First things first… I got ‘booked in’.
Booked In–Registration with a particular facility, declaring your intent to present for treatment under the care of the staff of that facility. In this case, my GP booked me in at University College Hospital for antenatal care and for the birth.
Being booked in means that my first point of contact for antenatal care is a team of midwives based at the hospital of my choosing. As needed, a full medical staff is available to me as well.
Midwife–A medical professional with an academic and professional qualification to provide antenatal care, including birth and newborn baby care. Typically, full time courses take 3 years to complete and are comprised of 50% course work and 50% practical based experience. The NHS only employs midwives who hold a midwifery degree and who are registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. (My midwife team holds a weekly clinic in my GP’s office for my convenience; that’s where I have my regular check-ups.)
Though the midwives perform the routine checks, ultrasound scans and treatment of complications require hospital visits and are handled by doctors and/or specialists. A full range of medical services is available for any non-routine situation and your case is triaged.
It was a little strange (ok, maybe a lot strange) to be booked in to a hospital and assigned to a team of midwives without really understanding what to expect of those two things. It was more shocking to need emergency care before I had wrapped my head around routine care. We don’t like to dwell on the loss we experienced in January but you have to know, to get the full picture, that we were handled quickly and carefully. Not every staff member we met was incredibly pleasant, I didn’t mistake the hospital for a five star hotel, and I did need to be clear about what I was experiencing and what I wanted.
I can’t tell you how many times I was seen by the emergency staff in the antenatal unit, though there was one Ambulatory and Emergency visit (A&E, like the US ER). The point is that the care I needed was given to me. I didn’t pay a single co-pay or fee and received medication completely free (not all medications are free all the time). For more routine type follow up appointments my GP fit me in on short notice; if my GP was not available another GP at my practice was. (It should be noted also that my employer treated me with the utmost kindness when I needed medical leave.)
I didn’t have time or energy in January to assess whether the care I received was what I expected–it was all so much… We were offered free counseling. We were assured early antenatal scans in the event of another pregnancy. I was seen as a priority at my GP’s office. My initial confusion and discomfort with the workings of the NHS system took a backseat to finding a groove of honest and open communication and then participating in my care. This was a very powerful thing. Perhaps that’s when the change in my perspective began…
Photo courtesy Elsa Konig