Liz, asked many questions about what happened elsewhere to which she got relatively general or vague answers, as although midwives may have worked elsewhere before coming to this maternity unit turn over was low, and there seemed to be no plans to leave. Nevertheless, the impression she got was that things were not all that different in other parts of this region.

My motto is: Ask for the moon – you can always settle for Doncaster. Here is one very down-to-earth example of the moon – that is to say the care mothers deserve in the UK. Why not ask for what we deserve? And is it not worth paying for?

Post Script. Lis (being the canny lass that she is) says that she has an email address for the hospital and the MW she spoke to. So if you have more questions then you can contact Lis through me: ruth@aquabirths.co.uk

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Super woman business tycoon meets hassled Mum!

It was 16th January and it had been a good week for super woman and business tycoon – I felt like I was really going to change the world!

Monday a big invoice had finally been paid so our cashflow could flow again.

Wednesday I led a seminar with third year student midwives. With hubby’s help I had restructured the whole thing and I was rather nervous – but it went so well – they were such a brilliant class and I learnt so much. These midwives are questioning practice, questioning evidence, reflecting on their practice and that of their mentors, Passionate about good birthing and good care. I left Huddersfield inspired and proud!

On Thursday, four of us met to plot the expansion of the Choices network (to subscribe go to www.aquabirthsathome.com ). How fab! To finally be planning what I have dreamed of for years – to take Choices to the next level. We made plans and took minutes.

Friday, at short notice I was asked, and accepted, a place on the interview panel for a Consultant Midwife in Normality for Bradford, to take place on Monday. How fabulous is that – a Consultant Midwife in Normality! And to be privileged to be part of the selection process. And if that was not enough I had an interesting and fruitful conversation with Huddersfield University again.

At the end of this conversation, however, I looked at the time and the mother in me gasped in horror – 3.30pm – I was late collecting the children from school again! My super woman cloak was exchanged for harassed mother hat and I abandoned office, swearing at the rush hour traffic. I begged apologies yet again at one school as I collected one child and crept quietly into the second to collect the rest, trying to avoid the frosty gaze of the staff member in the office.

I returned home in a turbulence of triumph and chaos for the weekend, to be met by my matronly neighbour: “ You daft *****! Did you know you left your front door wide open this morning?” ‘No I had not’, being the honest answer, since I am not into open invitations to burglars. “You never came back, so we shut the door in the end and have had to keep an eye on your house all day!” It never ceases to amuse my neighbours that this business woman and mother of five can be so scatty.

And so that was the end of the triumph of super woman and business tycoon, Ruth the harassed mother of five, Ruth the modern embodiment of the old woman in the shoe – was home for the weekend. Throw your laptop in the cupboard and tie on your apron!

But I want to shout from the roof tops – I want it all! I want a career, I want to run my own business, I want to have a large and happy family, I want a happy marriage, I want to save the world. And I am so proud that I am having a fair stab at it all! And so what if I can’t keep all the plates spinning! So what if I leave my door open by a mistake (the delivery man kindly left the parcel in our living room!), so what if I am late picking up the kids! (This is not the 1950ies – most women work now so we need schooling that caters for real life work) If that is what it takes to make the whole thing happen then so be it. I am proud of what I achieve and proud that I try. And I am just glad that I have a loving patient husband and five fab kids who think my antics are very funny and love the fact that as my hubby put on a ‘welcome home’ poster years ago: ‘Ruth, about to save the world, as soon as she finds her bus pass.’ We all need clay feet I say. It keeps us humble.