Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Baby And An Old Story

I have a brand spanking new niece, born December 30th, with a comforting epidural for her mom and surprisingly little drama, except for a brief, false start a few days ago. From her healthy pink complexion and pissed off expression, she looks like she rated a nice, high APGAR score to me. All of which, naturally, reminded ME of ME -- that is, what it was like when I had MY babies. [NOTE TO READERS: This is Mrs. Linklater's blog, so she tends to write about herself].
          My children were born in the seventies, during the return to natural childbirth. The "Let's hold hands and do Lamaze" craze. In the beginning, Lamaze was a hippy dippy birthing concept to a lot of the docs and nurses. They often had no idea what we "enlightened" mothers were doing, staring at a spot on the wall, rubbing our abdomens in a circular motion, breathing in a yoga fashion, and relaxing our way through the contractions. 
          Generally, women in labor haven't been allowed to eat, but for my second child, they let me suck on sour lollipops and ice chips. I arrived so prepared. I even had labor crib sheets for reference, so I could be sure when I had moved onto another phase of the process. Yay! I feel like throwing up! I must be in transition! 
          Shortly after getting to the hospital, I remember sitting on the side of the bed, referring to my notes, when a resident came in the room to do an initial exam -- heart, lungs, reflexes, etc. He took one look at my lollipops and cheat sheets and started laughing at me. I tried to smile at his amusement, but, based on his expression, I think it came out sounding more like the girl in The Exorcist, just before she spewed green vomit all over everything. "Never laugh at a woman in labor," I warned him, causing his future in medicine to flash before his eyes, thus silencing his giggles, no doubt so I wouldn't stab him. 
           Delivering that second baby was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, my first baby got stuck coming out face first. Usually a crown of hair announces a baby's imminent arrival. Hence the term, "the baby is crowning" which basically means head first. Arriving face first can make your baby look like she did a belly flop at 150 MPH from a high dive. When she finally squeezed out with a sudden burst after two+ hours of pushing, she looked like she had been on spring break -- her face bright red like a ferocious sunburn, her eyes practically swollen shut, and her cheeks the size of red balloons. How bad was it? The hospital photographers couldn't bring themselves to take her picture for two days. 
           But that was just for starters. Soon after birth, she became slightly jaundiced, not an uncommon occurrence in newborns, usually solved with phototherapy. Sometimes, however, more intervention is needed. Especially in cases where the jaundice occurs because the mother is RH negative and her baby is RH positive, which is called RH incompatibility. RH Incompatibility requires a RhoGAM shot for the mom or even a transfusion for the baby in cases of severe jaundice. 
           On the other hand, the converse isn't true. An RH positive mother who has an RH negative baby doesn't have incompatibility problems. Read a good explanation of all of it HERE. And remember the difference. 
           On my first slow shuffle to see my daughter in the nursery -- did I mention pushing for two hours -- I noticed a card on the side of her little crib that listed our blood types. Oh, look, she's A+ just like me, I said to myself. But wait, the card also says, incorrectly, that I'm O-. They had our blood types reversed. I realized that if I didn't sound the alarm, there was a chance they could decide there was an RH incompatibility problem and possibly transfuse my daughter with the wrong blood, which could kill her. 
            So I reported this error to the nurses. And they handled their mistake the way many people who make mistakes do -- they blamed me.  
            While I was on the phone, the head nurse, a matron with the size and girth of a warden in a maximum security prison, darkened my doorway and virtually shouted at me from across the room, "Have you ever had an abortion?" 
            The answer was no. But the question was inappropriate and irrelevant on multiple levels. 
            First, I was RH positive, NOT RH negative. So even if I'd had an earlier pregnancy/abortion/miscarriage with an O- fetus, there wouldn't be any antibody issues in my blood or my baby's blood TO CAUSE THE MISTAKE THEY MADE. Did she miss the day they taught genetics? 
            Second, having a medical procedure is confidential, especially considering that back then, abortions were illegal. So don't be asking a question of such a personal nature when I'M ON THE PHONE!! 
            Naturally, I pointed out the error of her ways, telling her that it was clear they had made the mistake all on their own by switching our blood types -- a travesty which could have killed my baby, you stupid woman. Yeah, I basically called her an idiot. This prompted a call shortly thereafter from my doctor, who tried to smooth things over. Did I know that many women had spontaneous abortions, a perfectly natural occurrence? 
             Except she didn't say spontaneous, doc. Plus, it wouldn't have mattered if I'd had an abortion, spontaneous or not. Did YOU miss that day in genetics, too? I'm RH POSITIVE, not negative. 
             How about an apology for switching our blood types? And a thank you for discovering YOUR MISTAKE before something terrible happened to my baby?

It's been forty years. I'm still waiting.


Jon said...

Congratulations on your new niece, and have a fantastic 2012!!!

Mrs. L said...

In the interest of full disclosure, several years later, after I had divorced my husband, I had an abortion after being date raped.

Mrs. L said...

Jon -- thanks for your good wishes -- and I will do my best to plan something fantastic for 2012. Or just stop moaning about my life so much.