My original thoughts focused on the brilliant experience of delivering our first baby, but recently, people in my social networks (and, offline networks) have made comments about the insidiousness of modern medicine. Specifically, they’re skeptical about our health care system, doctors, hospitals, medical interventions, pharmaceuticals, and so on. This isn’t news, of course. People have long become entrapped in conspiracy theories to justify their own ignorance and mistrust. Science is hard, and it’s confusing, and when you don’t quite understand the scientific method, it’s easy to believe online charlatans spewing a cacophony of, “BIGZ FARMA TRYS 2 KILLZ U!!!1!1”
Modern medicine saved my son. He’s not sick; rather, he’s a healthy, active baby. But, my labour wasn’t easy, and his delivery was nothing short of exciting.
He was born in a hospital, at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, Alberta. First, allow me to praise the staff at this hospital. They were incredible, supportive, funny, loving, and more positive adjectives. Alberta has a phenomenal health care system, and while we love to bitch and moan, we should be grateful for the passion exhibited by front line workers in our hospitals and community health centres.
I went into labour in the evening, when I satisfied the 5-1-1 rule we were taught in our prenatal classes (contractions were five minutes apart, lasted one minute, and had been occurring in this fashion for one hour). I was hardly dilated, so I was sent home and instructed to return when the contractions were three minutes apart. I laboured at home until the following morning and returned to be admitted into labour and delivery.
I had an epidural and was blissfully unaware of any contractions, but this wasn’t administered until sixteen hours into the entire ordeal (the whole labour was 18.5 hours, so I’m pretty impressed with myself). Towards the end, the nurse noticed that during every contraction, my son’s heart rate was decelerating to alarmingly low levels. His heart rate would drop from ~137 beats per minute to ~75 beats per minute. An internal fetal monitor was used to confirm this phenomenon, and the obstetrician was called to assess the situation.
At that moment, it seemed like eleventeen more nurses and doctors filed into my room. My son was in distress, and it was believed that his umbilical cord was being pinched during every contraction. Either, I was pushing, or I was going into an emergency Cesarean section. For added fun, he had turned over and was presenting in an posterior position.
Did I mention that I wasn’t even fully dilated? I was a “stretchy” eight centimetres.
I was instructed to push at appropriate intervals, and with a vacuum assist, my son was born ~30 minutes later. For added fun, as he was being delivered, the obstetrician rotated the baby’s body, so he would be born in the appropriate anterior position.
And, I may be biased, but he was eight pounds and three ounces of Slavic perfection.
The degree of pain control, fetal monitoring, and swift medical intervention is the result of modern medicine, and I am so thankful that it existed. I’m not knocking home births, but in my case, taking this route could have been catastrophic, because it was the extensive technology available at the hospital that detected this degree of fetal distress.
Also, mesh underwear is magical.