Friday, April 11, 2008


I got talking to some ladies about birth the other night, as you do.

I am of the opinion that generally speaking, giving birth does not have to be as dangerous and terrible as it made out to be. If I could have ten births I would, as long as I could avoid the pregnancies... and managing ten children on a day to day basis.

This woman, who wouldn't have the same interest in the whole area of birth that I did, and had a difficult breech labour and section, suddenly suggested with some distaste, that she'd heard of someone giving birth on all fours, and wouldn't that be so undignified.

I'm never sure how to respond to that sort of misguided notion. It seems to me that so many women who feel this way about birth have accepted and internalised the lessons men have been imposing on us about women's strength and power for hundreds of years. If we lived in a matriarchal society I don't think so many people would be so hung up on the indignity of natural birth. Even the fact that the most painful and dangerous way to give birth is lying flat on your back, where the baby has to scrape up and over your coccyx, that the easiest and most gentle way to give birth is leaning forward, on all fours, where your body can open, and follow the rhythms of its contractions, make use of gravity - made no difference - 'well, it seems undignified to me'.
The witch hunters are still winning, all these years later. Women must not lose control, women must give up responsibility for their labour to doctors, lie back and pray for the man in the white coat to rescue you from your inefficient body.

There is no concept of there being beauty in a woman being in communication with her body and baby as they make their way out, of finding her strength and listening to herself. It's a messy, sweaty.. bloody, ugly process. I wonder how this lady would take to the idea that she do all her poos lying on her back. Would that make sense?

During my first labour, as I was pushing my baby out, and it was hard, hard work, my midwife turned to my husband and said 'Isn't she amazing?' And he answered
'Yes, she looks so strong'.
He said that all the muscles in my back (what muscles??) were standing out like a Greek sculpture. Unheard of before or since!
Those comments gave me so much strength and encouragement, more than someone screaming at me to push would have, or any feeling that I had retained my dignity by not assuming an animal posture.
One of the community midwives in Holles Street said that she attended one birth where the woman was on all fours, and both the midwives were on hands and knees too, monitoring her. An oldschool Holles Street obstetrician looked in the door and muttered 'barbaric', in disgust, when faced with the sight of three women's arses in the air.

Oh yes, barbaric. Strap 'em down, hook 'em up to machines, suck or cut the baby out of them, that's the civilised way.


Alleged Comedian said...

I sailed through the births of both my sons. No gas, air, drugs, nothing...

Of course I am a man...

jothemama said...

Someone on Rollercoaster said her mother in law had complained that her son had got very tired, as it had taken too long...

His Girl Friday said...

Oh, how I wish more of the birthing centers were around for mine. I would have loved to have had a birthing chair or even a water birth with a midwife, in the safety of knowing the crisis team was ready/avail.
My choices (where we lived) were hospital or home with a midwife. The nurse in me knew too much of what could go wrong, so I opted for the hosp, but had some good nurses to coach me, though.

Ah, well...hey, hubby had the nerve to be watching some shoot 'em up Van Damme movie for the first baby.... 'uh, yeh, honey, breathe, ah, man get that son of a bi#ch..., uh yeh, breathe, ah no way the helicopter's gonna..., ah yeh, breathe'......I coulda killed him right then and there!! ;)

jothemama said...

Oh my god, HGF!! Bad husband, that's a bad husband!!
(sorry, just realised I'm channelling CArter shouting at his kitty there).

You're so right about birth centres, it's the way to go. I think one midwife here in Dublin has hopes to establish one, but given what the costs would be, I'd say it's a long long way away.

I'm happier at home, ideally, but I think it would suit a lot more people - it works really well in England.

Péitseoga said...

when it's my turn i hope i will be with midwives, and not doctors! i don't have very strong muscles though, will yoga take care of that or should i practice being on all fours for a few months beforehand? and squatting? if i read birth stories i just can't imagine how anybody could work so hard for so long!

as for dignity, i thought you hand that in at the door to the labour ward anyways? i mean, there'll be people putting their fingers up your vagina and i heard you might get diarrhea and all that?

i would be more worried about my sense of control and what people might do to me in terms of drugs and cuts than about my dignity!

jothemama said...

This is it Peitseoige. It's not just that the world and his wife sees up you :) it's more to do with the fact that modesty becomes irrelevant, your body is of more importance than your sense of self consciousness. In a good labour you inhabit a far more inner place and you reach out to your helpers to support you, whether your naked or clothed, it jsut doesn't matter. You just do what feels right.

As for squatting, some women find great comfort sitting on the toilet, there are birth chairs you can get, but generally, squatting is good for women from cultures where they squat comfortably day to day - we don't and such a position, though effective, isn't tenable. There's the supported squat, great for if you need to move the baby on down - your partner can sit, and you squat betwen their knees, holding onto hteir legs - it hurts, but it's a safe and comfortable place to be.
I'd go for labouring on the birth ball, it feels so good, manages pain very well. And actually giving birth on your hands and knees - or whatever feels right to you. You go with what our body wants to do. Water is the best - will that be an option for you or are you having a hospital birth?

Have you got Sheila Kitzinger's pregnancy and Birth book? It's wonderful and has a good section on positions and practice, for you and your birth partner. It was my bible - every time I felt nervous, I'd read it and feel better! It's hugely educational too. Arm yourself with knowledge.

morgor the doctor said...

The all fours birth seems to make more sense to me alright.

But i'm not a doctor.

Who made women give birth on their backs anyway?

You accuse men, but I'd imagine it was the church or something.

Normal men would avoid such things.

Like when people give me babies to hold, argh.

Keep it!

jothemama said...

It was Louis the 14th - or 13th, I can't remember which - he apparently wished to see his child being born, and it caught on...

It suits the obbstetrical practice of cihldbirth, and in some hospitals is the only way you can have an epidural, to avoid spinal taps and the ensuing lawsuits.

Even if it had been the church, that still would have been 'men' - you don't get much more partiarchally oppressive than the Catholic Church!

As to the baby comments, god help you, pet! You were a baby once. I think you need to nurture your inner child a little more :)

His Girl Friday said...

Hi Jothemama,
your right about Louis, not sure which one, either. You've got some great comments regarding the inner place, and going with what your body wants. That whole concept needs to be regained, as well as the importance of the mid-wife.
There's probably a lot more going on here than I'm aware, as I'm out of the 'birthing' circuit anymore (as in, I'm done! ;)) A lot of women (who can afford) have a Duela (sp?) who comes with them to hospital. That way they don't have to worry about VanDamme movies! ;))) (don't worry, he caught on, and was much better for the second, and third one! :D)

jothemama said...

Doulas - a brilliant idea - they've 'banned' them in at least two of the Dublin hospitals, where yo uacan only have one birth partner. It used to be the father and your mother or whoever could swap places, but they're no longer allowing that.

As regards doulas, they're worried they might try and usurp the place of the midwives or obstetricians - that actually translates as help the mothers have the birth they want without the unnecessary interventions. The hospitals want to keep women aquiescent and voiceless. Grr!

Péitseoga said...

hi jothemama, thanks for the book tip! must check it out. i'm going to a hospital as it will be my first birth ( :-) only just 12w today, for real more like 11+3, so haven't been spilling the beans to the blog world yet) and i don't know if i'll be able to do it and if i'll be able to cope without pain relief. the hospital i'm going to has a MLU and birthing suites with birthing pools, but they will only take me if i'm 'no risk'. also they only take 60 per months and the hospital is seriously overbooked i think, my first appt isn't till 15w, and i wasn't given an early scan even though i had a miscarriage in december, because they just didn't have the capacity. but i believe the dublin hospitals are the same, and some worse.
i like the idea of a doula, i think if i don't manage to get into the MLU i might splash out on a doula, depending what money's like then...

jothemama said...

Good luck with the pools, that's OLOL isn't it? There's a lot of good going on there. Good connection with tracey Donegan, Get in touch wiht her if you're not already - I think doulas are very amenable to helping out mothers, I'm sure if the cost was too much, they'd organise something for you.

I recommend doing Tracey's hypnobirthing course! It will keep you positive and unafraid.

So sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I hope everything goes well.

Péitseoga said...

Hm, I might have contacted her about an antenatal course, but i'm not sure.
hypnobirthing sounds a bit 'hippie' like, there's no actual hypnotising involved, is there!? hoping to do yoga, and a non-hospital-run antenatal course.

jothemama said...

Well, it's hypnotherapy. I don't think it's hippie. you don't have to get hypnotised, most people just get the cd, and listen to it in a relaxed state. It gets you feeling confident and positive about the birth. Many people achieve pretty pain free labours.

Check out the hypno birth stories on Rollercoaster, or google them. It seems to make for very easy (if sometimes fast) births.

Rechru said...

This is how I gave birth!
I didn't think there was anything unusual about it until I figured out that the man who appeared briefly during the pushing stage had been the doctor - I only heard his startled voice ("Ugh - sorry") and thought it had been an embarrassed porter or something. My partner later told me it had been the doctor, checking things with the midwife. Who thankfully was able to tell him quickly and quietly that everything was fine. I gave birth with no damage done and was home in 6 hours.

jothemama said...

Best story!

It does highlight the fact that ceratinly obstetricians, and the majority of midwives, do not get to see a natural birth during their training. All they get is crisis births, so they routinely treat normal births as emergencies - crisis births.

And this will never change while obstetricians remain afraid of women!


Rechru said...

I know!
It kind of threw me at the time, I thought that the voice surely belonged to someone that had got lost in the hospital. The midwife was completely supportive though, so far I still think of her and the wonderful birth nearly every day.

Although I've just remembered one other thing that threw me from my concentrated breathing at the time - she kept fixing the small plastic sheet under me.
To protect the mattress.
The mattress on the bed in the delivery room! I kept moving about to cope with contractions and had to rearrange myself each time so she could do this. It was terribly distracting!

jothemama said...

You should think about a homebirth, if there's a next time.

No distractions, no silly obstetricians!

Péitseoga said...

hi rechru, that sounds really good, did you do a course or did you get the CD? what CD is it, do they have in Hodges and Figgis or anywhere in town? i did some kind of relaxation thing years ago in germany, where a woman with a nice voice told us to ...relax your arm, relax your legs, relax your breathing, that kind of thing, and it was really pleasant, it was a course, not a CD so after a while i got out of the habit.
did you listen to a CD during labour or were you able to concentrate on it on your own?
i didn't realise there's a plastic sheet on a mattress, i thought it would be like a doctors bed, with the vinyl type covering. would they allow me to bring a sheet from home to put over the plastic do you think? plastic must be very sticky and would probably bring me out in a rash...

jothemama said...

Peitseoige, check out - there's details of hypnobirthing on there. And the book/cd you can get is by (um, um: Mary Mongan, that's it). There's loads of stuff online, look up rollercoaster for some great stories and vids. I posted a birth video last year that is totally sexy and beautiful!
tracey Donegan posted it first on the home birth section of RC.

Rechru said...

jothemama is it too late to reply to peitseoige's question here? I'd really like to
Peitseoige I had no books or cds and had done no course but I decided a few weeks before the birth to try my own hypnotherapy as best I could. When I googled I came up with a guide on and used that - which sounds very like your relaxation course. I concentrated on constantly checking every part of my body from top to bottom - scalp, face, jaw, arms, fingers, etc - to make sure every bit of me was without tension and ensuring this with good, long deep breaths, the kind you suck in through your nose and down the back of your throat almost like a snore. I had no music, I did bring cds in the bag but I was so much zoned into the job at hand that if I'd had music I wouldn't have heard it anyway. Poor midwife had to ask me things twice, I was in my own world. My partner couldn't even touch me for fear of distracting me! But that was me and that was at the final stages especially. I came back to the real world with a bang the second my daughter was born and I was able to pick her up. I was on a total high for the next day and a half it was amazing! Ah I'm jealous of you having it all ahead!

Do you know I think the plastic sheet was protecting the fabric sheet and not even the mattress! I'm sure it did have a vinyl type cover. It was kind of shiny papery rather than plastic actually. It was only a small thing but as I was saying I had to have no distraction.

jothemama said...

Rechru, check out Péitseoga's blog if you want to copy it to her there - www.pé

Rechru said...

Thanks jo, have done that.