Only weeks to go before having a baby in the Middle East and along with the baby, reality starts kicking hard. Having a baby abroad is all very well and sounds like a great adventure at first but as the due date draws nearer so too does the reality that you’re thousands of miles from home and all the support that ‘home’ has to offer.
While I would class healthcare in Qatar as being of a good standard, what it offers in terms of service it lacks by way of sensitivities. Sure, you can choose your preferred childbirth and choose between a number of hospitals, but will any of those working there speak English as a first language. While linguistics are not a pre-requisite for being an expert obstetrician, it would be ideal if you could understand each other.
Overall the way the whole process of pregnancy and childbirth is handled by Qatari hospitals can be quite aggressive. Leave your bedside manner at the door and get prepared to handle the truth. ‘Madam coming now a little fat, maybe too fat’, being the latest of the direct comments hurled at me during a gynae visit. Delivery, pain relief and feeding methods are offered like an a la carte menu with little or no discussion between patient and doctor on the effects on the baby, the mother or indeed overall health benefits or drawbacks. No big discussion just tick the box, you want it, you got it.
Liaison nurse? Occupational therapist? Midwife? …….are you kidding? this is the middle east and there will be no ‘liaising’, you’ve got the best ob/gyn that came of Egypt twenty five years ago and with the help of a UK trained anaesthetist and a US qualified surgeon, this baby will be delivery with aggressive precision without a trace of TLC. In a moment of weakness I naively ventured to ask, ‘how long after a C-section will I be able to drive?’ ‘Why?’ ‘See, in country we cannot drive for six weeks after a caesarean section, I wonder how long is recommended here?’ I asked innocently. The reply from my obgyn, ‘Oh my dear, you drive when you like, your health is my business, your safety is your own’. Enough said.
Another thought, will the baby be considered a Qatari citizen or given any of the rights of a Qatari national? Certainly not, this is Qatar, not Ireland where citizenship is doled out to those on a six hour stopover in Shannon or indeed anyone who expresses an interest in having one. Without an automatic RSI number either, the baby will mysteriously fall between the cracks of nationality and can look forward to a future of complicated birth certificate issues. Luckily for him/her an Irish passport will be easy enough to secure, it’s a place in the under 8 GAA team, with no Irish birth cert and no way to re-print the Qatari one which you are bound to lose, that will prove most hassle.
Apart from the healthcare and legal issues, there are all the other things to consider as well, ‘How to prepare for a baby without a Penney’s?’ How to get through the last six weeks of pregnancy in forty five degree heat, 80% humidity and 95% swelling? How to have a baby without your Mammy being around?
All felt lost and I never felt further from home, to cheer myself up I decided to stream some Irish TV, nothing like Colette Fitzpatrick’s face in the kitchen in Doha to give someone a boost. However, Colette must’ve been on a day off because all I could see was that bright little ray of sunshine they call, Mary Lou McDonald.
‘people over one hundred on hospital trolleys for the night, 1500 homeless children in Ireland, patients lucky to get a chair in emergency room, not to mind a trolley, healthcare up, child benefit down, nobody joining the dots…….’ by the time I was finished listening to Mary’s diatribe about Enda’s sums, which never mentions the Irish abroad anyway, I suddenly felt a lot brighter. My reality in Doha appeared to be a lot sunnier than what my reality in Ireland would be.
Apart from missing Mammy and loving Penney’s, maybe we are better off here.