It’s almost June! What?! How on earth have we hit the middle of the year already? I know the extra layers and cooler weather are a bit of a hint here in the southern hemisphere, but I am sure it was January about five minutes ago. Really. No?
For some reason I find myself thinking about birth rather a lot lately. Not in a broody, “I-want-another-baby” type of way, but rather just wondering where things are at with the whole “system”. How are our women and babies faring. Which has always fascinated me, but has maybe waned a little over the last year or so? Hmm. Anyway, I have decided that here on the blog the month of June will be dedicated to all things birth. Allow me to explain a little further.
The other day my Husband and I went to visit some friends who had just welcomed their second baby, and I realised two very surprising things. The first, which seems unbelievable, is that it was the very first time we have EVER visited anyone having a baby in that particular hospital. I know, hardly groundbreaking news, except for the fact that this is the very large public teaching hospital in our area, which sees many births each year. In the thousands to be precise. It was where I gave birth to all four of my babies. (The first three in the old rundown 1950’s building, the last in the plush newly rebuilt version). I asked my Husband if that could possibly be right, as we have had many family and friends in the area in the twenty years I’ve lived there who have had lots of babies. We both stopped to think, and yes, somehow in twenty years of living just ten or so minutes away, we have been the only people in our circle of family and friends who have had our children there, until now. Thinking back, it seems remarkable that almost everyone else we know chose private hospitals and specialist care for the birth of their babies.
Which then led to the realisation that apart from one guest blog post earlier this year which I kept brief, I have never shared my birth stories. Sure, I have referred to some of the details, and I have certainly mentioned how special the birth of my last baby was to me. Yet, despite countless conversations with women ranging from family and close friends to acquaintances, I have never shared my birth stories in detail.
I plan to do that over the next few weeks, with a post devoted to each child. There are also other aspects of birth I want to touch on, from popular TV shows to the ongoing public versus private debate, to the different ways women experience birth in different countries. But even in just thinking it all through in my mind there seems so much to say, that I don’t know quite where to begin. So many feelings and emotions remain explicitly vivid, even after almost nineteen years. Not the pain, that fades. What I do remember are the faces and names of some of the midwives who cared for me, the doctors who came in at the end of the whole thing to whip out their surgical instruments. I remember the blessed midwife who took one child to the nurses station so I could get some sleep. I remember second guessing myself for choosing public hospital/midwife care when everyone around me was telling me what a bad reputation the hospital had and that I needed my own doctor. I remember hearing about birth centres and scoffing. I still cringe when I think how woefully unprepared I was as I waltzed in for my first baby, firm in the belief that pain relief was for bad/wimpy mothers, and if a woman in Africa could squat and deliver her baby, then goddammit so could I.
Then there are the tricks our memories play on us. The way that the pain of contractions fades the second that baby slides out. The blank spots in our memory where once there were sleepless nights and crying. The way all the endless days of shit, vomit, and tears disappear a couple of years later when you hold your brand new niece or nephew and give your husband the look. The same look he gives you when you pass the baby to him. The look that has you driving home having the “are we really doing this again?” discussion. The funny way your memory retains the newborn smell, all sweet and milky. The way your body instinctively remembers the baby dance, and any time you hold a baby you don’t even realise that you are swaying and rocking in that primal need to soothe.
Ahh… how I love babies. My husband has always said he would love to have ten newborns at any given time. (And then hand them back when the teen years hit 😉 ) And I have to agree with him. Their needs are so simple, they are so pure and unpolluted by the world. They are a very special, fleeting chance to hold a living miracle. To see the possibilities in every one of us.
Anyway, dreamy hippie time now being over, I would really love to hear from all of you if there is anything in particular you would like to read about. And a brief word of warning, if you will: I want to state up front that I have a very “natural” slant on the whole process of pregnancy and birth, and have been accused of being an extremist, a hippie, and irresponsible. In discussing birth I often find myself using words like organic, primal, and intimate; and firmly believe that a low risk birth (i.e. one where there is a healthy mother and baby) is the domain of midwives. I believe that obstetricians are there to deal with complications, and certain situations that may not be dangerous but may be uncommon. I do not judge any woman for any of the choices made by herself and her caregivers. My intention is not to offend, but I would love it if more young women were given a different message regarding what their bodies are capable of.
So join me as I take a trip down memory lane in looking more closely at the births of my four children. Please join me in discussing the birth plan I would like to see put in place for us as a whole society. Let’s talk pregnancy, birth, and babies. Just for a little while, let’s be idealistic and wonder how things could be different.
I look forward to hearing from you,