The OR of birth

As many of you know, I recently had a baby. I wanted to get my act together before blogging about the OR of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. This is eight months overdo, but better late than never. I apologize if this is TMI, but I think it’s important to write about work-life balance.

As far as delivery goes, trusting one’s body seems to work best. I had my second natural childbirth with the help of the wonderful midwives at MCV. I’m normally all for conventional medical care, but a conventional labor and delivery yields depressing outcomes. For example, the rate of Cesareans is now at an all-time high of 31%. The rate of pregnancy-related deaths has also risen from a low of 7 per 100,000 in the 90’s to 14 out of 100,000 in 2004, which has been blamed on unnecessary Cesareans. There’s no shame in an epidural, but it’s best to go without one if you can manage. You’ll also get the best natural high of your life. I recommend seeing the movie The Business of Being Born to find out more about natural childbirth. It is a fascinating guide to prenatal care and birth. If you’re like me and embrace the radical philosophy that pregnancy and labor should viewed as a natural and healthy part of life–not as a disability–you will love it (Yeah, some pregnancies have severe complications, but I’m talking about normal pregnancies).

I was looking forward to being pampered during my hospital stay, and although the staff were fantastic, operations at the hospital needed some improvement. First, a room wasn’t ready for me in the newborn ward, which meant that my daughter was moved to the nursery while I waited in the delivery room. Because of hospital security, babies could not be taken from the newborn ward without setting off umpteen alarms, and I could not walk around the hospital by myself after going through labor and wearing a nightgown that didn’t tie shut (although I contemplated it. I was flying on a natural high after the delivery and my inner mama bear was also released during delivery, which was prompting me to do all sorts of over-protective things and get huffy with any nurse that stood in my way).

When the hospital runs out of capacity in the newborn ward, they procure space in other places throughout the hospital. This is a great use of resources, in theory, but has bad consequences for mother and baby bonding and feeding because of hospital security. Luckily, a newborn room became available quickly, and I enjoyed a stay with my daughter sleeping by my side. There are several OR research efforts that address hospital bed issues, and I now truly understand the complexity of these applications (Linda Green wrote an excellent NY Times article on this issue).

Hospital meals were also a disappointment. I had to put my order in the day before, which meant that I couldn’t order meals the first day of my hospital stay. I had to eat leftover food that was delivered to the maternity ward that no one else wanted to eat. As a vegetarian, my options were further limited. The cafeteria messed up the rest of my food orders as well. Luckily, a very patient hospital employee tracked down many fresh fruit plates and vegetarian sausage (which is surprisingly delicious!) for me. I still feel ill when thinking about all the inefficiencies with food delivery. There has to be a better way.

My daughter’s name starts with an “E,” which apparently means that she won’t do as well in school if we gave her a name that starts with an “A.” But she’s now eight months old and is developing perfectly, so I’m pretty sure we haven’t scarred her for life.

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