Hannah arrived in Part 2 of this series, so we're done- right? Not even close!
A disappointing misconception within the general population is that the birth process ends when the baby arrives. Both neonatal care and maternal care would benefit from a huge overhaul within the hospital system. The main reason I've already decided that any future births for this family will take place with a midwife was the poor care we received directly after the birth and the non-existent follow-up care after leaving the hospital. Granted, this is not a decision I could have been confident about for my first birth because of nerves and a family history of c-sections. However, it's one I will gladly make in the future. It's because I'm selfish and I would like to have attentive, personalized care for both me and my baby. Call me crazy.
(Editor's Note: Jeannette has the utmost respect for individuals in the health care profession. Many of the people she encountered during her stay were wonderful and professional. Her criticism is of the system that prevents personal attention. In general, I try to keep the messages on this blog light and positive. Unfortunately, this post will not have the same tone. I encourage you to read anyway because the more people are aware of this issue, the better chance there will be for change. After all, Maternal and Infant patients make up 38% of the healthcare industry's yearly visitors. Don't we deserve better?)
To be honest, it only hit me about 4 months ago that my maternity care was below par. I suppose I was living in "maternal bliss" and thinking about how wonderful it was to HAVE a baby! Who cared if I got off to a rough start with breast feeding? Did it matter that my recovery seemed to drag on longer than it should have? Would it really have helped to have a follow-up in-home visit to make sure I wasn't at risk for some of the most painful nursing problems one can experience? Not in my mind! As long as I had a healthy baby, that was all that mattered. Looking back, I can't help but feel mistreated and I found out I'm not alone. The CDC is pressing for improvements within the system. There's even a group to establish the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. Everyone comes into this world the same way, so this affects us all. It is more important than any other political act- but we have yet to hear about it in the presidential debates.
I'm not going to claim to be an expert on this subject, or submit a 932 page proposal to congress for a complete overhaul of the system. It just seems that in a country that touts superiority in the world, we should be much higher on the patient satisfaction scale for this type of care and we're not. Why am I dissatisfied? My visits from the nurses were few and far between. They were rushed, forgetful, and disorganized (presumably because there were too few nurses for the number of patients.) It was more difficult to get regular Tylenol because it wasn't on a list of standard drugs that new mothers could receive. I didn't receive any topical treatments for my "bottom" until the second day, because it wasn't clear that this was something I could ask for. When the only positive things I can say regarding the maternity ward are about the hospital food, you have to wonder if this was really a decent situation.
Enough about me, let's talk about Hannah's care. We were at a "rooming-in" hospital that promotes closeness of the mother and baby by encouraging you to have your baby in the room as much as possible. I can't imagine what it's like at other hospitals, because I barely got to spend more than 2 hours at a time with Hannah. It was really difficult because I had to attempt to nurse her for 20 minutes, then pump for 15 minutes, then feed her a bottle for about 20 minutes. By the time we changed a diaper and got her re-swaddled (another 20 minutes #newparenthood), it was practically time to get her back to the nursery and then start all over. Not only was the feeding process difficult and time consuming, but the assistance came in quick bursts of an overwhelming amount of information.
In my county, there are 5 hospitals. Only 2 still offer Lactation
Consultant services (one is part time.) During my stay, I didn't see a
consultant until nearly 12 hours after Hannah's birth. I also saw three
different consultants, each with different suggestions. I was given hurried details about using a pump to stimulate production and a shield to better fit my nipple to Hannah's mouth. It's no wonder we weren't able to get a proper latch without those items- they only spent 1/2 hour with me at a given time. There is also no follow up care available to nursing mothers through the hospital. If you need support (which we did), you must see a lactation consultant at the rate of $150 for one hour. Starting next year, this service will be mandatory for health care to cover. It's good to know that issues like this are being addressed and improved for the future.
Thankfully I had the support of my husband through it all. He fed Hannah
many times and immediately developed a wonderful bond with her. He is
totally onboard for taking a more natural approach to our next birth. In
fact, because of his general loss of confidence in the political system
and his love of the outdoors he's hopeful that Armegeddon is around the
corner, and I think he would happily deliver our baby on his own.
I have to hope that better care is out there. If you had a great experience and you shared it on a blog, please post a link in the comments. I'm not discouraged from having another baby, and I still regard this as one of the best experiences of my life, but I think that Mothers should be treated less like surgery patients and given the option to blissfully bring new life into this world with positive care practices.