Thursday, April 9, 2009

Birth: what's really important?

One of my favourite blogs, MamaMia, recently featured a hot and heavy debate around home-birthing. I'm not going to go into the issues here - you can read the post (and the 100 or so comments) at Mia's site - but it got me wondering why, as women, we put so much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect birth "experience".

Just think about it. We approach birth with the fervour of a professional event manager. We go to weeks of prenatal classes to prepare (but are rarely similarly educated as to what comes next); buy gadgets to ready our body i.e. Epi-No; construct detailed birth plans; compile mood music - all aimed at staging the perfect entry into the world for our precious baby.

And when things don't go to plan - as they sometimes don't - we beat ourselves up about it. Some women experience post natal depression or feel robbed that things didn't happen the way they'd hoped...and somewhere along the way, we lose sight of what labour and birth are all about. Creating new life.

Does it really matter how a baby is born? I don't think so. My birth plan with Olivia was pretty much to go with the flow...I figured it was impossible to plan for something I'd never experienced before. I'd see how I went drug free and, if I really needed something, then bring it on. As it happened, I had an epidural after 11 hours of labour and then ended up having an emergency caesarean when she went into fetal distress. Not exactly how I'd pictured things happening, but the important thing was that she was healthy.

My biggest worry was that the hour I spent in recovery after birth would somehow hinder the bonding process (ALL the books bang on about the importance of immediate skin-on-skin contact). Well, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter one iota. When Sophia was born 10 weeks early I didn't touch her for a day; hold her for five; or breastfeed her for six weeks - and we couldn't adore each other more.

But back to Olivia's birth...the next day a midwife stopped by to ask me if I wanted to "talk to someone" about not having the birth experience I'd wanted. I was like, "'s here...she's safe. All good." As far as I'm concerned, the arrival is the important part, not whether bub has made their exit via the sunroof or the, um (searches for appropriate metaphor), boot.

It was after I got out of hospital that I realised how many women view caesars as a bit of a cop out. I found myself tacking "after 14 hours of labour and fetal distress" onto the end of the sentence whenever anyone asked how I'd given birth. It was as if I had to prove I'd done the hard yards.

In my mind, how a woman chooses to give birth is her choice. Another caesar would have been my choice for Sophia (as it turned out, that was my only option in the end). Some of my best friends have had their babies at the local birthing centre - and that suited them. And, even though I don't believe in home births, they may be right for someone else.

It's each woman's body, her child, her risk, her responsibility to her women, let's respect that. After all, birth itself is fleeting - it's the love and nurturing you give your child for the rest of her life that's important.


reality raver said...

I think the focus on the labour and birth process sucks a lot of thought time during pregnancy and then the baby is born and you are wondering what the hell to do with it.

carwon said...

Well said!
With my first born I had no idea about anything books, nothing, only mother's and M-I-L's knowledge? of birth. After goodness knows how many injections for the severity of the pain due to being induced (pre-eclampsia) a very bleary-eyed mother welcomed her beautiful daughter into the world. I can't recall the actual moment of birth but was NOT upset at that, just ecstatic to hold and speak to my baby girl who was a healthy 7lbs and 1/2 oz.
With the birth of my next child I had made up my mind that I would NOT take any medication so as to experience what I felt I missed with Baby No. 1. The idea was good but the Sisters (a Calvary hospital) had other ideas and tried to force the mask on me. They believed I could not take the pain so the last push was a fight between the pushing out of the baby and pushing the mask off my face. I won! Although I had a very sore nose for a time after! I saw my second baby daughter emerge and although both births were so different my feelings towards both babies were exactly the same! Instant and unconditional love!
As long as your baby/babies are born healthy and happy why does it matter what their birth process was!

Susan_SwanJames said...

I agree! Let me tell you about birthing plans... they go right out the window when you have complications. My dream was to have a home-birthing experience, but it was not to be. My daughter was born 14 weeks early, and spent 5 months in hospital. I grieved missing out on the last 3 months of pregnancy, forget home birthing plan. I would have done anything to keep her in to term. It put everything into perspective for me....