Today’s Daily Mail* features an article claiming that it’s actually better for second-time mums to have home births, but not first-time ones. On behalf of the whole of womankind I would like to say this:
SHUT THE FUCKING FUCK UP!!!
(You’re allowed to include extra swear words when it’s on behalf of other people as well.)
I am so, so tired of women having to experience their own labours, each a hugely personal and potentially terrifying experience, as a battleground that’s always being fought over by people who don’t have to go through it themselves. One minute you shouldn’t have a home birth because that’s “risky” and therefore makes you naive and selfish. The next a hospital birth’s out of the question because that’s just giving in to The Man and accepting the over-medicalization of the beautiful, touchy-feeley, feminist experience of squeezing a fucking enormous baby out of your cunt. Will everyone please just SHUT THE FUCK UP!
Thank you. And now, please allow me to announce my solution to the whole sorry mess:
Don’t have your child at home. Don’t have your child in hospital. Have your child in-between.
By “in-between” I do not mean at a midwife-led support centre (although I understand the government’s been ploughing billions into these of late). What I mean is, give birth to your child literally, geographically in-between your home and the hospital. You think I’m joking? Because this is exactly what I did.
There is not a glowing history of positive childbirth experiences within my family. Severe complications during labour (one leading to a fatality, the other to a life-changing disability) had a massive impact on my parents’ generation, and to a lesser extent on mine. For that reason, when I first found out I was pregnant, I requested an elective caesarean. My doctor was fine about it but advised me to just wait and see. I did so, and eventually I found myself coming round to the idea of just going to the hospital, seeing what happened and trusting in people to intervene if and when it was needed. This is precisely what I did and my first child was born safely with no intervention at all. And thus, when I found myself pregnant with my second, I was no longer afraid, making the idea of a home birth tempting.
My midwife was all for it. The consultant I saw at the hospital was dead against it, reminding me of all the terrible things that could happen if something went wrong (things that I knew of already, but had just about stopped feeling irrationally terrified of, at least until then). So in the end I wimped out and said I’d have a hospital birth again. I say “wimped out” because that’s how it felt. It had fuck all to do with what the “best” birth might have been. My midwife didn’t say it, but I knew she felt I’d let her down. I’d have let people down, and felt massively guilty for it, whichever decision I’d made.
Labour day arrived, and I rang the hospital when the contractions were still relatively mild and well spaced apart. We mutually agreed I wouldn’t come in yet. Fifteen minutes later my waters broke and suddenly I was in complete and utter fucking agony. We set off to the hospital there and then, a ten-minute drive, with me almost in tears because the pain was so bad I was scared I’d “disappoint” people by having more pain relief than I’d had the first time around (as it happened, I ended up having none). I got out of the car and remember thinking bloody hell, this feels far advanced. And then I thought you’ve only been in labour once before, what the fuck do you know? So rather than lie down or anything remotely sensible, I set off walking across the car park holding my partner’s hand. We got as far as a Portakabin near the ticket vending machine when I had the most enormous contraction, put down my hand and felt the top of my son’s head. So then I told my partner that I “thought” the baby was coming now and he said he “thought” I should lie down now (at no point do I remember taking my knickers off. For anyone who remembers late-eighties Neighbours, me and Daphne are one and the same person). My partner caught our new son and it actually was an amazing, beautiful, special experience. It felt like we were the only people in the world (our other son was at home with a friend. He was going through a hygeine-obsessed phase and we felt the mess would have bothered him).
So that’s how Youngest came into the world. No doctors, no midwives, no fucking house, just fresh air and tarmac. Beautiful.
Of course, this probably wouldn’t work for everyone. That’s why it might be a good idea to give women A CHOICE but also to stop making them feel guilty for whichever choice they make. Because you just don’t know what’s going to happen and giving birth is not an experience that should be constantly exploited by people who want to promote their own agenda.
Anyhow, I thought me and partner did rather well. But apparently not. Months later I was at a breastfeeding support group and got identified as “that woman who gave birth in the car park”. Rather smugly, I asked people how they’d heard of me. Was I some role model for efficiency, for just getting on with it, for not making a fuss? Oh no.
They mentioned you at our ante-natal class as an example of why women need to be organized and not leave setting off to the hospital too late.
The fuckers! That is the last time I use my wonder-cunt to save the NHS time and money. If ever I’m in labour again it’s gas, air, gold-plated forceps and a birthing pool filled with asses’ milk. Because listen here, medical establishment: YOU OWE ME!
* I read it so you don’t have to ;).