Carlie: Hello there. It’s Carlie with the Expat Focus Podcast. I have a returning guest today. It’s Mia Stewart who joins me to talk about winning the US Green Card lottery, also known as the DV Lottery, or the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. If you listen to my first interview with Mia, you’ll recall that she and her husband moved from Australia to the USA few years ago (to LA specifically) on an O1 Visa.
So we’re going to find out the process they’ve gone through to adjust their visa status and what made them enter the Green Card Lottery in the first place. But that’s not all that Mia’s been up to. She’s also had a baby in the States, and if you listen to my recent interview with Cigna Healthcare, you’ll know just how important it is to have good health insurance when you live in the USA. So Mia and I are also going to speak about that and some of the costs related to her pregnancy.
Mia, it’s been a while since we talked. Thanks so much for coming back on the Expat Focus Podcast.
Mia: Thanks for having me again. And yeah, it has been a little while. A bit to talk about.
Carlie: There is a bit to talk about. The last time you were on the show, we were speaking about moving to the USA on an O1 visa, which is a specific type of visa that you and your husband moved to LA on a few years ago now.
Mia: Yes, it was like 2018 we moved here and I think I spoke to you in 2019.
Carlie: And since then, a couple of developments in your life. You have won the Green Card Lottery, and you’ve had a baby.
Mia: A lot of big things, yup.
Carlie: So I’d like to get into both of those subjects on this episode. For anyone else who is looking at a move to the USA or looking at having a baby Stateside, I think this will be really useful information. Let’s start with the Green Card Lottery because I have heard about this a few times over the years and I vaguely understand it as a way that you can apply for permanent residency in the USA and it’s literally a lottery every year to see who gets in…?
Mia: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. So, I believe that you apply, I think, in October and then you find out in May…or it could be the other way around. You apply in May and then you find out in October. So then it’s for the following year that you then process the application, and you are basically assigned a number for your application. And so that number can be right up in the thousands. I think ours was 2040 something (it was like low two thousands.) And so…my husband was really good at researching everything, by the way.
There’s really great resources online and there’s this whole spreadsheet run by this immigration lawyer. That was really helpful because it showed…other people contributed to it and showed what their number was and where they were processing and where was a good place to process. So we did ours in Los Angeles and we applied for a adjustment of status because we were already physically here. So when you are outside of the US it’s a different process. So ours was based here in the US. We were already on an O1 visa, so we were doing an adjustment of status, which sometimes means you don’t have to go and do an interview.
The big steps with the visa, sorry, with the Green Card application is after you do the application and get all…so getting all of the bits of the documentation was probably the trickiest. You have to get proof of high school certificate, like all your VC, HSC results, high school results, university results. And so it’s like calling up your parents, “do you have these documents in the garage?”
Carlie: From 20 years ago?
Mia: Yeah, birth certificate, marriage certificate, all of that stuff. So that was actually the longest process and sometimes, some people might not even get past that stage. So, being able to find that documentation. So that’s that step. And then submitting all of that. And then once it’s received, you have a certain timeframe in which to do a medical and then send that through. And then once that’s done, you’ll receive…gosh, this whole process took six months, by the way.
Carlie: This is just to apply, or after you find out that you’ve been successful?
Mia: So I apologize, just to apply is completely free and you can do that online. So then once you’ve won the lottery, these are the steps to actually…
Carlie: To qualify your lottery win, is that…?
Mia: …win? Yeah, so winning doesn’t guarantee a visa. Winning doesn’t mean you actually get the Green Card. There’s this whole process as well. And like I said, the numbers, if your number is so high, you might not even have a visa allocated. After all the processes that you do, you might get to the end and they might say…and this has apparently happened to people in their actual interview, they might say, “oh, we’ve run out of visas, you actually don’t get one”. Yeah. And they found all this out through this forum, this spreadsheet that he was intensely looking at and checking on every week as we were going through our process.
Carlie: So why did you decide (to backtrack) why did you decide to move the O1 visa to try for a US Green Card?
Mia: Oh, so it was purely because the O1…because basically the O1 is only three years, valid for three years, so you have to reapply. And that is a pain in the bum, because it’s a lot of paperwork. You have to contact people for deal memos, you have to…basically it’s a whole three or four months out of your life where you just have to get everything in order. It’s not just a matter of reapplying because you’ve had a previous one. You have to essentially, each time it’s a new application.
And it was just stressful in that way because it wasn’t guaranteed that we would get it each time. So it’s like, every three years I feel like our lives are kind of on hold and if we don’t get it, what do we do? We have to move everything back and move our lives back. So winning the Green Card lottery just made sense because it meant a guaranteed 10 years here, especially now with a baby.
Carlie: I always thought the Green Card meant that you could stay in the USA indefinitely. Does it give you a pathway to stay in the States?
Mia: I believe so. I believe so. I guess you could reapply or then just apply for citizenship after that point. But our (and I actually don’t know the renewal process of the Green Card), but ours is valid for 10 years.
Carlie: It gives you clarity for the next decade, which is important.
Mia: Exactly. And it also means it’s easier to come and go. There was always a little bit of concern with the O1 if we got pulled up by immigration when we were coming in or out, because it is work-based, and so it just doesn’t feel as secure as a Green Card.
Carlie: You guys are in California working in the entertainment industry. Have you been affected by the current Hollywood strike?
Mia: Yes, yes, we are currently affected. Well, I am working in post-production. So initially when the strike started, when the WGA strike started, I wasn’t affected because the work that I’m doing in post has already been filmed…has already been written, filmed, and in post-production. And it wasn’t until SAG, the Actors Guild also got involved that I was then affected.
So since June, I actually haven’t been working because the actors aren’t able to record their voiceover or their ADR, and so I therefore don’t have any work to do! Yeah. And it’s been an interesting time actually because I don’t think…the longest strike in history has been like 150 days. And so this is nearing that now. It could be the longest strike. So no one really knows what’s going to happen. People are kind of thinking it’ll go into next year, which is a little bit of a concern for many.
Carlie: It’s not just visa concerns, but suddenly it’s work concerns as well.
Mia: Yeah, I mean there’s all sorts of exceptions that are happening now. I mean, animation doesn’t fall under that, and I’ve thankfully got an animation job lined up later in the year. And also there’s other productions outside of Hollywood that are still happening, so they’re still existing.
Carlie: Circling back to the Green Card. So you guys were successful in the lottery, then you had to go through this application process and it culminated in an interview?
Mia: It did. So when you apply for an adjustment of status, sometimes you don’t need an interview, but we did. And so that was a little bit stressful as well because we had our baby and you’re not meant to bring anyone to the interview that’s not being interviewed. So yeah, thankfully my mother-in-law was here, so she was able to look after him and we were really well prepared for the interview.
And basically they’re just going through your application and making sure everything is correct and you are who you say you are. So it’s not…basically once you’ve submitted all the documents, it’s already essentially approved once you’re at the interview. So it’s not like they could kind of deny you at that interview stage.
But yeah, like I said, I have…Dave said that there were people who got to the interview stage and then were like, “oh,” (then typing in the system) “oh, there’s no visas left for you. They’ve actually run out at that stage.” So that was what we were anxious about was that we would’ve gotten to the interview stage and then they would’ve turned around and said, “actually, there’s no more Green Cards allocated”, which would’ve been really stressful after going through that whole process!
Carlie: So is there a strategy then to to get your interview to make sure you’re in the first batch of people to do interviews?
Mia: Actually, there’s really not much you can do. It’s beyond your control because it’s up to the number that you’ve received, that you’ve been allocated.
Carlie: Okay. So there’s a predetermined order.
Mia: There is a predetermined order, and also one person’s application might include four family members, or six family members. It might not just be the one person. There was this year a high chance of them actually running out of visas because I’m guessing there were a lot of people with larger families that were applying for Green Cards.
And so you might have a fairly middle or low number and actually run out, they might run out sooner for visas. And so it is kind of out of your control. You just have to be as prepared as you can and just…it is a lottery too, and you can reapply. That’s the upside, is if you don’t get in, if you win and you don’t get through, you could be lucky enough to win again.
Carlie: Was this your first time applying for the lottery?
Mia: This was actually our seventh or eighth time applying for the lottery. And yeah, it was our first time winning.
Carlie: Was this the first time you applied when you were already in the country?
Mia: No, so we actually have applied before. So when we were on our first O1, and then we’ve applied pretty much every single year since then. I don’t know if this is interesting or not, but I was actually born in the Philippines, so I couldn’t apply for my own Green Card. It wasn’t until Dave and I were married.
So, before we were married we were just applying through him. So we had one entry and it was him. But because we got married and he was born in Australia, I was able to apply through him. And last year I was the one that won, which is interesting because before we were married I couldn’t apply. And so, yeah, it’s kind of tricky because I couldn’t apply on my own being born in the Philippines, but then I was allowed to apply because I was married to him and then in the end I won and he was on my ticket!
Carlie: So is it the case that not everyone is eligible to apply? It depends on your country of birth?
Mia: Correct. Yes. So I was born in the Philippines. People who are born, I believe in the UK can’t (or if it’s England specifically), can’t apply. And there’s a few other countries as well. I think…oh Canada as well. There’s too many Canadians in here!
Carlie: Why is that the case?
Mia: I think it’s just based on maybe previous immigration, maybe there’s too many Filipinos or Canadians already in here and they just want to give other people a chance! I mean, there’s a lot of Australians here in California too, so yeah. Apparently there was a really high number of applicants from Fiji this year. So normally they accept 800 or something and then there was 2000. So, yeah.
Carlie: It’s really interesting to think about the waves of every year the Green Card lottery must attract peaks and troughs from different countries.
Mia: And I guess it doesn’t really feel super random then too. I mean…
Carlie: It’s controlled. It’s a rigged lottery!
Mia: A little bit, yeah, maybe just like yeah, maybe just trying to balance out, I don’t know, the global intake.
Carlie: You mentioned your baby wasn’t needed or invited to the interview. Is your child covered by the Green Card lottery as well? By the Green Card visa?
Mia: Yeah. So how it works with Teddy being born here is that he is automatically American. I mean, we could apply through his…if we wanted to become citizenship, I guess when he’s 18. But yeah, he’s automatically American.
Carlie: And is he also automatically Australian?
Mia: I believe so, yes. We just have to apply for his citizenship and then we can get his passport. But yeah, he’s through us, through me.
Carlie: Belated congratulations by the way, on having a baby.
Mia: Thank you.
Carlie: How old is he now?
Mia: He’s nine months next week, which is crazy how quickly it’s gone. Everyone says how fast it goes, but yeah, I can’t believe in three months we’ll have a one year old.
Carlie: And you’ve had the experience of being pregnant and going through that pregnancy in the USA. So that’s the other topic that I want to cover on today’s episode. We have spoken recently about healthcare in the USA with another guest from Cigna Health Insurance. The USA’s healthcare system is notorious for being quite expensive, difficult to navigate. So when you first found out you were pregnant, did you have any apprehensions about what you were going to face in terms of America’s healthcare system?
Mia: Honestly, yes I did, because it takes a quick search in the Aussies in LA group on Facebook or mother’s groups that I’ve joined, and people will say what their final bill that they received. And I was just terrified knowing that I had high blood pressure, so I knew that I was at risk for preeclampsia and that I also had large fibroids growing, that I thought there could be complications and that could mean more time in hospital, et cetera. So I was dreading a high bill. Do you want to know how high our bill was?
Carlie: Should I take a guess?
Mia: Yeah, take a guess. So, I’ll say that I was in hospital for five days and I had a C-section.
Carlie: C-section, hospital for five days in California.
Mia: In California.
Carlie: I’m assuming it might be cheaper to have a baby in some parts of the USA than others?
Carlie: Were you in that famous celebrity Hollywood hospital?
Mia: Cedars Sinai? I was actually.
Carlie: So cool! Sorry, I see that in entertainment reports all the time. I’m going to guess for 40,000.
Mia: I’m sorry. No. Way higher.
Carlie: Higher? Oh my gosh. I thought I was guessing really high…80,000?
Carlie: 230,000 US dollars to have a baby.
Carlie: Oh my gosh.
Mia: That was my bill. That is not what I paid.
Carlie: Please tell me you didn’t have to pay all that!
Mia: No, no. That is not what I paid.
Carlie: Okay. But that was the bill.
Mia: That was the bill, yeah. So that was also all the appointments leading up to it. And here they have so many appointments. My sister-in-law was pregnant at the same time. We were literally…she had a baby four days before me, so we were on the same timeline and she had way less appointments in Australia, whereas I had one basically every two weeks to a month here. Lots of scans and so that I guess racks up as well.
But yeah, 230,000 and I feel like that’s probably above the average based on some of the mother’s forums I’ve been looking at. Probably around a hundred to 150,000 is probably the average bill that people have for…probably less if you don’t have a C-section, I’m sure the C-section drove that price up as well.
Carlie: So tell me about some of these appointments that you had to have leading up to the birth.
Mia: Yeah, so we had…I guess there’s a 12 week scan, which is a milestone where you can find out the gender of the baby and they check for normal growth and they do the measurements…wait, no, the measurements is at 20 weeks. So those are the set ones that also happened back in Australia, but there were…
Carlie: Backtracking on the step one, you first find out you’re pregnant. Go to your doctor to confirm that’s the case. Are you then advised to go and find a baby doctor?
Mia: So, my experience might be a little bit different, but because I knew that I had two large fibroids, I specifically sought out a doctor that specialized in that and that because I knew I possibly would have to then have a C-section, I wanted to find the best obstetrician for that.
Carlie: This is why you ended up at that hospital, right?
Mia: Yeah. It was funny, when we came in, Dave was like, “so which way did the Kardashians enter? Do they have a secret entryway…?” Yeah. So after finding an obstetrician that I was happy with, I’m sorry, he’s crying…
Carlie: On cue!
Mia: Then they kind of schedule all the appointments for me based on, like I said, because I have high blood pressure. So I probably had more checkups than normal. But basically I was there every month, the 12 week, 20 week. The interesting thing though for me, and what will be different for someone else is that I had my second trimester in Australia, and that was interesting because I had to pay for everything there. Even though I was on Medicare and Medibank Private, nothing was covered.
Carlie: So you still had your Australian health insurance active?
Mia: Yes, yes I did. I knew I’d be there for a few months. So immediately as I landed home I signed up again for that. And then I also had access to Medicare still.
Carlie: And so why couldn’t you get anything covered on Australian health insurance? They kind of knew you weren’t present or…?
Mia: No, so certain things like my anatomy scan, they just aren’t covered. They just aren’t covered. I had to pay upfront for that one. It might normally be covered. It might just be Medibank or the particular specialist that I went to, but that wasn’t covered. And then my checkups with the obstetrician, after bulk billing, I think I ended up paying $60 or something per visit. I had about three or four when I was there. But back here in LA I probably only paid $30 per visit.
Carlie: Oh wow.
Mia: And sometimes nothing actually, sometimes I paid absolutely nothing for my scans.
Carlie: I was expecting something like $500 at least per scan.
Mia: No, absolutely not. And also the clinic that I went to provided a 3D scan as well at around 20 or 24 weeks. And I think that you have to pay for that in Australia. So there was just little things like that where it felt so smooth and really taken care of here because in the back of my head I knew that I was covered for everything because my health insurance is really good.
Carlie: I was going to ask, does it come down to the quality of your health insurance?
Mia: It does. It absolutely does. So I’m with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which I believe is only Blue Cross in some states. It’s not also the Blue Shield network. It’s a little confusing, but it differs from state to state. But essentially it’s a PPO, which means that you have the choice of going in network or out of network. HMO means you are essentially seeing…or you have one doctor that then will…basically, you are limited by your providers, so you can’t just go see a specialist that you want to see.
You’re kind of locked into a certain network. And that’s who…I was actually with Kaiser before I was pregnant and I didn’t really like their gynecologists that I was seeing. And so I changed insurance for that. And it just feels so bizarre having to shop around and being limited to who you can see, just we’re not used to that In Australia…
Carlie: It’s bizarre to have to completely change insurance just because you don’t like the gynecologist, you can’t just ask to see someone else at the clinic.
Mia: Yeah. And I know a lot of other new mums who’ve recently given birth at Kaiser and they had a really great experience and they like the fact that everything is within the one hospital, so their doctor or the specialists, everything’s contained and they like that. But for me personally, because I had other health issues and I had to see other specialists, it just made sense for me to have a PPO type insurance.
But the big thing for me is my insurance is through my union, through work. Everyone’s insurance is basically tied to their work in America. And so mine is through my union and I pay nothing for my health insurance basically. And my dependents are like $25 per month compared to the 900 that we were paying when I wasn’t in the union. So it’s a big difference financially.
Carlie: That’s huge. Absolutely. And so you said your bill was over 200 grand, but how much did you actually have to pay?
Mia: Oh, so I can find that out. I think it was something like 1500.
Carlie: 1,500 US dollars. That’s amazing.
Mia: Yeah. Yes, it is!
Carlie: That’s scary for people that don’t have good health insurance.
Mia: Absolutely. I also feel like because these providers know that they’re billing the insurer that the prices are pretty blown out of proportion because you can actually contact your provider and question some items on the…
Carlie: Did you get an itemized bill? Did you see where that 200,000…the breakdown?
Mia: I did. I did, and one of the items I actually questioned them on was there was some resuscitation. It was like $2,000 resuscitation in the delivery room and I thought, “I was awake. Dave was there, there was no resuscitation involved”. Teddy came out fine. And so I questioned that and I don’t know if it was taken off the bill or not because it didn’t really make a difference in the final amount of what I paid, but I think that’s what…the prices are, I feel like blown out of proportion because they know the insurer is paying it. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that big if I…
Carlie: So they’re giving you the worst case bill when you didn’t have that scenario.
Mia: I feel like it. I feel like it, but you know what, it’s probably also our bills in Australia could be also pretty high as well, but it’s just more heavily subsidized, so we don’t ever see huge numbers like that.
Carlie: How much follow-up healthcare have you needed after birth?
Mia: So I had a six week appointment just to check the C-section scar and healing and everything, and then I requested another scan afterwards to check how the fibroids were going because I wanted to make sure if we try for another baby that that’s not going to be an issue. Because they were quite large.
The thing with fibroids is (especially when you’re pregnant), is because of the blood flow in your uterus, they also grow. So my fibroid doubled its size, basically. And so I had to have another appointment just to make sure that that wasn’t going to cause any further complications and it actually has shrunk, which is great. So, I had that follow-up appointment, and then I think I just had, because that obstetrician that I also just see from my regular women’s health appointments and so I’ve just had regular checkups and stuff with her, and then I guess I won’t see her again until we decide to have another baby.
Carlie: I’ve spoken to some expat women who have given birth in other countries where they’ve had visits from the local community health nurse to check on the baby in the weeks following the birth. Did you have a service like that as well?
Mia: No. I’ve had friends who recently gave birth in Australia and they were like, “oh yeah, for the two weeks after we went home, the nurse and a midwife came home, checked on the baby, actually checked, make sure everything was okay in the house as well, and how the parents were doing”.
And so yeah, there’s absolutely none of that here. No one comes to your house to check that you’re doing okay in that crazy period of coming home with a new baby and you’re like, “what do I do with this thing?” The plus side though, I would say for me (and not everyone’s experience is the same), but because I was in hospital for the five days, I had the lactation nurses there to help with the breastfeeding because I think that’s something that a lot of women just, and first time mothers, they just think breastfeeding’s going to be this easy thing, because it’s so natural.
But it’s like it’s a lot to deal with and especially if you have…because Teddy was a little bit premature as well, and so there’s all those challenges as well. And I know that my friends back home who had troubles breastfeeding, they didn’t have that as much support in that sense because they had to seek out a lactation specialist. Whereas I kind of had that in the hospital. We saw five different lactation nurses.
I should also say too, that pumping, like breast pumping is a bigger thing here. Like you can get…your health insurance will give you a free breast pump, which is three to $500 worth, whereas you don’t have that in Australia. And I feel like a lot of new mums don’t…just don’t necessarily think about pumping as much. And I thought at first that it was a really good thing that the insurance here provided a free breast pump. But then I realized the reason they do that is so that you go back to work sooner because you’re pumping milk for the baby and then you can…I was like, it’s kind of more based on the fact that you have to go to work sooner. And so I was like, “oh, that’s why they need to give people free breast pumps!
Carlie: I’ve read in the States that you don’t get a lot in terms of maternity leave, is that right?
Mia: It’s absolutely pretty much no maternity leave, depending on your workplace. But for me, a freelancer and contractor, I don’t have anything built in terms of my employers or even the union actually. But what I was eligible for, and this isn’t the same in every state, but in California they have this thing through the EDD, which is the Education Development Department, and it’s called SDI, State Disability Insurance.
And basically it’s like if you’ve been working and you’ve been paying tax into this SDI, you’ve been paying essentially a tax into this thing, you are then eligible for what is called…it’s basically a disability payment. You’re basically saying, “I was disabled for eight weeks, I couldn’t work”, and your pregnancy was basically the disability, so you are eligible to receive this payment.
Carlie: This reminds me, my sister’s about to give birth in Australia and for my mum to come and help her for a month, my mum’s like, “oh, just get your doctor to write me a note that says you need a carer, and then I can go on carer’s leave.”
Mia: Yeah, it is essentially like that. And actually there is a carer’s leave as well on the back of the SDI. You can then…and sometimes you’ll automatically qualify for this thing called PFL, which is parental family leave. So it’s not just the birth parent. The other parent can also be eligible, and also it’s available for carers too if someone’s sick. Yeah, so SDI, which is the disability payment, that’s 12 weeks, and then the PFL is 8 weeks. So collectively, if you could get 20 weeks basically of paid leave or payments, rather.
Carlie: It’s still not much when you consider my sister back home has just finished work and won’t go back for an entire year.
Mia: Oh, exactly. Yeah, absolutely. There’s no…employees here aren’t obligated, or there’s no compulsory period of paid leave. It’s literally up to the company and what they provide. And yeah, unfortunately for me as a freelancer and contractor, I didn’t have that support, but I was eligible for the other payments.
Carlie: So how much time did you take off? Was your husband able to take off anytime from work?
Mia: Yeah, so I took off a whole three months.
Carlie: Three whole months!
Mia: I was able to receive…I know now, which is interesting though. I actually did start back work a little bit sooner. My mum was here and so I was able to work a little bit. And Dave took off I think about two months, and then he was kind of working, but because we both worked from home, I think it was really good we had that flexibility of working when the baby slept, so we didn’t have to leave and try and find a nanny and navigate that whole system as well, which is another thing.
But yeah, you’re right, three months really isn’t enough. Knowing now being a parent, you really need that full year, not just to take care of your baby, but just to have that bonding time. So many mums here have to put their babies in daycare at six weeks because they have to go back to work. And so I just personally, I couldn’t do that. There’s so much changes that happen in that year, and so yeah, it’s unfortunate that there’s not that support or recognition for the importance of that bonding time.
Carlie: We heard your son cry a little before and you both work in audio sound composition. What are your strategies for working from home and not having your child’s cries, laughter, noise in general, interfering with what you do for work?
Mia: So basically, I actually was working when he was like three months (before the strike happened, I was working). And so what I was doing was, what Dave and I were doing, is we kind of work in between his nap periods, so he’d be awake for two, three hours and he’d nap for maybe one, maybe two hours.
And so we’d quickly work in that time and we’d just be working with headphones basically, so we’re not waking him. And then at nighttime, so this is the exhausting part because you’re kind of up all day looking after him, and then at nighttime is the sweet spot where he’s asleep from eight until six or seven in the morning. So we just try and get as much work as we could then.
Carlie: Switch to vampire hours!
Mia: So I’d work from eight…yeah, I’d work until eight midnight or something, and then I’d try and get some sleep five or six hours before he would wake up. And honestly, it just really depends on the baby you get because we were really fortunate that we had a baby that slept through most of the night! I have new mum friends who were like, just have to wake up every two hours. And so that’s kind of impossible to then do any work then. So yeah, don’t count on doing work from home successfully!
Carlie: Give it a try.
Mia: Honestly, take what you can get.
Carlie: Learn to work shifts! Has your community changed or where you look for a community changed since you’ve had a child?
Mia: Oh yeah, absolutely. Pretty much the people we see the most now are other parent friends. And thankfully at my gym, I think last time I spoke to you was at a different gym. So my new gym PHAROS is amazing. It’s pretty much my whole social network too. But there were other mums there. Actually, one mum gave birth on the exact same day! So our babies have the same birthday.
But that’s been really helpful because they’re also not from here, so a lot of people have (they’re from interstate) and so a lot of people have, they really lean on each other for tips, advice, what they’re doing, and no one knows what they’re doing with a new baby! So, it’s been nice to kind of have that little new mum community of people that I already knew beforehand. And then I’ve met some new mums as well through this app called Peanut.
Carlie: That’s a cute name for an app!
Mia: It is. It’s super cute. So it’s kind of like Bumble.
Carlie: …but for parents!
Mia: Specifically for mums. I don’t know if there’s one for dads, actually, there probably should be one, but there’s Peanut for mums and I found some mums that live nearby that have a baby the same age. And so that’s nice. You can kind of plan meetups and, kind of, vent or text each other at three in the morning going, “why are you up at this time? I know why you’re up at this time, because you’re feeding a little human”. But so I was able to find a little mum/parent community through my existing network. But yeah, it’s hard being away from family. It’s always going to be hard being away from family when you have started your own. Definitely missing Australia.
Carlie: Especially when you are both from Australia, so neither of you have family in the States. Who do you turn to when you need support or when you need some babysitting or just someone to come over and look after the bub while you get some important work done?
Mia: Yeah, so that’s a good question, because we’re just kind of navigating that now. We have some close friends who’ve had a baby a year before us, so we could possibly ask them for babysitting, but then it’s like, well, they’ve got their own child to look after and we’re kind of looking at having babysitters or nannies, but I don’t know, we’re both having a little bit of trouble letting go or letting, I don’t know, it’s…
Carlie: When it’s a stranger coming into your home.
Mia: As new parents are just like, how do we…?
Carlie: …leave my child with them?
Mia: Yeah. And having someone else other than family? And we have been a little bit spoiled because my mum came to stay here for three months and then Dave’s mum just left. She was here for a month, and so it was really nice to have them here. But then now I just don’t know whether I trust anyone else with Teddy while he’s so little.
And then daycare too is another thing because when I go back to work, I have to physically go back to the studio. So we have to try and find a solution in the next couple of months because Dave also needs to work. And it’s just harder with one parent and now Teddy is mobile, he can move around. He’s not just like a newborn lying on his back!
Carlie: He needs more active supervision.
Mia: So, we do need to find a daycare solution. Absolutely. Yeah, and we need to find either a nanny who can come here, which I think is very common. I feel like that’s more common than in Australia to have a nanny come to the house. Most parents I know in Australia have a daycare option where they drop off the baby. So yeah, we’re still navigating that and it’s expensive, especially since I’ve been out of work since June. It’s like thinking about what’s the best option financially, but then also what feels comfortable for us.
Carlie: I know here in France, and I believe in Australia, the government provides subsidies for parents. Is it similar in the States? Can you get a childcare subsidy, for example, or money towards a nanny from the state?
Mia: I believe there is, and again, it might be through your employer, but I haven’t looked into that. I believe there’s a small subsidy, but it’s kind of the same in Australia. So if you have a baby that goes for five days, you’re essentially getting a subsidy for two days. Essentially you’re just working to pay the daycare! Really, for me at the moment, I haven’t looked into anything like that. And the prices will be looking at, it would be cheaper to do a daycare than a nanny at home. And I don’t think a nanny would be subsidized, actually, if anything, it would be daycare would be subsidized.
Carlie: Here in France, there are these famous classes that new mums are sent to after they give birth to help them get their pelvic floor back, basically. I mean, I’ve had lots of conversations with friends talking about how they have to fly the butterfly over the field with all these interesting Kegel exercises.
Mia: Oh my gosh!
Carlie: I’m just like, wow. Does your health insurance offer anything like that for you, post-birth?
Mia: Do you know what, I haven’t looked into that. They might cover some kind of physical therapy or possibly some kind of postpartum exercise. I haven’t looked into it. I should. But yeah, I mean, I’ve been trying to be good with my Pilates and everything like that, but it’s just hard to leave the house honestly with a baby. So that’s another thing. But yeah, there’s nothing, kind of, provided, no program provided or anything like that.
Carlie: Just finally, Mia, based on your pregnancy and birth experience in the United States, if you do go for baby number two in the future, what would you do differently?
Mia: Honestly, I feel like I had…even though I had complications with my preeclampsia, my high blood pressure, and that was a little bit scary, I feel like I wouldn’t do anything differently. I had a really great experience, having really good insurance. Honestly, I don’t think I would do anything differently.
Oh, I would just have my hospital bag packed early just in case! Like, Teddy came early and I had nothing packed. It came a month early. That’s the only thing I would do. In terms of the healthcare providers that I went with, my obstetrician, I was super lucky with having that really good health insurance. So yeah, I mean, I don’t think I would do anything differently in that sense. I was very fortunate.
Carlie: Moral of the story: get good health insurance. Possibly easier said than done sometimes!
Mia: Yeah, but I mean also you can apply for MediCal, which is the lower cost or free health insurer, and I’m sure that’s really great too. And so I’m speaking from the private healthcare union insurance, which was my experience. But American healthcare system itself is actually really good. It’s just the insurance side of it that is tricky. But the actual quality of the hospitals, the quality of the care, amazing staff where I was, it’s just really good. And I’m really glad that we decided to give birth actually here in America compared to Australia.
Carlie: Mia, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast and sharing your experiences, winning the Green Card lottery and having a baby in the USA.
Mia: Thank you for having me.
Carlie: That’s it for today. You can roll back to my first interview with Mia to learn how to move to the USA on an O1 Visa. And for everything you need to know about how healthcare works in the States, check out my chat with Kate Lambon from Cigna. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe however you like to listen to the show.
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