(This is a non-Nava focused post about the Bali Birth plan. For cuteness just keep scrolling...)
Who moves to Bali to have a baby?
So Lao is a wonderful place to live but the health care is seriously lacking. Hence all of Nava and I jaunts off to Bangkok on a quarterly basis for her medical care. So Mama with options (also known as moolah, dinero, ngern, or greenbacks) go elsewhere for birth. The closest option is a nearby Thai regional center, Udon Thani. Udon is 'not bad'. But just that. Not a lot to get excited about as an option except for the major feature that you can continue to live at home until right up until (up to your comfort level) and just go for your birth, when you feel like it, even in labor (though I'm sure some babies get bron on the way--it's a 1.5 hour trip across an international border and after hours can be 'interesting'!).
I seriously considered Udon because with Nava I didn't really use the hospital for a whole lot and the idea of repeating that trip (see below) for a whole lotta nothing seemed silly. There is an OB who will talk natural birth with you and I carefully watched the story of a girlfriend who chose the Udon route with a strong natural birth plan to see how it could go. In the end though, it just didn't click with me and seeing a girlfriend have a birth go well untilt he hospital got all involved in the pushing phase was way too like Nava's birth and totally put me off.
So that meant moving to Bangkok at 36 weeks. Really, that's what crazy expat (and some Lao) women do. We move to Bangkok for 1-2 months to have a baby. What's more, some mamas have FANTABULOUS health insurance that pays for them to stay in a 5 staff hotel suite the whole time. [Ladies in the US reading this: Just let that sink in a bit. 5 star hotel suite in a building physically connected to a fancy mall and all the gourmet buffet breakfast you can handle right up until your baby is done cooking. ]
My insurance is not one of those. But I still got a nice apartment in downtown Bangkok for Nava's arrival and had a pretty good time. My work let me work 'from home' until I decided to go on leave and since I live in a 3rd world underdeveloped backwards country, I had 3 months of paid maternity leave and didn't need to worry about getting back to work right away. My dad moved with me to chaperone my confinement until I was 38.5 weeks when Sout would join us for good (he came for weekends prior). 'Cause 1st babies are never early.
Nava arrived after a relatively easy labor (though some static with the OB at the very end) around dawn of 5 of the day Sout was moving to Bangkok. Oh well.
So, really not a bad experience. So what was different this time?
a. Living for 1-2 months in Bangkok as a pregnant lady is fun. You can shop, go to movies, and leisurely eat cake. What's not to like? Living for 1-2 months in Bangkok as the pregnant mama of a toddler? Ha! Ha! Ha! Shop? Movies? Leisure? Ha!
b. I care deeply about my birth. I believe believe that the best birth, the safest birth is gentle birth. While I did had an unmedicated vaginal birth in Bangkok the first time, it wasn't soo gentle in the end. And I still resent having to yell at my OB with a newborn on my chest. So yeah, while Bangkok does offer excellent medical care (and dang if I ain't glad to have it), I'm not sick. I'm pregnant. And I'd like to have a better choice for my birth.
Those were the 2 big factors. I sat on the fence the whole pregnancy about where I was going to deliver. I looked seriously at going to the US to have a midwife-assisted homebirth or birth center birth. I got in touch with no less than The Farm in TN (they were lovely). But my health insurance covers me anywhere in the world but the US. It's a LOT cheaper that way. So while I could pay for the birth out-of-pocket, I wouldn't have emergency cover and that's just waaaaay too scary to contemplate in the US. So I dithered. And dithered.
And then it was time to go to Bali.
Back last August 2011, way before I we even conceived our now-about-due baby, I had found out about an opportunity to do birth doula training in Bali in March of the coming year. And that night (in a bad mood, a work widow alone in the house with a sleeping toddler) I sat in bed with my laptop and checked airfares to Bali, a place I'd never been but of course wanted to go. And I found a crazy cheap fare (like less than $200 return of something ridiculous). And I booked my ticket that night. Before I registered for the course. Before I told my husband. Oh yeah, I booked a single ticket, btw. I rationalized I could but one for Nava and Sout later (!). And I went on the enroll in the course. And get pregnant. And do to math and realize I'd be 6 months pregnant and 2 weeks in Bali doing a birth course sounded like an awesome trip to do alone before becoming a mother of 2. And Sout supported that decision (I think he just wanted 2 weeks of Nava all to himself).
So I went to Bali for Eat Pray Doula, what has got to be one of the best doula courses on the planet (and they're having it again!). And I'd been telling everyone for weeks that when I came home from Bali I'd have decided where I was going to birth: Udon or Bangkok.
On my last day in Bali, having doula'd my first birth, I furtively walked out of the Bumi Sehat Clinic in the complete silence of Nyepi, Balinese New Year (you're not supposed to be on the street lest the spirits see you) and I was an emotional wreck. I still didn't know where I was going to birth. I didn't like any of my options. And while coming back to Bali and Bumi Sehat had been suggested during the course I didn't really think it was feasible.
It would be another month before we decided.
(To Be Continued)