For those who don't know what the #MatExp ABC is:
Each day over on twitter, midwives, mothers, obstetricians and anyone else who wants to join in are sharing a word which is important to them and which relates to maternity care. I've been joining in and also trying to link my words to old blog posts, to give a more detailed explanation of my thoughts for anyone interested (some people seem to be so that's nice!). Today though I've struggled to find a post that puts it succinctly enough so I'm writing something new.
D is for Demonising
My NCT teacher had some pretty strong opinions about childbirth. She was a retired midwife and, understandably had a great deal of love and respect for her profession. Those feelings did not extend to her former colleagues with medical degrees.
We were taught that "normal", natural, ideally home birth was a wonderful thing and that it was achievable by almost anyone so long as we kept mobile, banished our fears and were helped only by midwives and doulas. But stray from her principles and horrors awaited us. There were doctors just desperate to turn our births into cold, medical procedures, soley to speed it up for their own benefit. Or because they were terrified of the minute chance that something would go wrong and they would be sued. If we allowed fear to creep in and agreed to pain relief or that first intervention, then we would surely be stepping off a cliff into an inevitable cascade of worsening tortures.
At most times I am quite pragmatic and rational, but I challenge anyone to maintain that after 24 hours of labour. With hindsight it made perfect sense to transfer from the birthing pool in the midwife led unit to the obstetric unit so I could let modern medicine help things along and get some pain relief and rest. But at the time it felt like an utter defeat, like I was surrendering my body and my will to whatever my sinister new masters dictated. I hadn't been afraid when I went into labour, as I moved along that corridor, towards the doctors and their machines, I was utterly terrified.
Being unafraid didn't prevent problems in my case, perhaps it does help others. However, those who seem in a position of authority, who present themselves as knowledgeable on the subject, should never try to remove the fear from one kind of birth by piling it onto all others. Most low risk pregnant women won't have to deal with doctors unless and until something goes wrong. So they have only other people's opinions of them to go on. If those opinions lump all doctors and all interventions together to be demonised - what does that do to the woman waiting for her first encounter with the obstetrician?
Wanting a "normal" birth, even if you have everything seemingly in your favour, can never entirely guarantee one. How much worse, then, is the fear of all those women who unexpectedly find they will need those demon doctors and tortuous medical acts?
D is for Demons
For a long time after MissE was born I carried my own demons. The ones who kept telling me I'd failed by having an emergency Casearean. Who suggested perhaps I just didn't try hard enough, that perhaps it wasn't really as necessary as I wanted to believe. For a long time I thought the only way to be free from them was to prove that I could do better next time. That I could give birth naturally and have one of those wonderful, empowering, birth experiences they were telling me I had thrown away. But those demons are gone now, and when it came to it, that wasn't what drove them out at all.
I didn't placate them by passing their test. My Demons were vanquished when I lay, calm and determined, on an operating table. My body was cut open by a man I had only just met, but I was not afraid or submissive. I had looked at all the evidence and all the options and I had chosen this. I had been taught that a woman's power in childbirth came from nature. But nature can be random and cruel, last time she would have casually watched me and my baby die. This time I decided not to leave it to her whims, I found power in the human creations of science and modern medicine and in myself choosing the safest way to protect my baby girl on her short trip into this world. As she arrived, the bright winter sun poured in through the window and I sent my demons flying out into it.