Unbeknown to many Kiwi mums-to-be, globally New Zealand is regarded as having one of the best maternity care systems on the planet, alongside Holland. We are the only country in the world that operates the government funded continuity-of-care system where every woman is entitled to have their own LMC (lead maternity carer) who looks after them antenataly (with say an average of 14 half-hour appointments); attends their labour-birth (routinely in the middle of the night); and provides seven or more postnatal visits in the first five weeks or so (including at least five home visits).
On an international scale, this is quite literally, a phenomenal level of maternity care. Even just across the ditch in our neighbouring Aussie, postnataly women may get one phone call a few days after birth, then a lucky few get one midwife home visit. Instead there are drop-in clinics where women can go to get their baby weighed. In American hospitals where there is no nitrous gas pain-relief option, and usually compulsory continual fetal monitoring, women are expected to receive an epidural and hormone drips (with the subsequent substantially worse birth statistics). Then they are routinely discharged home within twelve hours of birth and given their free sample of infant formula, to then receive no further follow-up care whatsoever.
And that’s just how it is… they just donâ€™t expect anything else. Yet somehow here in Godâ€™s Own we have developed this extraordinarily fantastic maternity care system, and at the same time have created a culture of complaint â€¦ because the obstetrician was grumpy, or the midwife was busy, or the toast was friggin cold.
Yes, the Obstetrician was a bit grumpy. It had been a tough shift. Just an hour ago heâ€™d heroically saved a womanâ€™s womb from a hideous ectopic pregnancy, after already being up all night without any break because Birthing Suite was manic. Heâ€™s exhausted. Heâ€™s dedicated. Heâ€™s highly skilled, so appreciate it.
Yes, the hospital Midwife was busy. Sheâ€™s always busy, but the ward has been insanely busy for the last 11 hours, and this is her fourth night in a row. She wasnâ€™t even rostered to work, but someone called in sick so she agreed to miss out attending her daughterâ€™s dance recital, simply because sheâ€™s here to help you, and all the other demanding women on her ward that night. Plus sheâ€™s still getting over the emotionally draining and incredibly sad 23-weeker fetal abnormality late-termination she needed to attend earlier in her shift. It always takes her a couple of days to shake off those memories.
And as for our LMCs. Good grief, theyâ€™re amazing women (and men). On-call 24-hours a day! Every time they lay down to sleep, they donâ€™t know if theyâ€™ll get to sleep through that the night, or instead will be woken out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night, need to throw on clothes and gulp down a coffee while dashing to a clientâ€™s labour â€¦ while also knowing they have no idea when theyâ€™ll be back home, no idea when theyâ€™ll next eat, and no idea when theyâ€™ll next even sleep, let alone when theyâ€™ll next talk to their own children. Honestly who would want to do that job?!
Then on top of that they get vomited on, weeâ€™d on, have to wipe womenâ€™s poo and sew up perineums â€“ all in the middle of the night when the rest of us are peacefully sleeping. But even then women have the entitled audacity to complain we werenâ€™t â€śsatisfiedâ€ť with her sensitivity, or they way she responded to our questions, or how she wasnâ€™t at all times super easy to talk to â€“ yet weâ€™d drive her slightly nuts by ringing her on a Friday night to ask if Chinese takeaways is safe to eat, and texting her at 8am on a Sunday morning to double-check our antenatal clinic appointment time the following Wednesday (which is written in our Pregnancy Diary, but weâ€™ve temporarily misplaced it).
So hey, one mum to another mum-to-be, could we all stop whinging and whining about what is wrong with the care weâ€™re receiving â€“ especially from our LMCs â€“ and instead thankfully be grateful by celebrating graciously what incredible midwives â€“ and obstetricians â€“ we have FREE access to. With grace, let us all love, love, love our maternity care system.