After 39 weeks of waiting, our baby boy was born early last Tuesday morning. I guess it was an easy birth, as births go, but then again I wasn't the one doing all the work! In this blog I won't go into all the details of a smitten father waxing to relatives about his child's birth, but rather I'll limit my comments to things relating to sustainability and our Colombian developing-world health system.
On Monday afternoon, my wife and I took a walk around a park near our house. We had had a prenatal checkup that morning, and they'd told us to return in the afternoon after walking a bit. So we walked around our parish church's plaza, and then walked to the hospital, two blocks from our house. The day before my wife had walked some five miles in the course of the day, but today she wasn't feeling up to much walking.
Around 4pm, when we got to the consultation room in the maternity ward, the doctor on call told us Caro was already dilated 6 cm (10 cm is when they tell you to start pushing). The doctor said that if it were her, she'd be screaming by now, but my wife wasn't feeling any pain other than the back discomfort she'd had for some weeks. After making sure the doctor knew I was to be allowed to attend the birth, I went back to our house to get our baby suitcase with clothes, diapers, and my surgical scrubs.
I told my mom and my stepdaughter that Caro was already in labor, but that there was no rush. My mother and I headed to the hospital, and my stepdaughter caught up later.
Back at the hospital, my wife was in the fetal monitoring area, so we waited for her in the two-bed hospital room they'd assigned us. For the next few hours after my wife got back from the fetal monitor, we all just sat and chatted in the hospital room. It was a laid-back atmosphere with few complications, just like my wife and I try to keep our life.
Because my wife was so dilated but not having contractions, the nurses gave her an oxytocin drip. Oxytocin is a brain hormone responsible for labor contractions and breastmilk release. The hospital's (wise) policy is to administer it only when needed (as opposed to some places that give it to all mothers entering labor). In my wife's case they deemed it necessary. Nevertheless, my wife didn't have contractions until hours after they started to give her the hormone.
As we were waiting around the hospital, I read the posters in the maternity ward about breastfeeding. They stress that neither hospital staff nor family members of new mothers should discourage mothers from breastfeeding, and stipulate that the baby should have only breastmilk during six months, and freely available milk until he's two years old. My wife and I have friends that are still breastfeeding their immense babies at one and a half years of age, and it seems obscene to us. Are we the discouraging, anti-natural friends and relatives the posters are warning against?
Around 6:30pm or so we took my wife to the birthing room. The nurses felt like my stepdaughter was so nervous that she made everyone else nervous, so they thought it would be best for my wife and me to be alone. But Caro still had no labor pains or contractions or anything. By about 9pm I was wondering if the doctors were wrong, and Caro wouldn't really be going into labor for another few hours. I even thought it would have been better if we'd stayed home until the next morning! Everything was going fine thus far, and who were the doctors to force my wife to enter into labor with the oxytocin? Indeed, a woman that did her fetal monitoring in the room with us had broken water the night before, rode in a motorcycle until the nearest town, and from there took a bus to the hospital in our big city. She had had many of her six kids at home, with no doctors!
Of course my thinking was silly, the type of privileged complaints of us middle-class people that have assured access to medical care if anything goes wrong. I was shaken out of such musings when a woman was brought in screaming in pain, giving birth at 27 weeks or so of pregnancy. The subsequent silence from the delivery room (save her sobs and doctors' talk of formaldehyde) let us know that she'd had a stillbirth. I guess there are worse things than having to wait a few painless hours with your wife in a hospital.
Shortly after 11pm, my wife entered serious labor, with belabored breathing and pain. Basically we'd sat around from 4pm to 11:15pm, then Caro was laboring hard until 12:27am, when after two hard pushes our marvelous baby was born!
Since that day we've been settling into a nice domestic routine. I've been doing lots of washing, organizing, cooking, burping, changing, and the like, and my wife has been breastfeeding almost constantly. In our more tired, frustrated moments we describe ourselves as the maid and the cow, respectively. I initially felt bad I couldn't help more, but of course there are things I'm physically unable to do. Though our Sam has more personality than a typical newborn, and he seems to like me well enough, his main concern is eating, so of course my wife spends more time and is able to connect more with him. As much as I may wish to tear down traditional gender roles, there are certain things we can't change, nor should we. Right now my greatest utility is often outside of our apartment, away from Sam. I run about paying bills, getting groceries, and rehabbing our new house to welcome him as soon as possible. At night when my wife has to get up to feed our baby, I don't feel bad sleeping through it, because I have to rest so I can be productive and helpful by day, when in turn my wife doesn't have to feel bad for taking long naps.
Two of my favorite, most natural things we do with Sam are breastfeeding and sunning. For the first few days after his birth, I was constantly making a special brew for my wife of fennel leaves, milk, and panela (unrefined sugarcane juice).
This is said to promote milk production, and it sure has! My wife will feed Sam, who is a big eater, and then express ounces and ounces of milk in a breastpump our friends loaned us. This week we want to inquire at the hospital about whether they have a milk bank. It's a shame that all the good milk my wife is producing should go to waste! The other thing we do daily is put Sam in the sun for twenty minutes or so. The doctors told us it was important to lay him out naked in the morning and afternoon sun (filtered through a window).
This helps his body break down some liver enzyme, and keeps him from turning yellow. Sam loves the kiss of the warm sun, especially since we live in the cool highlands. He hates the cold, so after his bath he calms down a lot when we lay him in the light. Some of our friends insist that this has something to do with his being born on the winter solstice, as well as under a full moon.
A Third World Green Daddy couldn't ask for anything more than a solar baby!