I recently read an article about the high maternal death rate in the US. It’s completely unacceptable that, as a first world country, this is still an issue. Although I wrote this post a few years back for New Orleans Moms Blog, it still remains relevant today.
Sometime in the next 9 weeks, I am going to have another baby. Even though it’s only been 2 years since I had Fern, it might as well be a lifetime. Yes, all of the baby gear has changed, and now there are all sorts of shiny new strollers and car seats. But I am mainly talking about the hospital experience and what I am supposed to expect.
When I had my first, I was just so happy she was here that I didn’t want her to leave my sight. Fast forward 2 years, and #2 came. The hospital had a nursery where I asked that she go so I could get a few hours of sleep. The nurse was not the nicest and very reluctant to adhere to my wishes, almost shaming me for not wanting my baby with me 24/7. Apparently, bonding and helicopter parenting has to start immediately, or it doesn’t count.
Now, with baby #3 coming very soon, I find myself in an odd situation. I recently found out that the hospital I’ve been going to no longer staffs a baby nursery. They say this is part of the hospital being designated “baby friendly.”
But here is my question … what about me?
When I asked my doctor about this, she laughed and said most first time moms love the idea of the baby being in the room with them at all times. She then went on to say, though, that by the time you have a second or third, the idea of rooming in loses its luster. I know for me, rooming in is not ideal. With my second, my husband was there for the birth and after, but then when dinner time rolled around and my adrenaline wore off, he had left to go home to care for my other child. The same will happen this time. That is just life with more than one kid.
But it was night time when the true exhaustion kicked in, and I felt like I had nothing left to give. I had been in labor since about 2:00am the previous night. I’m pretty sure I had barely slept for the week leading up to having the baby. And now here I was, ready to collapse but having to care for a screaming newborn who just wanted to be held. So I held her and nursed her. But I ended up falling asleep with her in my arms. When I think back to that time, it frightens me.
- The baby could have fallen out of my arms.
- She could have been smothered by the bedding.
- She could have stopped breathing while I fell asleep, and I would not have known.
Apparently my thinking isn’t way off because I recently read a study that examined infant deaths during the years of 1999-2013 in “baby friendly” hospitals across the United States. There were 18 cases of death or near death due to bed-sharing at the hospital. New mothers are exhausted. You just brought forth human life! New mothers are also usually sore due to having pushed out a baby or having a c-section. Yet, instead of letting us have a break for even a few hours, we are now forced – or “strongly encouraged” – to have to jump into the game immediately. It’s breastfeed as soon as the baby comes out. If you don’t have skin-to-skin contact, you won’t bond with your baby. Why not give mothers a break for the precious few hours they have in the hospital, with a trained staff around to care for their newborn?
There is a lifetime to deal with the judgmental looks and comments. Why does it have to start the second the baby is born?
The baby friendly initiative was started by the World Health Organization to promote higher rates of breastfeeding. That’s great, but not every mom wants to breastfeed. And not every mom gets the hang of breastfeeding right away. Even those who plan on breastfeeding are feeling unneeded and unwanted pressure. It seems that in their campaign to push breastfeeding, hospitals have forgotten all about the mother. It’s an extreme focus on the baby and baby only. And here is what really boggles my mind … the World Health Organization makes guidelines and recommendations based on the world, including many 3rd world countries where there is a lack of clean water and other resources we take for granted. Of course, breast would be best in those areas. But last I checked, the United States is not the 3rd world. We have access to FABULOUS medical facilities and other resources such as nurseries. Would it really be such a bad thing to use them for the first 24-48 hours after life? I think not.