No hospital would advertise itself as being unfriendly to mothers and babies, yet there is a wide variety in hospital policy. My daughter’s experience 3 years ago and this year were not even comparable. Her tour of the hospital where she gave birth this year gave no indication of what their policies really were. I’ve asked myself over and over, How women have lost so many rights in 30 years – at least at some hospitals? I can identify three factors.
- Hospitals today are, in reality, lawyer friendly. If doctors and staff follow a written protocol they are protected from lawsuits.
- Formula manufacturers push their products through hospitals. New mothers get mixed messages. The lactation consultant tells them one thing, the doctor and nurses who release them give a contradictory message.
- The feminist movement that helped women get rights for childbirth and newborns in the 1980s shifted their focus to politics. I’m not saying they abandoned mothers, but I think there is a conflict between advocating for the right to terminate a baby in the womb and advocating for women to be proactive during labor and delivery. Mothers who want to be mothers have lost out.
Two quick baby unfriendly stories, then a happy story about God’s blessing on my daughter’s family.
When DD talked with her doctor about her fast labor, he said that the hospital would not want 3-year-old BC in the birthing room for long, but he could be there while they were waiting for me and my husband to drive in and pick him up. The day of the birth, we were half way to the hospital when we got a text. DD’s own doctor was not there, and BC would not allowed in the birthing room at all. That meant DD’s husband could not be with her. He had to stay in the lobby with their son until we arrived. I had friends in the 80s where both sets of grandparents and 3-4 siblings were all in the birthing room and got to witness the birth of the baby. Personally I didn’t want that big a crowd of witnesses, but when did women lose the right to make the decision?
The nurses in maternity pushed nursing. Every time DD fed her precious baby, she had to fill out a form about how long it took him to latch, and how long he nursed on each side. They were very encouraging to DD, but a mother who didn’t want to nurse would probably have said they were forceful. Suddenly the day DD was released, everything changed. Anyone who knows anything about newborns knows that they lose several ounces – up to a pound – after they are born. PB lost a little more than half a pound. The nurses who were in charge of signing him out attempted to intimidate DD. They told her to start supplementing. They said she wasn’t making enough milk.
This is a throwback to the 1950s! This is what my mother had to endure. They made DD an appointment with the pediatrician for the next day. DD laughed about it. She had successfully nursed BC for more than a year; she knew her milk would come in. She did keep the appointment, and PB had gained back half of the weight he had lost. But this was not good enough for the pediatrician’s nurse. She again pushed supplementation with formula and wanted them to make an appointment again the next day.
DD made an appointment all right – with another pediatrician for PB’s 2 week check up. The new doctor is very supportive of nursing, and also supportive of DD being a full time Mom. He never mentioned formula, and DD is much more comfortable with him.
I suppose it must sound like I have complained a lot over these 3 blogs. So let me end on a happy note. Two weeks before PB was born, DD appeared to go into labor. One night we got a call that she was having contractions and they were getting closer together. We finished packing our bags and waited for the call to head for the hospital. But instead we got a call that the contractions were getting further apart. DD went to sleep and woke up the next morning with the baby still safe in her womb. The same thing happened the next night with more intensity. We were sure the baby was coming. But no, everything settled down.
Jump forward to PB’s birth. The pediatrician on call heard a heart murmur. She said it was common. She said it would probably disappear on its own in a day or so. She was right. They brought in a doctor from NICU to listen to his heart, and the murmur was gone. We were all so happy! Then someone asked – what if this baby had been born two weeks earlier? The murmur could have been a much more serious issue. We stopped right there to thank God for his protection over PB’s heart and over DD and her difficult labor.
This was not the ideal childbirth experience. But I would be remiss if I did not give God the Glory for getting us all through some potentially disastrous circumstances.
That calls to mind the birth of another baby – the one whose birthday we celebrate this week – the one born in a stable without any of the safeguards we take for granted today. A host of angels watched over his birth, and God guided his parents in how to protect him from harm.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.”