baby

"I’ve given birth in both Australia and in New Zealand. And New Zealand wins, hands down."

It’s been almost two years since I left Aussie shores to move to New Zealand and yes, the scenery is beautiful, the PM is an unrivalled political success and the country has the best mince and cheese pies you’ll ever try in your life.

But Australia left a big gaping hole in my heart. That was until I gave birth on Kiwi shores.

New Zealand has got it going on when it comes to looking after the country’s mums and mums-to-be.

From the very moment I got pregnant, I felt something I never felt in Australia as as mum – valued by a system that acknowledges I’m doing the toughest job there is.

And when I gave birth this April to a little girl, it was a completely different experience than my first birth in Sydney. Here are the reasons why:

Mums and non-mums answer questions about childbirth. Their responses are very different.

Video by MMC

1. You choose your own midwife.

I experienced shared care in Australia when pregnant with my son, Max. I would see a different midwife every couple of weeks, rotating it with my doctor and my care was patchy, at best.

Without one person keeping tabs on my pregnancy, my caregivers often missed tests and I even had two due dates, with my doctor going on my last period and the hospital going by a dating scan. Both were adamant they were right. Stressful!

When I found out I was pregnant in New Zealand, my doctor advised me to hop onto an online database that kind of looks like an online dating site. But instead of finding love I was there to choose a midwife who would be my side for the whole pregnancy, birth and after care.

And my chosen midwife immediately gave me her mobile number and stressed that she was “available 24/7”.

2. Less people in the room.

By the time it came to giving birth, I had midwife I not only trusted but someone I’d built a rapport with thanks to the system above. But also, I noticed there was only my birthing partner and midwife in the room until I needed a doctor to help with the final bit of pushing.

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giving birth New Zealand
"My Aussie experience couldn’t have been more different." Image: Supplied.

My Aussie experience couldn’t have been more different. At one point, there were seven people in the birthing suite and not one person introduced themselves but instead spoke to each other as I lay there, trying to work out who was who and what exactly they were saying.

And worst of all, my midwife finished her shift just before pushing so at the crucial time (with my legs akimbo) there was a new person in the room that I’d only just met.

3. After care is simply a delight.

In New Zealand, you are offered the choice of staying a few nights at a birthing centre rather than at the hospital. I couldn’t get my head around this place until I was actually there. A centre that’s run by midwives, away from the hospital, that offers three-course meals and an environment that is so calm it’s simply blissful.

But it’s true. Every new mum, if they want, leaves the hospital after their first night and heads off to this magical place to heal and learn. And best of all, there’s no hospital beds but private rooms with double beds and home-cooked meals like banana porridge, fish pie, roast meat with vegetables and apple pie and ice-cream.

And when my two nights were over, I wasn’t pushed out the door. Instead, I was asked if I needed more time. But with my midwife coming to the house every week for the next six, I felt I had enough support.

4. No wrangling for what is owed.

I always imagine hell being a Centrelink office. Everything to do with Centrelink is awful. The complex forms, the jumping through hoops, the slow processing and the fact that it’s almost impossible to ever get through the phone line. It’s hardly a system that is friendly for new mums who are already in the trenches.

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giving birth New Zealand
"In New Zealand, I filled in a pretty simple form (two sided) and sent it off." Image: Supplied.

In New Zealand, I filled in a pretty simple form (two sided) and sent it off. A week later a nice lady from the IRD offices called me and told me the amount of parental leave pay I was entitled to and double checked the bank account. And then, with magical seamlessness, the correct amount arrived in the correct bank account on the correct date.

5. And it’s all free!

I always remember my husband’s work colleague finding themselves $22,000 in debt after their baby was born prematurely in Australia as they didn’t have medical insurance. A stressful time made even more stressful by a mounting debt.

But in New Zealand, there’s no medical fees for under 14s and there’s no medical fees when it comes to childbirth, no matter what goes wrong. Everything from doctors appointments to my two-day stay at the birthing suite is covered by the Government.

So, how am I feeling less than six week after giving birth? I’m feeling supported and appreciated. I’m feeling definitely less stressed. And I’m feeling seen and heard as a mother and that is a truly priceless feeling.

Have you given birth in another country? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments section below.

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