Monday, February 25, 2008

maternity leave ramble

I have a student from my last class who was planning a homebirth with one of the wonderful licensed midwives in this area. She was due in December and totally expected to have her baby on Christmas eve or Christmas day. This student was very diligent about taking care of herself during pregnancy. Yoga. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. Massage. In addition to my twelve weeks of classes, which she never missed, she also took a hypnobirthing class. This was one prepared student and partner.

Christmas came and went, and no baby. New baby.

All during this time, she was contracting on and off all day for weeks on end.

One night, in the week before her baby was born, she felt the baby make a huge movement, and she thought baby was moving from a right-side lying position to left side. At that point, she expected labor at anytime.

Still nothing.

She went for a biophysical profile, and the baby had turned from vertex to breech.


Her cesarean was scheduled for the next day.

We played phone tag for awhile; I knew she was having a hard postpartum period. I finally had an opportunity to really sit down and have a conversation with her last night, and we talked for about an hour.

I am angry.

I'm not angry at her, of course; I am angry at the health care system we have in place here. I am angry that there is no built in safety net for this mom, her baby and her partner. Once the baby is born, no one asks how the mom is feeling--emotionally. A mom is supposed to be grateful that her baby is okay and that she, too, is okay. Luckily she is still seeing her LM, who is in tune with postpartum issues mom is having. She gave her a referral for someone to help her out, as did I.

Her story is not unique, either. I've had three students in my last two classes who have had cesarean births, unexpected all, and they all had the same things to say:
recovery sucked
the birth is foggy
the drugs made them out of it for a good two weeks
nursing was difficult and for one, impossible to continue.

None of them understand the appeal of an elective cesarean.

They are unable to stay home to heal and learn to mother an newborn because they have to get back to work. 4-8 weeks seems to the normal maternity leave for my students who have to go back to work.

That. Is. So. Wrong.

Cesareans are on the rise, maternity leave is getting shorter, and I can't believe that's the way it should be. Obviously I feel the cesarean rate needs to be lower and can be lower, but I really feel that women who don't have enough time to recover from birth--no matter how they birthed--are going to be less healthy. They hardly know how to be a mom to the new baby before they have to go back to work again.

Here's an excerpt from an email from a student from my last series:
Yeah, I went back to work Jan 31st...Baby was about 5 weeks then. I guess I would say that it took me until the first week of March to stop feeling quite so overwhelmed. I started running a fever a few weeks ago and ended up sleeping for 16 hours ( Husband fed Baby bottles and woke me up to nurse which I don't remember much of) I broke into an intense sweat and woke up feeling fine every since. I think it was exhaustion. Working 40 hours, getting caught up at work, pumping, nursing at lunch, taking care of the baby at home and the

I'm stressed out and overwhelmed just reading that!
I have such respect for the moms I know who go back to work and continue to pump and nurse their babies. I am the first to say that I nursed my babies mostly because it was cheap and easy, and I wonder if I have the perseverance to do all the pumping that a lot of my moms do.

So, Wayne and I watched Sicko right around the time that I was hearing from my students who had to go back to work, and I so wish we had a system in place where a parent (dad or mom) can stay home with baby for the first year (or two!), if they choose. That they would get their full wages and be guaranteed their position at their workplace when they returned. I also wish that every woman could have a full 12 weeks, at least, with full pay (without having to delve into sick time/vacation time/PTO), to recover from birth and to adapt to being a mom.

We need a change here in the US, and I honestly don't think that any of the presidential candidates are going to create the kind of change I want to see. It's just so frustrating for me to see the decline in maternity and postpartum care that my students receive-- unless they are with a LM. The LMs provide exceptional care that I wish every woman could experience.

1 comment:

Shan said...

I can't imagine going back to work that quick c section or not. I was lucky enough to have both girls after they had implemented the 1 year maternity leave her in Canada.