theatrical perspectives of childbirth

I saw a birth on television today. Not a real birth. A fake one. On a television show.

Usually I just roll my eyes and not give fake births on television any more thought. But today I really watched it, and it got me thinking: why are births portrayed the way they are on TV?

This birth began in the traditional television way: her waters broke. Of course I have actually only ever met one person in real life whose waters breaking were the first indication of impending labour. But until I was pregnant myself I was none the wiser that this is not the normal way for a labour to start.

From the moment of waters breaking, the next scene included the mother-to-be being rushed down a corridor in a wheelchair with a flood of anxious people running behind her. She, typically, was making wild accusations at anyone who would listen, yelling and carrying on about how much it hurt.

From there we enter the hospital theatre, where in a sea of blue plastic, about a million people coach the screaming woman to “push harder!” She responds by screaming various insults at them. When the head begins to crown the father-to-be takes a peek underneath the blue sheet covering the woman and grimaces in disgust at what he sees under there. The people around the bed frown and clasp their hands together. The fifteen odd people waiting in the waiting room pace and worry.

A few minutes later, as the mother lies expectantly and neatly in her bed, a nurse walks into the room and with gloved hands passes over a clean and shiny four month old baby wrapped in a blanket. They smile at each other and everyone sighs.

I understand that a real, true and natural birth in all its powerful glory, would probably be too boring to get ratings. I just wish that birth on TV might sometimes be shown in a relatively real way. I wish that TV didn’t matter, and that people didn’t gain so much of their “knowledge” from watching it. But sadly, the media has a huge influence on what we think, say, believe and do.

I doubt that the portrayal of birth on television will ever change. The main reason it concerns me is because I have my own two girls, who may one day decide to have children of their own. I don’t want them to think that the story above is anything like what birth is all about. From now until that day arrives, I will be doing everything in my power to teach them about real birth. In my house, birth will never be something that is disgusting, painful, horrible, gross or worse: unspoken.

I hope that when my babies watch fake births on TV they will be able to watch and laugh, knowing a fact that is fast becoming a secret in our society: fake births on TV are just that, fake.

My hope for them is that they will reach down and be the first to touch their babies being born into this world. That they might be the ones to first see if they have birthed a boy or a girl. That they will enjoy the power of their bodies being unleashed as they meet their baby for the very first time. That they might lie quietly in the moments after giving birth holding their babies and feeling the warm, slick weight of them on their bare chests, no matter where they choose to be. That they don’t listen when people doubt or scoff at them. That even if things don’t go to plan, that they spend their pregnancies, and their lives, believing that they can give birth and that normal birth is a normal thing.

I hope that they grow up knowing that as women their bodies are capable of more mystery, subtlety, grace, power and miracle than they will ever be able to fathom. And that that is the real normal.

on choosing homebirth…

I haven’t talked much on this blog about Pixie’s pregnancy and birth. I don’t really know why. Probably because while I experienced pregnancy and birth I felt like it was all very private, too private for such a public space. While I had a warm little soul slowly growing inside me, it was so intimate, I couldn’t bring it here, not too often, not too much.

The Pixie is almost six months old, can you believe it? So now I think it’s time. It’s time to tell you, if you hadn’t already guessed, that we had a homebirth this time. There is so much to say and to share about this. Today I will give you a glimpse, a snippet, or I fear this post will be pages long.

Some part of me still feels disbelief that we actually did it. Did I really do that? In the quiet dark of my lounge room with a select circle of hushed supporters, gentle hands placed on my shoulders, my back? Or was it just a dream?

It was a hard choice. It didn’t come easily. There was so much pulling this way and that. So many opinions. I was drowning in them, mainly – but certainly not all – of the rude and negative variety. With quiet minds and much research behind us, we followed our hearts and did what we knew was best – for us. We didn’t tell many people. We kept to ourselves and our support team (who, because I’m sure you are interested, was made up of my naturopath during early labour, then, two midwives – one of whom is my sister – a doctor, my husband and my mum). We did not have a placard to hold or a message for other women and men. Not then, not yet. We believed in our decision and did not feel we should have to justify it to people who were mainly uneducated about our choice, particularly while I was pregnant. I did not want people’s comments, fears and ill-informed ideas sticking to me, attaching themselves to my thoughts, my days and my baby. This was harder said than done. I stayed within myself and the decision we had made as a couple as much as possible.

But then we hit an obstacle. It shouldn’t be as big an obstacle as it was at the time. But there it was nonetheless: Pixie was breech from 29 weeks. (Of COURSE she was!) I have written a much more detailed version of my breech experience and Pixie’s birth here, if you care to read it. Personally we decided we would prefer to go to hospital if she was breech, however unfortunately it seemed our options here were horribly thin in this regard, disgustingly so… After much to-ing and fro-ing, we had an external version in hospital at 36 weeks, and from then on, a blessing: little Pixie stayed head down until the day of her birth, and our meeting, in the sacred space of my own home with people who had shared my entire pregnancy with me (both pregnancies actually, aside from my doctor), who knew my ins and outs, who understood me, who cared about me and my baby.

Having experienced both a hospital and a homebirth, I can see both have their merits. But what I see clearest of all is the right of all women to choose their most appropriate path, the path that after much education and discussion, suits their baby and them best – not a doctor or a midwife or a homebirth advocate or their mother or their next-door neighbour’s husband’s cousin. And not be judged for their decision.

Afterall, though I suppose they are out there, I am yet to meet another mother that did not have their baby’s best wishes in the forefront of their minds, regardless of how they chose to navigate pregnancy and birth “options.”

Where did you have your baby? Did you love or hate being pregnant and giving birth? Or somewhere in-between? Did you feel supported? Knowledgeable? In control? Safe? I’d love to hear your stories too.

*I feel funny calling this a “public space” as although it is extremely public, I continually have to remind myself that people actually read this.

one month today

It was deep in the night when I met you for the first time, one month ago today. We had a bit of a false start but once you decided you were really ready it only took 4 hours before you were in my arms. I wondered how I could have enough love to share between two children, knowing that it must be possible, and it certainly is. Your skin was so warm, glowing and soft in that moment. Everyone had cups of tea afterwards, we sat around talking about you, midwifery, the state of things, life. The night and day following felt foggy, like some strange split in time, I can still find the feeling of it and experience it again. Your big sister blew out a candle for you, Nanny brought a birthday cake. We ate lots of food and lay around, laughing, dozing. We stayed that way for over a week.

This week your face and spirit is opening up to the world. We are seeing you for the first time. You are finding our gaze and holding it, you’re smiling. Your favourite thing to look at is your sister, being silly and jumping around. I have a feeling that is not going to change for a long time. I am waking up too and slowly adjusting to our nocturnal cuddles in the dim light.

Our family feels full with you in it. It seems like we were just practicing at playing families before, now we are the real deal. Thank you for coming, we all love you so much.

27 weeks

Time is funny when you’re pregnant.

It’s fast. But slow. It seems to fly by and change constantly, but when you look back to the day when you first found out, it seems like a life time ago.

27 weeks now. It’s hard not to compare to my first pregnancy. At the same time though, it’s hard to remember what happened and when the first time around. It’s hard to imagine a baby that isn’t my Baby, now a toddler! It’s been a slow process this time, connecting and acknowledging a new life, brand new, different. Allowing the time and the space to nurture a connection between me and this new little bub, kicking and flipping around inside, vying for my attention.

I so enjoy being pregnant. I feel lucky. The whole experience amazes and excites me. There are certain discomforts, but the miracle of it all overwhelms me and I try to focus on that.

I suspect due to some sort of imbalance I suffer from a terrible case of baby-brain. Or maybe it is just Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that the pregnant woman goes within when she needs to. I did get mighty vague last time too, but not this early! People have been suggesting upping the omega’s and so on, which I am doing, but at the same time I have to admit it’s a rather nice place to be. Blissfully content and mainly unaware of external interference. Vague and slightly on the ditsy side.

It’s ok.

I’m enjoying the pregnancy bubble, for this time around I know that nothing lasts forever.

around home

I’ve been trying to spend some more time at home this week. Last weekend we celebrated my 30th and my grandpa’s 80th birthdays with family, went to a christening, got up early for a birthday breakfast and finished it off on Sunday night with a birthday dinner. This is on top of our regular swimming lesson and morning market type weekend activities. Baby didn’t have either of her two day sleeps due to being out and about and falling asleep in the car for [literally] 30 seconds before getting home on one of the days which was enough to give her a boost of energy to last until evening, apparently!

By Sunday afternoon I found myself in a big weepy heap in bed with Baby and the laptop watching Play School and mopping at myself with a hanky, trying to pull it together to get ready to go out for dinner. It ordinarily would have been just a busy weekend, but being half way through a pregnancy as well, things are finally starting to catch up and my mind and body are both saying slooooowwwwww dowwwwwwwwn.

During my first pregnancy it was easier to have time to myself and connect with the little being growing inside me. Being pregnant was all I ever thought about. This time I have to really make a conscious effort to put aside the time to think about, connect and be with my ever expanding belly. Yoga once a week is helping, and a pregnancy meditation CD that I had last time has been great, just listening to one track before bed to finish off the day.

I think the most important thing I need to do at the moment though is to stop booking things into every spare moment of time I have, and just enjoy some more time around home.

my top five books to read during pregnancy

I thought I would share some of the books I enjoyed reading during my first pregnancy, and am again finding new life and perspective in the second time around. There are so many books out there about pregnancy and childbirth, it can be hard to find your way.

Before you read on, please note, I’m so not the type of person interested in ‘funny’ pregnancy books that try to make you laugh and have cartoon pictures (Gee, aren’t I oh so boring). In pregnancy I like to read books that educate me (about real birth, not birth as our culture likes to see it), books that calm me, and books that remind me about trust – my body knows what to do.

:: The natural way to a better pregnancy – Francesca Naish & Janette Roberts

This is a great book written by two naturopaths, although sometimes you do have to take their advice with a grain of salt as it can be slightly overwhelming. Remember even when things are beneficial, the stress of doing/not doing something can often counteract the benefit. Take things slowly, step by step.

:: The Complete Book of Pregnancy & ChildbirthSheila Kitzinger

The title speaks for itself, and any pregnant lassie who doesn’t know about Sheila Kitzinger, please do yourself a favour and click on the link!! Ignore the dated website. She is amazing. You can also see her on the The Face of Birth.

:: Well Adjusted Babies – Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani

This book addresses a number of different topics from health issues, fertility, pregnancy, vaccination, holistic parenting, nutrition, and chiropractics. Our chiropractor friend lent us a copy a while back and I loved it so bought our own to keep in the birth/kiddie library I have slowly collected. A goodie!

:: Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful – Gurmukh

I love this book. I borrowed it from the library last pregnancy and boy was I glad when my puppy at the time had a good old chew on it and I got to keep it! It was a blessing. Unfortunately between pregnancies I lent it to a friend who I have fallen out of touch with (circumstantial, nothing nasty!) and so last week I re-ordered a copy for myself. I was surprised to find it for sale for $15 after it being at about $45 last time I was pregnant. Nice surprise! I went to this book whenever I felt doubt, fear, anxiety, stress or anything else related to the birth in particular. I would flip it open to a random page, and read. It has plenty of kundalini meditations and other lovely warm advice.

:: Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering – Sarah J Buckley

Last but definitely not least is Sarah Buckley’s book. If I were only going to buy one book from this list, it would be this one. It’s Australian, and is written by a mother and GP who has had four home births. She knows her stuff. There is hard evidence in here as well as reassuring information.

Which books were your favourite to read during pregnancy?

more business of being born

I just got back from my first Maternity Coalition Movie Night. I am so thrilled my friend R invited me. It was great and fabulous and the film we watched was GOOD and I liked it. I was sitting there watching it and forming words in my mind to type into this blog tomorrow. But now I’m here and I’m home and buzzing from the atmosphere there so I just have to, I just have to post it now!

So many pregnant ladies and I have come home with all their positive abundant energy, phew and wow! Rhea Dempsey spoke after the film and she just rounded off the whole evening perfectly. Oh, that and the fact that my midwife from Baby’s birth was there which was just wonderful and lovely and full of hugs and kisses on the cheek and all motherly midwifey such and such.

There was popcorn and chocolate muffins too.

Night all xo

Women

I’m feeling a bit sad about women today.

The idea of womanhood, to me, is for us to stick together and learn from each other and gently teach each other what we know.

I heard two stories today – one from a friend and one online – of two women. The first story was about a woman who is choosing to have an induction for the birth of her first child because her obstetrician is going on holiday and she has paid a lot of money for him to be there for the birth of her child. The second woman was a friend of a friend of a friend, commenting on facebook about booking in for a caesarean because birth is too ‘disturbing’.

This made me feel deeply sad.

Not only because these women (both of whom I have never met!) seem to have an incredible lack of understanding about birth, and inherently – womanhood. But also because, one might assume from the outside, they have no women in their lives who have shared positive stories about birth, pregnancy, new beginnings, life.

I am not being judgemental of other’s birth choices. I believe it is each individual’s prerogative to make the choices they feel are right for them. The catch is whether or not those choices are informed.

If we don’t share positive stories about pregnancy and birth, and pass on information about the power of our bodies and our babies, is it any wonder that women believe what they see on television, and opt for the operating table?

I wonder…