This post has been a l-o-n-g time coming. Its formulation began with the birth of my first child, in 1989. As a trained nurse and student naturopath/homeopath/acupuncturist, I knew enough about pregnancy, childbirth and various cases to know it is not a medical issue - except on a rare number of occasions.
Well, in the western world, anyway...
I didn't see a doctor until I was around 5 months pregnant; after I'd done the rounds of trying to find a natural birthing professional - sadly, in the 80s, Perth was very deficient in such services and the last one I saw scared me sufficiently by saying IF things went awry he would not allow me to seek medical intervention; pregnancy and childbirth should be natural but you would be a clown to say things cannot go wrong. The key is preparedness.
The doctor I was blessed to find was actually our local and was as interested in what I was studying as I was. He wanted to know everything; never made a joke about my views and level-headedly discussed everything from my vaccination knowledge to wanting to use gravity or water to bring my baby into the world. He never did a single internal, never pushed vaccines or meds, and when it was time, delivered her in his board shorts in between visits to the local pool with his kids (well, it was over 40 degrees celcius for a record period that summer!).
Okay, so things did go alittle awry when the time came, but he never pushed - he gently reminded me I could use analgesia and there were no awards if I delivered her naturally but lost her in the process. So within a tiny time frame, he'd used the dreaded (blessed!) epidural (after standing at the foot of the delivery table ready to duck as he'd suggested it), and she was here - perfect, a few stitches (despite trying to avoid this) and back to natural parenting. In fact, his 'intervention' lasted all of about 30 minutes. As I had witnessed during my nursing years and time in maternity, the midwives and nurses observed, while the mother did all the work.
From there, after delayed clamping, aside from the guthrie which I grew to resent (thanks to triggering her first ever crying fit - at the time I did not know you could refuse it), no one came near her or me from there on. I was even permitted to delay her first bath until day 4, to allow her skin to benefit from the natural oils. Perfect.
So even though I didn't get my water birth, or beanbag or gravity-led birth, it was all pretty near perfect. No pharma-made 'baby' products on her delicate skin, no meds, no artificial light (we spent a lot of time out on the balcony to naturally shift her slight jaundice...), no top ups, nothing. Later on, a well-meaning child health nurse made a few vain attempts to get me to vaccinate or use some cruddy toxic baby product; but when she saw my efforts were working, she left me alone, save to weigh my breastfed baby (obviously rapidly gaining weight).
Around the age of 4, other parents (alarmed I still refused to vaccinate or see a doctor for things I could capably care for) began a little campaign regarding the health of my child. So, with the help of the same GP/obstetrician, I agreed to a battery of tests. He was not impressed and left me with the words that guided my parenting from then on -
"Do you have so little faith in your knowledge and skills that you allow their ignorant comments to put your child through this? I will not agree to put her through this again."
All tests came back NAD (no abnormalities detected) - in fact, it would have been impossible to improve on them. Even the swollen tonsils he agreed should be allowed to grow out of their own accord. It only strengthened my resolve to trust my own instinct, knowledge and common sense.
Fast forward 8 years and the arrival of my second child. Okay, so it may have been the fact that last time it was a lovely country hospital, I don't know - but this time it was magically some medical issue!? Things had changed! I had a different midwife or GP every month or so, then every few weeks. I was not permitted to have her at the local hospital and was forced to go to the city's maternity hospital. What a difference! By their own admission, even small issues were overlooked and permitted to become serious rather than preventative methods being allowed.
I was poked and prodded like a sci-fi show alien abductee and spent the last month in and out of labour - most likely due to the unnatural amount of intervention. Yet by the time the real labour happened, they all ran away! In fairness, the poor staff were seriously overworked; no doubt due to the fact doctors were now referring so many healthy pregnant women to the major hospital, but did that have to mean that when things once again went awry, and I once again needed an epidural, no one was to be found?
I was even told to be quiet - ah okay... The midwife was an appallingly arrogant woman - like no one I had worked with or dealt with before. She realised early on that if she did a certain examination, contractions would increase - so a hundred PVs later, not heeding my warning that if she touched me one more time without an epidural I would touch her, I did.
The dopler flew out of her hands as she was flung back - DON'T poke a woman in the middle of a contraction! This time around they wouldn't let me hold her immediately after birth, bathed her straight away despite my pleas not to, tried to push the vit K injection, guthrie, not even noticing her rapid weight loss over the first 3 days thanks to difficulty latching on, and generally made this more of a health issue than it needed to be. I politely declined the standard pædiatric visit.
Fast forward 5 years to the twins - it was as medical as you could imagine - a flurry of specialists, GPs, midwives - I didn't see a GP until 5 months gestation as was my custom, and put on barely any weight - which, rather than see as a reflection of my hi-raw veg*n diet and fitness, made it into a medical issue. The dietary advice was appalling (lost on them when I asked what their dietetics expertise was...) and almost militant-like repeat calls and reminders that I needed to see someone...
Okay, so the delivery was a little easier than the last one but within minutes one of the twins was taken away, out of my reach for 4 days - just in case - and due to busy-ness of the staff, was put into the equivalent of an induced coma to keep her quiet - morphine, anti-biotics, steroids - yes, despite my pleas to NOT use meds on her. 4 days of no human touch, no comfort, no breastmilk, no bonding!
And at the end of it all, her report said that there had been nothing wrong with her, but as her apgar was not 9 like all my others, and there had recently been an infant's death at this hospital, they were on high alert. My baby's hyper-care was the end result. And it's taken me over a decade to undo the damage of those 4 days but more on that later.
Again, possibly due to busy-ness, the medicalisation made me cringe - no, I could not feed on demand, yes the remaining twin must have a nasogastric tube for top ups despite feeding and gaining well. Formula! Groan...
Forget that both twins were born with talipedes; not just backward facing feet but inverted. Okay, so nothing I couldn't fix with acupuncture and chiropractic, but considering they were pretty heavy handed and threatening with the anti-vaccine stance, and as all 4 girls had congenital asthma (never needed medical care - more on that later) the threats were more about these issues than what was right in front of them already. I know if I had not been me, they would have serious structural issues still today.
The pæd examined them, ranted about my complacency with modern medicine, then sent them home without one comment on what could have become a disability for them. Oh, and forget that one had quite quite relevant severe congenital issues; apparently not as important as pushing needles for something that they may never come into contact with. I promise, there is more on this to come.
.... because this mum has now become a nana.
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