Every once and a while I feel it’s important to put my money where my mouth is. Proverbially, of course. I’ve spent weeks harping about non-medically trained mommy bloggers instilling fear in new mothers that their doctors are out to poison them, based on their mistaken belief that correlation means causation gleaned from some extremely subpar understandings of abstracts of medical journals.
But at the same time, I know I need to brush up on some coping strategies for the whole labour and delivery thing since I kind of lost my cool with C’s delivery. So I went to THE expert: Ina May Gaskin and her Ina May’s Guide to Birth and it fits nicely as a “book that intimidates me”. While the assertion (backed by Stephen King of all people) that the pain women feel in labour is just fear, and therefore is all in their head, made me snort my tea out of my nose, I do agree that there is a general obsession with labour horror stories, and therefore understandable that Gaskin starts the book with what she deems “Positive Birth Stories”.
While I recognize that there is a right of all women to share their birth stories in their own cathartic way, I was shocked how many birth stories were prefaced with the mommy-blogger style reporting of terrible first births that needed to be “corrected” with the birth of the next child.
Telling me that your 3-4 days labour was “exhausting” is an understatement. To say the whole things was “pure joy” is a lie. The most honest part of the birth stories is when one of the midwives admits to having been an English Lit grad student who decided contractions were a negative term because they implied tension, and instead, chose to name them “rushes.” Indeed, this whole book is about putting a positive spin on any potential disastrous situation which, if presented in the context of a hospital would have been “traumatic” but because it was set on “The Farm,” it is seen as empowering.
Part two was strange. It started off with some of Gaskin’s suggestions of how to best work through various difficulties of labour. Some were reasonable — the benefits of squatting, the benefits of birthing on all fours — some were not quite up my alley — um, I’m not going to get all frisky with my husband in the presence of birthing staff, thank you very much. But it was very proactive. However, the further in the book I read, the less it became a practical guide and more of it a statistically based version of the fear-mongering that she railed against in the first chapter. If they augment your labour, you could end up with a hysterectomy. If you try to have a VBAC in a hospital, you’ll have a uterine embolism. If you agree to a c-section, you will die.
Maybe I’m exaggerating. Not as much as I wish, though.
There were important points I did take to heart. It’s the first book that I’ve read that made me realize the level of pressure that the current labour environment places on the father. The untrained, inexperienced male bears the burden of supporting the mother through the labour process after decades in some cultural situations, and centuries in others, of being shunned from the labour and delivery rooms all together. It also made me sit back and think about what caused me to go from a relatively calm labouring woman to the tense, worked up, not really progressing woman minutes later.
But it also made me appreciate my “traumatic” birth with C. Yes, the 8-ish hours spent being shuffled around in triage, from the waiting room to a bed, and the waiting room to a bed and back certainly did not help, but I don’t regret a single decision I made. My plan for this kid is not to “outdo” or “correct” the last one. Yes, there are things I would like to do differently. But with meltdown after meltdown, epidurals and cyntocin, a beautiful, healthy baby came into this world, and she was mine.