Wednesday, July 20, 2011

They Love Their Babies Just As Much

Whether you like Dooce or not, you gotta give her some credit for shining some mega-blog light on maternal health issues in developing countries.  Add to that the recent NPR special series on maternal healthcare around the world, and it got me thinking, which is- after all- the point... 

Growing up, I always felt like I was born in the wrong century. I wanted to help Ma and Pa water the stock and travel the country in a covered wagon.  As I grew, though, I heard about "old" diseases like polio and malaria, and I quickly grasped that the seeming romanticism of pioneering would have also meant risk from diseases I didn't need to fear.  I appreciated vaccines.

(I should note I was still afraid of the test I thought was for TV and might reveal I'd been watching too much.  It was some years before I understood I was being tested for TB, not TV)

The older I become, the more I appreciate medical advances and the full-throttle pace of developments in understanding our human health, and treating us when we fall ill.  This was never more true than when I was pregnant.

My preggers attitude was: load me up, titre my levels, inject me with protection.  I peed in a cup every time I was told...  Which was a lot.  I took my prenatal vitamins, even though they upset my stomach.  I happily accepted vaccines, and I believe they are safe.
Like most expecting mothers, I researched gestation and birth.  And while I can't say I was fearful of birth, I was keenly aware it presented a real risk to my life, and that of my unborn child.

My water broke in the middle of the night.  SURPRISE!!!  At the hospital, I received drugs to help induce contractions.  Hooray for modern medicine!  I battled through twelve hours of contractions, until they were blurring together and I was exhausted.  My baby was holding up fine, which we knew from a monitor the doctor screwed into her scalp.  Again, thanks to modern medicine.

When I was told it would still be hours before we could even think about a delivery, I gratefully accepted an epidural and rested comfortably.  Double hooray!

At the 20 hour mark, I was told I would probably have a C-section, which I was ok with.  Yep, you bet- cut me open, just get my baby here safely.  Thank you for options, modern medicine.

But things started to look better, and I was allowed to deliver her myself.  Thanks to the epidural, I had the energy to get her here when she needed me the most.  When a team of NICU specialists flooded the room, I knew that wasn't good.  I looked at the doctor, and at Cabbage, and my heart filled with fear.  I understood my baby was in trouble, and I redoubled my efforts.  I used every muscle fiber in my tired body to force her from me, to deliver her into the hands of the doctors, to save her.  She was born.

And she didn't breathe.

 The NICU team resuscitated our precious baby, laid her in my arms for just a moment, then before I could even fully comprehend that she was my baby, they whisked her away, running down the hallway.  Cabbage ran behind, following them deeper into the hospital and toward more modern medicine.

Beep was hooked up to monitors, IVs, and a multitude of things that sang, squawked, and chirped according to changes within her body.  Modern medicine. 

Beep did well, improved rapidly, and within a couple of days was allowed to leave the NICU for my room in the maternity ward.  Out came the IVs, off went the monitors, and away (forever!) went the straps and cords.  We were able to take her home soon after.

Our frightening delivery had a happy ending.  But without our blessed modern medicine, she would likely not have been born alive, and I might not have made it, either.

When I think of women giving birth without modern medical care, and their babies struggling to survive, I can all too easily put myself in their place.  It's only a matter of geography and income.


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