Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The baby in me

The final part in a trilogy of posts about the arrival of my son, in January. The first and second parts were published earlier this year.

The operation itself was surprisingly easy, for me and Wriggly. The staff were all wonderful, and I’ve since heard from others that Waitakere maternity is known for it’s good team atmosphere. Ted the anaesthetist had a great chat with my partner and I before hand and during this my politics became apparent. When they wheeled me into theatre he held my right hand, while the father-to-be held my left, and Ted remarked to me that he would make sure I was lying slightly to the left, with a chuckle. I was tense that the epidural wouldn’t work, but as soon as Ted told me the surgeon was making the first incision I relaxed – I couldn’t feel a thing from the chest down. My partner surprised me by taking photos of the surgery itself, despite his fear of needles and blood. His excitement rubbed off on me, and I began to allow myself to anticipate something I had been dreading since I first found out about the breech; the arrival of our baby.

When Nikki, the surgeon, held Wriggly up I was confused. Where did that come from? Whose is it? And what do you mean it’s a boy? He was all purple and funny looking. His father went with one of the midwives to trim the cord and then came back and put Wriggly on my chest. Ted took the camera off my partner and snapped away happily, our first shots as a family. I was oblivious to the surgical team stitching me up, partly because of the drugs, but mostly because there was this little life lying curled up on me, just below my neck, and he was my son!

The care from the hospital staff continued to be excellent through-out our five day stay. They taught us how to change a nappy, how to bath Wriggly, how to make up formula and feed him from a bottle, how to express breast milk, how to hold him, how to keep him warm, how to get the clothes on and off, how to wrap him up for sleep. In short, they showed us how best to keep Wriggly alive, and healthy, and they looked after me well too. Even the food tasted good, despite looking awful. And they didn’t ask us if we were ready to go yet until we had actually already decided there was no place like home.

While our experience at Waitakere was excellent I know this is not the case for all women. Staying five days was a definite advantage for us, and I understand that is reasonably standard in some places after a caesarean. If we had gone home earlier I doubt I would have persevered with breastfeeding. So I can definitely offer my support for longer hospital stays for those mothers who need them.

That said, I can also see why some medical professionals, including many midwives, recommend going home as soon as possible. Hospitals are germ-ridden places, even when the maternity ward is physically separate from more contagious areas, and they are full of sick people. It makes sense to remove the undeveloped immune system of a newborn, and a mother whose health may also be temporarily compromised, quick smart. But surely we can find a balance?

I'm particularly keen that we find a solution that empowers mothers and families, rather than focusing solely on arguments based on the rationing of healthcare. Many with the means are now choosing to give themselves the closest thing available to an extended hospital stay, by transferring to units like Birthcare within hours of the birth.* I wish this was an option every mother was able to take if she wanted to, rather than being restricted to those who know about it, and/or can afford it, and/or live in the right area. After all often it is those mothers, and babies, who are least likely to access support like Birthcare who are most in need of their services.

For us, Waitakere's maternity unit did the job, and I'd be quite happy to go there again, if that becomes necessary. While I'd prefer to avoid a caesarean in future, my positive experience has certainly taken away a lot of the fear and if I end up needing a "cut and paste" next time (if there is a next time) I'll be in a much better situation to advocate for the best birth possible for myself and any future child.

* And indeed giving birth there to start with. When I raised the possiblity of going to Birthcare, for the birth itself or afterwards, my midwife told me she didn't recommend this for first time mums.


Azlemed said...

wow... did you make a complaint against your midwife, I gave birth to Orion in a primary care unit in Oamaru, so much nicer than Palmy hospital. birthcare units are a good alternative for any women who does not need the specialist care of a hospital and doesnt want to birth at home.

the main emphasis this year for the college of Midwives is normal births, sound slike you werent even given the options from your mw.

have nearly finished downloading the business of being born. love D

Anonymous said...

Some bits of your story (in all III parts) absolutely ASTOUND me! Not to do with you personally but some of the advice given and things you were told (and not told) were "sub-optimal" to say the least.

I take the "horses for courses" tack and think women generally birth best where they feel safest and no one size fits all (and a zillion other cliches).

Primary units are closing all over the place because women are told they need to be in base hospitals.

Anna said...

What is Birthcare exactly? I don't think we have such a thing in the south, where I had my babies.

The ex-expat said...

Birthcare is a maternity hospital that's based in Auckland. As far as I know, they are midwife-run.

Azlemed said...

birthcare is another name for pirmary care units that are midwife run, they are a good alternative for women who want a choice but dotn want a home birth or dont need full hospital services, there isnt a lot of these centres available, though. Dunedins closest ones ar eBalclutha or Oamaru.