Congratulations! You peed on a stick and two lines appeared. What’s next? Here’s how to survive your Bay Area pregnancy and beyond.
Call your insurance company about your pregnancy (and start saving)
Your insurance company can give you an idea of how much your little bundle of joy will set you back. We changed from Anthem Blue Cross to United Healthcare during my pregnancy and it took the cost from $2,500 to $250 (same doctor, hospital etc). If you’re pregnant during the open enrollment period look into your options because it could save you a fistful of dollars.
While you’re on the phone with them find out how to get a breast pump. Legislation by the Obama administration means your insurance company must cover the cost of one. It’s quite likely they’ll say you can’t get the ball rolling until 30 days before your due date so mark your calendar. This piece of equipment is essential if you plan on working and breastfeeding.
Find a Hospital
Unless your insurance is with Kaiser (in which case you’re delivering at Kaiser), there seem to be four options in San Francisco for where to give birth. From discussions with other mums this is my take on each hospital. Please note, it’s purely anecdotal and meant to be humourous – I’ve only actually visited (and given birth at) UCSF.
San Francisco Birth Center – for the I want to give birth in a living room, just not mine brigade – brand spanking new.
St. Luke’s Hospital – for the keep the drugs away from me brigade – faded round the edges but a new building is coming soon.
UCSF – for the I want the drugs nearby just in case (and a jazzy pool with flashing lights and gas and air and robots cleaning the hallway) brigade – brand new and sparkly clean with decent food.
CPMC – for the give me all the drugs, RIGHT NOW, brigade.
You can book a tour of the hospitals and then take a decision. I went the slightly unusual route of having my prenatal care with One Medical, which means you can only deliver at UCSF.
If you’re considering a homebirth get advice from your insurance company first!
In England your baby doesn’t get a special doctor all to him/herself unless he/she has any specific health issues your family doctor can’t resolve. In the USA you need to have an appointment with your pediatrician set up before you leave the hospital. That means you need to find a pediatrician during your pregnancy, and I don’t mean at 37 weeks when you’re ready to burst! Some of them have very long waiting lists so get your name down as early as possible – like 12 weeks – I’m NOT kidding! Our pediatrician, Noe Valley Pediatrics has a lottery system and I have a mum friend who still says to me: ‘I’m so jealous you won the lottery!’
Do I need one of those? No, you don’t. But I’d never give birth without a doula ever again! My husband was an absolute star when I was in labour, but neither of us had been through a birth before so we didn’t know what would help/what was normal etc. My doula Julia was a font of knowledge during my pregnancy and an incredible calming presence during my delivery. She rubbed my back for hours, had magic aromatherapy to help with the nausea and was an extra pair of hands when we needed it. I had hoped not to take any medication during labour and she made it possible…that and the fact that I almost delivered in the hospital car park!! A good doula will support you whatever your birth choices, and I think they can be particularly helpful if you’re a foreigner trying to navigate the US medical system.
I know what you’re thinking: life is getting kind of expensive. Do I really need one of those too? If you’re planning on breastfeeding, a good lactation consultant is worth her weight in gold.
I found breastfeeding harder than giving birth. And this is coming from someone who didn’t make it to the hospital in time for any pain relief! Birth for me was ‘short and sharp’. Successful breastfeeding was a long and painful journey, which I was woefully underprepared for. My little boy and I got there but it took six weeks of pumping, nipple shields, tongue tie drama etc. Since having a baby every new mother I’ve spoken to has struggled with breastfeeding. I hope you don’t have the same issues, but if you do run into trouble it helps to know where to go during that raw and vulnerable time. I did a great breastfeeding class with this lady and she will also come to your house after birth and help you with latch, positioning and much more. Having someone come to your house is definitely worth the extra expense when you’ve just given birth!
Free/low cost breastfeeding support
You don’t need to have delivered at UCSF to attend the free MILK group, but you do need to sign up in advance. I went when my little one was 11 days old and I was met with love and support from other mums and genuinely helpful advice from the lactation consultants who run the group. It took every ounce of courage and strength to get myself to that group but I’m so glad I went. If you’re reading this and you’re in a tough spot with breastfeeding make sure you get some support asap. Natural Resources also has a breastfeeding mothers circle which is $30.
Pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are intense experiences and although wonderful, they can be particularly isolating when you’re a long way from home. I found a few like minds at the Natural Resources Pregnant Mamas meet-up. Try and look for bellies the same size as yours – when you have an 8-week-old you feel like you’re on another planet from the mums with 14-week-olds. It really pays to know women with babies around the same age as yours. I also found some people stressed me out so pick your crowd carefully.
If you didn’t make any mum friends when you were pregnant, FEAR NOT!
Post-bump there are loads of great ways to make mum friends: San Francisco is booming with babies at the moment. The lactation consultant above runs a fab 0-3 months group and there’s a good one at Natural Resources too. Two other great resources are the Golden Gate Mothers Group and Yahoo Groups. I live in Bernal and the Bernal Heights Parents Yahoo Group is how I found a family to share a nanny with. It’s also a good place to buy and sell gently used baby items.
Congrats again new mama!
I thought I had an understanding of what I needed in order to begin family planning. I did not, however, plan for an international move, visa statuses, etc.