LOVE FOR SALE: the trouble with professional caregivers 04/04/2011Posted by ALT in Mental Health News.
Tags: baby, fourth trimester, industrialization, maternal love, unconditional love
Remember Dr. Levin? He was the psychiatrist featured in the New York Times a few weeks back as a case study in the new, industrialized form of psychiatric care that is increasingly becoming the norm: he describes himself as similar to “a good Volkswagen mechanic” and offers his many clients 15 minute in-and-out appointments, which start off with a symptoms checklist, move on abruptly to diagnosis, and finish with prescription(s) for psychotropics. There simply isn’t time for exchanging pleasantries – like the patient’s actual name – or for suggesting alternatives to medication like talk therapy or mind-body healing practices.
LOOK OUT: Dr. Levin isn’t a scary singularity, and neither is psychiatry as a field.
The article describing him was part of a series (Doctors INC), in which the NYT is documenting a similar shift that is happening across all fields of Western medicine. A shift from individualized, long term care of a small number of patients (50-60) taking place in modest clinical practices (maybe even home-based!) to industrialized, “efficient,” high volume traffic of literally thousands of patients taking place in hospitals.
In the series’ most recent article, “More Physicians Say No to Endless Workdays,” we see this theme as it plays out in a single family composed of three generations of doctors. Grandpa had a private, mostly home-based practice (Grandma used to boil urine samples on the stove!).
Father had a private practice but spent most of his hours at the office and was always on call; and finally Daughter, Dr. Kate Dewar, is working in a hospital emergency room, a salaried doctor for a private corporation.
She cites several reasons for the shift – in her current position she is never on call, she has the opportunity to perform more “interesting procedures… collect[ing] rare and difficult interventions like merit badges,” and she can “fix stuff and move on,” not having to worry about pesky follow-up or long term care.
But Ms. Dewar’s primary motivating factor was the birth of her twins in February. As a salaried ER doctor working for a corporation, she can work fewer hours, spending more time with her children.
Understandable. And admirable!
“Look, I’m as committed to being a doctor as anyone. I went back to work six weeks after my boys were born. I love my job,” said Dr. Kate Dewar. “But I was in tears walking out of the house that first day. I’m the mother of twins, and I want to be there to feed them, play games with them or open presents with them on Christmas morning. Or at least I want the option to do those things without fearing I’ll be called back to the hospital.”
The pain of that first week’s separation was lessened somewhat because she worked in the hospital’s new pediatric emergency department. “I felt better knowing that at least I was taking care of somebody else’s babies even if I couldn’t be with mine,” she said.
(from the NYT article “More Physicians Say No to Endless Workdays;” emphasis added)
I thought she wanted to spend more time with her kids? At 6 weeks old, her babies are still well inside the gestation period, three pre-natal trimesters plus the post-natal “fourth trimester.” Put simply, though they’re not physically connected by umbilical cord anymore, they still make up a mother-baby dyad. Those babies need mama. 24/7. And mama needs them, too. It’s biological, instinctual.
The Vicious Cycle
So this is how the vicious social services cycle begins. Instead of directing her instinctive surge of mothering energy towards her own children, Dr. Dewar directs it – for profit – towards the children of strangers [probably using some of the profits to hire a professional caregiver to direct inferior mothering energy at her own children]. Finding themselves out-of-place and re-placed in the professional setting, the mothers of Dr. Dewar’s surrogate, hospitalized children will then be forced to redirect their own energies, starting a double-edged chain reaction: all of the mothers continuously frustrated by failed attempts to mother other things (not the children they were designed to care for) and none of the children benefiting from the highly personalized and unconditional-love-charged energy of their own mothers.
When professionals take the place of parents, everyone suffers – biological parents, children; the surrogate (professional) parents, their charges, and their true (biological) children. No one is completely free to give the gift nature designed us all to give [unconditional love!]; no one fully experiences the benefits of such an amazing gift successfully given/received. Will the defecit created in all of these [physically, emotionally, spiritually] frustrated folks pave the way for more social “services” later in life? It’s a strong possiblity.
No matter how well paid, professionals simply can’t love children like biological parents can. And love is what a baby needs, above all else — even the most critical condition, premature baby. Skin-to-skin contact. The reassuring voices of people baby knows well (though she has only recently been able to see them, she’s been hearing their every word for the past nine months!).
Love. Free. Unconditional. Forever.