Oliver Ellsworth (San Francisco, CA)
Henry Sylvan (Cambridge, MA)
A few days ago I read an article in the Boston Globe about "rooming in" which is the trend to keep your newborn baby in the room with you at all times. This trend to move away from nurseries is in part because of the World Heath Organization's pushing hospitals to become a part of the "Baby-Friendly" initiative. This initiative is driven to help mother's bond with their babies, encourage breastfeeding and help to prevent postpartum depression. The article includes women from both sides of the issue but what it boiled down to it that the option to have your baby in the nursery is being taken away completely.
I experienced both sides of this argument with the birth of my two sons.
Oliver was born in San Francisco, CA. He was my first. He was late (10 days). I had to be induced. Went through a grueling labor (36 hours). Ended up with an emergency c-section. Barely got to see my baby after he was born and then was moved up to recovery room where the nurses wheeled in my baby boy (all 9lbs 11oz) and there he stayed. In our room. All day. All night. Now in theory I understand how this is a great time to bond and yes I was thrilled to have him in my arms where I would attempt (and fail miserably) at breastfeeding. But I was also exhausted and in quite a bit of pain and all I really wanted to do was sleep for just a moment, to try to catch my breath over this momentous shift in our lives. But no. There was no nursery at Kaiser Permanente. So there Matt and I struggled to get to know this little being and try to sort through the whole experience all while being poked and prodded by the nursing staff. Our nurses in labor and delivery had been amazing but up in recovery we felt alone and when they did pop in it was mostly without warning and the lights would be turned on, temperatures taken and drugs administered. Of course this is just my experience but frankly we could not wait to leave the hospital and we actually ended up leaving a day early because we just wanted to go home. I felt drained once we got home both emotionally and physically. Now people may argue that that is just parenthood and welcome to the party but I truly felt that had I had a moment to catch my breath the experience could have been more fulfilling.
Fast forward five years. My labor and delivery experience was vastly different on many levels with Huck. We had a scheduled c-section. I got to hold him and do skin to skin with him while they stitched me back up (amazing). Of course it's me so I had to throw a little drama in with my recovery and I hemorrhaged which was scary but my doctor and nursing staff were amazing. Then is was up to a bright and inviting recovery room where Huck (all 8lbs 7oz) was rolled in by Matthew and we snuggled and got to know each other (still failing at breastfeeding). I was still poked and prodded but with much more gentle hands and I felt supported. And at the end of the day we had a choice. Either Huck could stay in the room with us or we could send him down the hall to the nursery. Huzzah! A choice. And we chose to kiss our sweet mini man and send him down the hall. And then we slept (in between the drugs and the temperature taking) but we slept! And then in the morning Matt went down the hall, retrieved our happy, well tended Huck from the nursery and we continued to get to know one another. It was so restorative and I did not feel like I was abandoning my baby or not bonding with him or anything else. I felt like I slept and like I was moving forward in my recovery and I was ready to have my five year old come hang out. I felt like myself.
What I found particularly frustrating about the article was the lack of choice. I know plenty of mothers who gave birth to their babies at the same hospital I had Huck and they chose to "room in". And that is what I feel is lacking from the WHO initiative is the power to choose. Having a baby is tough and not having a chance to catch your breath even for a moment made it more challenging not less for me. I think that as an adult and a new parent should be able to ask for help and have a moment to breath and take full advantage of the resources around you.