What I’m not

Last week I was talking on the phone to a friend. She was concerned about her sister, who is expecting her second baby any day. ‘I think she should talk to you,’ my friend said, ‘because I know you’re so anti-caesarean.’

And today I had a message from someone which included the line, ‘your amazing passion for babies’…

And it’s made me ponder the way I (and my childbirth educating, doula-ing, ilk) come across. Because, guess what – I’m not against caesarean and, while I like babies, there are plenty of things I like a lot more. (Actually I must like babies quite a lot, because I have just pondered whether to refer to them as ‘things’ for at least two minutes.)

So where do these ideas come from? And do they matter?

In reverse order, yes, they matter a whole lot to me – the anti-caesarean one more than the baby one, but the baby one too. I think the logic surrounding ‘Kedi and her ilk are against caesarean’ goes something like this. They see me rolling my eyes when they say someone had a caesarean. They see me leading antenatal classes whose aim is to increase women’s chances of a normal birth. They see me getting cross at the rise of the rate in caesarean, which continues to go up every year. And they conclude that that means I don’t like caesareans.

In truth, what I don’t like is whatever my clients don’t like. And I find that most women who come to my classes are hoping for a straightforward birth – so I follow their lead and look at ways to maximise that expectation. My doula clients have, to a woman, been hoping for a straightforward birth with as few interventions as possible. And so off we go together on a journey to try and facilitate that. And quite often we manage it.

And then what happens is that I have the pleasure of meeting these women who in the first few days of parenthood feel so overjoyed, and strong, and wonderful, that they would climb Everest in a heartbeat. They feel so proud of their achievement. And those feelings of triumph are infectious, and I learn that it’s a pretty good way to begin motherhood.

My eye-rolling then about the story of random person who has had a caesarean is because I wonder the extent to which it was necessary. The World Health Organisation still states that the worldwide caesarean rate ‘should’ be around 10 to 15% – that’s the percentage of births that Nature allows to go wrong. Below that figure, say the WHO, mothers and or babies will die. But above that figure there is no increase in survival rates. I don’t doubt that 99% of caesareans are necessary at the time at which the decision is made to perform them, but I often doubt the decisions made along the way that lead to the caesarean. And I see women who then doubt themselves, their abilities – I see the connection between a caesearean and unsuccessful breastfeeding – and then women are again doubting themselves and their abilities, and everything ends up getting polarised, women feel resentful, they feel judged, and it’s not a happy way to start parenting.

So I’m not anti-caesarean. I don’t have a passion for babies.

Instead, my passion is for positive experiences of birth – and it’s up to the expectant parents to put their own details on the word positive. My job is to work to help them flesh out the details, to work out what’s feasible and what isn’t – and to make sure they’ve packed the crampons when they’re embarking on the postnatal gallop up Everest that I hope will ensue.



~ by Kedi Simpson on March 27, 2011.

One Response to “What I’m not”

  1. it is funny how we get labelled in this way. I, apparently am anti formula. But like you, am not against it in principle…..i am against the cascade of intervention, lack of support and misinformation which leads some women to feel that they have no alternative but to resort to formula milk…….

    And babies are all right…..mine are great…..but their arrival in this world is the amazing miracle 🙂

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