What happens when an Overeducated RN applies Science to Motherhood

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Science is my friend...

Medicine even. Interestingly enough, science-and evidence based medicine has fueled every lovely "weird" decision I have made since becomming a mother. But, you know, breastfeeding has always been the easiest one.

Eons ago, when I was fifteen and dating a much older guy-I met his brother's girlfriend. At the time I met her, that girlfriend was 9 months pregnant, had a headful of dreadlocks, and armpit hair halfway down to her elbows. It was swealtering mid-June. I owe that girl a lot. She went on to breastfeed her baby until she was 18 months old, when and where she needed it. One time that was right inside the door of the grocery store-in winter.  Even more importantly that fascinating girl had a bunch of wonderful friends I got to spend time around, who also breastfed when and where necessary. I wonder sometimes how different I would be if I hadn't been around all of them at that time in my life. Before that I hadn't really given much thought to breastfeeding, or having kids really-but that was my first exposure to anyone close to my age parenting.

Incidentally-that boyfriends' mother and aunt were also breastfeeding thier preschoolers. One while tandem breastfeeding their one-year old as well.

Fast forward eight years and I get to start my very first real life job as a Level III Neonatal ICU nurse. In a unit that just happens to employ one attending neonatologist who just happens to be internationally recognized for her work with breastmilk. Worked with not only some of the coolest nurses I've ever met in my life, but the smartest and most educated IBCLCs. Hardly any of the babies there ever got formula. We went through I-don't-know-how-many gallons of donor breastmilk a week, and almost all of our mother's supplied their babies milk. There were a scant few moms who refused both to pump and to offer their baby donor milk. I do believe they signed waivers.

I went from there to "the real world". Healthy moms with healthy babies in your regular old Labor & Delivery unit. Our clientele there split the way most of the country does now. The educated mothers breastfed, or at least tried, starting in the delivery room. The younger mothers didn't bother. Either because their family/friends/significant other thought it was gross or unnecessary-or because they were getting formula for free. Or both. There were a few who did have life situations making it less than optimal. I wouldn't really want to pump in the bathroom at Taco Bell either. Or keep my milk in the fridge there. But is that that mom?-or society shooting her and us in the foot? See, I argue the latter.

Then, with one more cross-country move, I found the darkside. While working in another high-risk NICU, I came to find a hospital, and an area as a whole who did not value a mother's ability to birth or breastfeed her baby. And definitely not when it was inconvenient for an overworked staff. Whereas the hospitals I worked in before had to work harder to do a 3am C/s, calling in extra staff-here there were scrub techs on call, making it an easy night to drive momma into the operating room. Doctors and nurses alike encouraged mom to skip nighttime breastfeedings. Even when they knew it wasn't right. Nurses didn't start moms who were seperated from their babies pumping. Especially at night, and especially if they could make any excuse for it.

The more I worked in this environment-the less I was a nurse, and the more I was a standby lactation consultant. I spent more and more time helping moms latch, pump, and troubleshoot what was hindering their milk-making or breastfeeding. I got the wonderful experience of observing 'normal' births there. Normal, with their massive, never-ending Pitocin drips, Scalp Electrodes (you would really think mothers would ask about that one-yes, it is twising a metal electrode into your baby's skin), Intrauterine Pressure Catheters (which could tear the placenta from the uterus-causing an abruption, loss of blood from both mother and baby-even death). It was surprising to me that all the healthy first time moms that I worked with, fellow NICU nurses, were all requiring Emergency C-Sections, most for fetal distress. There were very few vaginal delieveries among my co-workers. NO V-bacs. And these were my educated co-workers! The ones being cared for by people who worked the next room over-and they were having such rough births? That just didn't seem right to me.

Needless to say, we all know things have gotten harder and stranger in birth over the last few years. After taking a turn for the better in the 60's/70's/80's-things kind of stagnated, and now in the wake of legal settlements in the millions-doctors are afraid to really take care of their patients in a reasonable matter. In addition to CYA medical care-our consumer society has brought supply/demand to the delivery room. They expect their child to be delivered on their timeline-for whatever one of millions of strange reasons you can just not imagine. And if that doctor doesn't comply? Well, they better watch out-because if things don't go the way Momma or Daddy expect-they are going to hit that MD in the wallet.

Well, that's the lowdown on my background. The rest will make sense in a bit.


  1. Your disgusting, get off your high horse and come back down to reality! I formula fed because my milk supply never came in and I received all the help I could and this is how you judge?? Satan must be in your life, my child is blessed to grow up in a loving non-judgemental family

  2. Wow, 2 whole posts and dozens of angry comments...seems like your blog is going great. Sweet job, jerk.

  3. i have to agree. you seem to know it all, dont you? it seems that everything in your life and all the decisions that you make are perfect arnt they? well... i hope that you dont fall off that high horse and get hurt cause that would be just a damn shame depriving the world of your "overeducated knowledge" to all the "uneduacted people" in the world who dont breastfeed, some for medical and some by choice...but what the hell does it matter, they dont BF then they are the devil. and lets not get you started on people who have epidurals during birth cause i am assuming you have some wonderful opinion on that one, how we are drugging our babies and going to kill them....ohhh no, we are horrible, horrible mothers! i cant believe you. Maybe if i go out and shove in everyones face like you do that i BF nad i had a natural birth that everyone would know to do it too because i am so gosh darn perfect!!!! lets not think of the people who medically can not breastfeed, or NEED a c-sec and hurt their feelings because i feel i am better than everyone!
    but again, your perfect, what do you care...