Express Deliveries

14 May

After the birth of my first baby I didn’t want to leave the hospital. My room was like a cocoon. For five whole days and nights, I rarely ventured outside. I think I went downstairs to get a coffee. Once. And the only other place I went was to wheel my baby into the night nursery. It was quite blissful. I would drop her off after her 11pm feed. A midwife would bring her to me in the middle of the night for a feed and then back for the day at 6am. It gave me the chance to rest and recover from the birth. There was no cooking, no cleaning, no work to be done – just me, my baby, a lot of breastfeeding, three course meals (and pretty tasty too) delivered to my door, and a stream of lovely visitors bearing gifts.
Sure, I was in discomfort. You can’t squeeze something the size of a watermelon out of a whole the size of a pin without expecting some consquences. But pain relief was just a buzzer call away. And yes – there was noise – but my ear plugs took care of that. I attended physio, breastfeeding and settling classes to give me some confidence that I would be able to cope at home. But – when it came time to walk out that door with a baby to christen our freshly installed car capsule, I was nervous. The first place we stopped on the way home was the chemist – to buy a dummy – not that our daughter ever took to it. In the end my nerves about that first night at home proved well founded. At five days of age, my baby had yet to do a poo. She’d been eating like a machine so I knew it would have to come out eventually. And come it did. On our first night at home my little girl woke crying, so I did the standard feed and change. It was on the change table that I first experienced the rivers of gold – poo that is – more like mustard really. It just kept coming and coming and coming – five days worth in one hit. It completely freaked me out and reduced me to tears. It seems ridiculous now to think that a poo made me cry. But that’s what it’s like when you come home with your first baby. Pretty daunting. So, it’s with some surprise that I read today in the media (full article here) that in Victorian public hospitals, the average length of hospital stay for childbirth has dropped from 5 days in the 1990s to now stand at 2.7 days. That’s 55 hours. Women are giving birth and and leaving hospital in record time. Some hospitals have a policy of discharging women within 6 hours. And I thought five days was barely enough! My mum spent about 2 weeks out of home with her first child, who’s now 40. There was a week in hospital and then another week at a Tresillian-type facility to learn how to care for the baby. That sounds wonderful to me. I understand there are many women who do not like hospitals, have easy births and choose to go home early. I get that. My concern is – are there also women being pushed out of hospital too soon because of the load on the health system? I certainly hope not. It’s interesting to note that while hospital stays have become shorter over the decades, the rate of postnatal depression has increased at the same time. Around 16% of first time mums in Australia will experience it. Clearly, the rising incidence is due to a range of reasons – the primary one being that women and doctors are more aware of the condition and therefore more likely to diagnose it. However, it’s also well known that sleep deprivation is one of the triggers. I’m not saying an extra couple of days in hospital is going to prevent all women from developing postnatal depression. But I do think that every little bit of support can help – if women want to stay longer in hospital, then they should absolutely be allowed to do so.


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