I had an antenatal check-up at a fancy international hospital in Bangkok while we were there. I was super-excited about going, because the hospital is the kind of place worshipped by medical tourists from all around the world for its service and facilities. I had heard rumours that its delivery suites were like five-star hotel rooms, and the ultrasounds were conducted in 4D, one more dimension than anyone could possible ever need.
Indeed it was pretty flash, and did have a hotel-like vibe about it, apart from all the nurses in crisp white hats milling around. It certainly didn’t feel like your typical, sterile hospital. For example, when you walked in, the first thing you saw was not triage nurses but a whole row of receptionists devoted to handling your bill and your insurance forms.
Also, upon arrival you are issued with with a photo ID, complete with barcode. I thought I wouldn’t need this barcode since I was only planning on visiting the hospital once, but no, it was scanned at least five times during our one visit. Turns out it was less like a five-star hotel and more like a factory.
I was hugely disappointed with the incompetent doctor that we saw, but when I was ushered into a special, separate consultation room for a gynaecological examination, my disappointment turned to fury. The nurse in this room asked me to take off my underpants, which I did, with one deft flick of the wrist, as I was wearing a skirt. Then she looked aghast and said “No, toilet!” and pointed to the toilet. I asked if I was supposed to give a urine sample, but again she just pointed and said “Toilet!” So I went in, and laid out before me, as in some day spa, were special “modesty wraps” which you were apparently supposed to wear. While you were lying on your back, knees wide and legs in stirrups for an internal medical examination.
Now, I don’t like flashing my gash to anyone, but the idea that a gynaecological examination should be done “discreetly” is just insulting, especially when it seems the whole “modesty wrap” business wasn’t for the customer’s – sorry, patient’s – benefit but for the nurse and the doctor’s.
I was thinking about this experience recently because I had my first visit to the Canberra Hospital this week. It’s a big, sterile hospital but I felt completely comfortable there. I talked to the midwives about some of the things I had heard about hospital birth experiences, and they answered everything by saying, “You can do whatever you want, however you want”. They said you can give birth in whatever position feels best, on the bed, on the floor, in the shower, using a birth ball (I don’t know what this is), and presumably, in the nuddy, without a modesty wrap in sight. I was so pleased to be back in Australia. Then, and at so many other times since being back, I have soaked up the sensation of “being on the same page” with people around me. Plus, the visit was entirely free.