There are no health care centers specifically meant for pregnant women in Nebraska, like they do in Finland ("neuvola") In fact there are no public health centers like there are in Finland at all. Instead a pregnant mother is taken care of by a primary care physician, your own doctor, or a gynecologist throughout the pregnancy. Since I was on state insurance, I didn't really get to choose my doctor. I did get to choose whether I wanted a male or a female doctor, and I chose the latter. I was, once again, lucky and my doctor was amazing. She worked in this Christian health care center, but she was in no way judgmental, and in fact very culturally educated and open-minded. All her babies were born in the nearby Catholic hospital, which is where I had my baby as well. And no, I'm not Catholic and I'm not overly religious either, but this was never a problem. Being foreign was not a problem either, only once the nurse that called me in looked really dumbfounded and said that she is very surprised to see that I'm white, since judging by my name she was expecting an Asian patient :D Just to be clear, I had one of those usual Finnish last names at that point :)
All my doctor's visits, which I had about once a month, were pretty much the same. They checked my weight, took a urine sample, checked my blood pressure, listened to the baby's heartbeats and asked me how I was doing, did I need anything etc. My doctor always had plenty of time for me, answered all my questions and remembered who I was and what had happened before. She also sent me to a specialist from early on, since I had complications and they worked together. I ended up having my baby only a month too early, probably thanks to them. The nurse that did home visits told me afterwards that she never thought I would make it to 8 months, so that's how complicated my pregnancy was. So besides my doctor's visits I had nurse, through a program for first time moms, visiting me every month during my early pregnancy and then every two weeks in my last trimester. With her we went through everything there was to know about being pregnant (nutrition, development, warning signs etc.), childbirth, and about taking care of a baby. She brought me brochures and we watched dvds and talked about what it was like being pregnant, and what it was like to become a mom. She was just amazing and I'm so glad I had her as my nurse. I'm especially glad that she was around to talk to since none of my friends in the U.S were pregnant or had children. She visited us once a week for a while after I had the baby as well. She basically weighed the baby and we talked about how to take care of him and how I was feeling. I really wish all first time moms had such an understanding and knowledgeable person to talk to, I don't know what I would've done without her.
The hospital nurses were really friendly as well, some of them overly friendly. I look quite a bit younger than I am (at least compared to my American peers) and often the nurses assumed that I was a teenager, especially since I was not married at the time. I was hospitalized several times during my pregnancy, so I met quite an array of nurses. They were all these smiling warm people that took my condition seriously. One of them seemed to take quite the liking to me, probably since she thought I was really young, and as I was leaving home she came and hugged me with tears in her eyes and said she would adopt me if she could :-) A lot of the nurses were wondering where my Mom was and why I was in the U.S without my parents. One of the nurses was also very concerned about my school, now that I had a baby. I told her I plan on staying home with the baby for a while and she told me that "you know, it's really difficult to go back to school if you drop out now" :D No one ever asked me what I did for living and just assumed I must be in school.
All in all the health care professionals were caring and knowledgeable people (although perhaps a bit naive...) and I felt like I was in good hands. And in case anyone was wondering, the Catholic part of the hospital could only be seen in the crucifixes on the walls, the health care professionals did not mention religion ever. A priest visited my room once and asked if I wanted to discuss bringing my child up as a Christian, but as I was not Catholic, I didn't feel the need for it. I was also visited by a Lutheran volunteer, an elderly lady, who brought some pictures I could hang on the nursery's wall. She also asked if I wanted my congregation to be notified of my child's birth, but when hearing it was in Finland she smiled and said she'd let me do that :-)
To be continued... :)
Pt I, Pt II, Pt III, Pt IV