I gave birth to my first child in Switzerland, where healthcare is a lot like Obamacare. It was a midwife-attended hospital birth and nothing like the scary depictions of US hospital births I saw in the documentaries I watched while I was pregnant. The hospital welcomed my doula and as my labor passed the 12 hour mark, the midwives patiently encouraged me to listen to my body, move around and continue to labor naturally. I labored in a 700-liter birthing tub with sea salt and dried rose petals. The midwives provided oils and showed my husband how to give me a pain relieving massage. They offered acupuncture, food and drink. But as things went along, my labor slowed. Finally, the doctor was called in and an ultrasound revealed that the baby was stuck with its head tilted sideways in the birth canal. The decision to have an epidural was my own and didn’t come up until it was genuinely necessary, a full 17 hours into my hard labor. With the doctor present, the midwife continued to attend my birth. She had me sleep 20 minutes on one side, then 20 minutes on the other until the baby straightened out. When my water broke, she smiled and me and told me we were close. When I was dilated to ten centimeters, she quietly set about preparing for the delivery. My doctor watched on, but the midwife delivered my baby.
It was calm, serene and peaceful as I pushed. My husband held my hand. I got to feel the baby’s head as it crowned. When the head was born, the midwife smiled and told me I’d have my baby on the next push. I silently pushed with all my might and there was my baby. The midwife placed that gooey bundle of arms and legs directly on my chest and my husband and I marveled at the tiny fingers and full head of dark hair. We watched that miniature tongue quiver inside that tiny mouth as the baby let out a lusty cry. We stayed like that for 10 minutes or more, and then I remembered. “Well,” I said, “Is it a boy or a girl?!” and all the doctor said was, “Look!” How incredible it was to lift up that slimy umbilical cord and see that we had a baby girl. A few minutes later, when it had stopped pulsing, my husband cut the umbilical cord. Our baby never left our sight. The midwife weighed her, instructed my husband on how to bathe her and checked her right in the delivery room. Then my baby girl and I went together to go to sleep in our hospital room where we stayed for the next five days. We went home healthy, rested and with breastfeeding fully established.
We don’t plan to stay in Switzerland forever, but we do plan to have more children. It is my most sincere wish that by the time we move back to the States, Obamacare will have midwives back in hospitals, and that new babies and moms will have the option of staying in the hospital three to five days before going home. Thank you, Chief Justice Roberts, for making cost-effective, universal healthcare in America, a real possibility.
Lindsey McLean is a writer and blogger based in Zurich.