Tuesday, January 18, 2011

muddled newborn brain and some thoughts on health care

Today is my birthday, which was news to me. When I managed–after feeding the baby, Ike, and myself breakfast–to find my cell phone, a little alert told me that my brother had posted a message on my Facebook account wishing me a happy birthday. And I thought, Hmmmm, he must be confused. I felt my birthday was months away, arriving sometime mid-April. But then I looked at the date on the computer, and indeed it was my birthday. January eighteenth, the day after the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., as it is every year. What's more, before I went to bed last night a little alarm on my phone went off alerting me that tomorrow was the birthday of Leon Iragui and Amber Iragui. And instead of absorbing the information that tomorrow was my birthday, instead I thought, How odd it is that my name is Amber Iragui and that I share a last name with Leon Iragui (my husband's grandfather who died years before I met my husband).

But by now, 5:00 in the evening, I have adjusted. In fact, this blog post is my birthday present to myself. I have carved out a little time to sit here and write, which is a better present than any other I can imagine. Ever since Genevieve was born a little over a month ago, I have been composing posts in my mind. I have a whole handful of first paragraphs and one-liners to unload. I doubt, though, that I will find a way to gracefully include them all here.

So maybe I'll just try one: I want to say a word about health care. Which is a horribly dry way to begin. More to the point: I want to say a word about doulas, and how the services my doula gave me during both Isaiah and Genevieve's births in many ways far surpass the services doctors and specialists provide. No doctor would have promptly answered my repeated calls on the days leading up to the birth, walking me though my fears with a store of practical advice and encouragement. I would have been left floundering and worried, doing google searches and reading posts about worst-case-scenarios. And left to the devices of the medical institution, I would probably have had another induction and epidural. Instead, Genevieve came of her own accord, and I even managed to deliver her without pain medication. My doula provided the kind of support women need (or at least I need) to get through the scary and confusing world of pregnancy and birth. OK, I would have given birth both times without her, but the experiences themselves would have been much worse–and my health and perhaps the babies health may have been compromised. My doula provided information about ways to sit and exercises to do to prevent a second posterior birth. She gave me lists of home remedies to ripen the cervix, names of massage therapists and acupuncturists to help induce a natural labor. She got me into the tub each time the contractions began to find out whether they were the kind that would lead to labor. She helped me manage the pain of the contractions once they became so unbearable I was begging for an epidural. She told me I was strong enough to do it, even though I rolled my eyes at her each time. She helped me moan, walk, and answer the ridiculous questions the hospital nurses asked as I was transitioning (for example, "do you have any tattoos?" when I was moments from being ready to push Genevieve out). And she helped me nurse my babies afterward--which was especially helpful my first time around when Ike struggled with a severe case of nipple-confusion (he thought my pinkie was the nipple) before my milk came in.

I write this to illustrate something I've been thinking about. I'm a bit of a hypocondriac, and the difference between care for non-life-threatening health issues (e.g. colds, back pains, birth) and more critical issues (e.g. cancer, hernias, broken bones) leaves me somewhat muddled. What I need is support. Someone who knows me who'll help me sort it out long before going to the doctor. When I'm sitting and waiting in the doctor's office I often panic, wondering why I'm even there at all. I'm not dying, after all. My throat just kind of hurts or my baby's left eye is weeping. Do I need a doctor for these things? I'd like a life-doula. Someone who'd visit me at home (or at least be available by phone) to ask about how I'm feeling, peer down my throat, ask how much sleep I'm gettng and then say, "use a warm water compress" or "drink a glass of red wine" or "do this stretch ten times before bed each night." Or conversely, say, "you really need to see a doctor for that."

Wouldn't that be nice? It'd probably save a lot of money too. So that's my two cents about health care.

And now it's time to go make myself a nice birthday dinner.

1 comment:

Bethany Patchin said...

You just described what my dad's mom was like for my mom. Except that a lot of her advice was hooey. But I think my mom still felt very nurtured and strengthened. Our cellular memory hasn't caught up to the breakdown of the tribal economy yet. That void is a kind of suffering we all have to carry.