Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Three for Three

The last three births I've attended have been c-sections. And you know what?

It's OK.

Of course, all three pairs of moms and babies are utterly fine and healthy, all recovering normally with no complications, but that's not what my focus is. In broad strokes, I think the reason why I'm not disappointed is because all three moms had choices. All three went into their births so informed about their options, about the common interventions suggested even when a labor is progressing normally, and about typical complications in late pregnancy and labor. They questioned their care providers, not for the sake of being contrary or dismissive, but because they wanted to to be fully participant in their births and not have their births "done to" them.

When the course of their births turned in the direction of c-section, we took a look at every alternative and weighed options. And I know that later, when they review their births either a week from now or a year from now, they will have no regrets about avenues unexplored.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Mother-Blame Game

Reading blogs can be a little bit like spreading rumours in high school -- there's a story, and the story changes with each person who passes it on, and the story you end up with is vastly different from the one you started with. Despite this, someone runs with this end-product story, believing it to be truth.

Take, for example, the story of a woman in a Chicago hospital who was given the wrong baby to breastfeed and is consequently suing the hospital for negligence. I heard about the story from this article, several hands later, which tangentially asks, "Would you breastfeed someone else's baby?"

That question, of course, is misleading -- because the woman in Chicago was never asked that question.

And the answers are heartbreaking and judgemental - the woman who was given the wrong baby to breastfeed is accused of being a negligent mother for not recognizing her own baby and for choosing not to room-in with her baby. Both the article and the comments review the history of wet nurses and wonderful stories of orphaned babies being fed by a community of breastfeeding women, and so her character comes under question -- perhaps deep-down she finds breastfeeding really disgusting, and why can't she be generous enough to share her breastmilk with another baby in need? Someone even suspects that she's a money-grubber, trying to get rich off the situation.

Acknowledging that we are a litigious society, which in part is the reason for high and unsustainable medical care costs, is important. Important, but far from the point. Suing the hospital for negligence is one of the options that exists among other formal, punitive, and ultimately corrective options. And clearly the hospital needs to be accountable for an identification error whose consequence could have been far worse -- the woman could have taken the wrong baby home, or medication could have been given to the wrong baby (and she's suing for $30K, by the way, which in the grand scheme of a hospital's budget is not a whole lot of money).

But how quick we mothers are to judge another mother. And I hear this kind of judgement, and the ensuing cycle of mistrust and guilt, more often than I like in the birth and parenting world -- between mothers who feel as though their births are being looked at critically by another mother, or their choices in how to feed their babies are being evaluated by another mother, or a mother who makes assumptions about another mother who is having a harder or easier time than she is.

What I have learned in parenting 3 children, in attending birth after birth after birth, and in listening to mothers tell their stories about motherhood, is that there is no singular, right way to go about these tasks. Despite so many options, and so many, many mothers out there, motherhood can sometimes seem like a very lonely place.