Midwife blog, June 2014
I understand that what happens on the labour ward is no longer a mystery thanks to programs like One Born Every Minute, which has given people the chance to experience the miracle of birth.
This once unseen and private event can now be displayed publicly. But with the increased use of smartphones and the acceptance of mobile phone use in the hospital, we have another way that people can make their labour and birth a public event.
We can now stay connected with people at all times, no matter what they are doing, and that includes giving birth. Women can now Tweet and Facebook their way through labour if they so wish.
This has become my new frustration! Could the nation’s obsession with recording every moment and making it public for everyone else, actually mean that they are missing out?
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a smartphone that I use for everything and would be lost without it. I also openly admit that I use it more than I should. However, birth is a unique and special event that does not happen very often for a family, and should be experienced and enjoyed fully without distraction or external pressures from others.
But sadly and more frequently, I am witnessing long labours where the partners are more focused on Facebook than their partner’s face, and when the baby is born that first special hour (where parents would usually gaze at their creation and appreciate the wonderful moment!) is spent updating social media sites with pictures, and ringing family and friends. Only recently on the news I heard of a lady who gave a running commentary of her labour on Twitter!
The newborn baby that usually wouldn’t be introduced to the world until a few days after birth, when friends and relatives would come and visit, is in the public eye from a few minutes old.
Relatives expect admission onto the labour ward almost immediately after birth because the announcement has already been made, even though the woman has barely recovered – again impacting on that special time for the parents. I am pleased that the hospital I work at still has a birth partner-only visiting policy, albeit at the midwife’s discretion.
The invasion of the smartphone was demonstrated brilliantly during a recent shift. While in recovery only minutes following an Emergency LSCS, the husband was very stressed trying to message everyone to announce the birth. This took all his attention away from his new baby and wife because he was so focused on his phone.
He was missing those first precious moments with his wife as their baby was skin-to-skin making eye contact with its mummy and exploring the breast to attempt its first feed. I gently suggested that he should try not to worry about announcing the birth just yet, but you could see the pressure he was under from all the expectant people that had probably had 10-minute updates throughout the whole process.
Added to this stress was probably the risk of someone else announcing the news via social media sites before close family and friends could be personally informed.
On another occasion, again in recovery, the mother was actually on her phone texting and updating people straight out of theatre (with baby skin to skin, because we like to multitask!), when she suddenly said she felt very dizzy and for the first time took her eyes off the phone.
Her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low and she was drifting in and out of consciousness. When we had managed to get her blood pressure back up, she came round and immediately returned to the phone!
Those first few hours parents have with their new baby are so precious, and I can’t help worrying that the increased use and acceptance of smartphones everywhere, including in labour rooms and recovery, are robbing people of these precious moments that you can never get back.
Of course people want to share their experience, and this has always been the case, but when phones couldn’t be used in hospitals parents didn’t feel guilty about not updating people straight away, because it just wasn’t possible. Often they had to wait for the pay phone on wheels to become available!
I wonder how much of real life we are missing out on due to our obsession and addiction to social media? Of course this isn’t the case for everyone, and lots of people choose to enjoy this time and prioritise in the right way, but for people that don’t know any different, and have grown up with the public display of daily living, they will never know what they are missing out on.
It’s also worth remembering that there is a phone app for everything now. One husband informed me the other day on admission that his wife was already 4cms dilated. On further enquiry as to how he knew this (as I had barely had the chance to introduce myself) he told me the labour app on his phone had told him. We could all be out of a job very soon if this continues!