Obviously my maternity ward experience was already 8 months ago (omg what?) but I was thinking about it recently, and with the passing of time, my feelings about it have gained a little in perspective.
Here are the things I really appreciated about it, which are of course more or less specific to France and further to my clinic, where I will return if we have another baby (the other option would have been the public teaching hospital):
- The three-day stay: Standard stays in France are 72 hours from the time the baby is born. As far as I can tell, this is to make sure the baby is doing okay, to allow the mother to rest, and to help with breastfeeding. At least in my case it seemed that way. I was unhappy (=I cried) when they kept us a fourth night for no good reason (at least, no reason they could not have given us as soon as Littlest was born at a small 2.67 kg, which he regained by his fourth day). However, the morning we left, one of the puéricultrices asked me, concernedly, if breastfeeding was going okay. The tone in her voice suggested that if I’d said I was worried, I could have stayed yet another night for help. (But I wanted to gth outta there. See below.)
- The staff really seemed ready to show me everything. The first day I didn’t have to change a single diaper, which was nice because I couldn’t stand up and walk very easily (see, #1, reasons for the 3-day stay). By the second day, standing up straight was easier and a puéricultrice happily showed me how to change a diaper, how to clean his umbilical cord (cleaned regularly with éosine in France), how to clean his face, and eventually, how to bathe him.
- The night staff were wonderful, honestly—they were so reassuring and understanding of the fact that I needed support and help, especially with breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding mothers were well taken care of in terms of food. It wasn’t the best food but I ate anything that was put in front of me (still do, pretty much) so I didn’t care. I gobbled up all those 2500 calories. Liter-sized bottles of vitamin-fortified water were also supplied on demand.
Things I was less crazy about:
- Littlest was only left on my chest a few minutes in the delivery room. I was a really easy-going mother and let things just sort of happen, but next time (if there is one) I think I will ask and perhaps insist on more time to help baby try to breastfeed.
- The staff in general asked that we leave Littlest under his heated blanket as much as possible during our stay, which meant not only fewer cuddles but less skin-to-skin, which I didn’t even try because none of the staff mentioned it. Obviously, if there’s a next time, I will do as much as I can get away with.
- We were left pretty well alone during the daytime once the first day was past. That first day the staff came in a lot to check on Littlest’s blood sugar and temperature and to change his diapers. But the maternity ward seemed to empty out in the afternoons and Sunday afternoon was ridiculous.
- I missed my husband, whose three days off for the birth were rapidly being used up in spite of Littlest being born on a Friday, and didn’t enjoy spending the nights alone without his help (though the night staff were, as I said, lovely). Meals for non-patients were expensive too, so he kept having to leave to get lunch or dinner for himself.
- The nursing staff gave us bottles of formula to give to Littlest his first day since he wasn’t latching. When I told this to my neighborhood midwife who used to work there, she was not pleased. Again, I was just going with the flow (and I know some moms feel they’ve been saved by supplementing at the beginning), but if there’s a next time, I’ll ask to get around that problem some other, formula-less way.
- That dang epidural that served no purpose and gave me back pain for months. Of course there was no way to know in advance I would have a rapid labor, but if there’s a next time, I hope to avoid it.
In general I was very happy with all my care, as always in France, but on the baby front there are some tweaks I would make if I hadn’t been a first-time mom going with the flow.