Saturday, 29 March 2008

Competitive, again!

Staying on the competition theme for a while, I was shocked to read a bbc news article that women are now going into labour unprepared for pain. They believe that labour is "natural" and that pain is all in the mind, and if you are adequately prepared you will simply be able to breathe the baby into the world.

Years ago... well actually not that long ago... births were over-medicalised. Women were prepared for overwhelming pain. Births took place in a hospital, flat on your back, with you prepped as if for major surgery, with an enema administered to resolve any "pushing issues" (since it simply isn't done to poop during birth!) shaved and exposed, episiotomy as a matter of course, and even - in some cases - 'scoped unconscious. Of course many argued, quite rightly for some, that this was totally unnecessary.

The world turned and times changed and now we are at a place where the ideal is to give birth in your own home, without pain relief, with candles, and a tub and a choir of heavenly angels welcoming the new cherub, born into his mother's hands and lifted to her naked breast while the cord pulsates. If you don't achieve this, you are a failure.

So now even childbirth is seen as a competition, with congratulations lavished on the select few who achieve their perfection and commiserations offered to those who ended up with the "wrong" birth - "I'm sorry you didn't get the birth you wanted".

The truth is that childbirth is different each and every time. It is unrealistic to tell women that "it's just cramps" or "yeah, it hurt a bit but then it didn't matter because you have a baby and it's all worth it". Labour is called that for a reason - it is bloody hard work and it hurts. It may not be overwhelming-worst-pain-in-the-world but it also isn't sunshine and flowers. There are women who do the home birth, there are women who give birth in hospital. There are women who opt for a section, and woman who simply write "drug me" on their birth plans*. There are women who think there birth will go a certain way, but it ends up totally different, due to tiredness or illness or any of a hundred different reasons. That doesn't make it "wrong". None of these are "wrong". There is no single "right" way to give birth, and it is ridiculous to judge ourselves (for make no mistake, the one who judges you a failure is usually yourself, not others).

Like a Bridezilla obsessed with "It's All About Me", we need to learn that it isn't the wedding, it is the marriage that is important. It isn't the jouney but the arrival, and surely as long as we arrive safely it doesn't matter what route we took?

Pop quiz: Look at my three beautiful children. Who was born naturally, who by section? Who by induction, who with an epidural, who with no pain relief? Who came out by herself, who was lifted out by the doctor, and who was pulled out with forceps? Competition closed to members of my Birth Board lol, answers on the back of a sealed box of Ferrero Rocher, winner receives half my haul of choccy. A quarter. Some. You can sniff the wrappers, okay?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7292565.stm

*I didn't do this. Uh-uh. Really. I wrote "drug me please" since I was dragged up proper-like.

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