Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Better IN than OUT

No, I haven't made an error in the title of this post - I really mean it!

When it comes to the NHS and prenatal vs post natal care, I've found that you're much better off BEFORE your baby arrives.
Speaking to a friend of mine who has two children of her own, we found ourselves giggling because - as she put it -

" when you are pregnant they can't do enough for you, you can go to them with any little pain or ache and they will bend over backwards to put it right.... after the baby is born, they can't get you out of the hospital fast enough!"

Now why is that? Is it that the welfare of the baby is more important than that of the mother? While the mother is a carrier and protector of this new life, is her health and well being of paramount importance only because this affects the health and well being of the baby inside?  Is the NHS required to report stats to different bodies or according to different targets when comparing the occurrences of 'happy mummies and live/healthy births vs. the length of stay in hospital or the well being of children aged 0 to 12 months?  Or is it because the medical staff dealing with ante natal care are a different breed to those handling post natal care?

I don't know, but after laughing and joking about it, I really started to wonder.... I compared my experiences with these 3 pregnancies... if you call your GP for an appointment - the likely answer is "the clinic is full today - please call again tomorrow"; mention that you're pregnant and all of a sudden there is space!
"Sure - we can fit you in this afternoon, can you come at 2?"

You can get the most comfortable chairs; they'll turn a blind eye to you parking in the designated 'Doctors Only' car parking spot close to the front door... You'll be swamped by all manner of free samples and alternative therapies: 'want to try some pregnancy massage? How about an acupuncture taster? Here are some free Pampers/Huggies/Sudocream samples" - you think you can't afford to eat healthily? Don't worry - the government will give you £190 so you can buy some vegetables... "What's that you want? A trip to the moon? You got it!" No demand seems too ridiculous.... you come away feeling as though you're carrying a VIP and therefore you are a VIP and must be pampered/protected at all costs... and let's not mention all the information you are given: leaflet after leaflet, "your little toe hurts because the baby is lying sideways on the left and you ate too much icecream last night... try bananas instead"

Fast forward to your baby's birthday... or rather the day after the birthday... because in some places they're still trying to keep up the illusion that they care about you (or maybe they haven't handed over to the other team yet).  You've given birth to your gorgeous VIP, only to find that he or she is not royalty or special in any way whatsoever, not to them (the OTHER team), nope - your kid is just one of many kids mewling and roaring in plastic cots next to bewildered mothers in communal rooms on the maternity ward. One of many... and all the wonder and romance of pregnancy vanishes, only to be replaced by the cold hard facts. In the UK, there is one new baby born every minute. The NHS staff are (or appear to be) overworked and the wards are understaffed (how else can you explain the miserable looks on their faces? Or why you can ring the buzzer for H-E-L-P and wait up to an hour for the 'help' to arrive (even though you can hear them out there in reception...) you're just too weak or in too much pain to get up and go wallop them!

You, your friends and family are all abuzz with excitement over your the new addition to your family and these staff are like: 'yeah, whatever, seen it all before.. like just a minute ago'... talk about KILLJOYS! Lol.

I remember having two drips in, the nurse who checked me into the ward, kindly attached the bags to some contraption above my head. Given the trauma below, I could hardly walk and spent a few hours psyching myself up to half hobble, half crawl to the bathroom (which luckily for me was in the corner next to my cubicle). Bear in mind that I was also STILL CONTRACTING as Mr Uterus tried to get back to his pre-pregnancy shape (or whatever it does during the aftermath) and this was not helped by the fact that they had left the Oxytocin drip in (when did I authorise that?? Using Oxytocin during a VBAC can cause the previous c-section scar to rupture and usually you give Oxytocin to INDUCE labour but I was already seriously progressed before I even got to the hospital, so this makes me really MAD... but discussing this error is for another post)....

So there I was... about to slither off the bed when I realise that these tubes in my hand are stuck to the bed somehow and I can't work them free... so of course I press the buzzer for H-E-L-P.... mind you I am already at bursting point but now I have to wait another 40 mins for someone to come and H-E-L-P me... all the while all I can see is the drip -drip- dripping of the (whatever it was) dripping from the bag into the tubing... into me.... do you have any idea what strength of mind it took not to wet myself? Hahahaha.  If I were still pregnant they'd have been in there in a flash! And who came to help me? THE SECURITY GUARD! I guess the midwives were very very busy that night... (and HE still gave me a look like - you called me to unhook these drips? That's it? chah!)

I keep saying I am gonna do a proper write up about the whole birth experience - not because I am mad but because in hindsight it was just hilarious - honestly, it's the sort of thing you'd expect to happen on a sitcom... it can't REALLY have happened to me... but it did, and I am just thankful that both I and my baby lived to laugh about it!

Back on the ward, when I told them there was something wrong with my baby (1. she wouldn't wake up and 2. she was the colour of saffron rice), the junior doctor I spoke to insisted it was the lighting in the room. A room which was filtered BLUE by the blue curtains and flooring...
After they whisked the baby away to NICU (I was bed bound so couldn't follow) who came to tell me where they'd taken her or what was happening or how long she'd be gone? That's right ... noone. So after visiting hours, I hobbled out to the front desk (I think they assumed I was disabled because I was walking with a serious limp and yet noone asked if I was ok/needed a chair or anything) and I asked where my kid was...

response: "oh Baby x is in NICU"
(clearly I know she is in NICU but how do I see her? Are there visiting hours? When is she coming back?) 
me: "Uh-huh... and where is that?" 
response: "downstairs"
me: "...."
response: "..."
me: "!@*!"
response:" oh... take the lift down 2 floors and follow the signs" (why are you still standing in front of me asking dumb questions?)

If I were pregnant, they'd have whipped out a wheelchair and offered to take me/show me... talk about me being persona non grata! ROFL.

And all the while my child was in NICU I lived in fear of being booted off the ward, noone checked whether my stitches were healing ok etc, too concerned with stats I guess... one day I received my discharge papers and I was like: "Sorry, but I am not leaving this hospital without my child. You can tell the manager I said that" (cos it's not like the ward was full and there were no empty beds, at least 7 more women could have come on!) I later learned that they're supposed to move 'people like me' to private rooms so that we don't have to endure the agony of hearing other families laughing and cooing over their bundles of joy, while we sit there with no cot, no baby, and no cooing.... just a massive breast pump and all our fears and worries as we wonder whether our babies are going to make it.... but it's all good, what don't kill does fatten (as Bajans say)... so I have emerged stronger. Prayer and a strong sense of humour got me through and it gets me through every day, I'm going to stop apologising for it and just be who I am.

Anyway - I digressed a bit there, that was meant to be in the other post. Anyone who can shed some light on why the VIP treatment stops at birth - holler!


Nai said...

Boy! kiss my teet! Where to start?
right ... ok ... errr cos it's err FREE???? Them jokers, I can see they have not changed. Had similar experience with my first, but they treated me like rubbish because they ASSUMED I was a very young teenager and treated me with contempt. They took her and did a lumber puncture w/o permission assuming I was too young to authorise. As we all know assumptions are rather rude and at 22 was old enough to make them so sorry that they never do it again ...!!! apart from my second child, I refused to have babies anywhere but home. Last baby was in distress so HAD to go in, siren style, hitting back door on ground floor, pushing and panting. After the shock of a quick birth, I CHOSE to leave FAST! No time for their rubbish! Like you said, what don't kill fatten! KMT!

Bajan Lily said...

Nai - this is exactly why I wanted to have a home birth as well!
Unfortunately, with my second child - I also transferred in with fetal distress and had an emergency c- section.

With this one, after fighting the good fight to get them to sign off on a VBAC home birth - I ended up right back there again - because I needed one more signature and that appt was scheduled for the day after the baby actually came! Lol!

I agree with you in that I am sure some of this experience comes down to perceptions of age (and possibly intelligence).

Having observed the treatment of other people on the ward, I bet things would have been different if I was NOT petite or looked more senior (or menacing!!) like my mother LOL.

Even with my husband there - we were treated like a teenage couple who had no sense/who had been caught out fornicating! SMH.

I wish people who didn't like their jobs would do something else instead of doing their jobs badly or making their clients miserable!

Nai said...

Girl ... you preaching up in here!!!!! xxxx

Anonymous said...

Sounds awful!! Which hospital was this? Very, very interesting.

I've often wondered at this strange dichotomy, it is more noticeable in some hospital trusts than others, though. It's like you're brought back down to earth with a bump when you set foot in the delivery suite.

I'd say that was true of quite a few general hospitals (I can think of 2 in my experience) - excellent antenatal care but the birth and the post natal experience nurses leave a lot to be desired - particularly when you've had more than one before.

By grace I was considered low-risk enough to have had my last two births in a birth centre. There, the whole 'feel' and culture of midwife-led care tends to keep up that warmth and consideration for both mum n baby post-natally as well.

I hate hospital birth culture, it's very target driven, very institutionalised and impersonal and I hate anything institutionalised.

This time we're hoping for a home-birth. Wohooo 5 weeks to go!!

I think once the baby's out you're reminded all the attention you got was for the best outcome for good statistics, but now it's out the reality is that you're just a number.

Maybe i'm just skeptical of any government benevolence.

May God bless the NHS with more human, caring staff at all levels. Yours sounds quite a story.


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