It has been a crazy week for me as we prepare for our first child… and it hasn’t involved watching a single movie. But one film has stayed with me…
We had quite a week; An amazing, unforeseen 11th hour intervention allowed us to escape delivering our baby early and now we’re day to day, waiting for news on when we’re going to give birth. One thing we know for sure; He’s coming in the next ten days or so. A little early, but as long as he’s healthy, we don’t mind at all; we’re very excited. Anyway, it has been quite a learning experience for us, and I have had almost no time to even think about film, let alone write about all the movies I haven’t had time to see. That said, I have had one film on my mind all week long; Abby Epstein’s The Business Of Being Born. Having spent 24 hours in a Manhattan hospital with the specter of a premature birth by Caesarian section looming over my wife’s head, the issues raised in the film have been haunting me, forcing me ask a LOT of questions. In our case, while we both really believe that the medical concern for the baby and my wife’s health are legitimate, we don’t believe that her condition has ever reached the moment when we needed medical intervention. In our opinion, and thankfully, that opinion was shared by our OB-GYN, we understand the variables, the symptoms and the signs of trouble, and we haven’t reached the point where delivery is necessary.
But man, try telling that to the staff at the hospital.
From the moment we walked in the door, we were surrounded by people looking for the opportunity to intervene in my wife’s pregnancy, looking for a reason to deliver the baby. We went to the hospital for a rountine sonogram, but that soon turned into a 24-hour ordeal; doctors and nurses who wanted the baby out because it was the easiest thing to do given the ciurcumstances. We knew that my wife has a pre-existing condition that puts her at risk for a certain pregnancy complication called Pre-eclampsia; we understand that this condition is not easy to diagnose, and that it can be dangerous. But the funny thing is that no one cared that we were negative for four of the five symptoms; they saw one symptom and made the long leap to emergency delivery. Time to get the baby out. Except it wasn’t. We knew it wasn’t time. When our OB-GYN finally let us go home the following morning, we felt very frustrated by the experience of being pushed to the finish line when we should have been enjoying the journey. I know their intentions were good and I also know the baby would have been fine either way, but when you are stripped of choices in moments like that, well, you want to stand up for yourself. Not that we did anything special; we simply asked questions and asked for more time. Thankfully, as of this writing, we’re still enjoying that time.
We have been home for five days since that day and I have been thinking about the cultutre of maternity care in our hospital, and about the reality we face that, like so many women, my wife probably won’t be giving birth under natural circumstances. Her condition (and the saftey of the baby) currently preclude a natural birth (at the moment, he’s breach), and we are completely fine with that; the health of the two of them is by far the most important thing to everyone involved. But who knows what can happen in a week? Two weeks? The fact that no one wanted to listen, that only our OB-GYN would give us the chance to try and delay a premature birth (we’re so lucky to be working with her), well, it makes you wonder how people less informed (and, in this case, vocal) than my wife and I would ever be able to deal with important medical choices. The problem? In our case, until the very last moment, nothing was presented as a choice at all. How do you trust people who don’t know your name, who see you as a collection of data? Where were the conversations, the consultations? None of that happened. I had never experienced that powerlessness before, that sensation of being in an institutional environment where very little communication is going on and incredibly important life decisions are being made for you by strangers. It is absolutely frightening.
On the other hand, all of the doubt that was sowed in me came from reading the literature on Pre-eclampsia and watching The Business Of Being Born. I’ve never had the experience of watching a documentary and then pretty much living something exactly like it (Roger & Me being the obvious exception), but this was a case where, having seen the film, I felt completely aware of the mindset of those at the hospital and, while not adversarial to them (because we all want the baby and the Mrs. to be healthy), it was interesting to see how their interpretation of her condition differed so radically from ours. The fact that all is well shows me we did the right thing by pushing back; we got some new medicine and her condition has stayed stable here in the relative comfort of our home, but most importantly, we got time for the baby to grow. I have the movie to thank for that, because without having felt empowered by the film’s message of unnecessary hospital intervention, we probably would have allowed the panic of the unexpected to silence our concerns. And while we may not be giving birth naturally anyway (but again, there may be time now), the baby is still safely inside the womb, growing fine with a heartbeat like a champ. The coming days will bring him into the world, and we’re hoping to make our way to a full term of 37 weeks, at which point I think we’d be satisfied. If he has to come sooner, that’s fine too; We want nothing more than health and happiness. But the days since our hospital stay have taught me a valuable lesson, one I consider my first as a parent; Always ask questions and say what you think. Sometimes, there is no other choice.
Off to make room for baby. Blogging resumes as soon as is possible; In the meantime, feel free to visit Hammer To Nail for my recent review of A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory, an excellent film and a must see.