And now it gets personal…

Ever since I published my post on our health care system I have been thinking about what I did not say in that post. You see, I left something out. It is much more personal and I just was not ready to talk about it. In the context of what I was saying in that post it seemed to rant-y and off topic. It is also one of those topics that people get on their soap box about.  I just didn’t feel comfortable diving in right away. But I think it needs to be said. I need to get it off my chest. Therapy, if you will. Here goes:

My other complaint about the health care system: Political stances taken by the health care authority and nurses towing the line, rather then being trained to provide situation specific advice. First, let me say that I didn’t meet a nurse who wasn’t an amazingly caring person just trying to do their best. The health care workers are not the problem- it is the health authority. The health care authority that really pushes breastfeeding, but doesn’t provide consistent support.

Actually, now that I think about it, they really push a lot of things. From where your baby should sleep to when they should start solids to which vaccines they should get (all of them). These are very debatable ‘hot’ topics in the parenting world. Personal decisions, as far as I am concerned. Things that parents decide based on a lot of thought, personal circumstances and ones own values and beliefs. Short of having your baby sleep outside in the snow or feeding your 1month old raw meat (both bad by the way), most decisions are shades of gray. And frankly none of the health authority’s business.

Their role should be to inform new parents of the options out there and then encourage them to consider all relevant information. I am okay with them saying “we generally recommend x.” I am not okay with them getting into a debate with an obviously well-informed parent, who has clearly done their research and considered all the options. I trust the opinion of my doctor (we are lucky to have a great doctor), not some nurse who has known me and by baby for all of two minutes. No two families are the same, so why should the health authority be pushing the same advice on all? But I digress…

Breastfeeding. There were a handful of different nurses that tried to help me in the hospital- most of them very new, with very little training. There was no lactation consultant at the hospital. I saw numerous nurses in clinics for the first couple weeks after we left the hospital, all of them with different advice. I finally saw a nurse certified as a lactation consultant. More different advice. Then, finally, I was sent to a doctor who specialized in lactation consulting.

At 8 weeks my babies tongue got clipped, something that should have been done in the hospital as far as I was concerned. (If you have never heard of a tongue tie and want to know what the heck I am talking about: We were told when she was born that she was tongue tied and that it might impact breastfeeding. Everyone we asked after that hemmed and hawed, and said it didn’t look too bad. Despite the clip at 8 weeks, problems persisted. (Actually, truth be told, they did the tongue clip twice, because the doctor that did it the first time didn’t clip it enough.)

I got a lot of advice and I was told to keep trying. Keep trying. Even though anyone who would have really talked to me would have known that it just wasn’t working. I tried every vitamin/tea/galactogogue food possible. Don’t even ask me about pumping. It wasn’t until 3 1/2 months in and my baby not gaining much weight, when the specialized lactation doctor finally looked back at my chart and realized that I had a medical condition that predisposed me to having troubles with lactation. The ‘what is wrong with me’ insecurity finally had an answer. And then I let go and gave the baby a bottle. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It still makes me tear up to think about it. I wonder what my first 4 months with my daughter would have been like if the health care system had supported me and my baby, rather then supporting their position that ‘breast is best.’ Yes, ‘breast is best’, but health care should be provided to individuals and every individual is different.

What did I learn? What would I do differently if I had it all again to do?

1) I would have gotten a midwife. Alberta Health started covering midwives 7 days after my daughter was born. I am told by people that have used a midwife that they were very helpful with breastfeeding. Hopefully they would know me well enough after helping me through pregnancy and delivery to give me better, consistent and more individualized advice.

2) I would have trusted myself more, let it go sooner, and not listened to so much advice. I would have realized that nurses are wonderful people, but they are trained with specific answers to specific questions. Ultimately, the mother knows best.


11 responses to “And now it gets personal…

  1. smdcanada January 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for sharing that. There is so much about those first days, weeks and months with a baby that are so incredibly difficult. I think we, as parents and women, don’t talk about it enough. Too much romanticization (is that a word?) of motherhood. Like it should be blissful. Frankly, I think it the opposite and often can be the most difficult thing we’ve ever experienced. Learning to find and trust our own instinct around parenting is so key. Hope you and your baby found your way ok with the feeding.

  2. amoment2think January 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I totally agree that there is a romaticization of motherhood. It always used to drive me nuts in those first couple months when random women would tell me “enjoy it dear, that is such a wonderful time.” I would think they must totally forgotten the first couple months with their babies- it was not wonderful. Having a beautiful, healthy baby girl is wonderful, but mostly I was exhausted and lost.

    Yes, ever since we gave her formula things have been a lot better when it comes to feeding. Well, that was until she decided that she should throw everything we offer her on the floor… LOL.

  3. Perpetua January 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Ugh, my own family gave me the “you aren’t enjoying your baby!” line. No, because I was too busy figuring out how to take care of the little bugger. 🙂

    Anyway, we are in different countries, with different health care systems, but I had a similar “Keep trying!” experience that went completely unsupported by the doctors and other folks mouthing that line. Even my doula, who we hired for the express purpose of helping with things like BFing, was no help. 😦 We gave up after a month, but it was torturous. I’m sorry you had to go through it for four months.

  4. Briana January 27, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Good for you for posting about this. Here in New West, the nurses do provide some support (but as you say, the level of helpfulness varies by their experience, and the advice is sometimes conflicting). The real support for moms is the public health nurse, who used to come by a week or two postpartum, and follow up by phone after that, to ensure mom and baby were nursing well and that mom’s mental health was good.

    I have to disagree with you on vaccinations. They can’t be an individual choice because if too many in the group are unvaccinated there’s a chance all will get sick. In other wods, choosing not to vaccinate imperils the health of others.

    • amoment2think January 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm

      There is a public health nurse system here too, they used to come out to your house, but now they have you come to the public clinics. They are the ones I saw for the first 8 weeks, pretty much once a week, until I was finally sent to the lactation clinic doctor.

      Fair enough, I can see what you are saying about vaccinations. However, there are some vaccinations that are optional (like the H1N1 and the Seasonal flu). If there is a parent that feels strongly about not giving their child those vaccines I don’t think it is the nurses place to tell them they are being a bad parent, just because they are making a decision that the health authority doesn’t agree with. Vaccinations are a very touchy subject for a lot of people. My point was more that I don’t like how our health care system instructs the nurses to talk to people- as if there is no debate about the best way to raise your child.

  5. Briana January 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Oh and the second time around it is more “wonderful” … I too gnashed my teeth at all the declarations of mommybliss with #1 but once you adjust to motherhood you really can relax more and just enjoy.

  6. Accidents January 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    On “enjoying it”: people who say this to new mothers can suck it. Now, almost a year into it, I still have trouble stopping and enjoying it. I’ll admit it. My jaw is still clenched a lot of the time. That’s my motherhood, and it’s exhausted and neurotic. And in those first few months? I was just surviving and making sure he survived. If someone told me to “enjoy it now because it happens so fast” I just let them know EXACTLY how *long* my days felt. When your day doesn’t ever end…when day and night are indistinguishable…when you have to be “on” 24/7…there is nothing fast about it. The first 6 months of my son’s life were the longest 6 months of my life. I’m sure in time I’ll forget how hard it was and wax nostalgic, but right now I can say: I love my son, I wouldn’t trade anything about who he is and how things have been because it got us here, has made us who we are. But I also wouldn’t slow it down or go back and relive it.

    Thank you for this post–even though things went differently for me in terms of experience, I agree with everything you say about how positions get in the way of caring for both mother and child.

    • amoment2think January 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      Oh the clenched jaw…. it sucks doesn’t it! It does seem to be getting better as we approach a year… but still super hard, eh? It doesn’t make us love them any less…. but seriously!

  7. Cheryl January 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Thanks for reminding everyone that breast feeding is a choice, and may even be considered a privilege, since it is not the easy task it is made out to be. It takes work, patience, perseverance – all of which I know you put in – and even after all that, it hurts. (I had a biter.)

    I agree that a healthy system should have supported you, your baby and the choices you made for both of you.

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