Eleanor Nancy Price came to join my family on July 12, 2009 at 2:33am. It turns out being a mother is a lot more wonderful than I thought it could ever be. It was quite a process, though, and throughout the whole affair I couldn't help comparing my experiences to those of the haitian women that I helped with labor and delivery in the mountains. Specifically, I kept comparing what was happening to me with what happened to my best haitian friend. Here is a point by point summary of the differences in our labor and delivery experiences.
-I had my baby one week late and was induced. She had hers five weeks early.
-I took a tour of the hospital where I was going to deliver about three weeks beforehand. She travelled to three different hospitals while she was in active labor before she found one that offered incubators and oxygen for premature infants.
-My husband and sister and I had to weave around a few orange cones in construction zones on our way to the hospital. My haitian friend had to pause on her journey to the hospital to wait for another woman to give birth in the bed of the truck she was travelling in.
-I was allowed to have my husband, my sister, and my mother present with me during my labor. My haitian friend was not allowed to have anyone in the room with her, and labored alone.
-The nursing staff at the hospital where I delivered checked on me every few hours and continually monitored my progress on their computers. My haitian friend didn't receive any nursing care. I found her at one in the morning, screaming, alone, with her IV materials lying beside the bed, still unopened. I had to wake the nurse up to tell her the patient was ready to deliver.
-I received an epidural and only felt intense labor pains for about four hours. My friend didn't even receive tylenol and labored in extreme pain for more than twelve hours.
-I received an episiotomy that was performed under anesthesia and was repaired immediately. My friend received an episiotomy without anesthesia and was repaired 14 hours later, when a doctor finally saw her.
-My baby was greeted by a team of pediatric specialists and taken to a special care nursery to help her breath better. Much later, she was given her first bath. My friend's baby was taken to her bedside and expected to sleep and survive the night, even though he was struggling for every breath he took. When I insisted that the nurse send him to the nursery for oxygen, she told me "if you think he needs it, you take him." I did, and the nurses in the pediatric ward spent precious time washing him off before they gave him the oxygen and medicine he needed to live.
In the end, we both survived, and so did our babies. Mine was labeled a "traumatic birth" by the medical personnel at the hospital. My friends' experience was considered normal to above average by the medical community in haiti. I guess "traumatic" and "normal" are relative terms. I don't know if I deserved all the specialized care and medicine that I got, but I know that my haitian friend and her son deserved more than what they received. The whole experience has just solidified my resolve to provide truly good medical care for as many people in Haiti as I can. They deserve the best.