Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Kindness of a Stranger

As regular readers know, I recently gave birth to my second child. I chose to have the baby at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, New York; as fine a hospital for this purpose as any in New York or Florida. They also have the benefit of the doctor practice I use; a group part of Westchester Heath, which I believe is just extraordinary.

I am not as good a patient as they are a hospital or practice, shamefully. When it comes to physical pain, here is how I am: I will stand on top of a table and ward off doctors with anything nearby I can turn into a weapon on the fly. I am a ninny, if you will.

When just-arrived Daughter hung out until forty weeks and showed no signs of delivering, I was thrilled. That is the formula for (another) induction. Natural child birth mothers (including that first rate loon in the room next to me), look away now.

When the contractions started, I called the doctor. Who, thankfully, is my age, has a good sense of humor, is hip and handsome, and an all around good guy. Here is a rough transcript of the conversation:

(Call patching through to his cell.)

Doc: Catherine?
Me: Hey, Doc. Can I come in now? I had a contraction.
Doc: When? How many?
Me: One. Maaaaaybe half an hour ago?
Doc: No.
Me: It hurt a little.
Doc: Come to the hospital when they are five minutes apart.
Me: Okay... wait, what? No.
Doc: You'll just be sitting around until the induction tomorrow if nothing happens but
call me back at five this afternoon and update me.
Me: I love sitting around.
Doc: Do it at home.
Me: That makes it hurt more.
Doc: That's how it is.
Me: Well, I was going to go to dinner in the city, I guess I could still.
Doc: No. Not a good idea.
Me: I'll go somewhere closer, near the hospital. In case it hurts again.
Doc: That's a better plan. You could be in labor.
Me: You know I don't care for "going into labor", it is a dignity issue.
Doc: I know, but sometimes you have no choice.
Me: This isn't one of those times, Doc. I want the needle now and I don't
want to deal with any of that stuff you told me about. You know, grody.
Doc: Call me at five.
Me: Okay, call you from the hospital!
Him: (Low groan.)
Me: (Hung up as fast as possible.)

The night before the induction was scheduled (which also has the benefit of allowing Josh to spend a full two weeks on paternity leave with us), the contractions were 28 minutes apart. Then they stopped. The next morning I met the doctor in L&D, "What happened to you last night?" he said.

I made small talk but I wanted to run into the suite, leap into bed and shout, "Neeeeeeedles now! This is sooooooo finished today! Where is Dr. David Bardow ? And the pitocin drip? Lets get this show on the road! Yipppppeeee!"

But it took a couple of hours for the epidural guy to show up and when he did, just like last time, he mentioned he was obligated to suggest alternative measures, like breathing (I wasn't really listening, wasn't I doing that already?) or something. And then he said to call him when I wanted the medicine. I want it now, I said. Why have pain at all? Another groan. He asked me to wait 40 minutes while he saw to a c-section, considering I was not yet in any sort of labor.

Wait I did. Then, a needle stick. And, all better... So great. But not yet as great as it would be.

In the time between the births of my two children, Northern West (in local parlance) initiated an Integrative Medicine department which encompasses aromatherapy, reiki, as well as other alternative, gentle practices. The practitioners in these areas will visit your room at your request. At first, while in labor, I thought this was ridiculous. I want the guy with the big needles for pain! Be gone, you bewitched little elf and take your old black magic with you. You there! Please go in search of Dr. David Bardow... In the end, I had both and I am here to tell you that I found the aromatherapy treatment as key to a reasonable delivery experience as the epidural (for which I would have twice now named my Daughters after Dr. David Bardow, but "Dr." is such a weird first name for a girl). It was remarkable; both for calming my anxious nerves and for instilling a spa-like environment in my delivery room which I dare say we all appreciated.

Now for the truly remarkable part: At Northern Westchester, all of the Integrative Medicine treatments are complimentary. The entire program is funded by an anonymous donor. This is very close to my heart as reiki truly relieved a good deal of tension for my Dad as he was dying of cancer. I know it works because I have seen, and now experienced, the results of these treatments. I am glad it is there today for others suffering as he did as well as all the others it helps when time allows, like those of us in medically induced and assisted labor. This is an extraordinary gift of pain and anxiety relief from a stranger I will never meet. I wish I could thank them in person for the remarkable and unexpected gift this was to me and my little girl as she entered this world. I will never forget this generosity and kindness and can only pay it forward...

This is the birthing oil mixture which was placed on a sachet in my pillow while I was in labor. But it is worthy of any time requiring a great ease of anxiety. But you should check with your doctor before using any integrative medicine (mine happened to be standing next to me).

Measured in drops as parts to one. No more. These five drops are very powerful, will make
your room smell like Canyon Ranch for a week:
True lavender - 2 drops
Clary sage - 2 drops
Geranium - 1 drop

(The program uses essential oils from Elizabeth Van Buren, whom they consider trustworthy and reputable.)

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