You're having a baby! In Scotland!!

First of all, congrats mama! You are having a baby! And while this reality can be overwhelming in itself, it can be all the more so when you are planning to have said baby overseas. I’ve been getting a lot of messages with a lot of really good questions about prepping for the experience in the UK, and hopefully this can help to answer some of them. I had my youngest son in Kirkcaldy two seasons ago on November 25th through their national healthcare system (NHS). It was my first season in the UK but it was my second baby and my third season abroad. I had a wonderful experience from pre-natal care to delivery and post-natal care. It was such a lovely place to live and raise my babies that we happily returned for another year even though my husband had sworn that our first year there was going to be his last before retirement. (How many times as your hockey guy said that? And then decided on “just one more”.) Anyway, I’m so happy he signed on for an encore season. The point is, we loved it there. And I’m confident you and your little family will too. Here are just a few things that might make the move a little easier and ease your mind about the whole “having a baby in Scotland” thing…

The Packing

Not knowing what would be available to me, I grossly overpacked on year one. I brought everything that a person would need to live on a deserted island with a toddler and a new baby on the way. Totally unnecessary. The UK has everything you need and lots of it at discount prices. Nursing Pads (Savers), bottles and diapers nappies (Asda), Clothing (PRIMARK!!). Plus, there’s Gumtree, the UK version of Craigslist. I bought a pack and play, umbrella stroller, ride on toys, play kitchen and TONS of other things on there for super cheap and just sold them back before I left.  Long story long, you can be rest assured you will be able to find pretty much everything you need over there without breaking the bank. So when packing, I would consider these things:

  • Infant Carseat: Easier not to mess with finding a seat in the UK that meets US standards or that's compatible with your stroller. Get a travel bag that will fit the next size up carseat and you’ll have space to cram any extra belongings in there with it. No one ever questioned why my carseat weighed a gazillion pounds. Shhh… 

  • Stroller: Buying a stroller is like buying a car. It’s likely you’ve researched for hours and found the stroller of your dreams. So, if you want it, bring it! Worst case they will charge you for the extra bag since the baby technically isn’t born yet to redeem his/her free-stroller privileges. I gate-checked my double stroller, and maybe they just didn’t bother me because I technically already had one kid. If they do charge you, I think it’s still worth it. It’s fairly mild weather year round out there, so you’ll want to be out walking. And unless you are due at the very end of the season when your baby is still content full-time in a carrier, you’ll probably want YOUR stroller. If you haven’t found “the one” yet, there are some great options over there you could buy and bring home. Then your baby will have a fancy foreign “buggy” as a great conversation starter. Whether you buy here or there, get a travel bag for it. You can buy generic ones for fairly cheap off Amazon UK (Yes, they have their own Amazon!). And def splurge on a rain cover… it is Scotland after all.

  • Breastpump: These are expensive to buy in the UK and don’t come with your insurance like it does in the states for most people. If insurance covers it, talk to your doctor and get your script for one. Sometimes the pharmacies that distribute them are funny giving them out too early, but they should accommodate you. It’s worth calling the manufacturer and ordering the adaptor for UK outlets. It would suck to have it fry because of being incompatible with power. Or just plan on using batteries. You can buy those in bulk at your nearest dollar store Poundland. 

  • Rock and Play: I only brought one pack and play and it was for my then-toddler. I brought the rock and play for my newbie because it’s super compact and I figured it would hold me over for a little while if I couldn’t get a second pack and play out there. Sure enough, Gumtree hooked me up with one for 15 quid that I sold back for the same price two years later.

  • Peace of mind pieces: Pack some outfits and onesies and a small collection of whatever other baby items will appease your inner nesting instinct. You can build from there once you’ve settled in.

Now, for the fun part…

Pre-natal care

If your man goes over before you, have him get right on top of filling out insurance info for you. Once you have an insurance number (or whatever they call it), you can find a GP. The GP office is where you will go for most of your pre-natal appointments, general health issues, and where you will bring your baby for wellness checks. GPs aren’t always accepting new patients, so it might take a couple tries to find one that is. From there, schedule your first appointment with a midwife. Midwives are only in GP offices on certain days so the appointments tend to fill in fast. Best to get in there as soon as possible and schedule your remaining check-ups. Don’t panic if it takes a couple weeks to be seen. If you are ever worried about anything, they will get you in quick and you will at the very least be seen by a nurse practitioner. They can always refer you to the midwifery unit at the hospital if necessary. The fact that an OBGYN isn’t available on a daily basis initially made me nervous. However, my baby and I were always taken care of even though the process is a little different than here in the states.

Comparing my two pregnancies, one here and one there, there weren’t too many noticeable differences leading up to my deliveries. I found that they didn’t do as many routine ultrasound scans as my OBGYN in the states who took a look at the baby nearly every visit. You’ll fill out a big binder of info and they will determine whether you require any special observation. At one point in my pregnancy, I was considered higher risk so I had my pre-natal checks with a Consultant at the maternity ward at the hospital as opposed to the midwife at the GP office. I was then deemed fit to return to regular non-consultant led pre-natal care. In both places, I was very comfortable.

Also, I found the birthing culture there to be less inclined towards induction than here in the U.S. I was induced with my first at 41 weeks and he was still over 9 lbs. I was petrified when the midwife in Scotland scheduled me for a 42-week check-up at my 39-week visit. Fortunately, my little one arrived the day after his due date at an itsy bitsy (compared to his brother) 8 pounds. They obviously induce if it’s medically necessary for you or the baby or when you’ve reached the 42-week mark. But, ladies, just prepare yourself for the long haul.

The Delivery

Ok, so I have now had two very different birthing experiences. In one, I was induced, in labor for 14 hours before begging exhaustedly for an epidural. I then took a three hour-nap and woke up for another lonnnnnng round of painless labor before my son finally decided to make an appearance in front of my doctor and about three nurses.

With #2 in Scotland, I went to the hospital for a night of contractions increasing in intensity only to have them slow back down. I was sent home in the morning, returned that night, and had the little guy within two hours completely naturally. The only people in the room were me, my husband, and our absolutely wonderful midwife.

I’m sure these are the 91st and 92nd birth stories you’ve heard since you announced your pregnancy. I don’t know why everyone shares theirs, but, in my case, I’m trying to stress the fact that, though they were very different experiences, both ended with me holding a sweet little baby. You can't really plan for anything other than that baby coming out, and likely on his/her own agenda. That's the same no matter which side of the ocean you are on. 

All that said, you obviously have to do a little "planning" while you wait for your own birth story to unfold. Should you opt for an epidural, you will automatically be scheduled to deliver in the consultant-led wing of the hospital. If you opt to try a non-epidural route, you will be down the hall in the midwife-led unit.  As a heads up, epidurals are not the norm in Scotland. But this isn’t as scary as it sounds. They do have alternative pain management options, “Gas and air” being the big one. It’s actually starting to make its way to hospital in the states because it supposedly works really well. My delivery progressed too fast for me to use it, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful. I found that, while the final stage of labor was tougher without the epidural, my recovery time was much better than when I had one. So I guess it's a little bit of "pick your poison". 

Post-Natal Care

You will hear that women in Scotland are discharged 6 hours after giving birth. And, it’s true!! Crazy, right? I got ten hours, maybe because they sympathized that I was a foreigner and was not genetically engineered to be a Birthing Superhero like all the other Scottish mamas. But here’s the amazing thing. I actually felt great. And, their system of post-natal care is amazing. Yes, in the states you get two days for your standard delivery. But then, that’s it. Two days and you are ON YOUR OWN until those six-week checks. In Scotland, the turnover is quick in the hospital. But then you get two weeks of in-home personalized care for you and your baby. A midwife comes to your house every couple of days and answers all those burning questions you inevitably have when you step foot out of the hospital doors. They help with nursing, check your vitals, weigh the baby, and even administer baby’s first shots. They help you with nursing if you need it and are all around the most resourceful people you could ask for, especially when you are so far from home. I LOVED this aspect of the UK healthcare system.

Once you are are settled in at home, you will need to start thinking about getting your baby HOME home. Here's the U.S. process of getting citizenship for your scottish-born babe. You will go to the town clerk to buy your baby's long-form birth certificate which says all the important info that you see on traditional birth certificates. Then you will fill out stacks of paperwork for baby's passport and U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad certificate, the birth-certificate recognized in the states. You'll make an appointment with the consulate, and receive both documents together.  

One more thing:

One last final thing I think is worth mentioning and it only pertains to those of you who are expecting little boys… It has to do with the big “C” word. I know this is a topic that can spark huge debates, and I am not trying to offend anyone, but here’s the scoop on circumcision. My husband and I chose to have our first son circumcised and so we planned to go the same route with his little brother. I found that it was not an easy issue to discuss at my pre-natal appointments abroad. Through my own research, I found that it can be done privately in various clinics in the bigger cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, but ultimately decided to wait until we were home. The procedure was carried out at the pediatrician’s office when my son was 3 months old and, although I’d assumed it would be an out-of-pocket expense, it was covered by our insurance. I think when they are a little older, they need to use general anesthesia. Whatever you and your hubby are planning to do, it’s worth consulting your pediatrician at home before you go so that you know all of your options before baby arrives.

Alright, so that’s about all the rambling I am sure you can handle. Hopefully it touches upon most of the questions you have. If not, feel free to message me at any point and I can try and help out or direct you to someone who can. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and safe travels. I’ll be wishing you all a healthy and happy pregnancy (and hockey season!)

XO - Sarah