Call the Midwife! The ONE thing I have in common with Kate Middleton

Prince William and Kate Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge) welcomed their second child into the world this week.  You may have seen something about it in the press. 😉  Everyone oohed and aahed over their baby girl, talked about how amazing Kate looked, and who made her dress, and even how early she left the hospital.  But one thing that did not get much press is that Kate chose midwife-led maternity care.  Although a team of doctors was at the hospital on-call, two midwives delivered the baby girl just two and a half hours after she arrived at the hospital, and Kate and baby Charlotte departed less than 12 hours later.  It was clear that she had a low-key birth.  From my perspective, it was a great example of the benefits of midwife-led maternity services that are definitely the norm in Europe.

My introduction into the Irish health system was fast and furious.  A week before we departed for Ireland, I found out we were unexpectedly expecting our third child. We were completely surprised. I don’t know anyone who plans to get pregnant in the middle of an international move. We were literally about to board a plane to the other side of the world, and there really wasn’t anything else to do but figure it out once we got here. I had to navigate a completely different maternity and healthcare system in only a matter of weeks.  In Ireland, as in the UK, you have your choice of public, semi-private, and private maternity care.  I won’t go into the differences in this post, but we chose private care simply because it was the plan most similar to the US system, and we had private health insurance through Brad’s employer.  As in the US, I selected an OB, and saw her at every appointment. The difference that I noticed right away was how my general practitioner and my OB treated pregnancy as a natural part of life, not a condition that needed to be ‘treated’.   For the record, I was very happy with my choice of OB for my first two pregnancies in the US.  My doctor was a very low-key, hands off, calm guy.  I say this only to point out that I wasn’t resentful, or looking for differences between the systems to prove a point.  No “ax to grind” here.

The approaches to pregnancy, labor, and delivery are just very different.  There was not a focus on the lists and lists of things pregnant women should avoid.  It was perfectly fine to exercise, eat seafood, even have a glass of wine occasionally. Part of this was that this was my third pregnancy in 4 years.  I knew what to expect, and when to speak up when I had questions. But I really liked the hands-off approach.  I felt less stress about doing all the “right things” vs “wrong things”. I am not a share-all-the-nitty-gritty-details-of-my-labor-on-the-internet kind of gal, but on the night Patrick was born, we checked into National Maternity Hospital around 11:30 pm. I was attended by a midwife the entire time.  Not only did she not intervene, she also relied on my judgement.  It felt like much more of an egalitarian relationship.  When Isaac and Liesl were born, the delivery room was full of people. Probably 8-10.  There were nurses and pediatric nurses, and an assistant or 2.  So many people! Part of it was that the hospital had rounds of medical school students that observed the birth.  (This didn’t bother me particularly.  When I was about to have Isaac, my OB asked if I minded if a few Physician Assistant students observed the birth.  I told him that I didn’t care if he sold tickets and popcorn, but the baby was about to be born RIGHT THEN. )

In contrast, when Patrick was born, it was just myself, Brad, and the midwife in the delivery room.  I was amazed how much calmer the room was, and how it felt much less chaotic.  Although my OB intended to be at the birth, things moved so quickly that she didn’t make it in time.  But even if she has been there, it is unlikely that she would have delivered Patrick, as the midwife was fully capable.  Patrick was born at 3:23 am, and we left the hospital about noon that day.  I wasn’t forced to leave early, and could have stayed at least 2 nights for a regular delivery and 4-5 nights for a cesarean birth.  But I asked to go home that day, as I was feeling fine, and would much MUCH rather sleep in my own bed and rest at home.  Now, I swapped my Jenny Packham dress for yoga pants and a t-shirt, and I’m sure my hair was a wreck and my skin was blotchy, but the health care system was completely supportive of me going home when I wanted.  The very next day, Judith, our local public health nurse, came by to check on Patrick and I.  She’s also a registered midwife.  She brought her own scale to weigh Patrick, and check him over.  She came every day or every other day for the next 2-3 weeks.  Patrick became jaundiced a few days after birth, and it took awhile to clear from his system.  It was so nice not to have to take a newborn into the doctor’s office with all the sick people around.  Judith just came to the house!

I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the past week, which is why I haven’t posted earlier.  I didn’t write this post because I think that midwife-led care is the answer to all pregnancy conditions and situations. I fully understand that pregnancy can be a complicated and volatile situation for some women, and that other women prefer to make other choices.  But I do wonder if there the standard of care was a low-intervention, midwife-led approach, would we have better maternal outcomes? I think there’s value in midwife-led maternity care and this is overlooked right now in the US.  I also loved how in Ireland, you could opt to have a low-intervention birth at a hospital.  I have written before about how the US can become a place of absolutes: hospital vs home birth! doctor vs midwife!  But there doesn’t appear to be a clear middle ground.   Here in Ireland, as in the US, a range of options is available, from midwife-assisted home birth to elective cesarean section, but I loved how midwife-led maternity care is the solid middle ground.

 

Photo credit: NY Daily News

What to do in Dublin with Kids

Planning a trip to Dublin in the future?  At first the city does not seem to be particularly kid-friendly, but there are plenty of fun activities for the young, and young at heart!

Natural History Museum: Free, near Merrion Square

Natural History Museum Moose

This museum is affectionately called the “dead zoo”.  It has a huge collection of taxidermy animals from all over the world.  Most of the animals are in the large gallery upstairs.  Just park your stroller in the entryway (with all the other strollers) and climb the stairs to the second floor.  It also has clean bathrooms and changing tables, and since the museum is free, there is nothing stopping you from going in just to use the bathroom.

Merrion Square:

One of the five Georgian Squares in Dublin.  Great place for a picnic. It has a brand new playground, the ‘Giant’s Garden’, based on Oscar Wilde’s short story, “The Selfless Giant”.  There are also beautiful planters of flowers and plants from around Ireland all over the square.  The tulips in the late spring are AMAZING! On Sundays, there is an art show around the perimeter of the square.  On Thursdays during the summer, there is a lunchtime market.

National Archaeology Museum:  Free, on Kildare Street.

This is a great museum with lots of interesting stuff to look at.  My kids love this museum – there is a Viking boat, mummified remains of people found in bogs, and lots of interesting items from the prehistoric through medieval periods.

St. Stephen’s Green

St Stephen's Green

Another excellent example of the Dublin Georgian Squares.  It is in the centre of town, making it a convenient midday picnic stop.  The fabulous playground has spaces for little and big kids, and a weatherproof surface, so you can go there even if it recently rained.  There are ducks and swans to feed as well.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral is an amazing church to tour.  You have to pay for admission, but it’s free for kids. Among other things, you can learn about the Irish phrase to “chance your arm”. Fun Fact: The Catholic Cathedral in Dublin is called the St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral.  “Pro”, as in, provisional.  Apparently the Catholics are still hoping the Anglicans will return St. Patrick’s to them at some point!  There is a beautiful small park next to the church with a new playground, and on the weekends, there is almost always an ice cream vendor in the park.

For families with older kids and teenagers:

In addition to the above activities, these sights are great for older kids.

Book of Kells & Trinity College

Trinity College is definitely on the “must see” list for any Dublin trip.  The Book of Kells is a wonderful exhibit.  You can take the walking tour of Trinity College, which includes your admission to the book of Kells.  Kids are free.  (You can just buy your ticket to see the book, but I think the tour is worth the extra cost.) The tour is a bunch of walking, then standing and listening.  It’s a great tour – but little kids will tire of it quickly.  Older kids will love The Old Library at the end of the Book of Kells exhibit.  It looks like it was taken straight out of a Harry Potter movie. Even if you skip the tour and the Book of Kells, the campus is still open for you to walk around if you wish.

Grafton Street

Worth a stroll.  You can walk from the corner of Trinity College to St. Stephen’s Green on Grafton Street.  There are usually plenty of street performers and musicians.  There is also a mediocre McDonalds and Burger King, in case you have tired of pub grub.

Dublinia & Christchurch Cathedral

Dublinia is an interactive museum about Viking and Medieval Ireland.   Dublinia is lot of fun for kids, especially those ages 7-12.  I recommend buying the combo ticket for Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral, which is attached via an enclosed bridge. (See photo above!)

Guinness Storehouse Tour

This is pricey, but a great tour of what makes Guinness the iconic beer (and brand) it is today. The tour includes admission to an enclosed, rooftop bar (serving Guinness and non-alcoholic beverages) with 360-degree views of Dublin.  A great stop for older kids or teenagers.  Adults can even learn how to pour their own pint at the tap.

Friday Finds

Is it Friday already?  Where did the week go?  Our car is in the shop, so we’re sticking close to home this weekend, but that’s ok because there is plenty going on around here.  It is still blackberry season.  I think I might be addicted – I snapped this picture last weekend while picking blackberries near our house.

Food:

We are trying to eat more lentils, so we made these sloppy joes last week.  I was skeptical, but the recipe was great!

A piece on NPR about why the US refrigerates eggs, and the rest of the world does not.  Here in Ireland, eggs are sold on the shelf, usually near the bread or produce.  When we first moved here, I was CONVINCED we would all get salmonella.  I would buy eggs, and put them directly into the fridge.  However, our fridge is so small, I gave up storing the eggs there.  I just keep them on the counter, and we have never had salmonella. Really going native now!

Family:

Would you rather live in the city, the suburbs, or in a rural setting?  Design Mom explores this question, and the comments are fascinating.  I used to think I knew exactly where I wanted to live, but now I’m not so sure. I love the walkability of Europe, and convenient public transit options.  But when I’m in the US, I love the wide open roads, and all the conveniences of suburban life.  Parking! Target! Drive-through Starbucks!

Travel:

Very tempted to use one of these items, just to see the reaction of other travelers.

Like this author, I try to dress nicely while traveling.  I feel better if I look better, and I find I receive better service as well.   If I can manage to do this on an international flight with three kids in tow, surely everyone else can at least get out of their pajamas!

Have a lovely weekend!

x Rheagan

School in Ireland

We are now into the second week of the school term, and I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss school here in Ireland.

This is our second year in the formal school system.  The school year runs from the first of September to the end of June, with a two-month summer break.  Schools have a mid-term break around Halloween, two weeks at Christmas, a mid-term break in February, and a two week break surrounding Easter.  Isaac is in Sr. Infants which is similar to first grade in the US. The first year of school is called Jr Infants.  Isaac has the same teacher for both junior and senior infants, and will have the same set of classmates throughout primary school.

Public or Private?

Isaac attends a public, or National School, near our home.  There are also private, or “fee-paying” schools in Ireland.  However, we don’t have any private schools near us, so we opted to start in the National School system, with the thought that if we needed to make a change, we could do that later.  We have been very happy with Isaac’s school.  His teacher is wonderful, and being in the local school has afforded us the opportunity to make friends with other families in the area.  Because there are so many multinational companies in our area, Isaac’s class is very international.  There are children from France, the Philippines, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe, in addition to his Irish classmates.  Isaac is the only American in his class though.

Isaac’s school is a Catholic school.  There are public schools in Ireland affiliated with the Catholic church, the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Christian Ethos/Non-Denominational, and schools unaffiliated with any religious belief.   The students in Isaac’s class are primarily Catholic, but the school has a policy of admitting at least 30% non-Catholics, which is more reflective of the area.

Uniform, or not?
Clearly he loves having his picture taken!
Clearly he loves having his picture taken!

Nearly every school in Ireland, public or private, requires a uniform.  Isaac is required to wear his crested tracksuit (sweatpants and sweatshirt with embroidered logo), plus the accompanying polo to school every day.  Beginning next year, he will only be allowed to wear his tracksuit on PE days.  The rest of the time, he will wear navy dress pants, white button-down shirt, tie and navy sweater with school crest (“jumper”). Girls can wear pants, or a skirt or pinafore (what the US would call a jumper), with white blouse/button down shirt, and sweater. Nearly all girls I see are wearing the skirt or pinafore. Although the shoes of kids in the younger grades vary widely, in the older grades, everyone is wearing black or navy dress shoes.  If you go into the shoe stores here during the “back to school” sales, you see nothing but black, blue and brown dress shoes.

When students begin secondary school, the uniform becomes more formal, with boys required to wear a jacket and tie some days, and virtually all girls in skirts.

Typical School Day

The school day for the first two years is 8:50 – 1:30, with before and aftercare available onsite. The times vary slightly from school to school.  After Jr and Sr Infants, the school day extends to 2:30 pm.  As someone who is accustomed to the longer US school day, I was skeptical at first.  The fact that they can get all the instruction in 4.5 hours is really impressive. Isaac’s classroom is intentionally “low-tech”. Although they have computers and iPads at their disposal, the teachers prefer a much more hands-on approach. I prefer the Montessori or Waldorf teaching philosophies, so the low-tech approach is just fine with me.  Other parents chafe at it, so it’s all in personal preference.

During the day, students have two recesses: a 10-minute “walk and talk” break, and a longer 20-30 minute break after lunch. There is no playground at the school, which seems to be the norm here.  The children play soccer, or other yard games.  Most Irish schools do not have a cafeteria, or canteen. Rather, children bring their lunch every day, and eat lunch in the classroom. (I’ll write a post later about school lunches, and the interesting dynamics around that.)

Subjects

During the day, they cover all the topics you would expect: reading, mathematics (which they call “maths” here), writing, science, religion, social studies/history, music.  I love the focus on penmanship.  Isaac will start learning cursive this year.  His teacher also focuses on writing skills – she has the children writing and illustrating stories.  The parents are required to purchase the schoolbooks each year for their child.  In addition to the school books, Isaac’s school collects an “Art and Supply” fee from each child.  This fee covers all of his school supplies for the year. I love this setup, because as the parent, I do not have to go to 6 different stores looking for items off the school supply list.

Introduction to Cursive!
Introduction to Cursive!

Children in Ireland also learn the Irish language as a part of the curriculum.  In fact, if you live in Ireland you have the option of having your child(ren) educated entirely in Irish, at a Gaelscoil. As Brad and I do not know any Irish, and it is not spoken outside of Ireland, we chose not to send our kids to an Gaelscoil.  (It was also a bit out of the way from where we live.)  However, all of Isaac’s non-academic instruction, “Stand up”, “Take your seats”, “Line up at the door”, etc is conducted in Irish.  As a result, Isaac speaks a lot more Irish than we do!

*As a general note, this post just serves to share our experience, which has been very positive.  Just as in every country around the world, if you were to ask 5 different families, you would get 5 different experiences in school system. Some schools are longer, shorter, richer, poorer, single-sex, co-ed, and the list goes on.  As in life, there is no ‘average’ experience.  What other questions do you have?

x Rheagan

Friday Finds

Jam Bars

My weekly post of interesting things from around the internet:

Food:

It is blackberry season here.  Wild blackberries grow everywhere – on the side of the road, at the local parks and playgrounds.  The plant is quite thorny, and will spread almost anywhere, but the wild blackberries at the end of the summer make amends for its flaws.  We have picked 10+ quarts in the past week.

To make use of all the blackberries, I made blackberry refrigerator jam.

And then I took some the jam and made these amazing jam bars. The bars did not last one evening at our house.

Family & Expat Life:

Whether you’re Catholic or not, this is hilarious. 5 Things You Should Have Done in Premarital Counseling.

As an expat, the transition back into your ‘adopted’ country is never easy.  This article gets that.

In & Around Dublin:

Have you heard of The Caterpillar?  It is a magazine of stories, art and poetry for kids.  I hope to buy one this weekend.

After Wednesday’s post, a friend (Thanks Caroline!) told me about the Dublin Coffee & Tea Festival next weekend. I am tempted!   Kingfisher Tea, owned by another friend of mine, will be at the festival.  If you want to win tickets to the festival, pop over to their Facebook page.

 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  We have a family fun day with the local GAA club, college football watching (gotta give sports on both sides of the Atlantic their due), and I’m hoping to add a few more features to the blog.  See you on Monday.

x Rheagan

 

 

Coffee or Tea?

Monday Mocha
Sometimes Mondays just call for a mocha

Do you consider yourself a coffee or tea person?  I like both…a lot, but what is really interesting to me is how my tea and coffee drinking habits changed once I moved to Ireland.  Coffee in Ireland is really hit-or-miss.  For years, it was simply an afterthought compared to tea. It is not uncommon for me to visit one of my Irish friends’ homes, and be offered instant (!) coffee.  Many people don’t even have a coffee maker.  For espresso, Starbucks serves reasonably good coffee, but it isn’t a daily ritual like it is in the US.  The Starbucks near my house opens at 8:00 am.  There are great independent places for coffee in Dublin – KC Peaches, 3FE, Coffee Kiosk, Brother Hubbard, just to name a few.  As a sign of the changing attitudes towards coffee, the World Barista Championships will be held in Dublin in 2016.

Now tea…tea is a completely different experience.  Tea is served hot any time of year, and is a daily ritual for the Irish.  Most people take milk with their tea, and maybe sugar.   There are two main brands of Irish tea: Barry’s and Lyons.  These two brands account for the majority of the market share.  The Barry’s vs Lyons debate is similar to the Coke vs Pepsi, or Coke vs Dr. Pepper in the US.  Either you’re a Barry’s fan, or a Lyons fan, and never the two shall meet.  I drink Barry’s tea, but really only because a neighbor of mine brought me a box of Barry’s Tea the first day we moved into our house.  (Thanks Joanne!)  And what can I say, brand allegiances are strong, and I have bought Barry’s ever since.

 

My typical 'cuppa': a bit of milk, no sugar
My typical ‘cuppa’: a bit of milk, no sugar

There are places where you can go for “Afternoon Tea” or “High Tea” where it is served with scones and jam, tea sandwiches, and perhaps a small dessert.  It is a wonderful experience, and I recommend it to visitors all the time.  (Future blog post, perhaps?)  However, most regular Irish people just have tea as a part of their day.  They have it with breakfast, as their morning or afternoon break, or with friends.  The longer I live in Dublin, the more I gravitate towards, tea, especially when the weather is bad.  The climate in Dublin is perfect for tea, and there’s nothing quite like a “cuppa” to keep the dull, damp, and dreary weather at bay – even if just for a moment.

x Rheagan

Friday Finds

It was a busy week here, with plenty of things going on. We had one day of beautiful weather and I snapped this pic of Clery’s department store on O’Connell Street in Dublin. It was a day where the weather made it feel like the world was full of possibility. Alas, we were back to lashing wind and rain today.

My weekly post of interesting things from around the internet:

Food:

Brad brought back a Williams-Sonoma catalog from NYC for me to drool over look at.  We made this recipe, Braised Chicken with Olives and Capers, featured in the catalog.  So good!

Have you ever made your own Italian sausage?  It’s hard to find here, but I use this recipe to make my own.

This review of The French Laundry made me laugh.  I think they channeled my 4-year old.

 

Travel:

A lovely article from the New York Times about one of my favourite streets in Dublin, Drury Street.

What do you think of “Knee Defenders“?

 

Life in Ireland:

How to offend people at your new job?  Ask this woman.

A few more reasons to visit Ireland! Thanks Mico!

 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  It’s Labor Day weekend in the US, but a regular 2-day weekend here. See you on Monday.

x Rheagan

Hello there!

After many months of writing and designing webpages for others, I finally decided to jump into the deep end.  Welcome to Sips of Coffey, where I hope to share the frustrating, the annoying and the beautiful of expat life.  I also want to write more about this wonderful city and country that we have called home for the past three years.

Three years ago this week, my husband and I, and our two young children landed in Ireland.  We moved here for his job, and the opportunity to experience life overseas.  We knew no one, had no family history in Ireland, and oh – we had just found out we were unexpectedly expecting our third child.  It has been a wild and crazy ride. Fresh off an MBA and Masters in Public Policy, I had planned to find a job in Dublin.  But between a surprise pregnancy, the most expensive childcare costs in Europe, and a work permit process that was far from transparent, life has taken a different path. But then again, I don’t know anyone whose life has turned out exactly how they planned it.  I’m passionate about food, travel (with and without kids), and really good coffee.

So whether you’re interested in the ins and outs of traveling with young children, expat life, or Ireland in general, I hope you’ll join along.

x Rheagan