Welcoming our American-British daughter in Switzerland
Switzerland is a great country for pregnancy and birth. Well, at least in comparison to the US. Our entire experience here has been incredibly supportive and positive, especially for a first-time mother.
At 32 weeks pregnant, my back pain was so bad, that I was able to reduce my hours at work to 50%. This is actually very common and accepted for pregnant women, if not even expected. I was never made to feel guilty or given any grief for wanting to put my health first. Then, at 38 weeks, I stopped working completely. Whereas in the US, it's expected that you work until you go into labour, my colleagues here were amazed that I was in the office that late into my pregnancy. And of course, even with the reduced hours, and then time off before the birth, I was still getting paid 100%. I didn't have to use any vacation days, maternity leave, or short-term disability, as one would in the US. It gave me some much-needed time to take care of myself and switch from a career mindset to a mother mindset, without having to worry about finances. Although even finances are not a huge concern here, since almost everything related to pregnancy and birth is covered 100% by Swiss health insurers. I've had numerous in-home midwife visits, ultrasounds and a 4-day post-birth stay in the birth center - all of which were covered entirely by insurance.
Our daughter arrived one week late on a snowy Sunday. It wasn't at all the birth I had prepared for, expected or wanted, but if there's one thing you learn about being a parent, it is how little control you actually have. While I had hoped for an unmedicated, natural birth at a birth center, I ended up with a C-section at the hospital. The actual birth and my thoughts around that will be an entire other blog post, but I can say that I was overwhelmed by the empathy and support that the midwives at the hospital provided. They accommodated all my requests (skin-to-skin immediately after birth, delayed cord clamping, saving the placenta, waiting an hour for all weighing/measuring, etc) and made me feel confident and capable about the entire process.
Even though I wasn't able to give birth in the birth center, we were still able to transfer there for the "Wochenbett". It is standard to stay three-four days recovering and making the slow transition to life with a baby before heading home. And I'm so glad we had that time. The birth center was amazing, giving us plenty of time as a family (no hourly checks of blood pressure, etc, as it would be in the hospital), but also plenty advice and support on breast feeding, changing diapers, sleeping schedules, etc. Not to mention, the meals were on par with some of the best gourmet 3-course meals I've ever had. I wish we could have stayed longer - just napping, eating and staring at this cute new baby. It was like almost like a Bed & Breakfast or boutique hotel, but for new mothers and fathers.
Upon returning home, I was lucky to have both my mother and Warren to help with everything. My mom was here for 2 weeks and Warren will actually be home for a total of 6 weeks. I highly recommend December as a great time to have a baby. His company gave him 1 week off for the birth, then his office was closed the week of Christmas, he'll take 2 weeks vacation and then 2 more weeks of working from home. Meaning, I've hardly had to change a single diaper and have always had a second pair of hands to help with night-time burping and soothing. I'm feeling a bit spoiled and am not sure how I'll actually cope in February once I'm actually on my own.
But even without family support, Switzerland has a pretty impressive antenatal support program as well. Included in basic health insurance are 16 in-home visits from the midwife. So already on the day we came home from the birth center, our midwife was here to check on me, offer guidance, weigh the baby and answer any questions. And she's been back every few days since...and we've hardly had to leave the house. In addition to the midwife visits, there is also a "Mutter und Vaterberatung", basically another support group to consult and take advantage of for anything baby-related. If I have questions, there are certainly a lot of resources out there with answers.
Standard maternity leave in Switzerland is 12 weeks at 80% salary, but my company offers 14 weeks at 100% salary, which takes me to the end of March. Unlike the US, you're almost expected to take more time off though, rather than rush right back to work. So I'm taking an additional three months of unpaid leave and planning to return part-time in July. It's pretty amazing. Although, I think our next baby needs to be born in Sweden, where you get over a year of paid leave to split between the mother and father.
We've been pretty lazy the past few weeks, alternating between sleeping, watching Netflix, eating all the meals I prepped and feeding the baby. She's been a great sleeper and our biggest challenge seems to be gas and reflux. I've never been so excited about poo and farts before. I'm also doing a lot more laundry than I anticipated, as pee, poo and vomit seem to be working their way through our wardrobe quickly.
Even though the days have been mostly grey and dreary, the temperature has been mild (for my Wisconsin body) so we've tried to get out every day for a walk. We even accomplished our first task of getting Baby's passport photos taken and next week we have a meeting with the US embassy in Zurich for her American passport application and to register the birth. Of course applying for her British passport just requires mailing in some forms. But lucky little girl will have dual citizenship and we're looking forward to our first international trip in a few months. I never even left the US until I was 18 (and that was to Cancun, Mexico, which hardly counts) and she'll be on a transatlantic flight at 6 months! 2018 will definitely be full of new adventures!