Mixed Feelings

Amelia* and Jim* have mixed feelings about having their first child at Swan Hill District Health, although overall the experience was good enough for them to commit to coming back, if they decide to have another child “some time down the track”.

They live on a farm 90 minutes from services, so needed to be as close as possible for the arrival of their first child – a daughter born in July. “Jim needed to come and go, to feed animals and do other essentials, so we needed to be as close as we could be, and that was Swan Hill” Amelia explains.

In hindsight, Amelia would have preferred her GP (from Primary Health) to have referred her earlier. “She didn’t think it was necessary, but the midwife was surprised when I rang to make my first appointment just after 20 weeks”.

“It makes sense if antenatal services are all in one place from early on,” she says.

But at the hospital she saw four different rotating doctors – three were locums – and a regular practitioner, plus a different midwife at each appointment. She would have preferred if it could have been the same doctor, and the same midwife, as she found the appointments a bit disjointed.  “Many times I found myself wondering ‘have you read my notes’? And on some visits I felt like some things were just being left for the next person to sort out” Amelia says. “And I wonder if I might have been able to have a natural birth if the breech situation was addressed and options discussed more timely. It was too late to try turning the baby by the time that option was raised by the doctor”.

The midwives were all ‘really good’ according to Amelia. 

“I think what they did for me was close to perfect” Amelia explains when asked how she found the care and attention at Swan Hill District Health. She was grateful to be in hospital for the full week, and says the staff helped her gain confidence and understanding.

‘Amelia’ wonders if a common check list might make life easier for staff and pregnant women. It could list all the common advice and when it needs to be passed on.

“Some of the information seemed a bit hit and miss. There were a few things that I should’ve been doing, or not doing, throughout my pregnancy, that I didn’t find out about until week 36. For example, my GP told me a few foods with listeria that I should avoid, but if I hadn’t looked it up myself, I would not have known there was a much longer list.

And some written resources would have been great- there were things Jim and I didn’t understand when told, and let’s face it- my memory was not that great during pregnancy! Amelia said Jim had no idea what was being said half the time – there were a lot of medical terms being thrown around and he spent most appointments trying to google them on his phone!

Amelia understands that health evidence and advice changes consistently, and that all babies are not the same, but she wanted more consistency in the messages she was getting.

“There were so many different opinions regarding how to care for my baby and breastfeeding. It’s a scary time for new Mums, and gets even harder when the messages change from one person to the next,” she explains. “And I get that breast feeding is best and has to be promoted, but when I was trying everything possible and couldn’t do it, some of the comments that had been made just made me feel terrible about something I had no control over”. However, Amelia says that overall the staff were really helpful and supportive about the whole thing. “It was great that they referred me on for additional support”.

‘Maddie’* was born by elective caesarean, among very stringent COVID restrictions throughout Victoria’s public health system.

While Amelia was happy visitors were restricted, she needed the emotional and physical support Jim provided.  “I couldn’t have done it if he wasn’t there,” she says.

“Although they wouldn’t provide meals for him, which seemed strangely contradictory, and was a bit unnerving in these COVID times – he had to leave the hospital to go out in public to buy food, yet visitors weren’t allowed in. It was a shame because the hospital meals are fabulous. So there I was, eating a four star meal while he ate heated up noodles from a cardboard box!”

Amelia thinks providing meals for partners – even at a cost – would improve the experience, but if partners don’t have to leave the hospital, the chance of COVID entering would be reduced.

The family is settling in to their new life and – according to her mothers’ group – Maddie is a ‘good baby’. “I don’t have anything to compare,  so I just take their word for it”, she says.

Maddie’s Mum and Dad appreciate they’ve been linked in to excellent services associated with health services closer to where they live.

“The care co-ordination and linking us in with the necessary services all happened smoothly, thanks to Swan Hill District Health,” she says.

Thanks for sharing your story, Amelia, it’s wonderful for us to be able to hear about your experience first-hand.

This story has been collected as part of the Swan Hill District Health Consumer Stories Project.
If you have a story to tell, or would like to share your experience, please contact the
Quality, Experience and Safety team on 03 5033 9894 or feedback@shdh.org.au