There are other options for ante- and postnatal care

I read today’s article Pregnant women face long delays at hospitals in The Irish Times with interest. The sentence that really got me going was “A woman who was three months pregnant when she recently approached the three main maternity hospitals in the city for a public appointment with an obstetrician was told the first available appointments would be when she was 7½ months into her pregnancy.” I can only take the writer’s word for it that this woman specifically asked for an appointment with an obstetrician. It is probably true because women in Dublin do not seem to be aware that there are other options that would make far better uses of the resources made available to them by the strung out maternity hospitals.

Both the National Maternity Hospital (Holles St.) and The Rotunda offer Domino schemes. These are schemes that are led by a team of midwives. On both of my pregnancies I opted for the Domino scheme in Holles st. I originally heard about the scheme from my GP. On both my pregnancies I opted for combined care which meant that the practice nurse (who also happened to be an experienced midwife) and the team of midwives split my care between them. I think the longest I had to wait for any appointment in the hospital was 15 minutes (not so in the GPs but it wasn’t too bad because I was always seeing the practice nurse). On my second pregnancy, because I opted for a homebirth, I only had one appointment in the hospital; all the rest of my appointments took place at home usually on a Saturday so I never missed any work. I do know that I’m entitled to time off for my antenatal care but I didn’t need it. The only reason I was ever in Holles st. was for my (brilliant midwife led!) yoga classes, for 2 scans, and for the final delivery of my overdue son. I was back home less than 12 hours later.

For me this scheme acknowledged my belief that I was pregnant, not sick, so I therefore did not need to be in a hospital. There was a consultant assigned to the scheme so if any complications had arisen I had access to specialist care. (and I do not have the stats but I BET a majority of pregnancies are without complications of any kind.) I felt completely specially cared for by the midwives on the team who were knowledgeable, interested, down-to-earth, and community focused. They included Himself in all parts of the experience and even on my second pregnancy, and to my parents’ amazement, my midwife asked me if they would like to hear the baby’s heartbeat during one visit thus including the grandparents in the experience. When I was giving birth it was in the company of people I knew and trusted which was a great comfort. When I learnt all the new things a mother needs to learn about feeding, bathing and holding a new baby, I learnt them in my own home environment during daily follow-up visits from the team of midwives. My first days with my babies were in the quiet, comfort and privacy of my own home. There was no pressure to be able to confirm that breastfeeding was established within the three days of delivery before the hospital discharged me. Visitors could come and go at times that suited me. I could eat food that I enjoyed rather than endured. I could watch TV, listen to music, get out of the house and into the garden. Had all gone to plan Nipper 2.0 would have been born in this environment too.

The Coombe Women’s Hospital, as I understand it, are applying for funding for a Domino scheme. While there are costs in recruiting, equipping and setting up facilities for such a scheme it is a fact that they cost far less to run that obstetric clinics with specialists especially when those specialist spend time consulting with women who have no real need for their services. It’s a criminal waste of resources. As I understand from the midwives who cared for me, they have a high success rate but at-risk women are excluded from the programme although I’m not sure if this includes those expecting twins. In the meantime the Coombe have a midwifery led unit and an early transfer home programme and community antenatal clinics.

On the way home this evening I heard Michael Robson, Master of Holles St. speaking to Matt Cooper on The Last Word about this issue. I was very happy to hear him point out that most GPs would be qualified to look after a woman during her pregnancy and would have the knowledge to know when she should be referred to a consultant obstetrician. While he emphasised care in the community he didn’t not mention his community midwives specifically.

I also understand that there is a Domino scheme available from Wexford General Hospital. There may be more available or midwifery led units or community care/ early transfer home programmes available in your area. Ask about them, find out more and at the very least, know your options before you choose to be treated as a patient rather than a healthy woman.

Also check out this article from The Irish Independent where two women describe their experience of midwife ante- and postnatal care.

If today’s news doesn’t lead you to demand more options for your ante- and postnatal care from your local TD, and the Minister for Health I don’t know what will.

Little Box sets, Little Box sets

My lovely cousin Bea gave us the box set of Seasons One and Two of Weeds as a Christmas present. I LOVE box sets of good television series. Himself and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the whole six series of Sopranos from spring to autumn of 2007. Last winter Lilbro gave us the boxset of the first series of Rome which was entertaining and the enhanced features explained many of the day to day aspects of life in Rome when you got confused. Mind you there were some confusing historical details that the producers were obviously less confused by than us… Watching a whole series on DVD gives a much more focussed experience of a series I think. I was going to use the word intense in the place of focussed and while I think you could apply that adjective to The Sopranos, it doesn’t fit so well to the likes of Weeds or Rome for example. The one drawback with box sets is that I don’t care to own DVDs after I watch them but I turn this into a positive by always passing them on to others when we’re done.

So back to Weeds. I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m not going to get into the moral question at the very centre of this series: whether or not cannabis should be legal or not. Not here anyway 🙂 What interests me about the series so far is the manner in which traditional male and female roles are highlighted. Nancy Botwin is the embodiment of many traditional female roles: mother, friend, loving wife, homemaker, widow. However her character is refreshing on the small screen: she’s rarely perfectly made-up or coiffed; many of her outfits are unremarkable and some are even ill advised; she is erratic in her mothering, her housekeeping and only sometimes manages to be the kind of friend we would all like to have. Honestly, I could be describing my own life. Compare this to any one of the Desperate Housewives even the kooky one who struggles to juggle working life with being a mom to 4 boys and a stepdaughter but never has roots or a spectacularly messy house. Nuff said.

Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City another recent popular American series aimed at women and about women, their relationships with their friends, families and lovers, were, I always felt, a touch unreal. Yes, true mother turned drug dealer is also unreal but it’s so unreal that you have to discount it: it’s artistic licence, a conceit. It allows the writers to introduce characters that normally would not co-exist. If you examine your own working life and think about your colleagues, the truth is you probably would not be brought into contact with many of them except through work.

Whenever I hear people questioning the likelihood of people knowing each other I always think about a play that I acted in when I was a member of Dublin Youth Theatre. Reading my blog you may or may not realise that I would be considered quite posh in Ireland. I have a south Dublin accent. In 1994 I was in a play about six women who dreamed of travelling together to the World Cup in the US. My one and only brush with the beautiful game: I had a solo in this musical about Denis Irwim. Don’t ever ask me to sing it. For your own sake. One of the critics, reviewing the production, complained about the unlikelihood of six women of such obviously disparate backgrounds ever knowing each other. The director, Gerry Stembridge, swept this criticism aside by saying, “But you’re all here and you know each other.” There’s nowt as strange as folk and what brings them together is the lesson I learned from that experience.

What is very true about the Widow Botwin’s experience is the fact that her home life is inhabited by women, her work life by men. I find that the series so far (seasons 1 and 2) highlight many truths about women’s working lives; about being a working mother or a stay at home mom. I really love the way many of the roles are turned on their heads: Nancy is incapable of counselling her youngest son on the changes he is experiencing as he battles through adolescence (women are compassionate and empathic); her brother in law, Andy, does most of the cooking in the home and many of the dishes he prepares sound pretty complicated; Nancy remarries for purely business reasons; Nancy knowingly uses her “pretty brown eyes” to get her way and those caught in her gaze refute it (Conrad: “Every time you flash your pretty brown eyes at me I get dropped in shit.”); we rarely glimpse Nancy in sex scenes and when we do they are low key love scenes while Andy is frequentely derided while being rided. (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)

Similarly I thought that The Sopranos tackled gender questions in a very honest and forthright manner, developing the main female characters in a fascinating manner while constantly underlining this depth with the shallow nature of the roles of the female staff in Badabaing, Tony’s topless bar.

I’ve noticed that in recent years many series that might not consider women as their main target audience have displayed a better understanding of what I as a woman want to see on the small screen. Real 21st century women’s issues being addressed and sometimes resolved but not always.

And my final reason for loving Weeds as a woman and a mother? Vaneeta James, the daughter of Heylia James, breastfeeds her baby. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a big fan of breastfeeding.

Even God took a rest seven days later apparently*

Brace yourselves I’m about to rant. Probably not the best time considering my earlier accident and the humdinger of a headache I now have.

And who is causing my hackles to rise? Who has attracted my ire this time? Rachida Dati, that’s who. I’m not the only woman in the western world who is spitting tacks in her general direction this week. Rachida Dati, the 43 year old French justice minister, had her first child by caesarean section last week and went back to work 5 days later. This is upsetting me why exactly?

  • There are so many reasons that it is confusing me and I don’t like being confused.
  • Quoting The Guardian article where I read about it thanks to Rosemary “[b]usiness leader Sophie de Menthon said: “By absolutely wanting to play superwoman, Rachida Dati does a disservice to women’s cause … What is more, I, as the head of a business, would go straight to prison if I took back a colleague who returned from maternity leave after five days.” Whatever about her first comment, I’m dying to know which courageous French official in Halde or whichever authority in France looks after their labour legislation is going to tackle Sarkozy. See how he likes being made an example of. I wonder would he be so blasé with his own policies if it was his darlin’ Carla who’d just had an 8 lb baby cut out of her belly.
  • Why the heck do I know all of this information about Rachida Dati? I mean this in two ways:
    • How dignified is it that an individual who has just gone through a life changing event and serious surgery is being discussed hither and yon? Dati, I don’t need to know about your Caesarean – have a bit of decorum apart from anything else.
    • Also so what if she doesn’t want to listen to common medical advice and good sense. Media people (myself included): don’t give her the headlines.

  • I read also in the same article by Angelique Chrisafis the opinion that Dati may have felt pressure to return to work as the French government were bringing in “the biggest reforms in 200 years to the French legal system” and Dati couldn’t miss her moment in the sun. Hello! If that was the case why did she not have the section 3 weeks ago (or if she did have it at the earliest possible 37 weeks 3 weeks later)? And hello! Boss of the Year Sarkozy, could the legislation not have waited a week or two? What’s so bloody important and who the heck cares in week 1 back to work after les célébrations of la nouvelle annee? All anyone wanted to do last week was stay in bed and Dati was really rubbing our noses in it. She was legally obliged to take the week off and she swans into work nonetheless. Aaarrggghhh!!!
  • Further to this, I’m really sorry to break this to you, Rachida dear, but I don’t give a hoot about your precious legislation but I will always remember you as the “young mother” (boss of the year’s words not mine) who went back to work unnecessarily early after having her first child.
  • Having had two children I know that I too could probably have gone back to work 5 days afterwards. It was day 10 – 15 that would have been the real trial. I wonder how Dati is feeling now? Pas trés super, I’d say.
  • However, I know I’m being flip above and anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly knows that I think that parenthood and especially early motherhood deserve special care from society. I am not the first commentator to say that Dati’s actions make a mockery of every single day of maternity leave for which each preceding generation campaigned. Not only that I think it makes a mockery of women’s right to work at all because I think realistically potential or actual motherhood has to be part of the package. How on earth are women supposed to continue as valid members of the workforce if their biology keeps getting in the way? We have an ageing population here in Ireland as do many developed countries and we need women to reproduce. I mean how the heck can Boss of the Year on the one hand have policies aimed at encouraging larger families (PDF) (which our large family regularly made the most of while travelling in France) and then allow one of his senior staff make an ass of the law?
    In fact I would go so far as to say that Dati’s actions makes a mockery of workers rights and legislation altogether.
  • How will my campaign for paternity leave fare if employers think that women don’t need time off? I firmly believe that maternity leave will only give women “equality” if paternity leave is also mandatory. A month after the birth of a child and two more months at their own discretion. As an interim step, parents should be allowed to choose which parent takes the existing leave especially families that don’t practice breastfeeding. And that’s a whole other upcoming post in the offing.

Okay I think that about covers the rant. Well today’s rant anyway. I’ve a few more up my sleeve that I’ve been mulling over the holidays but Rachida deserved special attention.

*I say apparently because obviously God doesn’t exist and so this theory of her resting is totally unprovable.