Monday, 25 January 2010

Scrumptuous Sarramea

I love Farino and Sarramea. Whenever we want to have a weekend away I start lobbying to go there. I know it's a bit boring to go back to the same place all the time, but each time I arrive I take a big breath in, and out, and feel the good karma of the place wrap me up nice and warm.

They are two little settlements snuggled into the hillside about 1.5 hours drive from Noumea. From Farino you can look down the hill and out to the sea. Sarramea is a little bit deeper into the hills and slightly more enclosed. Sarramea is overlooked by the impressive Plateau de Dogny, a 5 hour walk that is on our list of must dos (without the kids) before we leave.

Normally a trip to Farino includes a lunch at Mamie Foglianis for a no holds barred feast of oysters, game and taro. It's set beside a river and is chilled out, good value and delicious.

Our Christmas trip was a bit of a blow-out. We stayed at the very nice (almost swanky) Hotel Evasion. Our Bungalow fitted the whole family and was very comfy. Max loved having his own big-boy bed and being able to watch TV in bed. We regailed ourselves with two delicious meals - one in the restaurant en famille; one more romantic one on the balcony of the bungalow. The food was absolutely delicious. The hotel also has very pretty pool beside the restaurant and a spa pool which we enjoyed and I imagine would be bliss in winter having finished the Plateau de Dogny Walk.

On the way home we stopped and picked up some delicious pineapples. I chuckled at the roadside stall, unmanned, with tin that said - please put your coins in the tin - thanks. Go the faith in people being honest. I guess that's just part of the Sarramea vibe.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Having a baby in Noumea

When we realised I was pregnant with Polly we had a quick discussion about where I would have the baby. We had already checked out the hospital here when Max had a brief stay soon after we arrived. Although the children’s hospital looks a bit rough, we found the staff great and the care was excellent. Certainly – we were seen quickly and I reckon we’d have waited a lot longer to be looked after in Wellington. So despite the brief temptation of a trip home to welcome our new bubba we decided pretty quickly that this bubba would be a little Noumean – how very exciting!

Once we’d confirmed that I was indeed pregnant it was time to find an obstetrician. Although there are lots of doctors here and we’ve always been surprised by how quickly you can get an appointment with a specialist, there aren’t masses of female obstetricians. Luckily I was put onto a great lady who had comfy rooms and was totally fabulous throughout my pregnancy.

What I learned was that the way it works here is that you can choose to have your baby in the public or the private system (or a mixture of them both). If you do it publicly, you have all your appointments at Magenta hospital and you have your bubba there too. In addition to the hospital at Magenta, there are two private clinics: Clinique Magnin and the Polyclinique de l’Anse Vata.

The Polyclinique looks like it should have been shut down in WWII. It’s a collection of old buildings that originally made up part of the ‘Pentagon’, the American base here during WWII. Despite its decrepit appearance I have only heard good things about the care here. And one of the big advantages of it is that you can walk from your room, over the street and sit on the beach with your newborn – how gorgeous.

Clinique Magnin looks a bit flasher than the Polyclinique and is closer to the centre of town. Again, the care there seems to be great. At both Clinique Magnin and the Polyclinique there’s an operating room so if things get hairy you can have a caesarean right there.

I had my baby at the public hospital. I chose the hospital because it has the neonatal unit and childrens' hospital, so if anything is wrong with your bubba this is where they come. There’s a slight risk you can end up in one of the cliniques with your bubba in the hospital if bubba has a bit of a rough start.

I was followed by a private obstetrician and had to swap over to the public system for the last 6 weeks. I definitely felt more like a number at the hospital, but the doctors were clearly very competent and I knew I was in extremely capable hands (the midwives were also great). I did, however, miss the nice continuity of care with the same Lead Maternity Carer that you have in NZ.

Despite the heavily graffitied toilets and pretty basic waiting areas, the hospital felt much the same as the old Wellington hospital where we had Max. One advantage though was that I had my own room for the entire 5 days (yes – you heard right FIVE days for a second bubba!) that I was in. I was entitled to my own room for the first 3 days and then I had to pay a supplement to keep the room for the last 2 nights. Nowhere can guarantee a private room but you can request one and everyone I know who’s had a bubba here has managed to get their own room. If you don’t get your own room, the worst you’ll get is a double room – not so bad. And by the way – everyone can stay in for 5 days regardless of how you delivered your baby!

Some things were totally different to Max’s birth. My kiwi midwife didn't weigh me once during my pregnancy - here I was weighed at every appointment, and the Doc even peeked at the scales a few times to check I wasn't telling any fibs! I had a difficult delivery, which meant my bubba was whipped away and I didn’t see her until the day after she was born. You are encouraged to breastfeed but there’s no assumption that you will. If you do decide to bottle feed, your bottles are made up for you and sit in the fridge with your name on them so you can help yourself when need them. If you're knackered, the midwives will offer to take your baby at night. They will look after him or her and you are encouraged to make sure that you get to have a proper rest before you head home. Vaccinations were also interesting. There was no question asked – no consent forms…bang she was vaccinated against tuberculosis and hepatitis B. I’m not sure I completely agree with the degree of control that many of the doctors seem to take here…at least I know they know their stuff.

After you go home, and I was desperate to get home as the food was terrible, there is nothing like the wonderful follow-up care we have in NZ via Plunket and midwives. BUT there is lots of help, you just need to know where to get it. You can have your baby weighed and get help with feeding/crying any other general problems at your local PMI (Protection Maternelle et Infantile). The Magenta PMI is open from Monday to Friday from 7.30am – 11.00 and it’s in the hospital beside where you sit waiting for all the obstetrician appointments. You can book an appointment some days and on other days you can turn up without an appointment to have bubba weighed. The planning changes every month so call and check (25 66 66) before you go. There’s also a PMI at the CAFAT in Receiving and out in Montravel and Mont Dore. The nurse at the PMI at Magenta is totally charming.

If you have questions at other times you can also call a midwife. There are quite a few private clinics and they will come out to your home if necessary. I saw a lovely lady called Christine Caze. She’s also a Sophrologue and her rooms have a nurse, a dietician, osteopath and a naturopath. You can also just pop by and weigh your baby yourself if you need to which is nice. Their number is 28 55 93. The rooms are on the rue d’Austerlitz.

I wished I’d asked more questions throughout my pregnancy. I made some assumptions and was a bit taken aback when they weren’t right, like I thought that the obstetrician who takes care of you would automatically deliver bubba – not so; and I thought I’d be on weekly appointments for the last 3 weeks or so – nope. The most frustrating thing is that everyone’s so used to their own system/care/advice that I got a few startled expressions and odd comments when I did things differently - like swaddling bubba or not taking her to a paediatrician for every vaccination! You’ve got to be strong and listen to everyone and then make your own decision….hhhmmm isn’t giving birth a fabulous lesson about life – in so many ways.