Bry­ony Gor­don

A birth not go­ing to plan is en­tirely nat­u­ral

The Daily Telegraph - - News Review & Features -

My body, the mon­strous thing that it is, had other ideas

‘You’ll be want­ing a water birth, of course.” I nod­ded vig­or­ously. I wasn’t ac­tu­ally sure I wanted a water birth – I had heard that you needed to pack a colan­der in your hos­pi­tal bag to scoop up the… well, let’s not go there – but the way the mid­wife made her state­ment sug­gested that any other re­sponse would be met with a Padding­ton Bear-style long hard stare.

“Or you could al­ways have a home birth!” she said, cheer­fully, as if she had just asked if I fan­cied a cup of tea and a bis­cuit. “If you have a com­pli­ca­tion-free preg­nancy, there’s no rea­son why you shouldn’t be able to have your baby in the com­fort of your own home.”

But she hadn’t been to my home, which at the time was a tiny flat where there was barely room to swing a cat. We had just got a nice new sofa. I wasn’t sure I wanted it cov­ered in… well, let’s not go there.

I mean, of course I

wanted a home birth, or a water birth, in much the same way that I have al­ways wanted to win the lot­tery and marry Brad Pitt. In an ideal world, where there was peace in the Mid­dle East and an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent who didn’t think that some Nazis were fine peo­ple, I would have got to my due date, gone to a preg­nancy yoga class, then re­turned home to sneeze my baby out of my vagina with­out the slight­est bit of pain.

I mean, I was to­tally and ut­terly 100 per cent up for “nat­u­ral” child­birth. There would be can­dles, there would be golden thread breath­ing, there would be a playlist that prob­a­bly in­volved whale sounds.

But then my body, the mon­strous, un­nat­u­ral thing that it is, had other ideas, and after 36-odd hours of huff­ing, puff­ing and some pretty fruit­less push­ing, I was whisked into the­atre, where a con­sul­tant an­nounced that my baby was stuck and its heart rate was drop­ping and he was very sorry but they were go­ing to have per­form an emer­gency cae­sarean sec­tion. I didn’t know why he was apol­o­gis­ing – it would all be over in three min­utes, and so it was, and four and a bit years on I have a healthy child who is about to start school.

How I thanked the Lord for the won­der of modern medicine and doc­tors. Had it been the late-19th cen­tury, one or both of us would al­most cer­tainly have died. And yet women who have C sec­tions are told their births aren’t nat­u­ral and are made to feel as if they have fallen at the very first hur­dle of moth­er­hood – see Denise Van Outen, who this week said that hav­ing a cae­sarean made her feel like a “fail­ure”.

A birth that hap­pens any other way than through the vagi­nal canal is as much a stain on a mother’s char­ac­ter as it is a sim­ple bi­o­log­i­cal balls-up.

Friends of mine have been trau­ma­tised by a birth that didn’t go to plan – the early days of moth­er­hood clouded by a sense that they are just not up to it. But it has al­ways seemed cu­ri­ous to me that the only parts of a hu­man we don’t ex­pect to ever go wrong are parts that be­long to a woman: wombs for cre­at­ing ba­bies and breasts for feed­ing them. Our eye­sight may be poor, our hearts might be dodgy, we can have a bad back, but get a woman preg­nant and watch as the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment steps aside and leaves her at the hands of the nat­u­ral child­birth lobby, who will get her through labour with hyp­nother­apy and good vibes, and God damn those women who are too posh to push (or just hap­pen to be on the verge of still­birth).

Thank­fully, things seem to be chang­ing, though it is not be­fore time. This week, the Royal Col­lege of Mid­wives (RCM) qui­etly aban­doned its decade-long cam­paign for nat­u­ral child­birth, say­ing that it

made women feel like fail­ures. More dam­ag­ing, though, is the dan­ger it has put moth­ers and ba­bies in. As part of this cam­paign, the RCM web­site ad­vised mid­wives that, dur­ing labour, they should “wait and see – let nat­u­ral phys­i­ol­ogy take its own time”, and if they were un­cer­tain they should “trust their in­tu­ition”.

New Sci­en­tist re­ported that these poli­cies are “di­rectly at odds with safety ad­vice to con­sult guide­lines on how fre­quently to check the baby’s heart rate… and to seek sec­ond opin­ions to make sure dan­ger signs are not be­ing missed”.

Last month, a ma­jor au­dit by the Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists found that more than three quar­ters of new­borns who die or are left brain dam­aged in ma­ter­nity units might have been saved with the right care. And on Tues­day, it was re­vealed that a “cult-like” fix­a­tion on “nor­mal” birth had fu­elled a record rise in new­born ba­bies with brain in­juries.

Preg­nancy is not an ill­ness, but nei­ther is child­birth straight­for­ward. Yes, there are plenty of women who lis­ten to a hyp­no­birthing CD and go on to have their ba­bies quickly and safely, but just be­cause they can it doesn’t mean the same can be said for ev­ery­one.

And yet, again and again, women are left with­out proper care be­cause… well, why, ex­actly? Be­cause it’s cheaper to de­liver a baby through a vagina than it is through a C sec­tion? Well, yes. But it’s not if you then end up hav­ing to pay out mil­lions of pounds in com­pen­sa­tion to the par­ent of a se­verely dis­abled or dead child.

I wish we would stop ob­sess­ing about the way women give birth.

An un­nat­u­ral birth is one where a woman feels un­safe be­cause of a dog­matic ap­proach that would not be tol­er­ated in any other field of health­care. The most nat­u­ral birth of all is sim­ply the one that is best for the mother and baby.

Healthy and happy: Bry­ony Gor­don and her daugh­ter Edie

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.