While reading The Babymoon Experience, the author talks about how modern women are shielded from the birthing process. In days of old, giving birth was something that was done in a community of females and women of all ages would be exposed to it earlier in life; however, somewhere along the way the birth experience moved to the hospital, instead of the home.
Thinking about my own contact with birth, I cannot believe how little I’ve been exposed to it. Up to the point of actually getting pregnant, I had two moments in my life where I came face to face with the realities of childbirth: one was when I was sitting in an emergency room a few years ago. A woman and her sister came in. The latter looked panicked and was yelling, “My sister is in labour. Help!” The other woman was calmly breathing as they were led into the hospital. I remember my own reaction to this; I welled with panic, nervous that the pregnant lady was about to start screaming her head off. My second experience involved a couple of images in the Tate Modern. It was a photographic study done of women just after childbirth and, in one of the photographs, there was a mostly-naked woman wearing see-thru mesh panties with blood dripping down her leg.
And in addition to this, we’ve all seen births on television or in the movies. So obviously there is a lot of screaming, threatening, cursing, and there is always a parking spot available right in front of the hospital. Also birth is always done on your back, surrounded by doctors and a concerned husband. Interesting fact: apparently the fashion of giving birth on one’s back was started by Louis XIV who wanted his mistress/wife to do it that way so he could see his children being born. Somehow, the fashion stuck.
The point is I’ve never seen a live birth before. And no, I’m not going to watch One Born Every Minute because TV producers want drama and conflict and would, therefore, edit these births to deliver that. When I’m trying to convince myself that birth can be calm and gentle, this is not what I need to see.
So my curiosity was piqued when my old reflexologist, who moved to Edinburgh about a year ago, gave me a DVD called Water Babies to watch. And Saturday afternoon, while relaxing at Mhor, seemed the perfect time to do it.
We put the DVD in, not sure what to expect. James was even more scared than I was to witness his first birth and sat on the edge of the sofa like he was about to get a lesson from teacher. We definitely didn’t expect a documentary made in the 80s that started with a load of propaganda images about how obstetricians ruined the birthing experience by medicalising it in the 70s. Image after image flashed up onto the screen of women screaming in agony with men in scrubs surrounding them. Actually, the images reminded me of a picture in our family album of my birth. It showed my mom, on a gurney in a room surrounded by men in scrubs. Once the documentary got past the bit where they convince you that hospital births are bad, they get down to the nitty gritty of talking about water births.
Ironically, the fashion for water births also started in France in the late 70s. We got to see quite a few water births and some of the hairiest vaginas known to mankind. (My hair removal expert asked me the other day if I was going to have a Brazilian before the birth. Now I see why).
Once we got past the propaganda and the 80s styling, we really enjoyed this film. Not only do I want a water birth if possible, but James is also feeling a lot calmer about what is expected of him during the birth, having watched many men with 80s haircuts cuddle their wives and encourage them through the process. He’s going to start working on his 80s hairdo now.
We stopped watching the doc when it started talking about research in Russia, where a doctor insisted the babies he’d birthed in water pools had stronger paranormal abilities than ones not birthed in water. I began imagining a Russian army of paranormal water babies taking over the world. It would have made a great episode of Alias anyway.
Having read a lot on our babymoon about birth there a few things I think I know about what I want for my Abdul’s birth:
Water birthing seems to be a good way to ensure all of these. I would love to hear stories from anyone else who has experienced a water birth. Please feel free to share in the comments.