Saturday, 19 November 2011

NHS, it's not about the birth - a cautionary note.

“Which hospital do you want to go to?”

What a question to start such a journey, on reflection this would have been a good point to cut and run but I suppose hindsight is a wonderful thing.

We were given a choice of two. A choice, we mused, we didn’t even know we could choose where to give birth and to be offered a choice seemed great. “These are the tests we can run for various things, have a think about it and let me know if you want to go ahead with them.”

I was talked down to at this first meeting,” It will be okay when you go in to hospital – there’ll even be something there for daddy to do.” No attempt to engage by knowing the first thing about you, no questions to reveal I already have two children despite this being our first. No preamble, no time maybe for niceties in the cut and thrust world of baby delivering.

Fast forward a week and to a phone call, “I’m just here with your neighbour who’s pregnant – did you say you wanted the test or not?”
What a question to be asked over the phone, in front of a neighbour – is this patient care?

The first scan, great – a chance to see the baby. Not really. A chance to start the clock. Must stick to the schedule. The countdown starts to plus or minus 3 days from the Estimated Date of Delivery. No news yet as to how many women give birth within this prediction. Telling the future has been the sole preserve of mediums and weathermen before the scan. Now it is presented as medical fact that you will give birth within this time or we will induce you. The schedule must be right. No room for doubt, for family history or individuality here. Must stick to the schedule.

Then a letter. You need to come for a repeat scan. With the consultant. No explanation there then, time to worry a little. In we go. “Why are you here?” she asks.
 We don’t know and now we are worried. Why are we here?
“You’re fine and so is your baby.”  Relief and anger in equal measure. What was that about then?

“We want to have a home birth.”
“ Right, time to get out my list to check you can then. Yadiyadiya. You seem to fit the profile of acceptable home births. Yadiyadiya. I’ll need to check your house and you’ll need plastic sheeting… a lamp Yadiyadiya. Ah there’s butter, you use butter not marg – you can have a home birth”.

EDD looms large. ’Hospital is not a good place’ going around our heads. My daughters birth by butchery seared onto my brain. What place in birth does hack and deliver have after failed induction, epidural and drugs a plenty?

Consultant meeting. To discuss our choice for a home birth and question the validity of EDD estimations.  “Do you know how many still born babies I’ve delivered to women like you?” Sounds like coercion at best and emotional blackmail at worst to me. At 41 weeks is this the way to speak to an expectant mother? Giving an unknown fear a face based on anecdote. Bullying. Coercian.

Be gone our system of care, away from my life for good. No longer will I listen as you give me information I know to be a lie. How powerful you think you are. What ivory tower do you look down from surrounded by contrary evidence a plenty. Your own actions at odds with everything you purport to stand for?

One born every minute.
What new travesty is this that birth has been reduced to? Mother and baby are both alive. Is this really the best we can do? The gold standard of care from a natural process that’s evolved to further the species is that they’re both alive. What place does a hospital have in birth anyway?
 Doctors have medical knowledge. They apply this knowledge.
Midwives have knowledge of birth, the hospital experience too often shields them from the beautiful simplicity of a natural birth.
 Women have knowledge of how to birth. They are blinded from this knowledge.

“They have drugs to take away any of the pain.”
“Take everything you are offered, I did.”
“ Have a c section, it’s so much easier.”
“I was coaching breathe, push push push, now breathe, push push push. It really helped.”

I’m horrified by every conversation that contains these sentiments and worse.

You’ve missed the point.
Babies are birthed not delivered.
The responsibility for this lies with you. Don’t lie back and think someone else will do this for you. Don’t lie back at all for that matter.
You grew this baby. Your body will grow a baby you can birth. Take heed, you’ve got nine months to learn to listen to your body as you once listened to your mothers heart beat as you grew. Nine months to learn that birth is a transformational experience. That pizzas are ‘deliverd’.

Your body will provide the drugs you need from within. Far stronger than any you could buy or take. Far more in tune with what you need. Your own bespoke cocktail to take you far away but still in touch. In control of your own destiny and choices while the new life emerges.

 “The pain,” they say, “the pain.” This is not to downplay the fact it will hurt. Of course it will. How can it be transformational without pain? Not unmanageable pain though, the pain of a new life. This is part of the ‘birthing a baby’ package you signed up for. To deny that part of the experience is to deny the chance you have to change your life forever.

 A town, a city, a country - filled with women transformed through birth would be a formidable place indeed to live. Women. Couples. Empowered to affect change secure in the knowledge that nothing is impossible.

 Don’t put more effort into researching your next car, job or holiday than you would into birth and what it means to you. Make your choices based on what you can find out, not on what you're given. How valid are the methods and drugs advised to you? Who were the sample women for the research? How similar are they to you? Come to terms with the choices you can make and be at peace with all the outcomes. When you’ve made that journey, come through the other side and life is forever a more satisfying experience you’ll thank yourself.

 Become a champion of your world. Raise your own expectations and base them in reality. A reality that can offer you your dreams, if you only knew.

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