My sister scolded me this evening over the lack of new photos of Silas. He’s six weeks old today.
(hybrid ring sling purchased HERE.)
Do you see those cheeks? Can you believe that Seth refuses to kiss them? I truly feel that he is missing out on something so good that I offered to pay him just so he’d have the experience, but he still refused!
It’s not like Silas is experiencing loss in the kiss department though.
One week ago–in the arms of my midwife. I promise she wasn’t angry with Silas, she was just talking while I snapped lots of photos.
I was visiting for a postpartum check up, and to have Silas’ newborn screen repeated.
I’ve got a little story to go with that…
So, you may or may not know that I am sort of a radical mom. I am always friendly, usually reasonable, but I’ve got my own ideas about my kids. It’s possible that I get a little more extreme with each child.
So about that newborn screen–it’s necessary, it’s required by law, and it’s a good and important test.
But, you know babies do feel pain, and that little prick and the subsequent squeezing of their little heels hurts. I don’t like the thought of one of my babies’ first experiences being pain of any sort. I just want them to be surrounded by love and to feel peace and comfort. I know that this isn’t always possible, but if it is, why mess with that?
Because of a fever I ran during labor with Seth (my firstborn and my only hospital born babe) his first six hours of life were marked by multiple heel pricks, tubes down his throat, and injections of antibiotics. His wails made it clear that these experiences were traumatic for him, and his trauma translated to the same for me. I still get a stomach ache thinking of his first few hours in the world.
After Keats was born (at home) we paid for the necessary and good newborn screen out of pocket and my midwife conducted the prick and heel squeezing when he was a few days old. His heel was first warmed with a heating pad to help the blood flow, and he nursed during the entire process. The trauma was minimal, you know, pretty non existent. It was indeed just a heel prick, not a big deal.
We followed the same protocol with both Larkspur and Beatrix. A simple test, made easier for my babies just because of the way it was administered. Babe at the breast with mother’s soothing voice in her ear.
And I wonder, why would this be done any other way? Why is there not more of an effort made to minimize a baby’s distress when possible?
No, I don’t think that there is lasting damage from the cries generated by a heel prick, but if the test can be administered in a gentler fashion, why shouldn’t that be the norm?
I thought that surely it was or that at least it would be an option when requested by crazy moms like me: homebirther that I have become, familiar now with the ways of midwives who gently whisper to the babies they have helped into the world.
So this time around, hoping to save some money and let insurance cover the cost of the newborn screen, I requested an order from my wonderful pediatrician.
I then headed with my newborn Silas, less than two weeks old, to a local lab. After waiting for about twenty minutes I was told that I was at the wrong location and directed to the lab within the hospital.
I was less than thrilled to enter a hospital with my healthy baby, but I did. I signed in and then I waited for about an hour.
I was finally called back, our turn having arrived.
A nurse began to jot down notes and then left momentarily. She came back with a clear plastic box on wheels. I know those boxes. Beatrix was very ill when she was a newborn and had to have her blood drawn on two occasions. She screamed from within one of those boxes while her blood was drawn, as I stood by helplessly, wishing there were an easier way. In her case there wasn’t. There’s a big difference between a draw and a prick.
As the nurse unwrapped the shrink wrapped box, I told her that she wouldn’t need it. I kindly explained that I preferred to hold my baby and allow him to nurse while she pricked and squeezed. She looked at me with confusion and said she had “never done it that way before, and didn’t think she could.” I then looked at her with confusion, as in “why not? It’s a heel prick.” I explained (with a friendly smile–I am always friendly in situations like this) the way that my midwives do things and how easy it is for everyone. She told me she would have to go ask someone. A few minutes later she returned with another young woman who explained that it was hospital policy that I place Silas in the box for the test.
I smiled, apologized, and told them I would be going. They looked at me like I was out of my mind. To be honest, I felt like I was possibly out of my mind. The whole ordeal had taken two hours or more of my time and by doing it their way I was saving money. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put my baby in that box and watch him cry when I knew that there was a gentler way.
And as I walked out of that hospital I began to feel less crazy and more liberated. I am a mother and I can advocate for my child even if doing so makes people think I am difficult or crazy. I drove home and called a midwife friend who agreed to come to my house to do the test. We made an afternoon of it, getting our families together and having a great time.
And that would be the end of this story except that his newborn screen came back a week later indicating maple syrup urine disease and stating that the test must be repeated immediately.
Thankfully I was scheduled to see my other midwife in her office and she was able to repeat the test. Silas barely made a peep, nursing while she gently did what she had to do. Funny that we set out to save money this time around on the newborn screen by going to a lab, and we actually ended up paying for it twice.
So I have spent the last week sniffing diapers, afraid that at any time I might smell the maple syrup smell indicating the disorder. Jonny and I have made light of things, knowing that the first test was probably a false positive (my goodness, but he looks healthy!) We joked that this was what we got for going to the Maple Syrup Festival while I was pregnant.
Today I got the call that all is well. Silas doesn’t have an obscure genetic disorder. He just has a serious case of chubby cheeks and a slightly crazy mama bear.