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.