If you haven’t already guessed, while I’m figuring out how to film 3B walking while preventing him from opening the balcony door, eating my bicycle chain, or climbing onto the stove, I’m going to be stalling by presenting the more interesting contents of my “baby book.” Of course, after I get some footage, I’ll need some time to hack it together to the tune y’all selected. (Technically, I’ve stopped counting votes, but really, I’ll keep counting bribes as long as you want to send them.) Previously, I covered the Dangerous Book for Boys prequel, today’s pamphlet is Helpful Instructions to Mothers.
Mama and I were lucky enough to find a practice that was a collaborative between midwives, which made her more comfortable, and doctors, which made me more comfortable. Mama’s take on pregnancy and childbirth was that she didn’t want it to be treated as an illness, and that she certainly didn’t want to be treated as if she were sick. I agreed with that, but I also wanted Plan B to be at the location where we were going to deliver, rather than a drive away, no matter how short the drive–10 minutes in our case.
This is a discussion that we’ve had, back and forth, since we moved in together and tried to find places to live. We both tend to prefer rural areas–big surprise, right? But, I have always said that once we have kids, I wanted to live in a town with a clinic or, preferably, a hospital. Mama, who grew up in a house surrounded by woods and potato fields, in the far north of Maine–eight hours north of Portland, north of Quebec City, way the hell up there–never felt that was a necessity. However, in the next breath she would say, “I hope that if we have a son, he’s just like you.” To which my reply always was, “If he is, we’ll need either a hospital or a helicopter.”
So, when it came time to pick an OB practice, I was on the more conservative end, which I knew was first-time parent nervousness, but it was also nervousness for Mama. Honestly, I was pretty sure that delivery would be straightforward, just going by the statistics, but I was also concerned about pain management for Mama, especially the more we learned about childbirth. I had watched Sister #2 give birth to her third child, and from my perspective, it didn’t look comfortable. In fact, I’ve known Sister #2 my whole life, and I’ve never seen her in such pain. And trust me, my perspective was from the front row–I was the umpire to the doctor’s Johnny Bench, so I was close enough to make that call.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to force Mama into a purely medical intervention type of delivery because she wouldn’t be comfortable with that, and because I wasn’t sure that it was necessary. As I said, we are lucky enough to live in an area with lots of options for OBs and we ended up in a practice whose philosophy is that you’re healthy and that the baby is developing normally until they have evidence to the contrary. Their feeling is that, until delivery, they’re usually there just to make sure that you’re within a relatively normal range. In fact, they didn’t outright discourage us from taking certain tests, but they did counsel us that the tests were more about risk tolerance collecting significant data for decision making, which led us to skip several of the pregnancy testing regimens.
Also, the hospital that we delivered in was pretty laissez faire about post-partum care, so we didn’t concern ourselves with writing up a birth plan or instructions for the post-partum or nursery nurses. We knew that once he arrived, we were in charge of 3B’s care–OK, so that was mildly terrifying to realize, given that I can’t even remember to floss half the time–and that the hospital wanted him to be with us as much as possible, that they were just there for answering questions, general support, and to take him if we needed a break. And, after all of our deliberations over an OB practice, when Mama got to that point where she gave me a look that said, “This hurts too much, I’ve got to get out of here.”–and by “here” she meant “my body”–I was relieved that relief was so close by for her. It’s also given me some comfort that we made the right choice when she’s gone on about how much she liked her epidural–that it hurt less than a finger prick for a blood sample, that it was adjusted so that she didn’t lose all feeling in her legs, and so forth. More than anything, I didn’t want Mama to have regrets.
However, given what I can figure about how hospitals have historically treated pregnancy, mothers, fathers, and babies from the contents of this pamphlet that Mom was given when I was born, I understand completely anyone who writes out a complete birth and post-partum plan to ensure that, for example, they aren’t prohibited from touching their baby–or his clothing. Or that there’s no time when it’s OK to smoke on the maternity ward. Or that the person coming to visit them or pick them up may not be their husband–he may not even be a he–their companion could be a partner, a parent, a friend, or a coach.
Then again, it might be worth going back to that if we could get the prices I saw listed on another scrap for my baby book. Mom stayed in the hospital with me for six days after giving birth, and I doubt that it cost over $1,000, and it probably wasn’t even close to that. It might even be worth setting the Wayback Machine to 1968 just to get a room without a TV or the Amish gateway drug: a telephone. Can you imagine how relaxing it would be . . . especially with the newborn sequestered in the nursery? (Says the man who sent photos from his phone from the maternity ward.)