I had hoped my experience was just a one-off and that by staying in hospital for several days after my baby was born I somehow got lost in the conveyor belt of people going home six hours after their baby was born, but having spoken to many new mothers since becoming one myself, I realise that I am not an unusual case. But while my baby and I were in hospital after her birth, I had to ask for my bedsheets to be changed. I plucked up courage to ask twice which meant they were changed twice, in a five night stay.
Yet the days post birth are particualrly yukky. You bleed. Lots. You may be a bit leaky when it comes to urine. Your breasts produce liquid, not necessarily to order but nearly always when you have found a dry patch to lay on. The baby poos and wees, also not to order, and as you don't yet know how to do a nappy properly, this also leaks. Current policy seems to be not to wash the baby post birth, but to let the fluids that cover it when it is born come off naturally over the next few days, so this too gets everywhere. Then there's sick. And of course spillages of food and drink that come from trying to grab a mouthful whenever you can while juggling your slippery newborn.
So you're sitting there in poo and wee and blood and sick and food and you think that's okay, whatever else it is nurses and healthcare assistants do, changing the sheets is key and they will be along to do it soon. And you wait. And wait. And wait.
The dirty sheets are not only a health risk but a downer on morale too. Change the sheets, every day, maybe twice a day, and don't wait for women to ask.
Ways to improve postnatal care #3: Help us buy the basics
Ways to improve postnatal care #1: Don't call me mum