What it’s like to give birth in Alberta, Canada

Spoilers: It’s colder. And much, much cheaper.

What it’s like to give birth in Alberta, Canada

I waddled into the hospital clutching my belly and my husband’s arm in the early hours of the morning. After a long walk through a quiet hospital, my husband left me in the maternity ward and ran back to move our hastily parked vehicle.

He had to pay for parking, but that was the only money that would come directly out of our pockets.

I’m Canadian. I was giving birth in a Canadian hospital and, yes, I know I’m lucky.

According to a report by Save the Children ranking the best and worst countries to be a mom, #20 Canada is doing better by moms than #33 United States. I certainly came to appreciate that high ranking during my experience, but it doesn’t mean maternity care in Canada is without downsides.


During pregnancy

I started planning my birth the day I learned I was pregnant. I knew I wanted a midwife who could assist me in a water birth at our local hospital, which wasn’t a big issue: In my province, both midwives and OBs are covered by health insurance.

However, there is a long wait list for handful of midwifery services in my area. I put my name down with the local midwives the day of my first positive at-home pregnancy test—and they still didn’t accept me as a patient due to their mandated 40-patients per year limit. It’s fair to say I was crushed.

With my midwife dream dashed, I ended up as a patient at an overworked OB’s office where two- to three-hour wait times were common due to the relative shortage of obstetricians in my city. I quickly caught on and started bringing my laptop and plenty of snacks.

Labor and delivery

When it came time to give birth, my experience totally made up for the slow prenatal care.

After being rejected by the midwives, I’d basically given up on a low-intervention birth—so an epidural was the first thing I asked for at the hospital. Although the nurses were respectful of my request, they encouraged me to try a few alternative pain mitigators until the anesthesiologist was available. I was given nitrous oxide (which did nothing) before being helped down the hall to a little bathroom and a warm bath tub just slightly larger than the one in my own bathroom.

It wasn’t long until I was ready to push. Back in the delivery room, I met the OB who was to deliver my baby for the first time. (The one I saw during my pregnancy wasn’t available, but did follow up the next day.)

The doctor arrived not long before my son—then the room cleared but for one nurse who brought me cheese and a ginger ale and tried to help my baby get a good latch. In fact, the supportive nurses were everything I’d imagined a midwife would be.

Eventually, our new little family moved to a maternity room where we were separated from another mom and baby by a curtain. We spent a day and a half in there, but the ward was very busy and I was thankful when I was given the all-clear to go home and finally sleep in silence—at least until the baby got hungry.

The hospital wasn’t exactly a peaceful oasis, but it was free: Thanks to my province’s health care insurance plan, my husband and I didn’t have to pay for all the services we would use during my post-delivery stay. (Including the upholstered hospital chair I ruined when I threw up on it.)

Parental leave

My American friends told me how lucky I was to have government-issued parental leave: Through federal employment insurance, I was technically eligible to spend almost a year at home with my baby while still bringing home about half of my previous income.

There was just a catch related to my line of work. Because I resumed freelance writing a few weeks after my son’s birth (and therefore making money in the eyes of the government), I was largely ineligible for parental leave benefits. Meanwhile, most parents who claim no other income during the 35 weeks of parental benefits get about 55% of their salary—up to a maximum of approximately $400 per week.

I did however benefit from “child tax” checks—a tax-free monthly payment to help with the cost of raising children—which started showing up in my mailbox when my son was a few weeks old and will until his eighteenth birthday if we remain eligible as determined by our tax returns.

This is meant to help families with child care decisions, but hardly makes a dent in the monthly $1,500 average it costs to have a toddler in daycare around here. (Although there is promising news for families in some regions of Alberta, where the government recently launched a $25 per day program.)

Postnatal care

I also benefitted from follow-up care—to an extent: As is the standard practice, a public health nurse came by a few days after our return home to check on the baby, offer tips on breastfeeding and make sure my husband and I were aware of mental health resources should signs of postpartum depression emerge.

At the time, all seemed to be well. (She even joked she was impressed by my full face of makeup.) However, when I did struggle with postpartum depression later, I had to access my husband’s supplemental health insurance plan because therapy with a non-physician therapist isn’t covered by my provincial plan.

Was my experience giving birth in Canada without its flaws? No. Yet, I am thankful for the benefits I did receive—especially the privilege of never seeing a hospital bill.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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