Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Brazilian government notices an American who used the public health system!

I received a very cool email asking if I would be interested in sharing my experience doing all prenatal care and giving birth at a public hospital.  Noticed at last!

My first and most significant memory is from the day my son was born.  It was a dramatic day, not even counting finally meeting my first born.  We arrived at 7am like planned. I was approaching my 42nd week and my doctor wanted to try to induce me.  Unlike all other hospitals in Rio, this hospital is big on vaginal births, even VBACs.

I arrived cranky and hungry (after 8 hrs without eating) and was ready to go.  Things were running late but I was already accustomed at that point. Everything runs late in Brazil, especially at anything public.  That's when the drama started.

A middle aged woman, who I'll call Sassy, came running in with her maid. She was telling everyone it's time for her labor (of course the poor thing was working up to the end) and that they needed to take care of her C-section.  I guess the baby was breech or something.  Sad fact, she didn't do her prenatal care there, which is a strict rule, and wasn't in any immediate danger so they sent her away. She was told to go to another hospital. It happens quite often at public maternity hospitals.

To say Sassy was pissed would be the understatement of the year.  She flipped out and started making calls to people she "knew" and who were "important."

One of them happened to be the boss of my doctor, Nancy, who was acting as head doctor that morning.  Nancy got that man on the phone and told him off and he agreed with Nancy. He told Sassy to hurry up and take her to another hospital.  They would call the hospital and everyone would be waiting for them.

Sassy also called the police. She wasn't having any of it. Her maid was going to deliver at that hospital if it killed... well, her maid.  It was a big drama. In all the time Sassy spent bitching, her poor maid could have gone somewhere else and delivered without drama.

So long story short, Sassy punched Dr Nancy in the face.  Dr Nancy was pissed. Sassy was processed but her maid got in.  I felt bad for her maid though. She didn't get to have someone stay with her because of the whole drama.

On the other hand, Sassy's maid was in my room and I can tell you that she was an annoying sack.  I almost dragged my C-sectioned ass over and threw her cellphone, that was ringing all day and all night at max volume, out the window.  And that was the least annoying part of her.

My induction turned into a C-section and my 7am appointment turned into a 7pm appointment.

I was waiting for my surgery in a prep room and had to go to the bathroom. The bathroom was in the birthing room.  I went in and almost fell over.  Sensory overload! There were 5 birthing beds with curtains in between but no curtains on the side where the doctor sits... on the side where the door was.

There were 5 vaginas, all in different stages of labor, staring me in the face!  At that moment, I totally understood why men aren't allowed in the birthing room.  Waaayyyy too much going on in there.

Seriously though, they had to stop allowing husbands because there were fights between men, during labor, claiming other men were checking out their lady.  I'll be the first to let them know that no one was checking that out!  It's like a car accident. Beautiful, yes, in that figurative way that means it's not really beautiful at all.

That was the first and only moment I was so happy to be having a C-section.

I will continue the story of my birthing experience in my next post.


  1. Danielle, why did you use a public hospital to have your first child? Was it because you had no insurance? Public hospitals in Brazil are notorious for poor quality service and poorly equiped and supplied. There are several private health plans in Brasil such as UNIMED, Golden Cross, AMIL, DIX, etc. They have all ranges of coverage and costs.

  2. My first pregnancy wasn't planned. I didn't have healthcare in either country. Since I was in the US at the time I looked at all my options and was essentially screwed (ie had to pay out of pocket). I was lucky enough to get into this public hospital as it is one of the best public maternity hospitals in Rio. I got insurance when I came to Brazil but the deal with this hospital is that you have to do all your prenatal care there. My second was born at Perinatal, a private hospital in laranjeiras