I fully expected my boyfriend and I to be ushered into a private room by a kindly OB who would reveal my itty bitty baby-to-be on an ultrasound screen and give me all kinds of reassuring advice before sending me home with an armful of pamphlets and some free prenatal vitamins.
Because I’m not a millionaire (or an idiot), I “decided” early on that I would be delivering this baby at a public hospital. So, I figured, the best thing a conscientious and proactive mommy-to-be could do was head to my nearest health centre and join the prenatal (aka antenatal in these parts) clinic ASAP.
First problem: determining -when- the clinic is held. A quick internet search revealed … nothing. Luckily, a more intensive search revealed that the schedule was Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. I even got a phone number to confirm that information, which … no one answered. Ever.
No sweat, though. The next Monday was a holiday, but I figured I’d swing by anyway because it’s a hospital and they tend to open on holidays, right? Wrong. I found the doors locked and the lights out and a security guard who informed me that the info on the Health Ministry’s website was incorrect. Shocker. Just Fridays for new attendees and I’d need to be there by 8am. Because pregnant ladies don’t work, apparently. Luckily, this pregnant lady had a relatively flexible schedule, so I figured I could swing by after work that morning, around 11:30am. When I asked whether that could work, I got a long rambling answer which roughly translated to “yes and no”.
Naturally, when I showed up that Friday, I learned that I was quite late, that they don’t usually take patients at that advanced hour, but “come an’ we goh see what we could do”. (all of which was bracketed by a sigh and a steups).
I gave my medical history, had my weight and blood pressure taken and – after much boofing – hurriedly gave 6 vials of blood for some mysterious tests. In the midst of the flurry, each nurse took time to ask why I would bother coming to the health centre so early: “Yuh jus 6 weeks along? What you doin here?” I was asked… repeatedly.
I eventually deduced that, while the care is free, they don’t generally bother to offer it to anyone in their first trimester. I have my own (rather macabre) theories on why this is so, but I’d hate to malign the public health service more than it already maligns itself, so I’ll refrain from revealing them… for now.
Who doesn’t keep cups of urine around for just such an occasion? [Image: soc.ucsb.edu]Anyhow, by 12pm I had my next appointment. Which was scheduled for a full seven weeks later. No chat with a kindly doctor, no ultrasound, not even a urine test to confirm that I was pregnant. I -did- get firm instructions to bring my own urine on my next visit, though. And not to use a soda or juice bottle to carry it.
Needless to say, I left my first prenatal appointment more confused than when I went in. Luckily, I’d been doing my research, so I already had my prenatal vitamins in hand. Plus, despite the endless lists of horrible pregnancy symptoms I’d been reading, I could only complain of a bit of nausea. Aside from that, I felt great. More energetic and happy than I could remember feeling in a long time.
That bliss lasted exactly ONE week.