The tour, the scan and the clinic

Turns out my husband has been right from the start, Thomson Medical Center is indeed a small dinky hospital. He’s also right when he said I was blinded at the beginning. We were there yesterday morning for the hospital tour. The guide showed us the birthing room/delivery suite. However we were told that a woman who arrives in labor is brought to the observation room first (sharing with 4 other ladies), and when she’s ready to deliver, she’s then transferred to the birthing room. Can you imagine having to share an observation room with other women, particularly if one or more is screaming with pain? And we found out though there are 10 birthing rooms, only 3 have attached bathrooms!! Hell! Do they think women in labor do not go to the bathroom? The answer they give is that anybody in these 7 rooms can ask for assistance from the nurse. (Cue ‘eye-rolling’ sequence.) It’s basically a first come first serve basis. You have to request for a room with bathroom attached, so it depends on your luck if you can get it.

We were not shown any maternity rooms as they were not available, instead we were only shown pictures. I indicated in the pre-registration form that I want a single bed room, for privacy, and also the baby is allowed to stay in the room with me. In case it’s not available, which is a possibility considering there will be an increased number of births since this is the year of the dragon in the Chinese zodiac, my second choice is the premier single room. I also asked the guide about safety procedures like baby identification (baby is tagged immediately after birth with mother’s name), fire risk (yes this is something we should look into even though it’s a small probability, I was told there is evacuation procedure). Unfortunately I forgot to ask for the fire exit when we were there. So during my next consultation visit, I’ll look out for the exit and clarify with the nurse on evacuation route so that I know where/how to escape. It’s best to have baby with you during evacuation, because I’m not sure how fast the nurse can move all the babies out quickly. Worst of all if there’s smoke. In fact I’ll bring along my smoke hood in the hospital bag. After the tour, we were taken to a canteen where we were served papaya soup. Sorry for saying this, but this ain’t no quality double-boiled soup. My husband told me all hospital food is crap, so he’ll bring me sandwiches and pastries from Maison Kayser.

In the afternoon, we returned to TMC for a detailed ultrasound scan of the baby. Someone told me it would take 45min to an hour, but the Sonographer said it would only be for 30-35mins. However mine was even more efficient, because baby was very cooperative, only took 20mins to complete all the scans. The Sonographer started by asking us if we knew the gender of the baby and we didn’t. So she probed around, showed us an image and pronounced, “baby is a boy.” Immediately my reaction was, “shit!”, and my husband went, “yay!” I couldn’t help it but I asked the Sonographer, “are you sure?” She then showed us an image and pointed out the little willy of the fellow and reconfirmed. I was like, the images are so blurry, how could anybody tell? She then went on to do the rest of the scans showing that the baby is developing well though the leg bone length is average (not long limbed as I hope will inherit from my side of the family).

After receiving the scan report, we proceeded to SF Loh’s clinic, The O&G Specialist Clinic, for my consultation. Honestly it doesn’t matter I had an appointment at 4pm (though I was 20 mins late), because there was a long queue before me. A lot of people were waiting in the waiting area, which is not very big. There were a few congratulatory flower arrangements lined up next to the reception counter. My friend told me before that she had her blood pressure taken at the counter. So when I was there yesterday, I thought things had improved and was surprised that it was the same for me. There were two staff present; the nurse is from KKH, clinic D. I don’t recognize the other older staff who’s not a nurse but assists in taking blood pressure, height and weight, and takes care of admin stuff. We found out from her that there were at least 11 patients before me, and she guessed that it would 6pm before I could see Loh. The staff told me that he underestimated the number of patients coming to his clinic. (Huh??? Didn’t he do a proper analysis?) So my husband and I went off for a bite to while away the time.

My husband was over the moon that the baby is a boy, even did a couple of chicken dances while I looked at him a little exasperated. He told me we should call the baby ‘Alex’ (we have agreed on the name ‘Alexander’ for boy) instead of ‘baby’. But I still couldn’t get over the disappointment. So over light snacks, I suggested that there could be some imaging problem with the machine, maybe the Sonographer interpreted wrongly, after all his cousin had a baby girl recently though she was informed during pregnancy that she had a boy. My husband just looked at me and said, ‘Alex, you should give mommy a kick! First she disses the report, then she discredits the Sonographer (even though she has 3 qualifications), and now she trying to deny you’re a boy.” I also realize that I’ve to keep my words to my husband on the Chinese name. I’ve agreed that if baby is boy, I’ll accept my father-in-law’s suggestion on the 1st Chinese character for the name. (That was because I had expected to have a girl.) And my husband remembers our agreement.

When we returned to the clinic, there were not as many patients around but we still had to wait for another 20 mins to see Loh, and the staff was right in her prediction that we only got to see him at 6pm. Because of insufficient manpower, he personally came out of his room to call for the patients. He was his usual cheery self, and making jokes throughout the entire meeting (sometimes at my expense) and made my husband laughed out loud a number of times. I think to those waiting outside it must have sounded like a comedy show in session.

Loh noted from my report that my placenta is rather low and advised “please behave like a pregnant lady”. “How do you know I don’t behave like one?” “I know.” Alright I admit I’m a fast walker, though I’ve slowed down a little now, even a colleague also mentioned that I don’t behave like I’m expecting. Loh told me I should walk like I’ve dropped my diamond ring on the ground and I’m walking around slowly searching for it. (That sounds almost impossible for me.) He also told me to reduce walking exercise, but swimming is fine. (Ok, I’ve to make an effort to do that.) He said I’ve to be careful since there’s a risk of placenta previa when the placenta covers all or part of the cervix, and worst if there was bleeding. He related to us an incident at KKH of an army general who came to see him ashen-faced, “since you’re supporting the opposition, I can’t tell you who he is.” The general’s wife suffered from placenta previa and had massive bleeding “like the flooding (in Orchard Road) that (Vivian) Balakrishnan had to handle.” (My husband was so amused by the analogy.) So she had to deliver at 28 weeks but luckily it went well.

Anyway Loh reminded me to ask him questions because I wrote to him that he completely distracted me during the last meeting. He replied that he is an old bird (experienced) in distraction. So I asked him for his view on episiotomy after my friend told me that he’s likely to perform the procedure. I told him that WHO doesn’t encourage it during childbirth, and he retorted, “WHO doesn’t practice here.” (So what?) But to my surprise, he admitted that he doesn’t like doing it but he has no choice because Asian women have difficulty pushing out the babies without the procedure to assist them unlike Caucasian women. He also told me that perineal massage doesn’t work for Asian women either because of different muscle structure from Caucasian women. He said the number of cases of Asian women that didn’t require him to perform the procedure is so small that he can count on one hand because they’re so memorable. So if I discover a way that doesn’t require him to perform episiotomy on me, I should let him know so that he can write a book about it, and he’ll name whatever oil I use after me.

To be honest, I’m surprised Loh had the energy to spend the time chatting with us when he hadn’t even had his lunch, but he seemed to enjoy the conversation himself. I think we took up a bit of time from the lady who went in to see him after us. According to my husband, she came to the clinic right behind us, and when we returned to the clinic she was still waiting around. A word of advice to patients of Loh, don’t waste time waiting in the clinic if you have to wait for more than an hour unless you brought an iPad or laptop along to do some work. But regardless, you are better off going to some cafe where you can have a bite as well. In fact if you have to wait for 2 hours or more, you might as well gallivant at the nearby Novena Square mall.

My husband thinks Loh’s clinic is ok, he doesn’t understand the fuss my friend and I have about having our blood pressure taken at the reception counter. He’s also nonchalant about the small waiting area since space is a constraint and anyway patient doesn’t have to wait around there. So he thinks I’m nitpicking when I pointed that out. When we were there, Lady Marianne was helping out at the counter, answering phone calls. It looks like she has much fewer patients than Loh. Anyway my condition seems fine enough for Loh to see me 5 weeks later. He proposed the same time which he thinks there’ll be less people around (which I doubt). The counter staff told me that during his night clinic service on Tuesday and Thursday, even though the clinic closing time is 8pm, they actually close at 10pm. He really works hard for his money, my husband feels he deserves every single cent he made. Before we left the consultation room, my husband advised him not to skip lunch.


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