In a Nutshell..... Why do I do this?

Last Friday, I rode with the midwife I assist to do our home visit with one of our clients. We typically make a home visit before the birth so we can familiarize ourselves with the route - makes it so much easier than driving cold turkey in the dark- and we get the sense of the layout of the home in terms of the birth. This was a repeat client but she had moved since her last birth. It took a bit of doing to get there and it was a lovely rural type setting. The weather was warm and the sky was clear and blue. She greeted us with her toddler. We chatted and toured her cozy home. Then we did the prenatal appointment- belly check, fetal heart tone check, urine check, blood pressure check- etc. Her little one showed us some of his toys. I admired some of her homemade toys and she showed me how to do the blanket stitch in order to finish the edge of her handmade doll. We lingered a bit and I remembered her last birth. I'm very much looking forward to attending this birth. We hugged goodbye and waved as we slowly drove out of the driveway. I looked out the window as they stood there watching us leave. For me- the next time I see her she will be in the midst of labor, as I'm typically not called until labor is advanced. The midwife precedes me and calls me to assist when she needs me which is usually later in labor. The mama looked so beautiful with her round belly and her precious little one was standing there by her side. It was as it should be. I felt almost moved to tears and I thought " We have the best job in the world!"Every woman deserves this type of prenatal care. We get to know the family. We listen with respect and true interest. The midwife builds a relationship with the mama and the family. When labor begins we attend as invited caregivers. We will be the supporters of the process. The birth will be attended with care and attention. The family unit is respected and supported. The baby will be gently and lovingly welcomed into the arms of his/her mama and in his/her own home. I love home birth. Love it love it love it.Post partum care is equally wonderful. They don't have to go anywhere. We leave them settled in in their own bed. Personal attention. Family support. Breastfeeding support. In addition to the personal visits there is the continual availability for phone consultations. Midwifery does not leave mothers and babies in the lurch. I'm so proud to have a share in this model of care. I wish this type of care for all families.So, there it is..... I love this work. It never grows old. As is the case with this family we build a history with our clients. What a privilege. If only more women availed themselves of this dignifying and respectful model of care. As a nurse part of my role is education. I feel the need to make this model known as an option. I'm using this blog as one way to accomplish that goal.
Posted by Helen at 9:43 PM 0 comments

Friday, June 27, 2008

Post Partum

Post partum. What comes to your mind? Do you think about the first couple of weeks? The year after birth? Perhaps you don’t give it much thought at all. Maybe what you’re thinking is, “How /when will I get my pre-baby body back?” Celebrities show off their post- baby bodies that seem to bear no evidence of having recently given birth. This is not the typical post partum body and creates unrealistic expectations. What cost was there to have that body? What kind of financial investment was required? Of even more concern, what was the cost in terms of time and attention? We are talking about a new mother- where was her primary focus directed?

Now, I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t encourage health and fitness. It’s important. But what I am saying is our culture emphasizes and rewards attractive appearance; and not only emphasizes beauty, but minimizes mothering and the post partum period. When a celebrity makes a public appearance after a birth what is the first thing most people want to know- look for? What does her body look like? Whether it’s because women are hoping the celebrity mom will finally be normal or if even worse we’re looking to criticize her if she’s not back in her size 1 jeans. The pressure is there and that pressure spills over to ordinary women. Attractive physical appearance has a high value in our culture. Countless articles and books are written about it. TV shows devote time to show us how to achieve the ever elusive perfect body and women will inject substances in the face to preserve a youthful look and even have surgery to change their bodies. Where does a sleep deprived postpartum body fit into this thinking?

We don’t typically hear concerns about how that new mama is coping with mothering, hormonal shifts, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation etc. The adjustments from pregnancy to mothering are huge. Yet, the attention that was previously given to mama has been redirected to baby, other than of course the scrutinization as to how soon she’s back to her pre-pregnant size. There is so much more to the post partum period than how soon a mama gets her pre-baby body back.

There is the expectation that the new mother will hit the ground running. She’s not to “malinger” but should get right back into her schedule and care for the new baby. High production and output valued. How exactly is she to accomplish all of this? Many families don’t have their extended families in the same locale. That limits the options mama has for being nurtured and mentored. Post partum is such an important time. We want to remember the huge changes that took place when the baby left mama’s body and came out into her arms. The huge transition for baby was accompanied by the birth of a mother. Whether for the first time or a successive time, a mother has been born and there are changes that accompany this birth. She is adapting to the changes both physical and emotional taking place within while getting to know her new baby. Her other obligations are still there. How much can be put on hold varies with each mama’s circumstances.

Mama may have all kinds of conflicting advice as to how she should mother. “Pick up the baby” “Don’t pick up the baby” “Sleep with the baby” “Don’t sleep with the baby” Follow your baby’s cues” “ What? No schedule yet?” “Your breasts will make the right amount of milk for your baby” “Are you sure he/she’s getting enough?” And on and on and on..............
Mothers’ priorities need to be shifted and there is the learning curve that takes place with that. I could continue, but you get the picture. We must support and commend our mothers. We need to stop criticizing their bodies and their mothering skills. Can we direct some attention to them instead of focusing it all on the baby? Groups where mamas can meet each other connect and feel less isolated are wonderful. Families and professionals can mentor in gentle ways that supports confidence and growth. If we nurture mama, support her, commend her and mentor her she will be a strong, confident mother that is able to care for her precious child.

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