Tag Archives: insurance

YESTERDAY AND THE EXPAT F0RUM………

Yesterday, I got to be a grown up and go into Washington, DC for a meeting. For those of you who do this every day – I am soooo, sooo sorry. Augh.

My day started out all loverly – hubby got the kids ready for school so I could leave on-time half an hour late. (I left late because I stink at waking up and overslept. Hubby really was very helpful.) I went into my closet to find something to wear – yes, I should have done that a month ago when I would have still had time to lose a little weight – only to discover that I actually do believe in magic. I tried on pants that had no chance of fitting and even tried to zip them and what I discovered was that  A) I need to stop wearing pants with elastic in the waist so that I can feel when my clothes are getting tighter and B) too tight dress pants don’t look any better than too tight jeans. Sigh.

But there were some pants that fit and looked decent. So on they went and I even had a top that didn’t have grape jelly or ketchup stains on it. Yeah for me.

Then I set out in to the big bad world of DC traffic. I did my homework and found out that there was an accident on the road I wanted to take, so I turned right instead of left. I also found out that the Transformers is filming part of their latest movie in DC – this week. Oh goody. So, basically, there was no great route to take. And, yes, I could have taken the metro – but I h.a.t.e. the metro. Hate it. HHHH.AAAAA.TTTTT.EEEEEE.   IIII.TTTT. So, that wasn’t really an option. I just can’t start my day with all of the following smells combined into one – smoker’s breath, coffee breath, perfume, sweat, hairspray, gas passing in one form or another, and inevitably someone has gas on their hands from filling up their car….augh. Metros really should be smell-free zones. Seriously, you should have to pass through an odor detector – if the smelldar goes off – you go directly to the showers or the deodorizing tank. Off with your smells. And, by the way, good smells in combination with bad smells in confined spaces still equal really bad smells.

Anysmell, o-n-e h-o-u-r and f-0-r-t-y-f-i-v-e minutes later, I was able to park and find the building. But I am not bitter at all about how long it took to get there and this is why – first of all – I was by myself  in the car for one hour and forty five minutes – no one asking me questions or asking me to do this or do that – but more importantly, the last two times I parked in DC parking garages, it took forever to find a spot – then the one I finally found was really too small – which is why no one (with pants that weren’t too tight thus reducing blood circulation to her brain) parked there. But not me, remember, I believe in magic – zippers that zip and cars that fit in too small parking spots. Both times – yes, both times – I side swiped the entire driver’s side of my van on a cement post. But yesterday, I quickly found myself a big wide open spot (right next to the exit, mind you) with no cement posts nearby. Yippee Skippee.

Are you wondering what the point of this post is – sorry. I finally sat down at the Expat F0rum, only to find out that Andrea Martins was one of the panelists. That’s pretty cool because she is one of the co-founders of the website Expat Women – which is listed on my blogroll – and I am listed on theirs (under the blogs about Asia section – and because my blog starts with an “A”, I am even near the top of the list). Expat Women is extremely helpful for any women who do not live in their own country – lots of info, lots of stories. Andrea is enthusiastic and knowledgeable and it was a treat to meet her.

Of course, I just had to introduce myself to her. Didn’t you see that coming? You must know by now that I did. I told her about my blog being listed on her site and she tilted her head a little and went ohh and then ummm. Okay, I was a little disappointed that she didn’t screech that she was so lucky to meet me and that she reads my blog religiously but at least she didn’t tell me my pants were too tight. Anyway, she did ask if I had plans to turn my blog into a book and she wants to give me the contact information for someone who might be able to help me. Yes, tres coolio!

Alan Paul was also there as a panelist. He wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal about being an expat in China and now he is turning that column into book. Do I see a growing trend? Turning a blog into a book – sounds like a great idea, right? Anybook, he was funny and just encouraged everyone to think about what you gain from an expat experience and not focus on what you are losing. It’s easy to get frustrated about how hard life can be away from your home country but if you look out your window, you just might see the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal. That can’t be all bad.

At the end of the panel discussion there was some time for questions. One of the themes throughout the f0rum was the difficulties spouses have with finding employment overseas. I was never someone interested in working (oh sure the paycheck part was appealing but not the working part so it never really worked out for me) – there were days I felt like I could barely tie my own shoes – much less be responsible to a boss – but lots of people do want to work and it ain’t easy finding a paying gig. Oddly enough, Susan Musich was there. She is the Managing Director for Passport Career.

I will let their website description explain what they do: “Passport CareerTM is the first-ever, comprehensive, online global job search support system for international professionals moving to or living in unique and challenging destinations around the world. Whether they are moving to the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America, Passport CareerTM provides detailed insight and knowledge on the business customs, strategies, and resources related to the job search for each country and destination covered.” Good to know, right?

The Department of State also has a similar program for embassy family members called the Global Employment Initiative.

The whole f0rum was hosted by Clements International, a company offers (okay sells) international insurance policies but also does a lot in support of the expat as a person – like this f0rum and writing contests for kids. They invited me, so I thought I would mention them. Thanks Clements. And, nope they did not pay me to say that. I also have never investigated international insurance policies, so, to be fair, this is not an endorsement – but they might be one place to look if you are searching for international insurance. There. Disclaimer said.

So, even though I did not want to get out from under the warm and cozy covers only to try on big girl clothes, I am glad I went. I even won a Starbucks gift card worth $10. 😉

Digging Deeper…………

When I began writing this blog, I guess hoped it would challenge me as a writer but I never imagined that it would challenge me as a thinker. I just looked at it as a way to journal our experience, share it with friends, and remember the details we might otherwise forget. But, recently I wrote a post about my c-section experiences and I got a lot of feedback. Most of it was positive but a couple responses were pretty angry.

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I do see that many women feel traumatized by this surgery; however, I still do not understand why women are devastated by experiencing a cesarean birth. I am a “by any means necessary” kind of mom. Just get that baby safely here. And if you can do it quickly, even better. I hear that some women feel cheated because they believe doctors rush to do a c-section to avoid malpractice lawsuits. I have to say wait a minute on that one – malpractice lawsuits happen when something goes wrong – so if the doctor is trying to avoid a malpractice lawsuit, I fail to see why that is a bad thing.

But reading the responses made me want to dig deeper and uncover why I am so unscathed by my experiences. This what I came up with.

When we decided we were ready to be parents, my husband was excited – that means we get to try – a lot. I had other plans – sorry dear. I wanted a boy first – I have an older brother and he is my good luck charm. So I hoped if I ever had a girl, she would have an older brother. So, there is timing involved. My husband swore if we got pregnant the first month, I would be a single parent.

Me: Ooops. Count your blessings honey. Some people try for years.
Number One Hubby: Hmpf.

I had an easy pregnancy with Bear – but his birth – well that was a little more exciting. You can read here about how all three of my children were born in emergency situations. Yes, that surely tainted my judgment and fostered a lack of resentment. As I said, by any means necessary.

That first year went well. So, we started talking about adding to our family.

Hubby: Do we get to practice more this time?
Me:  I’d like a girl this time. There is timing involved, you know.
Hubby: I’ll take that as a no.
Me: Well, we’ll see – I’d like to just try the first month.
Hubby: Remind me again how do you feel about single parenting.

We got very lucky again. Flower was born 23 months after Bear.

Then a year later, we thought about starting to talk again.

Me: I am pregnant
Hubby: What? How did that happen?
Me:  (Looking at Flower and Bear)
Hubby: Yeah, I know that. But, does that mean we don’t even get to pretend like we are going to practice?
Doctor: Something is not right.

Baby Doe never made it completely into our family. I don’t know if Baby Doe was a boy or girl. S/he wasn’t with us long enough to get a name, just a place in our hearts. Baby Doe did not make it very far. We lost Baby Doe early. The first sonogram showed that our baby was measuring too small and there was not a heartbeat. Let’s wait about 10 days and see what happens. Maybe you aren’t as far along as you think you are.

Hmmmmmm. 10 days as in 240 hours as in 14,400 minutes as in, literally, a lifetime. Baby Doe’s lifetime.

My HCG levels were rising at encouraging levels. That got me through 10 very long days. But the second sonogram showed no growth, no heartbeat. My body, not realizing what was not happening, did absolutely nothing. So, I was scheduled for a DNC.

It is hard to capture those feelings. Not everyone knew I was pregnant – although I am glad I had told my family and close friends. Otherwise the loss would have been a silent one.

The people who were most concerned about our loss were people who had experienced the same loss themselves. I do feel it much more deeply for others now too. Miscarriages seem so unattended. So nameless and faceless and lonely. Solitary.

It’s not that often that I think of our miscarriage – remember I try to focus on the gifts not the disappointments – although writing about our experience made me shiver a little. There is certainly an emptiness in the experience. Writing about it takes me to the softness in my heart where sadness echoes memories that were never meant to be.  I think I was lucky that I was able to grieve our loss when it happened. So many women fight the sadness and move on a little too quickly. I did not have a choice. It was overwhelming and empty. Grief came to me in the quiet moments I was alone and allowed myself to think of what was not to be.

We never knew what exactly happened – just that something must have been very, very wrong.

We were told to wait a few months before trying again. Physically and Emotionally. Not me. Thank you. We started trying soon after. Hubby didn’t even ask about practicing. It was not as fun this time.

Six months with no luck and we decided we should count our blessings. Two children – one boy, one girl. We are very lucky. We can stop here.

Hubby scheduled an appointment for a vasectomy and was on his way to it when another doctor called him. He needed to go to his parents’ house immediately. His father was not doing well.

That following week my father-in-law passed away from a long, hard-fought battle with lung cancer. We had his funeral on a Wednesday and on the following Friday was Flower’s second birthday. I felt funny. Exhausted. Not really that hungry. Pregnant. But we had a lot to do and Hubby was just overwhelmed. I decided to wait until after the party to share the news.

My mother-in-law graciously asked us to continue with Flower’s party. She thought it would be nice to have something happy to do. She was right. It was lovely and a very nice diversion. Toward the end of the party, I heard hubby declaring our intent to be a two-child family. He laughed and joked. But his bottom line – “we are done.”

After everyone left, I asked him to sit down.

Me: We aren’t exactly done.
Hubby: Huh? Again with the no practicing?
Me: Apparently.

The first sonogram did not go well. We had to wait 10 days again. Luckily this time it was not a lifetime. Although it felt like one.

The second sonogram went great. The message typed on the screen was “send pizza”. Does that mean you see a heartbeat? Yes.

Some of my tests showed abnormal results and I ended up having an amnio. Everything tested fine and we knew for sure we were being blessed with another daughter. But something about a miscarriage can leave you questioning your entire pregnancy. What will happen this time? Will she be okay? We have all heard too many stories.

So, when I was in a car accident the day Angel was born and I heard very scary words in triage, I still was very unsure I would get to meet her. Hold her. Luckily for me and her, we both came out of surgery just fine. Three weeks early. Her little gift to me. Thanks honey!

I feel so blessed that my children are with me. That we survived pregnancy together. So, when I hear someone lament their c-section story, I don’t share their loss – even if we share similar scars. My scar is a physical reminder that I am blessed – it is a badge of honor. Some scars I guess are more emotional. And I understand they might not ever heal. I have sympathy for that sense of loss but, clearly, perspectives are different. I am not sure why they are unable to simply soak in the gift they have been given. Just look at their child and see that great fortune was delivered right into their arms via their heart – by any means necessary.  As  for me, I plan to continuing appreciating what is and forgive whatever was not.

It just depends………

A lot of people curious about just how much less expensive it is to live here. Well, it really just depends…..

Housing
Our rent here is a good bit more expensive than our mortgage in the states. We lived in a fairly expensive area in the States. Not in a fancy pants, outrageously expensive area – but a fairly expensive area.

Utilities
Cable, internet, and mobile phones are much cheaper than in the U.S. My mobile phone bill last month was $8. Cable and internet are about $14 per month – that’s combined, not each.

Domestic Help
We do not pay our driver and cook directly so I am not exactly sure what their salaries are. But I know it is a lot cheaper to have help in Indian than in the U.S. Our cook works from 11am – 8:30p – that’s Monday thru Saturday. He also does the laundry and some of the grocery shopping. Our house cleaner works 4 hours a day – that’s also Monday thru Saturday. They both also get money for transportation. Sometimes domestic help will live in quarters near the family they are working for. Ours do not do that.

Produce
As long as you are buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and are not imported, produce is very inexpensive. Very inexpensive.

Recognizable snacks
Not such a great deal. A bag of goldfish crackers is about $4. But worth every penny. You cannot get Pizza Goldfish here and that is a bummer. You can find many brand names for prepackaged foods that you would recognize. They are about double what you would pay in the U.S. You cannot find everything you want, but there is certainly enough to get by on – especially when friends and family will send you a box of surprises every now and then. (Thank you friends and family!)

Soda is about  the same price as in the U.S.

Chocolate chips and canned frosting are two things that we have not been able to find. It’s interesting because you can get cake mixes – but no icing. We also cannot find tortilla chips. Enter very sad face here. We love tortilla chips.

Activities for the kids
There are simply not as many options for the kids here to do sports – so yes, we are saving money there.

The middle school offers free activities like ultimate frisbee and rock climbing and ping pong after school. Something is available every day for Bear.

The elementary school offers activities like knitting, fun with aquatics, jump rope, recycled art, and many others. Each class is once a week and they are $30 for an 8-week session.

Flower and Bear are running track thru the school. So far, that has been free. We did have to agree to host visiting athletes for the track meet in April. We are looking forward to that.

Clothing
There are lots of markets where you can buy inexpensive clothing but clothes for preteens seem to be hard to find. We have had an impossible time finding shorts for our daughters.

There are very nice malls – they are equivalent to the prices in the U.S. We had to buy our daughter a pair of shoes for track – they were $70. No that is not a great deal. But I have gotten some lovely light weight kurtas (Indian style shirts) for $4. Yes, that is a great deal.

I will say the quality of the less expensive items is – well, you get what you pay for. Those items are not going to last a lifetime. But they will be very fun to wear while they last.

Doctors
When we went to the dermatologist for our son, our visit was $16. That is about what you would pay for an insurance co-pay in the U.S. However, that was the entire cost without any insurance.

His follow-up visit was $10.

Medicines
We got Bear antibiotics for 5 days, antibiotic ointment, an antihistamine, and soaps for $24. Again, that was the total cost. No insurance co-pays. All of it was only $24.

Cat food/litter
Outrageous. But what are you going to do?

Eating Out
That is just like anywhere. It can be expensive or not so bad.

Two large pan pizzas at Pizza Hut are $16. Our whole family can eat at McDonalds for $12 – and, have I mentioned that McDonalds delivers? But the nicer the restaurant, the more expensive it is. We went to lunch at a restaurant at the mall and the bill was $80 for lunch. Yes, we are going to Pizza Hut next time.

Gas
I fortunately do not have to drive – so I do not fill up the car with gas. But I will not be complaining about the prices of gas in the U.S. anymore.

Fresh Flowers
Lillies are expensive here too –  probably not as much as in the U.S., but relatively speaking they are more expensive than the other flowers – carnations and a lot of other flowers are very inexpensive. There are a lot of flower stands rich with beautiful blooms.

Yoga Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it costs 3000 rupees a month for 2 lessons a week. That’s about $60 for the month.

Hindi Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it is 500 rupees per lesson – about $10 per hour. I have a friend who joins me sometimes – when she comes, it is 800 rupees.

I am sure they are things I have forgotten – if you are curious about something – just let me know!

I am not joining the pity party…….

As I have had more time on my hands lately, I have been reading (a lot) of blogs. I have found this network of women who are lamenting over the fact that they had to have cesarean sections to give birth to their children. They drew me in and I read several of them. But I had a hard time making a connection.

I really, truly appreciate the fact that many women want to fully experience childbirth a la natural. Me, well, I am more of a bring on the drugs kind of person. Epidural – yes, please. C-section – if you insist.

However, I, too, was all set to deliver my babies the old fashioned way – well with the benefit of modern pharmaceuticals and a building and doctors – no woods, no medicine men for me. Thanks anyway. Number one hubby and I checked the box and attended a Lamaze class – watched the video – and realized that we had absolutely no idea what we had gotten ourselves me into. I have to do what? And you get to sit there and tell me how to breathe? I am quite sure that is (not) going to prove to be very helpful.

Our Lamaze instructor was very excited about all things birth. However, being so close to the actual event myself (coupled with the fact that I was the one actually responsible for accomplishing it), I found it hard to share her enthusiasm. So, when she got to the part on c-sections, I remember turning to Number One Hubby and asking if he wanted to go get some lunch. Enough already. There are truly only so many home videos an about-to-be-mom can watch.

I think I can quote that instructor exactly, “I want everyone here to pay v.e.r.y. close attention to this part of the class. No one here thinks they will have a c-section, but I can guarantee you that at least one person in this room will deliver by c-section. You will want to know what’s happening.”

Me to Hubby: Oh, that’s really too bad. I wonder
which one of THOSE women it will be.
Hubby: Yeah.
Fate: You my sista.

I spent several days in and out of the hospital in the days before Bear was born. I won’t bore you with the details – we all have a story – but the bottom line was the doctors think I was passing a kidney stone. Yes, that was a great idea. Welcome to my little corner of brilliance. Give birth – pass a kidney stone – oh heck, let’s just do both – at the same time – sure. But in a way it was lucky, because in searching for the stone, they found my amniotic fluid was low and that my little Bear was breech. They scheduled me for a c-section a few days later. Seems they were very busy on that particular day and could not do it right away. But didn’t you say my amniotic fluid was low? Whatever. At least I thought I would have time to review the tape. That Lamaze lady was right, maybe I should have paid attention. Oh, you meant me?

I thought I had time to review those tapes until my water broke and we found ourselves in an emergency c-section situation. And, by ourselves, I do mean myself. Oh yes, doesn’t that sound a lot better? My husband was conducting a science experiment to determine exactly what type of fluid was gushing out of me at record speeds, while I was busy doing my best to convince him that we needed to go back to the hospital. Immediately. As in Right. Now. It was the stuff that sitcoms are made of. It seems he was tired and he really just wanted to sit down. Seriously? Let’s leave the alkaline test to the professionals. You know – the brilliant ones who just sent us home.

Needless to say, I had surgery. I recovered from surgery and got pregnant again. I ended up with 3 sections. All three of them emergencies. You’ve now read about Bear. Flower was also breech. I had a granola doctor who wanted to try to flip her for me – but I read about it and decided it wasn’t so much for me. They do it in the operating room in case you go into labor or stress (translation – something goes wrong or worse, very wrong) – it was only about 50% likely to work – and they expect the mom (and I am guessing her little bundle of baby) to get pretty bruised and therefore to be pretty uncomfortable – yes, with labor looming. No thank you. I survived one c-section just fine. Bring on number two. Flower’s birth became an emergency because apparently slipping on the ice late in pregnancy can bring on labor and my water broke again. There is just no rest for the clumsy.

Angel – well, it seems they don’t want you to even consider a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean – if there are any men still reading at this point -sorry) after two c-sections. But just to keep it interesting, I was in a car accident the day Angel was born and learned what decelerated heart rate means in triage. I can assure you that labor and deliver triage is neither the time nor the place to review SAT vocabulary words like decelerated heart rate or STAT.

Because my water broke twice, I had the initial experience of being in labor. Yeah, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. Going into labor gives me the thrill of shaking like a meth addict in rehab. It ain’t pretty. The first time it happened, I was terrified that the anesthesiologist would not be able to get the needle in the right spot. And, YES, I had read all those articles about the potential for paralysis with a misplaced epidural. (note to self – step away from the internet.) The doctor said as long as he wasn’t shaking we were fine. Oh good, I got a comedian. Thankfully a very steady comedian. I can still walk.

The bottom line in all of this is that c-sections are not perfect. But I am very thankful modern science has brought them into existence. If you have ever had a c-section or are facing one soon – even if, my friend, it was something you chose to do – please do not feel short changed. It is one of your first journeys into parenthood and it foreshadows what the rest of your parenting journey will be like – at times scary, at times rushed, at times overwhelming, at times disappointing, and at times rewarding beyond measure. When they put that little baby in your arms, it will not matter one bit how he or she got there. You’ll be just as overwhelmed as any other new parent – with love and joy and a whole new sense of responsibility.

I think it might be the loss of control that is so hard to forget and forgive. And the fear that follows it. Not knowing what will happen next can be extremely overwhelming, especially when a life seems to hang in the balance. But again, that is just one pebble in this parenting path. A pebble that will forever hide in the corner of our shoe as a constant, irritating reminder that we do not control the cosmos. Sometimes we have to walk uncomfortable journeys to get to our destination.

The tears really worth shedding are for those men and women who never get to hold a child they love in their arms.

NOTE: after writing this post, I received a lot of comments via email and on the blog – as a result, I followed up with a post called “Digging Deeper”