Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Noisy Postpartum

crying-baby by bbaunach.
crying-baby by bbuanach

After I had my daughter, my midwife checked both of us out, and satisfied with the health of me and my girl, tucked us snuggly into bed to rest. She then walked down to our local coffee shop and picked everyone up a latte. I got freshly picked wildflowers in lieu of the caffeine. We then proceeded to snack on fresh berries, cheese and crackers while chatting. There was a soft morning breeze blowing through my window and I could hear the pigeons cooing.

That was after my home birth. If I had had a hospital birth, it would've not only looked different, but it would have sounded different. My labor would have been accompanied by at the very least, the thumping rhythm of the fetal monitor, the beep of aforementioned monitor when the paper ran out, and the constant introductions of nurses, doctors, and pediatricians. My postpartum room most likely would have been shared with another mother, who may or may not have had a slew of visitors, and who may or may not have had a penchant for television watching. And again, there would be a new face and name introducing itself, at least every 12 hours or so. The coffee would have been terrible, and the flowers an elevator's ride away.

That's to mention nothing of the cries of not only my baby, but possibly my roommates baby too. Recent findings are now claiming that the noise of the hospital can be detrimental to health, not to mention recovery from birth. Take a look at this brilliant study and analysis of the decibel level of labor and delivery, and postpartum units in American hospitals. I love her idea of a postpartum lounge for new mothers to congregate in after they birth their babies. Although, I think even this might be a bit much for new mothers - it takes a considerable amount of energy to interact with strangers, especially in the precious moments after one has a baby. Still, I think that her nod towards other postpartum cultural practices, and their strict emphasis on calm, quiet, and rest for the new mother and baby, is an important and lacking one here in America. For most women here, it's back to 'normal' at about seven days postpartum. In contrast look at these practices from around the world.

  • In Sudan mothers are treated to 40 days of rest, and beautification, treatment very similar to what a new bride in Sudan receives. They are served a fenugreek pudding, believed to encourage breast milk production and make one fat, something desired in Sudan! The treatment is thought to allow them to exit their 40 days feeling beautiful and rested.
  • In Indonesia, the mother does not enter the kitchen or wash until the umbilical cord has shriveled and fallen. This ensures rest for her. The husband does not sleep for three days as he must guard the mother and baby. How about that for a taste of sleep deprivation for the partner!
  • In India trained women come to the house and perform warm oil massages for mother and baby. It is believed to reduce colic in infants and preserve a woman's life long health. They also believe in resting for 40 days. Their are many special foods associated with the postpartum period.
  • It is Holland I believe, who takes the cake for postpartum care. There a women receives a kraamverpleegsters, a postpartum nurse, who comes to the house all day long for eight days. This is paid for by the government. She helps with everything from breastfeeding, advising on infant care, to laundry and cooking! She even manages the flow of visitors.
With all of this care, I'd be surprised if a baby ever cried in these countries! I hope that hospital administrators and anyone involved with postpartum mothers, would look at the above examples for inspiration and guidance on how mothers should be valued. Ask any mother what she wants, and I hedge that a good portion of them would say, "Some peace and quiet". Wishing that for you and yours!

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