Monday, February 10, 2014

Every birthday is a day to remember

In old movies, nervous fathers pace the floors of hospital waiting rooms.  At the new Fredric Birkeland, M.D. Labor and Delivery Center, they watch traffic on Interstate 84, two stories plus a hillside below the birthing rooms.

At first, the drone of cars and trucks annoys the husbands, grandmas, and laboring mothers they support, but then it lulls them to sleep—between contractions.

It’s mesmerizing to watch day turn to night across much of Treasure Valley and to see vehicles become diamonds that flash by at 75 miles per hour.   People in those cars and trucks are rushing to get somewhere—what a different day it is for them than for the people in those rooms, waiting quietly for the birth moment on the birth day of a little stranger to this world.

Eventually, blackout drapes shut out the freeway and the world telescopes down to intense moments of breathing, concentration and hard work—it’s not called labor for nothing.

Then in one moment, the mother is delivered from labor, and her baby is delivered into a world of light, air, waiting hands and loving arms.

Our daughter and son-in-law recently welcomed a son at the Birkeland center, and it took me back to her birth, which took place just off the next exit, thirty-some years earlier, at Nampa’s Kinderklinik.

Clarence and Alice McIntyre were trailblazers. They felt families deserved better than the medical practices prevalent during the 1950s-60s, where mothers were routinely sedated with feet up in stirrups.

His 2011 obituary stated:  “In 1976, Dr. McIntyre expanded the practice into a natural birthing clinic. During the next two years he worked . . . in a practice that was innovative for its time: the birthing rooms were warm and homey, no anesthetic was used, and the babies were delivered into the hands of the fathers.”

Dr. Mac’s patients were expected to prepare by taking LaMaze childbirth classes and attending La Leche League to learn about breastfeeding—because these practices were not routinely practiced back then.

We received solicitous care from Dr. Mac and Nurse Alice, and my husband “caught” our daughter.

The McIntyres made their point. Soon Mercy Medical Center opened birthing rooms.  Dr. Birkeland delivered our next child and Dr. Gerald Carlson allowed Norm to catch our third child, both at Mercy.

Our fourth was delivered in a birthing center across the street from Mercy and our fifth was born in a birthing room at St. Luke’s in Boise.

During these years, midwives also brought home births to Treasure Valley. With birthing rooms in every valley hospital, hopefully modern medicine has fully embraced the joys of family-centered births.

As Dr. Grantly Dick-Read said, "It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labor, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further. We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as a physical, achievement. The birth of a child is the ultimate perfection of human love."