I had two babies in the United States and two babies in Switzerland. Hands down, the Swiss experience was way better.
It’s not just the Swiss who know how to coddle a mommy-to-be in style—if the news stories about Duchess Kate’s pricey hospital suite are true, she will be in as much comfort as possible while pushing something so big out of something so small.
I was hospitalized for three months, on strict bed rest while pregnant with twins, when we lived in Zürich. But, allow me to qualify the term hospitalized—it was more like a resort. I’ll call it a hos-sort. When we checked into the hos-sort for what was supposed to be a routine procedure and turned into a quarter-year stay, the first thing I noticed was the sleek, Swiss design of the "guest services" counter. Gleaming white and smooth, it looked like it was straight out of Architectural Digest, more than a utilitarian patient check-in post. The two women standing behind the counter had teeth as gleaming white and shiny as the counter. Their hair pulled neatly back, they weren’t wearing uniforms, rather dressed in cute, sweater sets and TOD’s loafers.
As they were checking me in, my husband told me to look over my shoulder. There, just on the other side of the hospital’s main entrance was a cocktail bar, in full swing at 10 a.m. Sitting alongside hospital visitors at the bar was a man in a hospital gown, having a smoke and what looked to be an Old Fashioned. This place is awesome, I thought.
My private room was more like a suite, outfitted with a soft, brown leather sofa and two highly designed leather chairs. Of course, the bathroom was en suite, but within it were tubes and bottles of private label moisturizers, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, which all smelled of Alpine air and edelweiss.
I’d call room service and order a bottle of Chianti or Prosecco, assorted French and Swiss cheeses and pommes frites (French fries) for the girls.
My nurse came into the room to welcome me. She asked if I had, “a special wish?” I really thought she was serious and almost replied that I would like a unicorn, but upon realizing that this was her Swiss way of asking if I needed anything at the moment, I passed. She told me that there would be coffee and tea service every afternoon at 3 p.m., then handed me two menu cards; one was from the regular hospital kitchen (which was super, she enthused) and one from the gourmet restaurant that was located on the top floor of the hospital situated in a wealthy, Zürich suburb. She said I was lucky because the food was so delicious, the restaurant so well known, that reservations were needed to have dinner there, except for hospital guests. I ordered a healthy shrimp curry with steamed basmati rice and a glass of milk for dinner. She asked what time I would like it to be served, and I tried to suppress a giggle—I get to choose when dinner is served? OK, how about 7:10? Of course, it being Switzerland, there was a knock on my door at 7:10 exactly.
Once we discovered that I would be spending the duration of my pregnancy in the hospital, my parents came from the States to help with our two young daughters. A few times each week, they would visit me in the hospital after picking up my girls from school. I’d call room service and order a bottle of Chianti or Prosecco, assorted French and Swiss cheeses and pommes frites (French fries) for the girls. A red-coated waiter was dispatched to my elegant room and opened the wine with flourish. Other days, friends would come to have lunch with me—ordering from the posh, hospital restaurant. It was all very civilized.
All good things must come to an end, and eventually, our twins were born. The hospital sent me packing, back to our very unsleek home, where, rather than Alpine-valley-scented lotions awaiting me, I was slathered in spit-up and a double dose of baby poo. I was entering a new reality of four children under the age of 7, but could still daydream of my indulgent months at the Swiss hos-sort.
Healthy Shrimp Curry
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 huge shallot, or 1 medium onion, chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 heaping tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tins chopped tomatoes with their juice
2 mild green chilis, seeded and diced
1 red bird's eye chili (hot!), carefully seeded and diced
1. Have everything chopped and ready to go. Place a large wok or large soup pot over medium-high heat, and pour the oil into it. Heat the oil up then add in the shallot (onion), garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for just a minute then add in all the spices, stir fry to "toast" everything, for 1 to 2 minutes. Now add in the tomatoes, both chilis and salt. Stir, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
2. After 10 minutes, add in the yogurt and coriander (cilantro), stir, then chuck in the shrimp. Submerge all of the pieces, cover and simmer gently until the fish is just cooked—about 10 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.