Monday, January 22, 2007

A translation from the original

An American reader asked what a "health visitor" was.

A health visitor is someone who arrives on your doorstep soon after you have returned from an overcrowded maternity ward with your new baby who screams like a banshee if put down for a blink. You are so frightened by the noise that you decide you are a believer in kangaroo care and that you do not want to put the baby down even for a cup of tea. This is the first of many lies you tell yourself as a mother.

You are slightly concerned you cannot see the cat but you are holding the baby, so this is of less significance than it might otherwise be. You neither know, nor care, where your husband is. You do not like him anymore. You are, ofcourse, holding the baby when there is a ring on the doorbell. You are wearing a grubby cotton waffle dressing gown. It is tied with a worn pair of black nylon maternity tights and you sport a muslin square on your shoulder. You and the muslin square do not smell nice.

"Hello," says the woman on the doorstep. "I am your health visitor. This is Mary Jane," and she points to a large girl with a bob standing next to her. "She is training to be a health visitor. I hope it is alright if she sits in."
Black-eyed with exhaustion and grim-faced from the agony of learning how to breastfeed, you nod at Mary Jane who nods back. You think: "If Mary Jane is going to be a health visitor, she should lose some weight."
"Right," says the health visitor, settling herself into the only armchair without laundry on it. Mary Jane perches her ample posterior on the arm of the sofa and finds the cat. The health visitor gets out a clipboard and a biro.
"We haven't met before have we? How are you getting on? Is that the baby? Sweet Have you ever thought about suicide?"
She waits, pen poised over a tickbox.
The noose is knotted and swinging expectantly from the plastic flex going into a dusty cream lampshade on the landing. In the sitting-room, you widen your eyes slightly.
"No. Gosh. Suicidal thoughts? Golly. No, I'm fine, thank-you."
She ticks a box.

That is a health visitor.


Steve said...

Well, you seem to be attracting quite a range of commentors! I hope the Minnesotan in France comes back with her blog address; it would be fun to see what she's thinking about!

I've been reading a little book by John McQuiston which you might like; it's a restatement of the Rule of Benedict for our times called "Always We Begin Again." With regards to your encounter with the elderly man in the railway station and the health visitors, I thought you might appreciate this passage from "An Evening Meditation" on pg. 79:

"... we renew our effort to have
a sympathetic relationship with every person,
to live in faith that an unfathomable, magnificent nature
expresses itself in every moment
and in every experience
of our fleeting passage here."

You may not have done it perfectly (and who could?) but I suspect the man went away feeling he was heard. I look forward to reading more about your adventures!

Best wishes,

Steve Schewe

Unknown said...

At least your health visitor turned up when you were at home. Ours called round just after my wife had been discharged from hospital, but the twins had not been.... doesn't seem to have made much difference.

Anonymous said...

perhaps this something you SHOULD talk to your husband about

Anonymous said...

LOL! We have those in the States too. Just under different names.

Glad I found you through the blog god.

Litanin said...

interesting about health visitor ))

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wife in the north said...

Steve: thankyou for the recommendation
Carpundit: I am not an expert on health visitors. They write you a letter with a date when they will visit. You immediately lose the letter. You do not sign up for them, it is all automatic partly to check on the mum and partly to check on the baby. Presumably you could turn them away if you really wanted but you tend to let them in and go through the motions. Thanks for the interest.

Anonymous said...

O.k. you may resent hearing this, but I'm in the States, and my visit was from my woman pediatrician, who was a dream.

But, I love the post; it's funny, it speaks to my emotional experience coming home with a baby for the first time.

On the dark side, do you have national health in Great Britain?

We don't, as all the outside civilized world must have heard by now, in addition to Darth Vadar's last round of bull.

Neither are all of our babies covered either.

Say what you can for us, please.

We're drowning.

Anonymous said...

On the dark side, do you have national health in Great Britain?

The US does not have an integrated healthcare system but silos of providers each competing.

That is why insurers pay little for pre-emptive screening and why A&E (ER) is a profit-centre in most hospitals.

Then again the US has never faced a threat to its national existence - most European healthcare systems grew out of the Emergency Medical Systems set up during World War Two

Anonymous said...

Yes, I also had a state-supplied Health Visitor who I can only rememder visiting once, wheras my neighbour seemed to get visits all the time. Apparently at the start of her first visit the HV had enquired "Are you pleased with your baby?" and the (devoted) mother had said "Why? Will you take it back if I'm not?" Big mistake....