This post is about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. Before we start, I’d like to preface the post with two important clarifications:
1. I am not pregnant.
2. I do not like babies or children. I do not like them just as much as Rick Perry doesn’t like homosexuals. Ok, maybe not that much. But still. You get my point. While I may be blogging about them now, trust that I have not gone soft on this position. Just last weekend I went to a Christmas party at the home of some lovely heterosexual friends of mine. While the party was quite nice, my friends had invited several of their other heterosexual friends who happen to be of child-bearing age and who have gone through the motions and procreated. So, as soon as the gay to baby ratio in the house hit 1:1 and we were soon to be outnumbered, I signaled to my other gays sitting next to me (discreetly via text message of course) that I was ready to depart when they were. They were ready too.
Anyway, now that that has been clarified, I can begin the post proper.
When a gay man hits a certain age (28 at this point in time), it becomes a reality that his heterosexual counterparts begin settling down, marrying, and producing offspring. And yes, these days the gays can too – either through surrogacy or by adopting some gayby from Cambodia or any other cash-strapped third world nation – but I don’t know any of those yet and this post doesn’t really apply to them anyway so I’m going to stick with the breeders.
Before leaving Seattle, several of my co-workers were pregnant. And while I didn’t particularly want to know any of the disgusting details of their pregnancies, there were times when I couldn’t help but overhear them talking about it around me in the office or sitting with them in the lunch room. So, most of 2009 became a sort of sexual reproduction seminar for me. I learned more than I wanted to about pregnancy and childbirth and babies. I felt educated. And a bit nauseated.
Fast forward to 2010 and 2011 and my office in Sydney seems to have a constant stream of pregnant ladies everywhere as well. And while all of the actual pregnancy and childbirth conversations parallel the ones I heard in the US, the stories of the Americans and Australians diverge sharply as soon as that baby shoots out of the womb like a canon (or however they come into this world).
Now, American ladies: pay attention. You’re about to become jealous and/or angry.
Thanks to Australia’s Medicare, all new mothers receive 4 days and 3 nights in the hospital after giving birth. If you have private health insurance, you get an extra day and night for a total of 5 days and 4 nights. Unlike in America, there is no same-day express service. And your out-of-pocket expense for this long stay: $0. Absolutely free.
Now, with private health insurance you have the option of going to a public hospital or a private hospital because sometimes the public hospitals are better equipped as they have more funding. Either way, the hospitals supply all linens, baby outfits, and nappies (diapers) for your stay. Your entire stay. All you need is one outfit to take the baby home in. In the States, don’t you have to have that bag packed and ready with all your supplies so that when you go into labor you have outfits and diapers and such for the baby? Not here. And you know what this baby clothing and diaper service and such costs you? Nothing. It’s free.
Your hospital stay includes 3 meals per day for you and your husband, boyfriend, partner, spouse, baby daddy, etc. These are also included. They are free. Did I mention that you both also get morning tea and afternoon tea because we’re in Australia after all and they love morning tea and afternoon tea here? That’s complimentary as well. Complimentary = free, but you probably know that if you’re the type to be reading this blog.
Now, sometimes the hospital decides that it’s just too much money to keep women in the hospital for that many nights. Don’t start worrying though – they aren’t going to send you home after only 2 nights. For your next 2 nights, they ship you off to a fancy hotel. For example, a co-worker recently went to visit her cousin who had given birth. The hospital she was at (somewhere in the Randwick area of Sydney) decided it would be more economical for them to outsource the second 2 nights to the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel. Now, the Crowne Plaza Hotel is a 5-star hotel located right on Coogee Beach. So, two days after giving birth, you are carted off to this fancy hotel with a balcony and view of the ocean for two extra nights. Your husband, boyfriend, partner, spouse, baby daddy, etc. gets to come too. The hospital rents out a whole floor and it’s fully staffed with midwife nurses. You still get your three meals per day along with morning and afternoon tea, but they throw in room service here as well. And you know what? You still don’t pay a goddamn dollar. It’s all included.
But wait! There’s more! If you go to a private hospital, on your fourth and final night in the hospital/hotel, you and your significant other are invited to a New Parents Celebration Dinner. The dining room of the hospital or hotel is gussied up with white table cloths, candles, and waiters and you get a three course meal complete with champagne. The midwife nurses babysit your newborn while you’re away at dinner so you can enjoy a relaxing evening together without the baby screaming. All of this costs you… nothing. Still nothing. Also, you have the option of going out to eat instead. That’s not covered, but the midwife nurses will still babysit your newborn for free that night.
My co-worker described this all as “luxurious”. Can you imagine anyone in the United States describing childbirth and/or a hospital visit as luxurious? No.
Everything is free. It’s all free. There’s no deductible. No co-pay. 100% free. The only time you will have to pay for anything is if you have a specific obstetrician that you want to use and it so happens that your specific obstetrician charges more than Medicare rates. Even then, Medicare will pay for part of it and you have to pay the difference. This only applies to private hospitals. Public hospitals are still free.
So, American ladies, now that I’ve enlightened you on these matters, I bet you’re planning to move to Australia, get permanent residency, and take full advantage of what this great country has to offer. And that’s fine. I’m totally ok with that just as long as you promise one thing to me:
Please take that screaming, pooping, rambunctious offspring of yours and fly back to America after your 4 night luxury hospital visit.
Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.