The postpartum period. What happens after our journey of birth and welcoming our own little person into the world? Happiness, Joy, sadness, fear, anxiety, sometimes even anger. Not everyone feels the same during this period of time in their lives. Who do we lean on? Who helps us navigate through this tunnel? Family, friends, medical care providers, support persons? We count on those around us to support us and give us the necessary information to survive. During my role as a postpartum doula I witness firsthand the sea of information that surrounds new parents, even second, third, and fourth time parents.
A sea of information you say? That’s wonderful! The problem is that with all that information out there, there are bound to be conflicting theories. I often see parents struggle with which path to choose because multiple care providers have given different strategies for the same problem. I see a new community emerging where we have lost the art of trusting our instincts and being able to make our own decisions and speak up for ourselves and our babies. We have entered a world where it is acceptable to shame mothers and fathers for their choices, sometimes even threaten them. Recently I’ve encountered some heart breaking and downright frustrating stories from my families about their postpartum experiences with their care providers. As a doula I like to surround myself with professionals in the community who are liked minded. I’ve built an amazing group of people around me, but feel devastated to hear some of the stories my clients share about our community.
Medical care providers are important and needed. They have a huge place in our community and in caring and supporting ourselves and our babies. There are however big differences between offering medical advice and shaming or threatening families into doing something they are not comfortable with because of a policy or faster outcomes.
Recently I supported a fourth time mom and dad through a birth that resulted in a cesarean section. This momma had breastfed all three of her babies and was happily breastfeeding the newest addition. Upon leaving the hospital, they were instructed to come back to be checked for jaundice levels. When they came back, the nurse was concerned that the baby didn’t cry when his heel was pricked and suggested that perhaps he needed formula. Mom informed her that none of her babies really fussed about that in the past. The pediatrician then said “I am going to give him a bottle just to see if he takes it.” My clients felt they didn’t have a voice to speak up and say no for fear that if they did they would be readmitted to the hospital or that CAS would be contacted. The doctor sent them on their way but gave strict instruction to do a formula feed after every breastfeed for 24 hours, then return for a reassessment. This couple went home and said “no” to formula and only breastfeed for 24 hours. Fast forward to 24 hours later and they encountered the same nurse who says “Did you top up with formula?” Mom’s response “yes we did”. The nurse replied “OH WOW he looks so much better today!” Baby’s assessment was passed with flying colours and no more follow ups necessary.
What does this say? That in this particular situation a mother trusted her instincts but couldn’t feel safe to communicate with the team of providers who we are taught to trust and respect. It is important for families to know they have a voice. Our babies do not belong to the hospitals, or doctors or anyone else, they are our flesh and blood. It is our right to speak up and make decisions that are right for our babies. Don’t misunderstand though, these decision we make about our babies need to be informed decisions based on not only our instincts but with the information presented to us.
Another common problem I encounter are policies that override common sense or don’t allow sufficient time frames. I sometimes experience this when a hospital is trying to achieve a “good” blood sugar reading. All too often I hear “We need three good readings or else we will NEED to give your baby formula.” The first time I learned that this was not always the case was when I heard a midwife tell my client “just do what you need to do so we can pass this test and get discharged from the hospital and then you can never give formula again!” This blew my mind. Since when are we not allowed to say “no thanks I am going to take myself and baby home now!” You should never feel like a prisoner, but in many cases that is exactly how people feel.
So how do we avoid this? How do we educate families that it is okay to speak up and advocate for their babies and themselves? How do we combat that fear about going up against the man?
RAISE YOUR VOICE