Yesterday, I attended a cesarean clinic at my hospital’s birth center. During the clinic, a midwife prepared me in the same way as for a normal operation: pre-op instructions, blood samples, necessary prescriptions…
I thought it would be reassuring. The midwife would explain the before, during and after op, and I would ask all my serious and silly questions. When I saw my consultant on Thursday, he said not to worry, whatever I wanted, she would write it down and it would be done on the day. No problem.
Except, for the midwife, there was a problem. Several. There was a problem with the timing of the meeting; she kept looking at her watch. There was a problem with all my requests; like getting skin to skin contact since they need to wipe and warm the baby first. But, most importantly, there was a big issue with my requests about post-birth care of my baby.
“Because of my previous birth history, I wondered when the baby would be checked out by a pediatrician?” I asked.
“Oh, usually they examine the babies 24-hours after the birth. But, it’s not a problem, one of the midwives will do an initial check.”
My insides twisted up inside of me when I heard that. “Is there any way we could get someone in sooner,” I asked.
“I doubt it. The doctors really don’t like coming down earlier than they need to if the baby presents okay.”
She already asked a detailed round of questions regarding May’s birth, so she knew the circumstances. Yet, while we spoke, she jotted down notes in my file – mundane things like, “swab provided” – while simultaneously speaking from script. There was nothing ordinary about May’s birth, but she gave me the brush off in the manner people do when they think they’ve heard it all before.
Therefore, when she said, “The doctors don’t really like coming down…” I fell into a kind of emotional coma. Inside, I screamed, “They can’t come down one flight of stairs and check on a baby that might die? What? What?”
But, on the outside, I exhibited no signs of life. Instead, I calmly said, “Issues with my daughter weren’t discovered for 12-hours. I don’t want that to happen again.”
Very casually, like we were discussing food on the ward, she asked, “And, what kind of signs were those?”
I collapsed inside as I delivered a list of a series of symptoms that anyone, medically trained or not, would know could kill a newborn: “She wasn’t breathing. She had major seizures. She wouldn’t feed. She didn’t cry.”
She is unfazed. “Well, if that happened, I can assure you a doctor would come down immediately. And, there will always be midwives on hand to check her.”
“No offense, but there were midwives on hand to check May as well, and when I thought she wasn’t breathing, my midwife didn’t even pick her up to check her vitals. I’d really feel more comfortable if a pediatrician could check the baby over as soon as possible.”
The midwife looked at her watch again and said, “I would like to say I could guarantee that, but I can’t. So, why don’t you ask the team on the day and they will see what they can do. And, if that is all…”
I was encouraged to leave. And, I’m ashamed to say, I did. I left. I found myself smiling at her and walking, of my own accord, out of the office, down the hall, into the elevator and out the hospital doors.
For the next three hours, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t listen to any music on the drive home. I didn’t eat any lunch when I got there. I sat at my kitchen table and I stared into space and thought, “No one is going to watch out for my baby. My baby is going to stop breathing and I will be too tired and drugged out to realize.”
Finally, my husband phoned to see how it all went. As soon as I heard his voice, I sobbed. I told him what happened. He was furious. “What is wrong with these people? Don’t they know that May almost died?”
“I tried to explain,” I said, feebly.
He calmed his voice. “I know you did, honey. Who did you talk to? I’m calling the hospital. I’m calling them right now.”
Ten minutes later he phoned me back. “Don’t worry. I spoke to one of the obstetricians. He is putting in the request now, a pediatrician will examine the baby. There was no question. He didn’t argue with me. He was in total agreement.”
He gave me the number of the doctor, who I called. By the time I got a hold of him, the request had already been made and filed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You are completely right to worry. There will be no problem having a pediatrician look at your baby. It is totally justifiable.”
I felt so much better. But, so much better is still not the carefree mother-to-be I was when I entered the hospital yesterday. The midwife – that insensitive and irresponsible woman – reminded me all too clearly that the care you get greatly depends on who you get on the day. Fingers crossed it isn’t her.
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