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Born in Switzerland--thankfully! Everyone talks of high medical insurance premiums in Switzerland. However, when it comes to basic facilities, life here is worth every penny and more.

It was early December when my husband and I found out we were going to he parents in another nine months. Nine months is a long time, I thought. We could wait another few days before changing my insurance policy from the basic one to a semi-private or a private one. After all, I did want the best medical hands to bring our first child into the world. A week later, I called my insurance company. "Sorry, we can't change your policy now. You should have contacted us in November," splat came a brusque response from the other end of the phone line. November? I wasn't even pregnant then! But, that's the way the Swiss insurance system works.

I was devastated. Would I have to give birth in the University hospital with students on hand to assist me, What if I were to need serious medical intervention? Would the not-so-experienced doctors be able to handle the situation? How would my husband and I manage if the doctors and midwives spoke no English and our German was not good enough at the time? We decided to take things as they come. In case of any complication or even the remote likelihood of one, we decided we would shell out a fortune from our own pocket to foot the expense of having the birth in a private room in the presence of our own obstetrician. Our baby deserved the best.

Reassurances from friends and well wishers regarding the Swiss medical system and the afterbirth care for the mother and child were not enough for me to feel confident of going through the childbearing process without special care and a personal doctor In any case, horror stories around the whole experience seemed to outweigh those of pleasant experiences. People (save a few) mainly spoke of the intense pain and what could go wrong, or had gone wrong with someone else.

Worries and More ...

By now I had six months to prepare myself for the eventuality of childbirth I bombarded my doctor with questions and 'what ifs'. In time, the cool and composed Swiss doctor managed to make me realist a few things:

* Childbirth was a natural phenomenon, Medical assistance was not always necessary.

* The pain was intense but not one that could kill: or else, the global population would not be bursting at its seams today.

* Semi-private and private insurances were not as important as it seemed earlier. They only served the purpose of temporary psychological security.

* Any mother-to-be was more likely to hear stories of what went wrong rather than what was right as it's always the 'different and away from normal' that makes news and headlines. Moms-to-be had to turn a deaf ear to such stories.

* All was well with my baby and with me.

I spoke to other women who had given birth in the same hospital that I was to go to at the time of delivery. They all emphasised on ensuring that I make the most of my stay in the hospital and then shift into the 'Familienabteilung' for as many days as permissible.

"The help you get from the nurses and midwives is a boon, they insisted. You must stay on!" said the neighbour. "You get ready food and ample rest, Once home, you'll be back doing the household chores, handling pending office work and looking after a wailing child," said another with three kids "Usterspital is really good. The people will teach you everything you need to know. Just stay there for as long as you can," said yet another lady, who had delivered her baby there just a few weeks back.

I mentioned the thought to a friend in the US. She was astounded. "Here we are literally thrown away the next day! 'Go fend for yourself and your baby' is what the motto seems like. Go ahead and check this strange Swiss system ran," she said. "And if it's really that good, let me know. I'll have my second baby there," she laughed.

Okay, I decided to do as told; and I am glad I did.

Only in Switzerland

Day one: Little boy Aakash is born after an intense but short labour, After a natural birth, I am confident of being able to learn to he a good mom. The midwife is encouraging and understanding. Alarm bells ring! I realise way past midnight that my baby is crying meekly and I don't even know how to hold him! Sheepishly, I reach for the emergency bell and call for the nurse. She smiles and teaches me how to lift and nurse the baby.

Day two: The nurse teaches me how to clean and bathe little Aakash. My husband and I take the little one to get a few more tests done. We then take a stroller and go for a long walk in the hospital gardens. Close to midnight, another lady and her baby join me in this room for two. Well, I didn't have a private room. There were no complications and enough assurances to convince me to go with the flow. I am a bit disturbed as when the other woman's child cries, mine starts wailing as well.

Day three: My baby and I are shifted into the 'Familienabteilung' for the next two days. My husband had requested for this shift the day Aakash was born and we had been first on the waiting list. The doctor checks me out and performs some more routine tests on the baby and tells me that I need to see the gynaecologist after six weeks to make sure all's well and that I have to find a paediatrician and take the baby there when he is four weeks old.

Day four: We are at the 'Familienabteilung'. My husband is allowed to stay with me overnight and my in-laws can visit me for longer hours. This place is like home--with just a few more added benefits.

Firstly, I don't have to bother with household chores and can concentrate solely on getting to know my baby Secondly, there is ample help on hand to clear my dilemmas concerning what to do with a wailing baby, how to burp the child, what's normal and what needs extra vigilance, etc. It is close to midnight and my baby is wailing yet again! The kind midwife offers to take the baby away with her so that I can get a few hours of sleep.

Day five: It's time to go home. I am confident of looking after my child. But, what if I have doubts once I'm home? What if I forget how to bathe the baby or have other new concerns?

It seems as though the people at the 'Familienabteilung' had pre-empted my mind. I was handed a the of documents. The midwife sat with me and translated the important information. She informed me that I was to contact a midwife close to my area of residence who would then come over to my house five times, weigh the baby, check out his progress and address my concerns if any. In addition, there was the 'Mutter- und Vater Beratung', where I could go in case I had any other doubts regarding bringing up baby. They would also check the baby on request to ensure all is well.

Never before have I beard of such health care and maternity service provision. The knowledge that help was on hand in this country where I had no support of the extended family was enough to allay any disturbing thoughts of self doubt.

My preoccupation with anxiety and anxiousness were over, I could focus on trying to be a good mom.

Thank you, Switzerland.
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Title Annotation:Only in Switzerland
Author:Sethi, Aradhna
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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