If ever a year deserved a round-up/wrap-up senti look-back type post, it was this one. 

And that's all I can say without falling into maudlin stereotypes that won't begin to do it justice. So I'll stop there, and wish us all a very happy new year. 

May 2015 bring you more luck, more laughs, and more opportunities to throw caution to the wind in the heady pursuit of real happiness :)

Having a Baby in Hyderabad

One of the things I struggle with after moving back to India is the lack of information online. I'll see guest houses on the road, but they won't have websites, or even a listing on MakeMyTrip/TripAdvisor. I know restaurants offer home delivery, but there's no way of ordering other than to call them up. And perhaps most irksome of all, there are very few online reviews of any product or service. 

... All of which is to say that I had to resort to asking people about maternity hospitals in Hyderabad, rather than just resorting to good old Google. The internet was almost no use - it couldn't even tell me the average cost of having a baby (up to delivery). So to potentially save someone else some time, here's what we found. I should preface this by saying what we were looking for:

* A hospital within 8-10kms of our house in Madhapur/Hitech City. Not only do you not want to deliver your baby en route, but also, it just makes it simpler for check-ups.

* A reasonable C-section rate. I have nothing against medical intervention, but I also didn't want to go to a place with a statistical history of repeatedly interfering. 

* Low to no wait times. We waited five hours (not even exaggerating) at Vijaya Diagnostics for a TIFFA scan. It makes me BP-hopping mad. I'm the type that makes appointments well in advance, and I expect hospitals to honour the time slots they give me, barring an emergency of some sort. 

* A trustworthy doctor whom we felt comfortable with. I just can't relax around a doctor who says things like "They deliver breech babies naturally in the US because they don't care if it dies," or "The only reason people can't breastfeed is because they don't try hard enough." That kind of BS is annoying enough coming from elderly relatives who 'don't know better,' but to hear it from a medical practitioner was terrifying.

* I preferably wanted a place that understood the relevance of skin-to-skin, lactation consulting, and so on. I'm not saying I'd necessarily want an active labour or remember to do Lamaze. However, I'd be happier if the hospital's philosophies weren't stuck in the 1980's. 

There were four hospitals we considered - Fernandes, Rainbow, Motherhood, and The Birthplace. Fernandes was out straight away because of its location near Abids. While they have a clinic in Jubilee Hills, that one only offers Day Care procedures. Rainbow was incredibly close to our house, but had a C-section rate that scared me. I'm not suggesting they don't have a good reason for it. I'm only saying I was spooked and didn't bother looking any closer. 

That left us with two serious contenders - Motherhood, on Road No 12, and The Birthplace on Road No 2. Both were easily accessible. Both had senior doctors with good reviews from people whom we knew. Both preached the value of an unmedicated labour where possible. So we decided to schedule consultations with the gynacs we had been recommended at both places, and see whom we felt more comfortable with. Honestly, what it came down to wasn't which gynac we clicked with - both were fantastic. Instead, what it came down to was our experience at their waiting rooms. 

Motherhood was much busier, and our appointment was delayed by 20 minutes. On the other hand, Birthplace only has 23-25 beds, so it's far less crowded. We never felt rushed. This is a tiny thing, but I also appreciated the fact that the bathrooms were cleaner, and the labour suites looked less used. The Birthplace is, overall, much more sophisticated.

Those are all really small, subjective things. I could just as easily have gone with Motherhood, especially since the price difference between the two is considerable. The Birthplace costs (much) more than any other hospital, though they do include things like epidurals which other hospitals often add on as extras. However, we decided on The Birthplace, and I've been very happy with that decision. A few things that really stood out for me:

* We've never had to wait for an appointment or a scan or a test. Everything happens with clinical precision. Even blood work is usually turned around in 24 hours, and the results are emailed over, along with a follow up phone call. My doctor's available by email as well as during our appointments.

* The way they carry out scans is fantastic. Their experience even beats the ones we had in Toronto. They project what the sonographer's seeing onto an HDTV in 3D/4D. It's pretty amazing that they also let A stay in the whole time, rather than for the last ten minutes.

*  They have some fairly useful classes over the weekends, on topics ranging from nutrition to Lamaze to prenatal yoga. I like the flexibility involved in choosing the classes you want to go to (and I lurve the whole wheat cheese sandwiches they serve at the end, but that's irrelevant).

* Dr. Pratibha Narayan came highly recommended. She specializes in high risk pregnancies, and what I love about that is the fact that she doesn't stress about the small stuff. A chilled out doctor is your one raft of sanity in India, where most people are just so intense about pregnancy (Don't lift that! Don't travel! Eat for two! Baaah. I push back, but it's even better when your doctor pushes back too).

As for what it all costs, here's a rough rundown of what you can expect to shell out at a high-end place and a more average place. I wasn't in India for the first 4.5 months, so some of these are estimates (I've no idea how many times blood work is actually done here). Don't freak out at the big numbers, insurance will usually cover the bulk of this. Do remember to check the terms though - most providers won't cover maternity for the first 2-3 years after you take the policy.

The Entrepreneur's Wife

Last Monday, A's company's website went live. The response? Stunning. Two hundred Likes in two days. And that's just on Facebook. The encouragement and interest has been amazing to see, and I'm so happy for him. When I shared the site on my own page, I was flooded with congratulations and well wishes. I'd love to accept them all, but the truth is, this one is A's baby. I'm just the Entrepreneur's Wife.

There have been many articles about being married to a start-up founder, and how it affects you. I can't deny any of the points they bring up:

* Life without insurance, literal and otherwise, can be scary. You watch your bank balance go down, and you have a lot of time to think about safety nets and risk. The opportunity cost of sticking to a 'safe' job is far higher than that of taking a calculated risk, but knowing that objectively doesn't always drive away the subjective moments of doubt.

* Any 'auto-pilot' your relationship may have relaxed into will crash and burn. No matter how many years you've been married, or how in love you are, you'll have to really work at it, given that schedules are often changed last minute, and time's a scarce, valuable resource. I simply put dinner out on the table and go to sleep, because I know A will come in at 11:30, eat, and go on to work till 2, before sleeping till 10. Sometimes, it does seem like we're in different time zones. 

* Instead of having a whole office full of people to trade notes on and talk about, suddenly you are one of the few people your spouse interacts with. YOU are the idiot they've been dealing with all day, not their manager/colleague/report. In my case, as I've the year off, the reverse is true too. Impatience levels certainly run high - we expect the other person to be perfect, when the truth is, their perfection was especially clear on a relative scale. 

That said, there are a few factors which make the whole experience even more worthwhile and easy in our case.

* I do some freelance work for one of A's company's partners, so we invariably go into office together. It's been nearly three years since we worked out of the same space, and doing so just reminds us how our strengths and weaknesses nicely complement each other. We save each other a lot of time by talking business problems through (before you ask - no NDA's apply in this case). And it's always nice eating lunch together, or talking on the way home before it's work, work, work again.

* I'm in the uniquely lucky position of working in the same industry as A. I never wanted to be a start-up partner, but I enjoy helping out with his marketing, and I will absolutely demand a salary when his company starts making money. Until then, it's just nice not to helplessly watch from the sidelines as he powers through this.

* I'm often alone at home while A's out doing field work, or schmoozing. But, (a) I like having the house to myself every now and then to get all the chores out of the way, and (b) he shows up for doctor's appointments and anything important, no matter what. His schedule's his own, in a way that it couldn't have been at even the most flexible job. It pays off, in that he's never once missed a pregnancy related meeting, and sharing the experience with him has been special. 

For me, the most rewarding thing about watching A work on his company is seeing how much he's capable of. I eavesdrop on customer calls and marvel at his efficiency and the friendly-formal tone he manages to strike. I read his blog posts and marketing drafts, and am surprised by how much my generally reticent husband can think of to say. He's funnier, smarter, more driven, and more efficient than I could have ever imagined. 

Being unconstrained by someone else's rules has unleashed his potential in pretty much every direction, and watching him conquer areas that I know he struggles with has been amazing. I can't begin to describe the pride and happiness I feel in knowing that he isn't just subsisting from one day to the other. That, more than anything, convinces me that this experiment has been successful, no matter where we go from here.

Here's to TruckSumo.com.