Monday, October 20, 2008

Good as New

Touch wood...I'm feeling as good as new and ready to work!

I'm not allowed to lift anything (like a post-cesarean mum) for a while yet...but I generally don't plan on lifting pregnant mums. That's a job for the dad!

So, please don't hesitate to call me!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Oh, is this the fibroid?"

Well, well...take a look at the quote above. Picture the scene. Lovely, caring and chatty admitting clerk walks me up to the ward (with my dear husband). Since it's 6:30am, there are no nurses to be found. A nurse comes out of a room and wanders down the hall (was she sleeping in there, I wonder?)

The clerk says, "I have a new patient for you," and the nurse replies, without looking at me..."Oh, is this the fibroid?"

The clerk pointedly answers, "Her name is Jacqueline Munro, and she's here to have an embolization this morning."

Rather than making me upset, this dehumanizing language almost almost made me snort with laughter. Three thoughts instantly came to mind: 1. Sarah Palin (queen of the stupid comment). 2. If only I was a cartoonist, then I could have done this comment justice. 3. Who teaches these young nurses anyway? Empowering and respectful language is paramount, girls!

Thankfully, shift change comes quickly, and my pregnant (of course!) day nurse K was lovely!

Thoughts and questions about my hospital experience...

1. Everyone should have a doula...for anything done in hospital. At least the doula would make everyone introduce themselves!
2. Catheters without an epidural are not fun...not exactly painful...but very unpleasant.
3. Why are patients blamed for the nurse's inability to successfully insert an IV on the first try? "You mustn't have been drinking enough water." (Nope...I'm floating in the stuff!)
4. Nice art work in the recovery area at UBC...very nice... (Okay...I must be drugged) The Fellow says I have more fibroids than she could count (I love being unique).
5. Why did the anesthetist play Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind? And why do the nurses and resident think that it's Willie Nelson (They're TOO TOO young to be working on my body!)
6. Why did everyone start talking about Halloween while I was being given a cocktail of conscious sedation drugs?
7. I want to thank the porter for singing me lullabies while in the elevator.
8. I'm not accustomed to having a heartrate of 44 (Is this the effect of fentanyl or morphine? Yikes!) The talk of atropine doesn't thrill me.
9. The bed was quite comfy.
10. Wherever I go...even when I'm totally drugged...people tell me their birth stories in great detail, and want to know if I approve of their doctor/midwife/OB/hospital choice. I just want to sleep!
11. Who added those sickening bumps to 16th Avenue?
12. Why don't I remember seeing the specialist whose name is on all my prescriptions? Was he hiding or did the fentanyl make me forget?

One client said she's happy that I'm going through all least I'll have the hospital experience fresh in my mind. Well, I can tell you that I can now relate to having narcotics (I stopped taking them asap), that I understand the agony of post-surgical gas pains and nausea (someone needs to warn you about this BEFORE the cesarean), that I know the feeling of a digestive system that isn't quite ready to start working again (also - thoroughly unpleasant), and that I now feel like I'm 10 weeks pregnant (and waiting for the morning sickness to go away).

But, I can also say I'm in awe of the fact that my hemorrhaging stopped as soon as I was in recovery. I'm happy about that...but still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Each day, a little bit better. Those healthy wishes from friends, family, clients and blog readers really do help. Thanks!

p.s. The photo is of a fibroid knitted by a medical student...

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

I'm off to see the wizard...

I'm off to see the uterine fibroid wizard at UBC Hospital first thing in the morning. "No food after midnight, etc., etc." This is all new territory for me. My only previous major hospital stays have been for my children's births. Though I'm going in for a different reason, the focus is still on the same body part...the uterus. Everything I do seems to revolve around this amazing muscle. I hope it cooperates tomorrow. I should be up and running in a few weeks...

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lady in Waiting

If you’re having a hospital birth, perhaps one of the most challenging parts of labour is the transition from your home to the hospital. Many couples worry about the car ride to the hospital, but it’s amazing to see how most women manage the ride with surprising grace. If the car ride is timed so that it coincides with the trance induced by high levels of endorphins (well past the mid-point of labour), then the whole journey can be manageable.

To illustrate - I vividly remember one client’s ride to BC Women’s from UBC. It was around 4am. She threw a coat over her naked body, somehow managed to run to her car down a long apartment hallway (between contractions), then crawl onto the back seat of her minivan, exposing her bottom to an old man in a trilby hat, who was coincidently walking his little Scotty dog past us at that moment (you should have seen his face!) Bouncing along in the car, this normally private woman laughed and laughed. “That was FUN!” Yes, the trip was uncomfortable, with her husband trying to negotiate hundreds of potholes, but the absurd nature of the trip far outweighed the pain it may have caused.

The stories that result from the car ride can be epic, from the woman riding to the hospital with her head popping out of the sunroof of a Mini, to a recent dad’s call to BCAA: “I locked the keys in my car with the engine running at the Emergency entrance to the hospital!” If you’re lucky, you’ll notice the absurdity in the moment, and laugh.

Now, it’s the hospital assessment room that can be a possible source of stress. If you’re lucky enough to have a midwife who has already completed the assessment at home prior to hospital arrival (which happened last week with one client), you might manage to bypass the assessment room altogether - yahoo! - and go straight to your birthing room. This causes a lot of excitement and very little stress.

The next possibility is that the family doctor will meet you at the front door and do the assessment personally. The continuity of care provided in this scenario is wonderful, and the time spent in the assessment room can be relatively short, provided the hospital can quickly assign you a nurse. There’s also the added bonus of having an additional advocate present to help negotiate the hospital protocols. If I’m lucky, I can coordinate this...but it’s really hit and miss.

If the family doctor is busy with another birth, or en-route, or your primary caregiver is an obstetrician or resident, then we have to hope that the assessment room is not too busy, that all the other women in the assessment room don’t require high levels of care, that the staffing levels aren’t low on this day, and that there’s more than one nurse available to care for the 5 beds in this area. Fingers crossed that the assessment room stay won’t drag into multiple hours, which can easily happen. (I always try to call first, so at least I can alert my clients to the possible delay.)

There are a lot of variables that can increase a woman’s stay in the assessment room. The assessment room nurses (who are amazing, highly qualified, and caring people) do everything in their power to take into account BOTH the triage process and each labouring woman’s needs. There’s a lot of paperwork to be done, protocols to follow, personalities to placate... The assessment room nurse needs 8 arms, two heads, and more than a little wit and understanding, to make it through each shift.

It may appear to clients (husbands especially, since the labouring woman is generally just focused on each contraction) that the nurses are sitting at the desk doing nothing. Often, the people sitting at the nurses desk are not the assessment room nurses, but interns, residents, other doctors, or even a clerk. The supervising nurse in assessment must juggle all her patients to ensure that the woman with the highest care needs can proceed to the next “level”. Granted, the nurse might not be able to explain what she is doing for each woman during the process, but that’s what I try to cover with clients in between contractions. “Yes, it might look like you’re being ignored, but you’re NOT. She’s left the room to negotiate with labour and delivery to have a nurse transfered up to Cedar to be with you, so you don’t have to wait until a Cedar nurse returns from her 45-minute break, etc. etc.” It’s my job to fill in the gaps in information. But, if I need to breathe through the contractions with the woman in labour, the dad will have to wait a bit for my briefing.

Even a 45-minute stay in an assessment bed may seem like an eternity, but it’s about as fast as the system and safety will allow (unless you’re ready to push...then you get to fast forward!) For example, the nurse needs to read a woman’s chart thoroughly to determine her risk status, her drug allergies, her particular needs, and contact her caregiver (and wait for a response). If a nurse is forced to cut corners, a woman could inadvertently be given a contraindicated medication (i.e. fentanyl being given to a woman with an drug allergies), or miss important medical information. I am able to highlight certain important points when I speak personally with the nurse, but she must confirm this by reading through the notes, and then doing a thorough history and assessment herself.

The setting certainly doesn’t make a labouring woman feel safe or calm. The beds are narrow, the space is noisy... But, I ask all clients to imagine that we’re still home, to keep their eyes closed, to focus on a calming hand, the soft pillow, their partner’s voice, my voice. Often I have to talk the woman through each and every contraction, so that she remains calm between each contraction. Yes, she might roar during contractions, but that’s her way of coping. It’s the in-between times that tell us how she’s doing. If she’s able to breathe calmly between contractions, or even say, “Wow! That was intense!” or “I didn’t like THAT one!” then she’s fine. (I try to wangle assessment bed 5...the one with a DOOR!)

As a doula, the assessment room experience is certainly challenging. It takes years of experience to negotiate the process gracefully and diplomatically. Most problems can be prevented creatively. Petty staffing wars can be averted by anticipating them in advance, and steering clear of potentially tense situations (trust me, I’ve seen it happen recently.) Protecting the woman in labour is paramount.

Sounds like it’s better just to stay home until you’re ready to push (which is what one doctor laughingly suggested recently). least you have a doula with you who knows the staff and your caregiver, and can provide the best possible “concierge service” around...

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula

Ticking the "Home" box

A former client recently emailed me, asking me to write a post about home birth. Was she searching for information for the ongoing debate with her husband? Even though it is the woman who must ultimately make the decision about her birth setting, it is imperative that her partner is included in the process of informed choice, and comes to understand and support her decision, without fear.

Since I'm known as the research-oriented and pragmatic doula, I'd better throw in some evidence. So, here are a few things I want you to consider:

1. When you are presented with two equally effective treatments, then "best practice" requires that you take into account the patients' preferences (that means HER).

2. The Province of British Columbia Ministry of Health fully funds care by registered midwives, both at home or hospital.

3. A 1986 World Health Organisation report concluded that “home is the most appropriate birth setting for most childbearing women. Women (and their attendants) choosing this option must be provided with necessary diagnostic, consultative, emergency and other services as required, regardless of place of birth.” See College of Midwives of British Columbia.

4. In 2002, the "Outcomes of planned home births versus planned hospital births after regulation of midwifery in British Columbia" was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The results showed that "women who gave birth at home attended by a midwife had fewer procedures during labour compared with women who gave birth in hospital attended by a physician." "Comparison of home births with hospital births attended by a midwife showed very similar and equally significant differences." The final interpretation of the study was that "there was no increased maternal or neonatal risk associated with planned home birth under the care of a regulated midwife."

5. In September 2007, the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued clinical guidelines (The NICE Intrapartum Care Guidelines) on intrapartum care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. Under ‘‘key priorities’’ it stated: ‘‘Women should be offered the choice of planning birth at home.’’ Information suggests that for ‘‘women who plan to give birth at home or in a midwife-led unit there is a higher likelihood of a normal birth, with less intervention’’.

After attending almost 800 births in my 21 years as a doula, I can now say that I'm most comfortable (and I feel most safe, actually) at a home birth, with a client who has come to this decision freely, who is autonomous, who is radiantly healthy, whose midwives (there are always two present) are trusted and respected by all of us, and who has a partner who fully supports her decision without fear. But that's

I can't squish a woman into that mold. I would never want or expect everyone to be "that woman". A woman must go on her own unique and challenging journey to trust birth that much. I trust each woman to make the decision regarding the best place FOR HER to give birth, and with whom to give birth. I support each woman without reservation, no matter what her choice. In order to give birth at home, a woman has to gradually grow into the person who can make that decision. I know I didn't reached the point where I would have chosen home birth until I was 31, after giving birth to two children, and after attending over 100 births (many at home). Until then, I simply didn't have enough information to make an informed choice about home birth myself, even though I HAD made the amazing, and life-changing, leap to midwifery care for my second birth!

So, to the couples who are spending evenings debating home birth (she wants it...he's not sure...grandma says "over my dead body"), please do your homework. The research is clear. The more difficult task is to deal with the images swirling in your heads - images born of myth, misinformation, and fear, fueled by society's expectations and the media's lopsided representation of birth. You need to talk to people (call me - my clients would love to share!) about their personal experiences of home birth, watch movies which include home births (like The Business of Being Born or Le Premier Cri), and understand that choosing home birth doesn't lock you into that option. It just means that you can now include another option in your choice of birth places - you can now tick the "home" box.

When asked where she was planning to have her baby, one family doctor with four children would always say, "Wherever it wants to come out!" (In the end, she had #1, #3 and #4 at home, and #2 at the hospital) Because...on the big day, if you've given the body and the baby both options (hospital AND home), their final choice is always loud and clear!

Now, if I could only let you into my head to see the images of the home births that I've attended...but that's for the next post...

- Jacquie Munro, Vancouver Doula