hey, doctors: bedside manner makes all the difference

I’m going to get a little personal on this post, so forgive me if I wander into “TMI territory”.

At our 20 week morphology scan, it was discovered that I have multiple fibroids in my uterus. These are, for lack of a better description, little benign tumours (today the Obstetrician described them as “like the grisly bits on a T-Bone” – gross) in the uterine wall. Overall they’re pretty common in women of childbearing age but the problem is I have lots, and some of them are pretty big, and growing.

Fast forward three weeks, and I was referred by my midwife to see the Obstetrician again. She’s the best in the biz, I was told, and she’ll sort it out. Well. She was too busy to see me so I had the obstetrics registrar handle me instead (that’s the way of the public system) and while she seemed like a nice woman, I wouldn’t say things went well. This poor lady was trying to comfort me without giving me too much information about my condition in case she said the wrong thing, so the nervous gems she gave me instead were: “well your fetus is viable now so if it was born now it would have a god chance” and “if not we might just have to do a c-section at 36 weeks, no problem”… then the worst: “it looks as if growth has slowed, we’ll need to do another scan straight away”.

Hang on a minute. You tell this to a confused, hormonal pregnant woman who has NOT gone through years and years of medical training and she hears: “your baby’s not growing. Something’s wrong with your baby. Your baby is going to be severely premature. DANGER!” And also, just quietly – no, I’m not a doctor but I’m not silly enough to think that my baby can be born at 23 weeks and I can absolutely expect him to grow up unscathed. Thanks anyway. Had the scan and no, he’s not big, but he’s not small either. He is bang on 50th percentile and I’m okay with that as I’m not exactly wishing for a ten-pounder.

We’re now at 26 weeks and today I was able to see the Obstetrician I was originally referred to. She alleviated many of the concerns we had and answered our questions thoroughly and thoughtfully and I would be more than happy to see her again.

Don’t get me wrong, all young doctors have to learn somehow, and maybe I was a bit of a baptism of fire for this particular young registrar, but I wish someone was there to supervise a little because I think most pregnant ladies and their partners would agree, that kind of stress is not needed!

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who is only a couple of years out of medical school and he was saying that studies had been done on what makes most people in hospitals trust the doctors. Was it a white coat? A certain feature? Something they said? Turns out it was just a stethoscope around their neck. Seriously! For me though? It’s a doctor who looks me in the eye and gives me a confident greeting. From there, if they can take control and make me feel like they’re working for the best possible outcome or me and not expecting the worst, that’s how I know I’m in good hands. Seems pretty simple really.

considering a babymoon? read this first.

There’s a trend these days for couples to enjoy a “babymoon” before their babies are born – that is, to have a little getaway, enjoy some quality time together and relax before that little bundle of joy arrives and sleepless nights set in.

It’s a cute idea for those who have the time and resources and let’s face it, what new mum or dad isn’t at least slightly anxious about impending parenthood?

I’m all for the idea in theory but there’s one really big thing to think about that a lot of people seem to be forgetting: their travel insurance.

Being an expectant mum myself, I’m seeing lots of women considering babymoons which is great, but what concerns me are two trends: travelling without insurance, or travelling with insurance and assuming baby is covered. Here’s a little newsflash that surprises a lot of people: baby won’t be covered if you travel overseas.

For Australians, travel interstate is fine because pregnancy will always be covered by Medicare (the joys of being a citizen of a country with such a scheme). If you travel on a cruise though (even if it’s a domestic cruise) or you fly out of the country this is where expectant parents really need to consider the risks far more thoroughly than they have been.

On a standard policy (bearing in mind this is a generalisation, however it is based on experience and in-depth conversations with several insurance companies) a woman with a single pregnancy would be covered up to about 26 weeks (depending on the policy) provided she has experienced absolutely no complications whatsoever. This 26-week limit means all travel must be completed by then, NOT that you must depart by then. It’s usually about 18 or 19 weeks for women pregnant with multiples.

But here’s the trick: while the mother is covered, the baby isn’t. This means that the mother could go to the hospital complaining of pains and be treated but the minute the decision is made that the baby is to be delivered, that’s it. Cough up the dough because the insurance company won’t be.

Consider the risks of this: what if a mother went to say, Fiji or Bali for a week at 25 weeks, fully intending to be home by the 26 week mark. While away, she goes into spontaneous labour and needs to deliver. At 25 weeks the foetus is viable and is born alive, but now needs three months of round-the-clock care in the NICU of the hospital. Sorry, but those parents will be paying. Not to mention having to stay in that country for the whole time, paying for food, accommodation etc and not going to work. Can you imagine?

Or, on the most awful end of the scale, consider the tragic case of the lady who this week delivered her baby at 24 weeks on board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane. The plane needed to be diverted to Denpasar and unfortunately the baby passed away. No post-natal care would be provided for this woman and the repatriation cost of her baby’s body wouldn’t be covered either.

As ridiculous as much of this may sound, I’m yet to come across a policy that works differently (but if you happen to come across one let me know!)

My advice: ALWAYS read your Product Disclosure Statement, ask as many questions as you can and really consider if a particular policy is right for you – or indeed, if the risk is worth it.

my biggest fear in becoming a parent

The New South Wales government has just revealed a baby died last month from whooping cough and that the child was not vaccinated. Quelle surprise.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a country that enjoys affordable access to quality healthcare and yet we take it for granted. We have this sense of 21st Century entitlement to make our own decisions based on our own precious opinions regardless of whether those opinions are based on fact.

My husband and I are four months away from bringing our own child into the world and, quite frankly, I’m terrified. Hubby and I were raised in a generation where being vaccinated was the absolute norm, the anti-vaccination movement was on the fringe of society and not really gaining much ground and herd immunity was at its strongest. Fast forward twenty years and we see vaccination rates dipping below 95% (and much lower in certain areas) and innocent children suffering the consequences. These are the kids who can’t understand the issue yet so they can’t make the decision for themselves, or the kids who for medical reasons can’t be vaccinated, or the tiny babies who are just too young yet.

Science overwhelmingly supports vaccination in so many ways, but these aren’t the arguments I want to make right now. The fact anti-vaxxers use issues such as Autism to dissuade people from vaccinating also drives me nuts – not only because there’s no link but because these people then demonise conditions such as Autism when we know people who have this condition offer just as much love, beauty and life to our world as anyone else.

But the point I’m really trying to make is a personal (maybe selfish) one: I’m scared for my unborn baby. I’m scared of taking him to a park, a café, a playdate, and getting him sick with something that’s preventable but that he hasn’t been able to build immunity to yet. I’m also scared that he’ll grow into a healthy, wonderful child only to lose a close friend because that child has irresponsible parents who won’t vaccinate. I’m scared that this stupid argument will take hold and my child will grow up in a world where conditions like Autism are feared rather than embraced and understood, and where Science and facts are disregarded for no apparent reason.

I have all these plans to be a great mum but it’s so hard to accept that stupid crap like this, I can’t control.

"don’t drink the water!"

The first time I ever went overseas (to Vietnam) everyone was so eager to give me advice. It frustrated me that everyone thought they were a bloody expert when the only slice of wisdom they ever gave me was “don’t drink the water!” It wore thin pretty fast.
…Until now.
I can now say that, however inadvertently, I drank the water and MY GOD I have never been that sick in my life.
Off we went on our glorious honeymoon. It was meant to be three weeks of romantic newlywed bliss, just the two of us. Just us – no intestinal parasites invited, thank you very much.
Six days in, a lovely Giardia infection changed all that. In case you’re not familiar with it, Giardia is a protozoan parasite that infects the small intestine and, without getting too gory, can make you really ill. For me personally, it was the secondary symptoms that were the worst – the violent shaking, the sensation of chinese burns all over my skin and the stomach twisting cramps made the other obvious symptoms look like a cakewalk.
I fell ill on 21st December and it’s now the 18thJanuary; after some heavy duty meds, I can finally say I’m feeling much better, although I still have to take the medication for a while longer. I had to go back to work this week and let’s face it, I really could have used a stiff drink each day when I got home but alas, my liver is shot and I’m not allowed to drink.
The moral of my story is this: when travelling frequently, it’s easy to become complacent. It’s easy to dismiss advice because we are now the experts. Even though I was careful, this has been a big wake-up call for me – I might be reasonably well travelled but when it comes to world domination, the bugs win hands down.
Be careful folks. When people tell you not to drink the damn water, they really just have your best interests at heart.

resolution shmesholution

Ugh, it’s resolutions time. I have some I would like to make, but I also have some bigger ideas that I thought were worth sharing too. Maybe rather than make specific resolutions I probably won’t keep, I should make broader observations about how I can improve my life and focus on them instead. For example, last year I told myself I was a hard person to be friends with and that I should make attempts to be more social and it worked! As opposed to the one where I was meant to cook one new meal per week… yeah, that definitely didn’t happen. Nor did I stop biting my nails or cease online shopping.

  1. Make a plan for my life… and stick to it.

 

It doesn’t have to be concrete but it does have to be a vague idea of what I want, where I’m heading and how I’m going to get there. I’m good at the detailed “five-year plan” but I’m not good at sticking to it as I have a short attention span.

 

  1. Understand that life doesn’t go according to plan, and learn to adapt accordingly.

 

As above, I need to be more driven and not throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty. Which leads to…

 

  1. Have more GRIT.

 

I was watching a TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth about students’ learning styles and how measures of IQ, backgrounds etc don’t have that much bearing on a kids success, but rather their stamina and attitude determines whether or not they graduate. I realised this is true, and can be applied to everyone, not just youngsters. I am guilty of wasting intelligence and talent because I don’t see things through and I don’t seem to have the stamina to follow something to completion when the goal is too long-term.

 

  1. Stop burying my head in the sand.

 

This is a gradual one; I see improvement has been made but I’d like to step it up a notch. I’m notorious for ignoring bad things, hoping they’ll go away… Newsflash: they don’t. They get worse.

 

  1. Exercise my brain… Not just at work.

 

Work exhausts me because I’m constantly problem-solving and having to practice my ‘lateral thinking’. It’s a great challenge, but sometimes we need other challenges to ward off the otherwise inevitable insanity that comes with such jobs. So, I’m considering taking up French again, or maybe some other class once or twice a week. Which brings me to…

 

  1. Exercise in general.

 

I know, boring. But this year I’m not going to get all funny about my weight and fitness. This year, I’d like to embrace some activities that are fun bit that just happen to get me moving. Sticking with volleyball will be good but also perhaps adding ballet or another form of dance… Just a new outlet that will keep me occupied and be a nice stress release.