If you’ve read my previous blog entry you’ll be aware that my wife gave birth just over a week ago. Almost as soon as she was discharged from hospital, however, she was re-admitted to the maternity ward because her blood pressure was at record-breaking levels.
Mother and daughter are now home and we have the opportunity to adjust to our new life. The experience was emotionally draining, tiring and horrible; we just wanted to be together as a family with our other daughter.
In a bizarre way it was also an opportunity for me. Few people, especially men, get to spend so much time on a maternity ward and I was able to watch all the little dramas unfold. It was like my own personal version of One Born Every Minute.
I couldn’t resist putting together a few of the highlights and lowlights of my time on the ward:
• Midwifes are great – I know some people have bad experiences with their midwives, but on this occasion I was very impressed. Mrs Adams was having a tough time and they were all very sensitive to the situation and did their best to lift her spirits.
• Bearing bad news – We had no choice but to listen as a doctor informed a mum and dad in a neighbouring bay their new born might have a brain infection and would be taken away for a lumber puncture. The parents were understandably distressed and I don’t mind admitting it bought tears to my eyes and certainly put our problems in perspective.
• Leaving to start a new life – A delightful couple had been in the bay opposite my wife. The dad was over the moon when his wife was discharged and the smile on his face as he left was very uplifting. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how happy he looked. It’s the small things.
• NEVER remove a new born from its mother – I speak from deeply personal experience. When Mrs Adams was re-admitted to the maternity ward, it was suggested I take baby home with me so she could get an undisturbed night’s sleep. It seemed to make sense but was in fact a very big mistake. All night women were wheeled in with their new offspring but my wife didn’t have hers. The post birth hormone levels were high and I returned the next morning to find her deeply upset and her blood pressure had rocketed up further. Once reunited things slowly began to improve but she was understandably very sensitive after the experience. How parents cope when their child is taken away to a special care baby unit I will never know.
• Visitors – In my experience the dads made the most reasonable visitors. They understandably had questions for the various medical specialists but were generally quiet, well-behaved and just wanted to get their partners and new born home. It was when other relatives came to visit that things could get out of hand. One woman was visited by an older relative (grandmother maybe?)who spent her time shuffling round the ward shouting. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she was accompanied by a child of about four who got bored and ran around the place. Granny and child stayed for eight, yes eight, hours. They made a lot of noise and this was deeply unfair on everyone else on the ward.
• This is a maternity ward, not a jumble sale – I watched in horror as a salesperson in a quasi-nurse’s uniform went from bay-to-bay. Every occupied bay was visited and she asked if parents wanted to buy framed plaster casts of their child’s hands and feet. There was very little consideration as to what was going on behind those curtains. Sure enough, she called on us just as my wife was trying to breastfeed and while highly personal post-birth detritus was scattered across the bed. I couldn’t believe she had clearance from the hospital to invade the patients’ privacy in this way and I came very close to telling her where to go.
• I’m a midwife, not a flight attendant – Some patients didn’t understand the essentials of midwifery and rang the bell to summon assistance for the strangest reasons. My favourite was the woman who rang the bell to get a midwife to pick up a cardigan she had dropped (this wasn’t a one off, it happened several times). She was soon told that she would have to start doing things for herself.
• Noise – You’d imagine maternity wards are quiet at night, save for crying babies. I was present until midnight on one occasion and was surprised at how noisy it was. In fairness I think it was a demanding night but troubled patients receiving treatment, equipment being moved around, patients on mobile phones and then of course babies crying all contributed to a noisy atmosphere.
Overall, the experience was not enjoyable. My wife and I cannot complain though. It was typical NHS and the service was imperfect, chaotic, and often rushed. Despite this, we know mother and child have received very good medical care and we’re grateful for it. I’ve also received a little insight into how these wards operate and it’s been a real education.