Why am I telling you all this? Because until my son was born and to a certain extent until my daughter came into this world, I had no idea how incendiary an issue parenting could be.
When my wife was pregnant with our son and she suggested that we check with our local antenatal clinic and our midwife about water births, I had only been in London a few weeks. However, I trusted my other half completely and the idea of a baby floating in the water minutes after it had come out of mummy’s belly was a soothing one. Maybe because of the hospital environment in which we were going to be the issue of the water birth did not raise many questions.
However, when we decided that our daughter’s birth would take place in our flat, there were a few question marks about it. Not from family or friends, they trusted us, but from other parents. It was then I realised that there were certain subjects in life that triggered off unexpected reactions in other people. Even people without children. Education is one, for those of us who work in the field, either as teaching or support staff (I’m the latter). Parenting is the other one. In this case parenting includes pre-natal, post-natal, early years and everything else that comes after.
I wrote “parenting”, but I should have really written “mothering”, for it is women, sadly, who bear the brunt of people’s demented reactions. I confess that just as my wife entered the final third of her pregnancy, I had long talks with her about a Plan B, should the water birth go wrong. Of course, we had a Plan B. We had two very experienced midwives (one of whom I still remember fondly, a no-nonsense Irish woman) and a supportive circle of family and friends. But I remember having troubling thoughts up until the day.
I guess I, too, was influenced by the scaremongering that goes on about pregnancy and childbirth. It is almost sometimes as if people are afraid of women making “the wrong choice”, let alone making a choice to begin with.
Conception happens between two people (we’re still light-years away from human parthenogenesis) but for some reason it is the woman who ends up shouldering most of the responsibility. I do understand why some people might see it as a woman’s issue. Pregnancy takes place in a woman’s body and it is this body that feeds the foetus and keeps it healthy. Nevertheless, the language used in debates about childbirth is often too emotionally charged. The result is less a conversation and more a finger-pointing exercise.
|Childbirth: how to go about it is still a woman's choice|
One of the reasons for this is that human birth, to me at least, still holds us in thrall. Just a few days ago I was discussing this very subject with some parents in my school. We have had a few births recently and yours truly never ceases to be amazed at the wonder of nature in producing new human beings. However, I would be loath to elevate motherhood to some kind of Mother Teresa category with a halo around it. It is what happens on a daily basis around the world. You get pregnant, the baby grows inside, you pop it out and you raise it together with whomever you want. Or on your own; it is your choice after all. The irony here is that parenthood has become more accessible nowadays with methods like IVF featuring more prominently. But own up to having had a c-section performed to save the baby and you will still be dragged to the altar of Mother Teresa and questions will be asked. No wonder that many parents, mothers above all, become depressed following the birth of their children.
Looking back at that conversation I mentioned before with those parents (mums all of them, by the way. Funny that, I very rarely discuss pregnancy with men at work) I realised that not one of them was being judgemental when they gave their opinions. Which in a way made me think that hopefully we are moving towards a world that will be more accepting of pregnant women’s choices. A world in which the use of pain relief during labour or filling up a pool on the fifteenth floor of a high rise for a water birth will raise no eyebrows. At the end of the day what really matters is the human being we are bringing into this world and the people behind such wonderful miracle.
Next Post: “Urban Dictionary”, to be published on Wednesday 10th June at 6pm (GMT)