I gave birth in the US and Malaysia. Neither experience was perfect, but the care from my doctor in Malaysia was superior.

I gave birth in the US and Malaysia. Neither experience was perfect, but the care from my doctor in Malaysia was superior.
·4 min read
The author with her two kids
Courtesy of Elizabeth J. Long
  • I gave birth to both my children via C-section, one in the US and one in Malaysia.

  • The biggest difference I encountered was the role my husband was supposed to play.

  • Neither experience was perfect, but they both taught me valuable life lessons.

The birth of my first child began with a pregnant woman trapped in an elevator. That woman was me attempting to navigate my way to the maternity ward of a Virginia hospital for a scheduled induction. Not to be outdone by the drama associated with his brother's delivery, my second child entered this world at an overcrowded hospital in Malaysia. The maternity ward had no room for me, the surgical elevators were overcrowded, and my conflict with a surgeon over circumcision pushed my already fragile emotions over the edge.

Both children were born via C-section, and both deliveries brought moments of humor and joy, as well as terror and frustration. The primary differences between my two experiences were found in the expected role of the father, the responsibility for the provision of health care, and the circumcision of each child.

The role of my husband was clear in the US, but it wasn't in Malaysia

My husband was involved in each moment of the Virginia delivery. Medical personnel ensured that he had time to change into scrubs while I was raced to the operating room for an emergency C-section.

In Malaysia, my husband was left in a hallway prior to the scheduled C-section, unsure of where to find me. My doctor intended to begin the procedure, but I insisted on locating him.

Fathers also weren't allowed to enter the nursery in Malaysia - almost as if they had no role to play. This caused some angst following the birth of my son as hospital protocol required me to wait an hour in a recovery ward while my husband was denied access to our child.

But my husband's legal authority was required in Malaysia for all measures related to my fertility. He had to provide the hospital with written consent for my tubal ligation at the end of the C-section. My signature wasn't only insufficient but also unnecessary.

It was my doctor who took care of me in Malaysia, not the nurses

Nurses in Malaysia weren't empowered in my birth experience compared to what I've seen in the US, which resulted in greater personal care from my OB-GYN.

The nurses in Virginia were the bread and butter of my recovery, ensuring all my needs were attended to. This wasn't the case in Malaysia. My OB-GYN did everything - from inserting my IV to changing bandages, in addition to delivering my child. She was my advocate and savior throughout the entire process.

Circumcision in the US is routine. That's not the case elsewhere.

Circumcision was another process that differed between the two countries. Requesting the procedure in Virginia was routine. The nurse wheeled the bassinet out of the room, and a short time later, she returned with my son happily sucking on a pacifier. There was minimal care required to aid in the healing.

It was more complicated in Malaysia. I met with a surgeon months ahead of time to discuss available procedures, and we made plans. Unfortunately, I met with resistance from the surgeon after the birth. He refused to perform the procedure because he didn't believe I had given the decision enough consideration.

A female surgeon ultimately performed a Plastibell procedure, in which a small disk is placed around the foreskin to cut the blood flow. The plastic ring stays in place for seven to 10 days while the foreskin dies, and then everything falls off. It was far different from what happened with my first son in terms of healing and wound care, and I was required to be physically present while it took place. But the end result was the same.

Once I managed to get out of the elevator in Virginia, my experience remained challenging because of complications with the induction, as well as infrequent face time with my OB-GYN, but the familiarity of the medical system brought some comfort.

Malaysia had me flailing outside my comfort zone. But the quality of treatment from my OB-GYN was unparalleled. It may not have been perfect overseas, but the life lessons learned were invaluable.

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