Giving birth: London vs New York

Baby J trying to latch on to my face, one day old

Well, Baby J arrived two weeks early, the very day after I posted a comparison of pregnancy experiences between New York and the UK, so it seems only fitting that I write a follow up piece comparing the births (my two eldest were both born in London in the local NHS hospital).

First off, it was quick. “Super quick”, as they say here. Having always scoffed when films show the start of labour by having the woman’s waters break as the first sign, this is exactly what happened to me this time. I was pottering about our bedroom early on Good Friday, and C uttered the doomed words, “Nice to have the long Easter weekend off work, I need to catch up on some sleep before the baby comes.” Literally moments later, my waters broke on the bedroom floor.

Cue 40 minutes of frantic texts and calls to set up continuous childcare for the next 12 hours, with frequent interuptions from our v over-excited girls wanting to know if the baby had arrived yet.

We eventually handed them over to our friendliest neighbour, and got in the lift to head the 38 floors downstairs. The one time we could really have done with an express, the blasted thing stopped repeatedly to pick up people, all of whom seemed oblivious to the little drama going on in the corner.

Anyway, Baby J was a true New Yorker, reaching the hospital by yellow taxi and arriving in such a hurry, he was born in triage. Initially I did my best to keep quiet to spare the nerves of the first time moms behind the other triage bed curtains, but there’s only so far good manners will go, even for me.

Obviously having a third baby is a completely different kettle of fish to your first, but here are a few differences which struck C & I about the two locations:

Childbirth:

  • Americans don’t do gas and air. Literally the only pain relief on offer was an epidural. The nurses and OB were intrigued by my TENS machine. You can probably tell this was my third baby as I hadn’t given that much thought to pain relief at all, I just assumed there would be some alternatives to the full-on epidural
  • It took so long to discuss the pros and cons of an epidural and run through the paperwork with the anesthesiologist, we ran out of time. Meaning I had to do the entire thing with zero pain relief whatsoever, which was not the plan
  • The OB was v insistent I had to give birth on my back, with stirrups. In the UK, the midwives give you much more freedom, so both T & B were born upright. The stirrups were grim.
Baby J, minutes old
Baby J, minutes old

The maternity wing:

  • Despite C’s valiant efforts, we didn’t manage to get a private room in the end as there were a lot of Easter babies, but I still only had to share with one other mom and baby, so it felt luxurious
  • The nurses were allocated specific patients, so mine would write her name on a white board at the end of my bed at the start of her shift together with a phone number so that you could just ring her from the phone on your bedframe to ask for more pain meds or help going to the loo! This was a revelation after the rather crowded NHS maternity ward where I could never keep track of who I was supposed to ask for help
  • A catering lady came to offer me a choice of about three different starters and main courses which are then brought to your bed. V different to the NHS where you had to shuffle down the corridor to collect a plastic tray of food, feeling anxious as you’re not too confident you could tell yet if it was your baby you can hear crying
  • The baby’s little wheelie crib thing was fully stocked with diapers, wet wipes, blankets, vests and even Halo swaddles. You don’t have to bring any diapers or baby clothes in your hospital bag, just the outfit to take them home in

The early days after birth:

  • No home visits from the midwife. You have to bring your newborn into the pediatrician’s office for all those early checks and weighing sessions
  • No sterilising. The advice here is that the water is clean enough, and that overheating any baby plastics (breastpumps, bottles) is more likely to harm the baby by releasing chemicals than any risk from unsterilised germs
  • Breastfeeding is called ‘nursing’, and the specialists are called Lactation Consultants

This week’s Highs & Lows:

Highs:

  • Well, Baby J’s safe arrival is clearly top of the list. He’s three weeks old today and seems to be extraordinarily relaxed, happy to kick and wriggle on his quilt whilst his sisters charge about
  • Seeing how great the girls are with their new brother. They were so proud when he first came on the school run, showing him off to all their friends and teachers
  • My feet are back to normal!  No more swollen trotters for me, it’s such a delight to be back in normal shoes after so many months
  • Stuffing my face with lactation cookies whenever I feel like it, and not having to share them with the children, ha ha. (The Brewer’s Yeast, flaxseed and oats are supposed to help boost your milk supply)
  • Spring is officially here, with cherry blossom, daffodils and sailing boats back out on the Hudson again

Lows:

  • Night feeds
  • Struggling to establish breastfeeding. He is a really lazy feeder, so I’ve been on a horrendous schedule of expressing both sides for 30 minutes, then bottle feeding, every two hours round the clock for 10 days, until he finally regained his birth weight. The lactation consultant has now recommended I try something called a Supplemental Nursing System, involving taping tiny tubes to my boobs that drip milk from a pouch round my neck whilst simultaneously breastfeeding. Am feeling a little apprehensive about it, but hopefully it does the trick and I can gradually cut down all the expressing
  • Excessive amounts of laundry now we’re a family of five, plus C’s mum has flown over from London to help out. Realised I’d spent $75 on the communal laundry machines since Baby J’s arrival. Madness.

Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

7 thoughts on “Giving birth: London vs New York”

  1. Being American, I’ve never given birth in the US. I’ve given birth three times in the UK. Love the midwife visits afterwards. With my first two, the doctor actually came to the house but I think that’s changed now as it didn’t happen that way with my third. The NHS care was phenomenal and I still cannot believe we did not pay a penny. Now, my eldest is a teenager and has braces. Free on the NHS (well, not free! But no huge bills!!) I know things can be quicker in the States and possibly more efficient (in that very direct way) but you cannot fault the NHS. Congratulations on the birth of your baby. Beautiful photos.

    1. Hi, yes it still takes me by surprise the find out the price of medical treatment here in the US after the NHS. It’s a shock.
      Take care,
      Alex

  2. So delighted to hear of his arrival. Will ring your mother to hear more but what a great addition to your family – I am sure his C is pleased to have some male support in his house of girls. Hope the feeding is improving.

  3. Hurrah congratulations on baby J i love that he truly arrived NYC style!! I’m very surprised to read that they were much more ‘old school’ with insisting that you had to deliver on your back, thats a shame!! Other than that though it sounds like the system is really good once you’re in hospital! Hope you are all settling in well to life as a family of 5 🙂 xx

  4. Congratulations on the safe arrival of Baby J! Great post and awe inspiring that you’ve found time to write with a three week old. As a recent arrival to New York who struggles to manage two children I am most impressed ?

    1. Thank you! It’s taken a few days, snatching time here and there to work on it but feels good to have written it! Makes a pleasant change from milk production…

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