For the next two weeks a little organization named CleanBirth.org is making a huge difference in the lives of many people. In fact, it isn’t only now that it’s doing so. CleanBirth.org raises funds throughout the year to ensure that many pregnant women in Laos can have safe births through the use of clean-birth kits and properly trained nurses. The focus for these two weeks is to raise funds to train 62 nurses in 2016!
It is a phenomenal thing that makes you want to stand up and clap your hands, with happy tears streaming down your face; especially if you’re a parent. As a parent it may also make you think of your personal pregnancy experience(s).
Reading about what CleanBirth.org definitely made me assess my own pregnancies and the access we (my babies and I) had to clean and modern facilities in case of emergencies during the pregnancy, and for a safe delivery to my babies and myself.
First baby: December 2001: I was young(er) and new to the USA and its cultures. My water broke at home and I knew I could call an ambulance if need be. Fortunately I was able to change the hospital at which I wanted to deliver my baby just a few weeks prior, and the new hospital was just ten minutes away by car.
Upon arrival I was put on a wheelchair and wheeled into the delivery room. I remember it being fairly spacious. It was 4:10 a.m. None of the nurses would speak to me, which was a bit unnerving. The four nurses in my room buzzed around me, focused, making sure I had all I needed as far as what was medically necessary. My doctor wasn’t available and someone from the group of doctors to which he belonged would come in his stead. A half hour passed before one of the nurses answered my question: Why were my legs shaking so much? She said it was an adrenaline rush; something I had never heard of or considered prior to hearing it.
My baby was born before 5 a.m. and all the nurses were very nice at this point. A woman doctor was there, which I was happy to see. She told me about some post-delivery care and left.
One of the things I remember being significantly different from my later deliveries, is that the nurses weighed, bathed, and clothed my baby before handing her to me to breastfeed. They let me feed her for 30 minutes before moving us to a recovery room. I didn’t know any better so I let it happen that way.
That afternoon, seeing that my baby wasn’t eating enough, the nurses curtly said they had to take the baby to the nursery to feed her. On one hand I am grateful that they had formula to give her, but I do wish they had taught me how to get her to eat more from me, before introducing a foreign ‘food’ to her. So, educating nurses on how to care for mothers and newborn babies is something I vehemently believe as necessary.
We were able to stay at the hospital for two days. My baby’s grandmother told me “get some rest while you can, honey. If they let you stay here for two days, then stay.” I took her advice and applied it to my next two babies as well!
Second Baby: December 2012: The room was very spacious and it had a view of the bay. It was a beautiful and serene room. My husband had recorded himself playing a tabla, which really made for a beautiful birth. I was given some intravenous pain medication and the nurses were extremely nice. My doctor came to check on me, and came to deliver the baby right on time. It was interesting to see that the nurses were prepping the room, almost in expectation of a Cesarean Section (C-Section). When the doctor came and it was time to push, he had to have some nurses ‘snap out of it’ as if a natural birth was the abnormal thing to see.
This time, the nurses cleaned the baby and then asked me if I wanted skin-to-skin time with her. They let me feed her for an hour before needing to move us to a recovery room. During recovery a lactation consultant came and made sure I knew all the tricks in case the baby didn’t latch or drink enough. Fortunately she drank just fine, but other nurses kept encouraging me to breastfeed and gave me a lot of water to keep the milk going.
Third Baby: October of 2014: There were changes already in how to treat infant and mum within the first hour post-delivery. This time they didn’t clean the baby or anything. After my husband cut the umbilical cord, they let me feed the baby for a little over an hour. They then took the baby, cleaned him, wrapped him up in a baby blanket and gave him a little beanie hat.
When I write about nurse education being invaluable, I really do mean it. A nurse heard a murmur when doing a routine newborn check on my son. She thought it should be checked, but you know, there is so much going on with a brand new human, that what sounds like a murmur could be something insignificant. A doctor listened to the same sound and dismissed it. Another nurse heard the murmur and said we must check it out. Because of their instinct and knowledge, and because of the access we had to the right technology & tools, we found out that my son was born with a congenital heart problem. He would need surgery before he turned six months old, and again, we only found out because of a nurse. This story ends in a miracle (really), which you can read here: My Son’s Miracle Heart
We kept thinking about how possible it was for this to be missed if we were somewhere without such access. I must add how pleasantly surprised and humbled I was, when I found out that the US government actually would cover the cost of the heart surgery, along with any additional care my son would need because of his heart. He was assigned a nurse whom I could contact with any questions. He was assigned a social worker who’d be there for anything not related to medical questions.
Overall I am extremely thankful for being in US cities, close to modern hospitals, when it was time to have my babies. I do think the US could do much better when it comes to giving new parents more time off (fully paid would be fantastic) to be with their baby. I don’t think a father gets longer than a week off, if that, and a mother gets 8-10 weeks with a reduced paycheck.
What about you? What are your maternal health experiences? What is something that is excellent about maternal care in your country, and what is something that needs much improvement?
Please check out World Mom Kristyn Zalota’s post on World Moms Blog: A Small, Pink Bag, A Nurse and You. Kristyn is the founder of CleanBirth.org as as well as a doula and Lamaze educator. She is an entrepreneur and has volunteered in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Uganda on projects related to women’s empowerment.