What that hospital bill isn’t telling you

You may have seen this image floating around the internet:

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Originally posted on reddit, it’s been shared and blogged about many times the past few days. People are outraged that someone was charged to hold her own baby after a cesarean.

When my friend texted it to me the other night, my initial reaction was also one of outrage. Ridiculous!

Upon further consideration though, it made sense. She wasn’t being charged to hold her baby. She was being charged for the nurse that was there to help her hold her baby – an extra nurse that wouldn’t normally be in the operating room with a cesarean mom.

My daughter Catie was born via cesarean in 2004. I have run the gamut of emotions about that experience for the past 12 years. So many pieces of who I am today – an ICAN chapter leader, doula, and childbirth educator – stem from that birth. Some parts of it I was always okay with. Some acceptance came with time. And some parts bother me to this day – this is one of them.

7924944858_63744b4072_oAfter she was out they took her over to the warmer, brought her over to me for a quick touch, and then took her away. I had my husband go with her, because I had some vague idea that he was supposed to, and I was left alone in the OR with no baby and no support (our doula had not been allowed in with us). He went with our daughter to the recovery room where he watched as a nurse bathed her and performed an unnecessary blood test on her while she lay naked and screaming in a warmer.

When I was finally able to join them, I asked to hold her but was told that the bath had made her temperature drop and she needed to stay in the warmer. Once her temp had come back up, I again asked to hold her, and they said “we’re about to move you to your room so we will just wheel her there and you can hold her after”. It was almost 3 hours after she was born when I finally got to hold her (and I know many moms have to wait even longer due to medical concerns with mom or baby – this was for an uncomplicated cesarean). 

I would have gladly paid $40 (or more!) to have had the opportunity for this:

Photo by Maegan Hall Photography

If I’d taken a comprehensive childbirth class such as Intuitive Birth, I might have asked more questions of my provider. I may not have ended my pregnancy with a breech baby, or an automatic cesarean for said breech baby. But even if I had still ended up on that table, I would have known more about what happens after a cesarean. I could have chosen a hospital that was more open to family centered cesarean techniques and not had to be separated from my baby. My husband would have known more about what to do in the event we did have to be separated. (Partners can do skin-to-skin too!)

Not every mother desires or is physically able to have skin-to-skin immediately after a cesarean. But the option should exist for those who do. So when I hear about a hospital that is facilitating skin-to-skin in the OR but charging for the extra nursing staff it takes to accommodate that, I am not outraged. 

If you want to be outraged about something, be outraged that this is not the standard of care for cesarean moms! Be outraged that most hospitals won’t even entertain the IDEA of skin-to-skin in the OR. That people dismiss the feelings of birthing mothers who don’t want to be unnecessarily separated from their babies. Be outraged that almost ⅓ of babies in the US are still born via cesarean despite evidence that it increases risks for mothers and statements from ACOG urging more patience and higher utilization of safe, evidence-based techniques to lower the cesarean rate.

Ultimately, birth via cesarean is going to be the best option for some mothers and babies. I am thrilled to hear of a hospital that is trying to make a cesarean a more positive experience for the birthing family, and I hope that many more follow suit.

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