Maternity services in Ireland are in crisis.
We have no continuity of care. No space. Very little choice. And the care providers are focusing more and more in controlled, managed births, preferring the predictable, time saving ease of Cesarean section to anything natural or woman led.
Women give birth herded together, are induced without provision of pain relief, are left to labour alone, scared and in agony. They are denied their preferences, often denied pain relief, privacy, rest, breast feeding support, after care. Recent stories I've heard about our National Maternity Hospital amount to abusive practice, yet women continue to accept it, as if it's some sort of punishment original sin.
I'm not denying that woman can still have good hospital experiences or that there are skilled and dedicated midwives out there. But I think those experiences should be a given, not a lottery.
I could write about this in detail every single day, with stories and examples indefinitely.
My cousin had her children in a birth centre in California, with the same midwives who had given her antenatal care, and a doula , who is a friend of theirs. A birth centre is a nice half way house between home birth and hospital. There are medics and equipment there, but also quiet places, nice bedrooms, birth pools. We don't have these options here, despite their success in England. Despite the fact that an extra woman with the mother is proven to shorten labour time and reduce complications, doulas were banned from Irish hospital deliveries last year, only one birth partner is allowed, and women may no longer rotate partners.
Reading her story makes me thrilled and jealous in equal measure (well, not quite equal!), as to me it seems to epitomise the best about gentle birth and natural birth.
She took out the photos, of course, but if I could show you her glowing, ecstatic face as her husband lifts the a baby to her chest, nobody would deny the possibility of having a happy unmedicated birth.