We had a visit from two now postnatal mums with their tiny babies, very cool, both girls and both very cute. Several mums-to-be put in requests for one of those please! We listened to both of their lovely, relatively easy, descriptions of birth. The births were great and both women were attended by a local doula and their tales of how wonderful it had been having that extra support was brilliant. The thing that struck me most was that both were second time mums and so had approached their baby’s births with open eyes and a heap less naivety about the ‘system’ and the medicalisation of birth. In both cases their first births had been far more traumatic and had resulted in them trying to find out more about how to get it right…. Most mums-to-be that I meet these days are first time mums, I meet them in my role as antenatal Class Bookings Clerk for the local branch of the NCT, and then I also act as a class supporter from time to time. I’m considering training as an antenatal teacher as I find the subject of antenatal education so fascinating and I feel it is one of the most important subjects you can possibly swot up on in advance of the event. So many mums & dads-to-be just go into it blindly trusting the health professionals, don’t they know that experience means so much! If I could say one thing to all the first time parents-to-be that I meet it would be “listen to those around you, although this is experience is your experience lessons have been learnt from the past and can be passed on” you don’t have to have a bad experience to be able to have a positive one, first time births, with a little knowledge can be so very, very easy, in fact easier than second times as there’s no emotional baggage from previous births. NCT antenatal classes are brilliant for getting support, through other class members, a class supporter and through the teacher but I do find the content a tad conservative. I know that they need to cater for everyone and not scare anyone but if we could shake some first time mums-to-be and say ‘open your eyes or this will not work’ it would be so much easier. There is so much misinformation in the media and from health professionals that most mums-to-be are pretty brainwashed into thinking that birth is dangerous and that consultants know best. I say most so no one be offended about generalisation please. Consultants are experts in ‘birth gone wrong’ they are not experts in normal birth. Day to day they see all the things that can go wrong (and things can of course) but then when confronted with a normal healthy pregnancy they seem inclined to look at from the perspective of what could go wrong. It’s great to know what can go wrong but not to consider this the norm. The norm is that pregnancy is natural and not an illness, the norm is that women go into labour (eventually…. (NICE states that a normal pregnancy lasts between 37 & 42 weeks so 41 weeks is not overdue, nor is 42 weeks…)) and then they give birth. But this only happens when we let it, if we try to interfere we change things and that’s when complications occur, if we induce it’s because we want a baby to arrive before its time (I’m sure someone will quote an occasion where a woman never did go into labour but this isn’t the norm.) and so our body and our baby are not ready for this. An induced labour is often more painful and longer than a spontaneous labour and so more effective forms of pain relief are often required, this in turn can lead to further intervention with a fairly common result of caesarean section – so often described as an emergency section when there isn’t any real emergency, a true emergency section is known as a crash section and these of course occur far more rarely than is suggested. Another scary thing is that due to the over medicalisation of birth more and more midwives are becoming deskilled. Breech birth by caesarean is becoming the norm now, some midwives have never attended a water birth, many think that a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC) is too risky to contemplate. It seems that the best way to ensure your midwife is comfortable with all of the above is to consider an independent midwife which many of us cannot afford, and which is currently being threatened by the possible outlawing of independent midwifery.
After one traumatic birth featuring an overwhelming cascade of intervention that resulted in an ‘emergency’ caesarean and one highly traumatic elective caesarean that ended with a stay in intensive care I can say that my VBA2C was the easiest of the 3 and had I known in 1993 what I knew in 2005 it’s unlikely I’d have ever had a single caesarean. We’re now planning a waterbirth for the birth of our 4th baby and have already come across opposition.
I’ll rant more about birth choice next time otherwise this post will end up being pages and pages long! I’m not even sure this post makes massive amounts of sense so I’ll probably have to come back and edit it another time when I feel more coherent and less passionate.