Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making the bed

I drove through crisp Autumn air, under blue sky, to visit the mother and her baby boy who was just 24 hours old.

Within minutes of laying eyes on them, and without touching either, I was satisfied that all was as it should be.  With early morning light filtering onto the bed, I noticed that the baby was sleeping quietly in his mother's arms; that his skin was a healthy pink; that his mother had a confident, oxytocin-induced smile.  A few questions confirmed my assessment: mother's blood loss was minimal; she was eating and drinking well; passing urine without difficulty; she had slept a little, and her baby was eagerly taking the breast.

It's difficult to describe the deep thankfulness that I feel as I witness the normality of birth.  Much of the preparation and discussion prior to the birth focus on what would happen if complications or difficulties arise in labour, or if the baby's condition at birth is not good.  The equipment and supplies I bring to the birth require skill and competence in assessment, resuscitation, and midwifery management of sometimes unpredictable, rare events.

Although the assessment was made with the confidence that comes from years of professional learning, at this postnatal visit I did not need to take any professional action.  I asked the mother if she had had breakfast yet, would she like a cup of tea?  Yes.  So the midwifery student went to the kitchen to prepare it.  We reflected on the exhaustion a mother feels after even an 'uneventful' spontaneous birth.  We laughed at the though that the father is often more spent!  We pondered the help given by the warm water in the birth pool; that the softness of the pool's inflated sides gave the mother a lovely soft surface upon which to drape her upper body in the most demanding part of the labour.  We chatted about the responses of the baby's brother and sister, building up a set of unique and very personal memories of this unique and very personal event.

I had noticed a small splatter of blood on the bed sheet.  "Would you like us to make the bed for you, with clean sheets?" I asked.

And while mother ate her toast and drank the hot herbal brew, we changed the sheets.

Making beds happens each morning in hospital, and it's not something that I would write about in a midwifery context.  Yet as we went away from this beautiful homeborn baby and his beautiful mother, I thought that making the bed was the main professional act that we had accomplished in that visit.

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