We Raise Them Tough in Vietnam

My baby sister-in-law had a baby two days ago.  The baby was in a hurry, and her mother’s high blood pressure made the doctor perform a C-Section about two weeks before the due date.  Even then, altho the mother is about five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds fully pregnant, her daughter weighed the same as I–NO silly, not same as I do now, the same as I did when I was born–seven pounds and one ounce.  The child, a very loud and pretty girl, is fine–until she gets hungry.  THEN the screams for food are so loud that the police have come to the hospital twice.  This in itself is a miracle because the police here NEVER come to emergencies like baby killings (seldom happens), murders (very infrequent), or robberies (as numerous as the motorbikes).  Their normal attitude is if it happened or is happening, by the time we get there everyone will be calm or dead or in the hospital and there won’t be as big a mess to clean up.

But enough about that.  What I really want to write about is hospital care and baby care or the lack of both here in Vietnam.  My sister in law is wealthy and is in the best hospital with the best maternity ward in all Vietnam. The price is by Viet standards, astronomical–$150 US dollars a day for a private room with a toilet in the room.  It is a nice room and very clean by Vietnamese hospital standards, which are 3rd world–old, but they are doing the best that they can.  Meals are extra.  Food for the baby is extra. Everything is extra–not much, but still not included.  Disposable diapers are available, but a nursery is not.  As my wife says, “If you go to the hospital in Vietnam and you don’t have family, you will die.”  She also said that if you run out of money while being treated, they will carry you out and put you on the sidewalk outside the hospital.  I believe her.  I have seen people in hospitals here and they always have friends or family in the room or just outside.  Doors are usually open and anyone who is curious can come in to your room–privacy is not an option.

Privacy is also not an option for a newborn.  There are no nurseries, and the baby stays in the hospital room with the mother.  In this case, my wife and another sister take alternating shifts watching, feeding, cleaning both the baby and the mother.  One night my wife stays, the next night her sister stays.  Same with the day shift–each sister alternates.  It really is a comfort to the baby’s mother but it is murder for the sisters, and I am not complaining but it is strange to be a bachelor again.  This will continue until the baby and her mother come home next wednesday.  Then my wife will only have to go to her sister’s to take the other three daughters to school, and pick them up at the end of the day.

I was amazed to hear that two days after the baby was born, the family showed up to visit–the husband with three children, the mother, the oldest son with his wife and 6 year old, a 23 year old nephew with his girlfriend, and another brother.  Of course my wife was there as caregiver, and the baby and mom had no other choice but to be there.  So there were 14 people, unmasked and ungowned, in the room poking and observing the sleeping newborn.  Contrasting this to the isolation of a newborn in a hospital in the USA, I not only am amazed that the children here don’t get 500 new diseases, coughs, or whatever because of their exposures.  I also think that it might strengthen the infant, as exposure to new and strange germs may help develop immunities that American kids have to start attending nursery schools or kindergarten to acquire.  I don’t know the infant mortality rate here in Vietnam, but I sort of suspect that it might be lower than that in the USA.  Recent readings have indicated not-so-good reports about hospital care in America, despite the fact that the cost per diem is far higher than any in the world.  Just another reason for universal health care.

I haven’t gone to the hospital.  I have a cough and I’m afraid of giving it to the baby.  Apparently I am a majority of one.

Life is so interesting and then you move to another country and it gets more interesting all over again.  So much to see and learn, so little time.




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