It will enable me to approach the whole process with a degree of detachment. A quick Internet search produces two titles which make me believe in serendipity: the volume entitled Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge Davis-Floyd and Sargent referred to above and Ethnographically Speaking , edited by Brochner and Ellis The latter becomes addictive bedtime reading and keeps me awake at night! Lesa Lockford, for example, claims that.
The experience of pregnancy and childbirth is a political issue, which I hope my birth narrative may also address.
There are still two months to go before my due date and I also feel it is important to write this part of the narrative before the birth so that I can compare the birth experience with my initial impressions, and indeed prejudices, of how I thought it would be. After all, each birth is different even within the same health service. I took one more appointment with the obstetrician and my husband came along too. The next step is to have a chat with a midwife I know, who used to work at the hospital and now teaches at the local nursing school.
It has occurred to me that she might be able to let me see the ward beforehand, which would probably help to put me more at ease. In the meantime, acquaintances continue to share their birth stories with me. Yesterday, I was told by a woman how she had requested an epidural which was injected directly into her veins by mistake. Surprised at her ability to feel the contractions, she was able to feel herself push the baby out and only discovered later that she was lucky to be alive! I bumped into the midwife and seized the opportunity to have a chat. She suggested that I call her when I go into labour — any hour of the day or night.
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I am moved and reassured by her readiness to help, especially since she emphasized that there is no guarantee that my husband will be able to be present; if the ward is busy then he may not be allowed in! I still cherish a secret hope that when the moment comes I will somehow be able to do it my way. Nonetheless, she has also warned me that they are very likely to put me on an intravenous drip! The article on issues of choice and control in American childbirth raises a crucial point when it claims that women who assert themselves may be resented by hospital staff and even given inferior treatment.
It seems to me that an angry birthing woman, together with annoyed and angry medical staff, is not the best reception for a newborn! So although I have not given up my bedtime reading, I am reading in smaller doses and with a view to finding my own personal strategy through all of this. It has occurred to me that it is ironic that I appear to be doing things in reverse. Many women who have homebirths will do so after having had their first child in hospital. Fearful though I was during my first pregnancy, it was thanks to preparation classes in Brighton with the NCT 11 that I developed the desire and the courage to have a homebirth.
At the beginning of the pregnancy, my husband had nonchalantly suggested a homebirth, since he was born at home in a small village in Northern Portugal in the late s, when hospital births were not yet the norm in rural Portugal. I was horrified by the idea. However, after becoming more informed through the NCT preparation classes, I began to warm to the idea.
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I went for my final scan today. I had been warned that I would have to wait quite a long time so I decided to take the book Ethnographically Speaking Brochner and Ellis Surely this is a way out: to cultivate my curiosity about what this completely different birth experience will be like. Prejudging the event is no good for the mother or for the researcher!
Will it be possible to have dialogue with the medical staff? In other words, do I have to choose between total submission to the authority of the hospitalized medical system or adamant resistance? Could there be a third option? This reminded me of a point raised by Jordan. What if the midwife, who has so kindly offered to accompany me, is able to serve as a bridge between my perspective and that of the medical staff? What actually happens on the day cannot be anticipated, but, already, I can feel that fear is giving way to curiosity….
I now know what it feels like to be wired up to a fetal monitor. The nurse told me that it is customary to be wired up throughout the first stage of labour. I recall attending yoga-based classes for pregnant women in the UK where I learnt how the feeling of fear can increase pain. In one of these sessions, I remember hearing a woman remark that before the birth it feels like you are facing an enormous mountain, but that after the birth, life rolls on like a never ending plain. I went to buy a new teapot and, once again, found that my cumbersome presence prompted the woman who attended me to share her unsolicited birth story.
Having only recently experienced the fetal monitor for myself, and consequently having chosen to read more about it, I was intrigued to discover how her account corroborated the point made by Davis-Floyd that the routine use of the fetal monitor conveys the message to birthing women that their bodies are not to be trusted Davis-Floyd , in Wagner He told her the baby would only be born in a week or two. Nevertheless, he decided to look at her scans and was annoyed to find that she had only brought the last one with her.
She also gave me a detailed description of how she had suffered the complication of a ruptured placenta. How many more stories will I hear before I have my own to tell? The ease with which this woman, whom I barely knew, passionately shared her unsolicited story with me suggests that she carried negative pent up feelings about the birth around with her.
We accept what is claimed, simply because it is said, and we pass it on, further disseminating the claim. Kay argues that the favoring of negative birth stories over positive ones in everyday conversations and the popular media, serves to accentuate childbirth as a medical event, which needs to be managed, rather than as an emotionally embodied experience. Ironically, for this to be possible, the birth had to be pre-arranged and was hence more likely to be medically managed.
A friend invited me to attend a seminar at the local nursing school on childbirth. The first session I attended was a very detailed exposition of how to administer an epidural, including a discussion of the benefits and risks. The speaker was an anaesthetist from the local hospital who firmly believed that the benefits far outweighed the risks and concluded her presentation by claiming that epidurals should be available to everybody because they constitute the best option of pain relief available. The final presentation was poles apart: a discussion and a film on water births in Belgium.
The midwife, who presented the film, had worked for nine years in Luxembourg and she spoke my language: positive birth experience, respecting the natural rhythms of birth, the role of the natural production of endorphins, not only in pain relief but in experiencing the overwhelming emotions of love and joy at the sight of the newborn. So the mother-to-be can relax even if the researcher feels slightly guilty that somehow she may be cheating!
Here I am, at the foot of the mountain, geared up for the climb and nothing is happening. I had not been prepared for the emotional experience of emerging triumphantly from the hospital entrance with my newborn baby into the big wide world. Although everybody was going about their business as usual, I felt that a red carpet and trumpets were called for.
No-body turned their heads! No matter! I could feel a lump in my throat as I walked into the brisk sunny day with baby wrapped up in my arms. We had a baby boy! It all began on the morning of 15 November when I started to have contractions in bed. At around 6. At this stage I was dozing through the intervals of each contraction but by the time the alarm clock went off at 8.
However, things started to move more quickly: I could feel a trickle and went to the bathroom to investigate. I called out for my husband to bring me the mobile phone to ring my guardian angel. I could hear the girls chattering as they got ready for school. My guardian angel said that I should start going to hospital just in case I was having a detached placenta. I felt a little panicky and went quickly into the bedroom to get dressed. I called out to my husband who was in the kitchen fixing breakfast for the girls. I could feel the contractions coming thicker and faster.
I sneaked into the kitchen to eat some bread for breakfast. Finally, we reached the hospital.
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I refused to be dropped off by my husband at the emergency entrance because I wanted him to come with me and so we parked the car in the car park together and then walked down a sloping road to the hospital. It was a bright sunny day and we had a beautiful view of the town. I had to keep stopping to breathe through contractions and it reminded us both of the birth of our first daughter in which part of the first stage of labour was spent in sunny Preston Park just opposite our flat. She took us quickly through the bureaucracy, explaining to hospital officials that birth was imminent.
They wanted me to go on a stretcher or wheel chair but I said that I wanted to walk and the three of us walked the length of the corridor to the lift.
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There were a number of people inside the lift, including one of the obstetricians on duty that morning. She and my guardian angel took me straight into a room to be examined while my husband waited outside. The obstetrician announced that I was already eight centimetres dilated and that birth was imminent. Another woman present in the room, who I realized later was her attendant midwife, asked me if I felt the urge to push. I certainly did! I had already felt the urge in the car on the way to school.
I climbed on to the narrow delivery bed which was situated in the middle of a small square room and was told to take off my clothes and put on a kind of overall. Although the bed was equipped with stirrups and bars along each side to hold on to, I was feeling calm and assured because the midwife had spoken a few empathetic words with me before hand. So although the delivery bed was a poor substitute for a sofa, cushions and a protected floor; I was not forced to put my legs up in stirrups or even to go on the drip.