25 September 2011

You awful hospitals it's all your fault!!

Look, CNN, just don't publish stories that annoy pregnant ladies. They might spend way too much time when they should be sleeping writing long and pointless rants they'll wonder why they bothered posting as soon as they hit post.

But hey, what else is going on here today? So: this story contains claims I have a lot of trouble believing. The headline itself is indicative of its outlook on responsibility: "Hospitals need to do more to encourage breastfeeding," handmaidens that they are of leviathan state (where breastfeeding is in esoteric vogue right now) rather than private businesses free to offer whatever services they choose. Sheesh.

As for the claims: "nearly 80% of hospitals were giving babies formula, water or sugar-water." I've had newborns in four different hospitals. As soon as I tell the nurses I'm breastfeeding, they slap a sticker on the baby's bucket that says I'M BREASTFED. What it means is, DON'T GIVE THIS BABY ANYTHING IN A BOTTLE. And they don't, because if they did I could (and would) go medieval on their hineys for violating my instructions.

I suspect that the real trouble is not hospitals sneaking formula into babies (in fact I have never seen a hospital do anything; they are quite inanimate), but mothers not saying, "I'm breastfeeding." What mothers say is, "We're going to try breastfeeding. Where's the pump?" They are uncertain that they'll be able to breastfeed, whether they really want to, and with regards to all the stupid things some anti-breastfeeding great aunt told them. Moreover, virtually no one breastfeeds using only their breasts any more. So suddenly, it's not an I'M BREASTFED baby. It's a DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO GET SOME NUTRITIONAL SUBSTANCE INTO ME, IDEALLY BREASTMILK BUT REALLY WHATEVER WE CAN GET TO WORK OUT OK baby. And the dear nurses, bless their baby-loving, new mom-pitying hearts, do.

Another one: "Only one-third of hospitals allow mother and child to stay in the same room." I'm curious about the "allow" here. I don't doubt that at many hospitals, rooming in is not actively offered or encouraged. I have a hard time imagining it prohibited. At least one of our babies was born in nursery-normed hospital. When a nurse came in to wheel my baby off I just said, "Oh, she'll stay with us." And the nurse said, "Oh! Well . . . OK. Call us if you need a break." The hospital administration did not barrel into the room demanding that we give the nursery our baby. No one cared. Again, I wonder if this isn't a matter of mothers simply not knowing their options. Otherwise, I guess I'm just really lucky that out of four hospitals none of them "disallowed" rooming in when statistically 2.667 them should have.

Also regarding the "allow," if there's one thing I've learned from delivering in hospitals it's that, at least on the relatively minor questions I've had come up, hospital policy bows to fear of lawsuit. We've had nurses opt out of assisting in our room because of my weirdo demands like "Don't stick that pointy thing full of creepy juice in me." "That's hospital policy," they say. "Don't stick it in me," I say. "I'll have to go ask Dr. Important," they say importantly. A different nurse comes back, nothing gets stuck in me, and we all go on our way.

Let's see, what else? Oh yeah--want skin to skin contact with your baby immediately following birth? Say, "Hand over my baby." You can even be polite about it if you want because it turns out that being the person who gets to hand a brand newling over to its mom for the first time is a really awesome job that humans, including evil hospital doctors and nurses, like doing. (My only baby who didn't get immediate contact and nursing was the one who wasn't born in a hospital--freakin ha ha.) What if I need breastfeeding help after leaving the hospital? Well, there's a case to be made for the fact that I've, um, left the hospital. I don't expect Pizza Hut to keep supplying me with pizza after I've driven home. Etc.

Much of this "oh those horrible hospitals" report also strikes me as a bit optimistic with regard to mothers. The stories I hear from real live moms who called off breastfeeding usually go something like, "I was just so tired!" (this is before their 24-72 hour hospital discharge, not after three horrific weeks of trying to nurse at home) or "The baby liked the bottle better" (of course he did; he didn't have to work for it).

They honestly don't get it, and how could they? Few baby-free people in our comfortable society have any notion of how much a newborn needs. Asking one significantly injured person to deal with all those hitherto unknown needs is objectively sobering, and contextually insane. One hospital where I delivered DID actively encourage rooming in, and offered extensive breastfeeding services. The nursery was full, and the babies chowed down Enfamil without scarceness. When I availed myself of its breastfeeding assistance in the dark weeks that followed, it didn't help in the least, because breastfeeding problems are one of the main things that cannot be helped, but only endured.

I've got no shortage of objections to hospitals. The extremes of my delivery-related complaints and praises, though, are never for hospitals, but for a horrible doctor or a saintly nurse. Of far more relevance than the hospital are the individuals who happen to be on duty during one's stay. A hospital is not evil. It is too big and stupid to be evil. Its only motive is to attract my business again. The real potential for good or ill lies with the nurse in my room and the doctor or midwife I've hired. Bad ones ruin everything. Good ones make everything as good as possible.

I'd contend that whether or not a woman ends up breastfeeding is in most cases consistent with her previously held ideas about breastfeeding, and that in those cases where her intent is thwarted, it has a lot to do with a circumstance no hospital could have changed.

23 comments:

Glenda said...

"Few baby-free people in our comfortable society have any notion of how much a newborn needs. "

And even those of us who had babies at one time forget just how much a mom is needed until they're around a baby again.

Praying that you'll have good people helping you deliver the latest edition Rebekah.

Melrose said...

"Asking one significantly injured person to deal with all those hitherto unknown needs is objectively sobering, and contextually insane....breastfeeding problems are one of the main things that cannot be helped, but only endured."

"A hospital is not evil. It is too big and stupid to be evil. Its only motive is to attract my business again. The real potential for good or ill lies with the nurse in my room and the doctor or midwife I've hired. Bad ones ruin everything. Good ones make everything as good as possible."

Love these quotes and though I've never birthed in a hospital I couldn't agree more because all three of my home births were promised to be something they weren't. The bottom line is, birth is what it will be (hard, painful, etc), nursing is what it will be (unbelievably unnatural feeling in it's awkwardness and difficulty and often pain), and it often has nothing to do with your surroundings and everything to do with how truly awesome or lack of awesome your care provider is and your own circumstances.

Well said.

Untamed Shrew said...

Yes, birth is a nasty ordeal regardless of where it takes place, but being unaware of your options in a teaching hospital with your first baby has to be among the worst. I came out badly infected after a 36-hour induction. Next time an intern begs to examine me, I'm charging admission.

Susan K said...

I quite agree. I certainly endured breastfeeding difficulties in the first month or so that would have led many women to give it up. My determination and strong aversion to avoid washing bottles multiple times per day, not to mention being a SAHM, therefore without thoughts of "well, I'm going back to work soon anyway, so we may as well get her used to the bottle," is what made breastfeeding successful for us. If women want to breastfeed and really make it work, they must educate themselves. There's only so much a hospital's staff can do in the 1-3 days after birth. That being said, I'm really glad my hospital had an excellent lactation clinic, without which I couldn't have gotten the proper help to be successful. But again, that was all in the follow-up, not in the three days I was in the hospital before my milk had even come in.

Gauntlets said...

All I have to say is, "AAAAAAAGH!"

Rebekah said...

HA: CNN tries to make up with me today http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/26/fewer-hospitals-giving-away-free-formula/

Thank you, Glenda.

Melrose, I also just don't get anyone promising a certain experience of L&D or nursing. Ridiculous.

Shrew, I'm way too selfish to go to a teaching hospital (assuming I had a choice).

Susan, exactly--nursing problems haven't even had time to start while you're still in the hospital.

Leah said...

I had plenty of nursing problems in the hospital (which, I'm sure are the hospital's fault because I didn't get to nurse in the first 2 hours due to an emergency c-section--which was probably the hospital's fault, too, if we're going to play this game.) But amazingly, I had plenty of nurses assisting me, giving lots of ideas on how to keep the little one awake, and encouraging me to eat so my milk would come in. I guess I ought to be really frustrated with my experience, but I'm actually considering driving the 20 minutes across the state line to go back should I have to deliver before we move again.

Amie said...

I agree, but you, and most of the lovely ladies on this blog have made educated, experienced, well informed choices about their births, babies and breasts. SO, SO, SO many women don't have that. (which I understand you alluded to) It is sad. I could not count how many women I have told about an experience I have had or a decision that I have made concerning myself or my children and they say "well. . .(huff, huff) you can't do that. . .can you???" I wish they knew that they could, that they were truly in control of their own bodies and their own children.

Katy said...

The last six months I have come to realize how much I owe to my mom and the other "all-natural"-inclined women who were around me in my youth. That nurse who so admired my epidural-free labor had lots of questions about how I did it ("what do you visualize? What is your focus?" What?) I just said, "Well, it's what my mom did,and it's just what you do when you go into labor." (Actually, my mom all the time would say, "labor is work, not pain," which hasn't been my experience--it's both!--but I'm sure her positivity influenced my view of childbirth).

So my point is I'm so glad my mama was the crazy, LLL leader, ridged and dogmatically judging "all natural," homeschooling, you-get-the-idea, that she was, so I can just do my thing without being a self-conscious activist. (Not that my husband and I aren't self-consciously RIGHTEOUS about other parental things). And I can call her when I need nursing help, and not visit the "lactation consultant" at the breastfeeding-friendly hospital.

And realizing all this make me feel better about those self-conscious, intentional choices my husband and are making,since hopefully to our children and grandchildren those virtues will be habits, and so much easier, and not all wrapped up in self-righteousness (in as far as anything we do is not tainted by sin).

Rebekah said...

Leah! Was that Anderson? That would actually be the teeniest bit closer for me but I couldn't get along with the doc I tried there. I go to St. A's.

Amie, I mostly feel like any good decision I've made is one I've blundered into. Like Katy, my mom set a good example for me (although without the overt dogma :D) such that I just thought dealing with pain in pregnancy/birth and nursing your babies was normal. Being totally blindsided by the magnitude of these things is obviously something I'm still getting over. :P

Reb. Mary said...

1)I second Rebekah (and so many more of you): Personnel, personnel, personnel.

2)I second Gauntlets: AAAAAAAAAAGH!

Furthermore,

3)I am still angry that my second baby was given sugarwater WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE OR PERMISSION in the brief interval he was not with me (they were actually trying to get him to puke, they said, rather than giving him "nutrition"; he'd swallowed some fluid and was kind of phlegmy. So I'm supposed to be OK with it because you weren't trying to feed my 12 hr old baby, but get him to vomit?!).

4)I am still sad and angry about the desperate phone call I received after someone's hard delivery of her first, when she was in the hospital several days and really really wanted to breastfeed exclusively and was struggling, and they kept coaxing her to let them give Baby "just a little formula or sugarwater" ("or else" implied). Pleased to report that she stood her ground and they came through with flying colors.

5)I am still tired when I think about the hospital where I delivered my first, extremely Angry baby, where they would not take him away to the nursery so I could rest unless I let them give him a bottle of formula. People, can't you hear that I can't get him to hush either? No formula for us, and no sleep either.

6)Why on earth do all these enlightened, empowered women suddenly abdicate all their enlightenment and power exactly when and where they--and their helpless babies--need it most?

etem said...

Is it out of fashion to not be able to muster any anger toward my hospital/nurses/doctors? Things didn't go perfectly or even how I would have liked, but not much in my life does. Maybe I was just too crazy and tired? Maybe I'm blessed with low expectations.

However, I don think that news outfits should quit writing annoying and poorly researched stories on babies/parenting/childbirth.

Katy said...

You know, though, the other side of lawsuit is Against Medical Advice. But still a doctor problem, not a hospital problem.

I choose my battles now and I don't really care about fetal monitors and IVs.

Leah said...

>breastfeeding problems are one of the main things that cannot be helped, but only endured<

It's one of those things (at least with your first baby) no one can warn you about beforehand. You never imagined that you would be crying at the thought that it's now baby's feeding time. (Is torture too strong a word???)

Amie said...

"my mom set a good example for me (although without the overt dogma :D)"

Right and that is what I mean by education. (I didn't have that, and really most females are not getting that picture of normal)

So many were not given this sense of "normal". What is normal now, in hospital and in our culture are things that are most assuredly not "normal" or dare I say it "the way God intends".

I am all for giving women choices, I think we should have the freedom to birth where and how we want and to raise our children how we see fit (even if those ways are very different than my personal convictions) but the assumption should be natural child birth, the assumption should be rooming in, the assumption should be breast. . .and it isn't.

Untamed Shrew said...

Leah, as one who shed her blood with every feeding for 9+/- weeks due to undiagnosed thrush with Baby 1, I'd say torture is an adequate word.

Leah said...

No, I went to St. A's. I didn't have a preference when originally asked, but now I think those Catholic hospitals are now the place for me!

Besides, it's tempting to stick with the same doctor, since she knows my previous experience.

Rebekah said...

The Catholic does it for me too. They don't hassle me about getting spayed and I trust them not to start harvesting my organs if I pass out.

Leah said...

There's a Christian hospital literally down the street from our house, but I think I would miss those kind nuns and the Crucifix in all the rooms. It seems especially appropriate in a L&D room.

Elizabeth said...

Reb Mary - regarding #6, I have often wondered the exact same thing!
Rebekah - "They don't hassle me about getting spayed and I trust them not to start harvesting my organs if I pass out." hahahahaha - so funny, but true. :)

And I thank God for my breastfeeding "natural childbirth" mama too. Amazing what a difference those make!

Anonymous said...

Anybody have advice about how to avoid social workers when going "against medical advice"?

MooreMama said...

Anon - I haven't had social workers show up when I went "against medical advice", but I did get a visit from the vaccine police aka DHS after an overly uppity nurse in my pediatrician's office reported me for declining chicken pox and flu vaccines completely and spreading out the others (with my pediatrician's approval). My advice is to maintain your spine of steel, know your rights, but be polite.

The lady that sent a letter, then called, then visited me would have been very intimidating if I had not done my homework. Also, since I am familiar with the wording of the law in my state, I was able to spot her carefully worded threats/accusations and nail her down on them. For instance, in my state, all state licensed daycares are required to require ALL of the state-recommended vaccines, but a parent is allowed to fill out a waiver. However, since my children are not in a state licensed daycare, I don't legally have to worry about it at all until they start school. Legally, no one can force me to have my children vaccinated at all, let alone on their schedule. I knew that, and was polite, yet unwavering in my stance.

As an aside, my older daughter caught the chicken pox a couple of weeks after the last visit from the kind DHS lady. I took her to the pediatrician, had it documented, and haven't heard a word since about it.
I've also found that, as a first time mom, "They" were more likely to present their agenda as if it were the only one. My younger daughter is more sensitive to vaccines, and is on a much more selective/delayed schedule, but the staff knows me now. We start each appointment with a list of what's "recommended" and what she's "behind" on, and I pick what/if she's going to get that day and we all go on with our lives.

MooreMama said...

* the only exceptions for requiring all children to be fully vaccinated in state-licensed childcare, are a medical waiver, with a lot of hoops and documentation... however a parent can sign the vaccine waiver for school for religious, medical, or "other" reasons.

Sorry, I left out some words. Stupid editing-on-the-fly.