It doesn’t get much better than spinning in a pink and purple frilly skirt worn over top a pink dress. If you’re a three year old girl, that is.
I sent a girls-in-daffodils picture to Jeremiah, and he suggested that we meet him for lunch in a cafe in town. Naomi found the walk very long. Towards the end we passed a bunch of flash new buildings with glass facades, and she stopped to admire her reflection, adjusting her skirt, preening here and there. “Oh, I didn’t know we had fairies in the city!” and old woman exclaimed as she walked past. Naomi beamed–that was clearly the effect she was after.
When we were expecting Naomi I thought to myself “Good. I’ve had one baby in the USA, now I’ll try the prenatal care and birthing system in New Zealand.” I was pleasantly surprised how well the NZ midwifery system worked. I felt that if I had run into complications that care would have been efficiently referred to an obstetrician, but the midwives I worked with were professional, skilled, and personable. And the post-baby support beat the US system all hollow. I’m a NZ birthing system convert.
I recently got to test the general medical system in NZ out….not that I have much personal experience with major medical problems in the US, so probably not a fair trial. This test was a bit more rocky than the baby test.
April 2016 I started a problem that was eventually diagnosed as disc between two vertebrae bulging out and pressing on nerves, causing leg pain. It sounds so simple in that description, but living with the problem was misery for months last winter, and I wallowed around in the NZ medical system waiting for one appointment or another… 4 months before getting an MRI (and therefore a correct diagnosis) and 9 months before getting approval (funding approval) for a surgery to correct it. I’ll spare you the details of the wallowing. I might do better the second time around, but probably not. Basically the problem wasn’t an emergency (not life threatening), so rather than your first port-of-call doctor (a general practitioner in this case….well, after physiotherapists couldn’t do any more) ordering an expensive MRI scan, they order an appointment for you to see a specialist…and 6 weeks later when your appointment comes, they order and MRI for 4 weeks later….then wait again for a follow-up appointment. You get the picture. Health care is slow because it is rationed. Economics is considered. Unlike in America.
But in January when the approval for a surgery finally came through, I was actually feeling better. Gradually, ever so incrementally, my back had improved to the point where I could mountain bike, and after that it got better on its own, slowly but steadily. By late summer I was back to standing straight, not to mention back to hiking and rollerblading and all the stuff I love, and feeling that perhaps the slow-and-economical health care system was ok after all. It’s financially sustainable at least, unlike the American system.
BUT THEN, that disc bulged again. I don’t know why. I didn’t DO anything. But all of a sudden I was right back to where I was a year ago, limping around, not sleeping well, unable to do anything fun. The only difference was this time I took more pain killers, because we were booked for our big trip back to the States and I just had to cope. And this time, I already had all the contacts in place.
While in the States I was able to organize a new MRI appointment for the day after we got home, and an appointment with the surgeon two days later. The funding approval was still valid from January. He didn’t really have space in his surgery list for me, but he said it was a quick job and he’d squeeze me in the next week. I felt like you do when you’re 40-weeks pregnant, when even the process of childbirth sounds better than the prospect of staying pregnant. Cut open my back and take out that lump of the disc? Yes please, that sounds great!
I don’t have many photos to share of that process. I suppose I should have taken a picture of the knitting I was working on for hours before it was my turn for surgery, looking forward to the relief of the anesthesia. Or the cheerful OR nurse with the bright blue eye shadow who said she had had the same problem (“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” she commiserated.) No picture can show the relief of waking up and having the squirmy-can’-t-sit-still leg pain gone. Just gone.
That was a week ago, and I’m back at work now. (Not back to vacuuming yet….thanks Jeremiah.) Moving a little slowly, but feeling tremendously much better. The surgeon says there’s a 95% chance that that will be the end of the saga. A few cases re-occur, but if it does, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. In six weeks from now I should be able to get back up into the mountains to backpack, maybe in time to catch the end of the snowy season.
I guess the NZ medical system did work for me this time….eventually.
We returned from the States July 31 and I’m just managing to get photos up of the second half of our vacation in Alaska, which could be distilled as “Fish and Cousins.” At least they aren’t fishy cousins!
About a year ago Jeremiah’s oldest brother, Ben, moved with his family from upstate NY (where we grew up) to Sterling, Alaska. Ben and Jeannette have 13 children, so in the interest of travel efficiency we decided to make Alaska Hub Shaw, and asked Jeremiah’s parents and siblings if they could join us there. Plus, July happens to be Salmon Season in Alaska….
“Hey, do you think there would be a lake house somewhere near Chicago where we could go for a week?” We were in the planning phase of our trip, trying to figure out a Hub Harro, and come up with a vacation plan that would be fun for all involved.
“Chicago is on Lake Michigan, honey,” my mom reminded me.
In the end my parents found a house to rent on Diamond Lake, about an hour southwest of Kalamazoo, not the big water of Lake Michigan but a warmer, tamer lake surrounded by vacation homes. My three sisters made arrangements to come, and my uncle, aunt, and cousin from Chicago came for the weekend as well. A regular family reunion!
I felt like gripping Jeremiah by the shoulders, staring him in the eyes, and declaring “THIS is why I’m the way I am. See? I’m NOT weird. For my family, this is NORMAL.”
Jeremiah and I are from the same town. I could have seen his family home across the river if the trees weren’t so thick. We’re both Americans, similar socio-economic class, each with two parents playing basically traditional roles in the household. Yet sometimes my “normal” seems so different from his “normal” that I wonder how cross-cultural marriages ever survive. The family of origin sets our expectation of how a spouse is “supposed” to act and react. And there’s nothing like a family vacation to pull that into focus.
Our parents and siblings used to all live in upstate NY, and visiting the families was relatively straight-forward. But now that the kids have grown, both our parents have gotten rid of the big family houses. Jeremiah’s folks have moved up to a cabin in the Adirondack mountains, and mine have moved to a little two bedroom in Chicago near my mom’s parents. Our siblings are scattered hither and yon. This family get-together was going to take more effort than in previous years.
We opted to try and create a “hub” for each family, and have the remaining family members come to us. The first two weeks of our trip we spent with the Harro family. We started out in a suburb of Chicago with my parents, then went to a lake house in Michigan that my parent had rented for a week, where my sisters living in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts came to meet us. Hub Harro.