Saturday, June 4, 2011

Something of The Night About Them: Guest Post

In the spirit of sharing that's going around lately, today it's MY turn to share a truly lovely, evocative piece by Mars Lord of Mammy Doula. A good read to reflect on for the weekend!

There's something of the night about them.

What is it that happens to some midwives after 8pm? These normally smiley, friendly, font of knowledge midwives seem to take on something of the night. The smiles are gone. The time to sit has vanished (yes I know it's a rare occurrence in the life of a day time midwife, but please… don't interrupt the atmosphere building). There's a need to make and keep everyone quiet.

It is hard to see the breastfeeding posters in the dark. The muted lights must have something to do with that. The breasts of the Mothers have mysteriously failed to function and time has become the enemy. There is much rushing about to be done. There is much keeping of order. It is as though the job spec has changed and the Mothers are to be ignored.

Perhaps the bells that call the midwives only work from 8.30am to 8.00pm. The only sounds heard are the ones demanded babies be taken out of the Mothers' beds and placed dressed and wrapped in plastic containers on wheels.

It now, in the dead of night that Mothers are most at risk. They are more prone to making decisions that they (possibly) regret the next day. That dark lady of the night comes wielding a bottle of 'elixir'. The magic substance that will make their babies sleep and restore quiet and calm to a night ward. Here is when a Mother might agree to testing for her baby. She's been strong in the day, because she knows that baby is fine and the doctor has told her it's borderline and there is no urgent need to act. But now, as the darkness surrounds her and she's groggy from sleep, someone talks to her to tell her how risky borderline is and so assents.

She has never been so tired. The labour was long, the golden hour when it was her, baby and partner slowly getting to know each other is almost a distant memory. Since then she has been hussled into a shower, her baby handled by any number of people. Her attempts at sleep thwarted by a baby that needs feeding, gazing at, kissing, holding and loving. It is hard to sleep when the only baby crying appears to be hers. Jiggling isn't working. No one has read the manual to her. Are her breasts producing enough milk? There's no way, she thinks, of telling. She is fearful of waking the other babies and starting the cacophony of a postnatal ward.

And as she finally succumbs to sleep in walks someone to check her blood pressure, check the baby, check the bins, call her to breakfast.

Being informed is the key here. The Mothers that we support as partners, parents, birth partners, Doulas, need to know that they have someone that they can call in the middle of the night. They should be aware that it is a different culture in the postnatal ward at night than the delivery suite in the day or even early evening. I often hear people talking about their birth experiences and an incredibly high percentage talk about the awful postnatal care, particularly at night.

To those wonderful angels of the night that come in with calming, soothing voices, and time to give to the new Mothers, despite the files falling from their arms. Thank you. You have been far more important than you know.

-- MammyDoula

Mars Lord
Mother of 5
Birth and Postnatal Doula


  1. it can be very hard to be cheerful when working nights cos its really hard to get enough sleep.

  2. Since I had both my babies at home I didn't think about what
    it was like at night for new moms in the hospital.
    I am a new a doula and wanted to
    say "Thank you" for posting this perspective.
    I will pass this important information on to others
    in my birthing community. Perhaps this might
    be a new included job for a postpartum Doula.
    It is at this most important time that a new mom still
    needs someone she trusts to look over her and baby!!! Debbie
    from Olympia, WA