Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Postnatal care in the UK: home visits!

We were discharged from the hospital about 24 hours after the wee boy was born -- more than enough time in the birthing centre considering I had a natural birth and was feeling almost spritely. Baby's first car ride was in a classic black taxi cab, and we walked the pram down our cobblestone street holding hands and grinning, just like the end of the fairy tale.

The night was an experience. Our baby, though happy and healthy, wanted nothing to do with his crib. We were opposed to co-sleeping for a variety of reasons (note the use of past tense -- my, how we change our stances as parents), so instead, we took turns staying awake
holding the sleeping boy. I'm pretty sure each of us read an entire novel that first night, seeing as reading was the only thing that could keep us awake.

The next morning around 10am, there was a knock on our door. Emily, our midwife, returned for the first of many postpartum home visits. (She had visited our apartment previously when I was still pregnant.) We offered her tea, but she politely declined saying, "If I had a cup of tea at every home visit, I'd be up all night."

Home visits are routine as part of the British maternity system. She made notes in the wee boy's health records, writing down such exciting factors as the color of his poo, how many wet nappies he had, and the temperature in our flat. Mostly, however, she was there to answer any questions we had and offer suggestions about caring for our newborn. We talked about everything from bathing to sleeping to taking him for a walk to help with the slight jaundice he had. We talked about how David and I were coping and discussed our own health -- both physical and mental. She checked to make sure I was healing properly, felt around to make sure my uterus was getting smaller. And we did all of this while still in our pajamas.

Depending on how much help you need, the midwives are there to come every day for a couple of weeks. We were doing surprisingly well, so we said we didn't need daily visits. Emily returned a few days later to weigh the boy with a portable scale and take some blood samples to check for genetic disorders (the "heel prick test"), which, again, she did in the comfort of our living room. She came every other day or so until the boy was two weeks old, at which time, she discharged us.

It was an amazing comfort to be so well-taken care of, especially during a time of uncertainty. Nothing can prepare you for parenthood, so it was really nice to have someone there who was emotionally uninvolved, yet completely caring.

In the US, women can hire postpartum doulas to play a similar role (and if I ever have a baby over here, I will absolutely hire someone for this service). But I can't imagine having to go out in public so soon for doctor visits and such.

Are there any pediatricians in America who make house calls to new babies?

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