Monday, October 30, 2006

picture this

You're 31 years old, in a pleasant but casual relationship with a much younger man. You share a house with your brother, have a stable job that pays OK and you have a fun and busy social life. Some people might see you as a bit of a party girl, burning the candle at both ends.

Then one morning when you get up to go to work you realise you're feeling really unwell. You can't put your finger on it but the vague feeling of queasiness you had last night has intensified and somehow your whole body feels wrong. You call in sick, make an appointment with your GP and call your boyfriend to come and take you to see the doctor. As the moments tick by you are feeling worse and worse. Waves of nausea and terrible belly ache have you lying on the couch, and even when your boyfriend arrives you find it hard to get up.

Suddenly you think that perhaps if you did a big poo you might feel a little relief before you get in the car. You feel totally constipated, you strain and wait and strain and wait, but nothing's happening. By this time your boyfriend is banging on the door, worried you've been in there too long and you are going to miss your appointment. So he comes in.

You see immediately from the look on his face as he dives across the room, swearing, that something is wrong. He reaches in under you and you realise something really strange is happening, that there's something coming out of you. You're too shocked to make sense of it, only barely register that your brother's calling for an ambulance, that you can feel something enormous, something you've never felt before.

It's not until you are sitting in the ambulance on the way to hospital a few minutes later that it sinks in.

"That was a baby, wasn't it?" You ask the paramedic.
"Yeah, it is," she says.
"Is it alive?" You don't even think to look for yourself.
"Yes, she is, she's fine."

And that's when you first realise. You've just become a mother.

Urban myth? Can you believe it? Can you picture ever being in this situation?

I've met the woman who told me this story, I interviewed her for a documentary project I was doing a while ago. Her story has been on my mind because she's just had her second child - although for her it was like a first pregnancy. I'm sure she's been doing a lot of remembering and a lot of pennys have been dropping about what happened last time.

When I talk about her story, I'll call her Sarah, I find almost universal skepticism. No one, particularly women, are prepared to believe that you could progress through an entire pregnancy and not know. How could you not know?

When you think about the massive changes you experience you think there could be no other explanation than knowing there's a baby inside you. But for Sarah, the collection of changes she experienced did not create the assumption of maternity.

For a start she continued to have periods whilst pregnant. Like most women, she believed that the presence of periodic bleeding definitively ruled out pregnancy. She'd never had a regular or predictable cycle, so if the bleeding was a little erratic, that wasn't unusual.

Similarly, she's had a history of weight gain and loss, so when she put on some weight (not much mind you), she didn't think too much about it. The wriggling in her tummy? A rich and erratic diet, too much drinking and not enough sleep. Because pregnancy wasn't in her frame of reference she sought and found alternative explanations for the things she felt.

She's not stupid, or crazy or in deep denial. She didn't not want to face up to her pregnancy, in fact she loves being a mother and her relationship has gone from strength to strength since her baby came into it. And if you had the slightest inkling you were having a baby do you think for a moment you would let it drop into a toilet bowl?

Sarah's story remains a great lesson to me in how much what we believe about a situation shapes our understanding of it, and how constrained we can be from seeing things clearly when we think our perspective is the only one possible, the right one. Sarah firmly believed she couldn't be pregnant, so firmly that in the throes of labour she couldn't think beyond a bad case of food poisoning. I firmly believed that because pregnancy was an all consuming state for me that I couldn't possibly have not known exactly what was happening to me.

When I think about it, I realise there are many many situations I am in everyday where what I see and hear and understand are based to a large degree on what I believed before I got there. Like Alison's experience of breastfeeding zealots, I also encounter a lot of people whose views of the world place limits around what they are able to see and understand and how they judge.

I try hard to get past those constraints - my own constraints and those of others. I try to challenge myself to look at things from other people's point of view, to see how a few different decisions along the way might have led me in very different directions, and to very different beliefs. Sometimes that's a real ask, and connecting to some people and their take on things is beyond me. Sometimes (most times) I am so unaware of how I'm filtering things that I don't even know that I'm being constrained.

But other times my preparedness to rethink something I once held firmly is deeply illuminating. Sometimes someone pushes me to the point where I am forced to shift my perspective. Sometimes a Sarah comes into your world and says just because something is true for some people, even the vast majority of people, it isn't necessarily true for everyone.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Other Option

This post is probably the most painful, and the hardest one, I will have to write. I know at points through this I will cry. I’ve debated for many, many months about whether to write this up – I fear more than anything that I will be judged for what I write and had hoped things would be different after Pia's birth so I could wash some of this away. I will be judged for the decision I made, not once, but twice. And the fact those decisions were extremely hard and emotional for me, makes the judgements even more cruel. I think though, that this is such an integral part of who I am, and the person I have become, that it needs to be said. And if, like Pia’s Story, I can give one other woman some comfort in them having to make the same decision, it will have been worth it.

I had to give up breastfeeding with both Max and with Pia.

In a country which has become fanatical about breastfeeding to the point of extremism, there are only two possible choices a mother could make. You either choose to breastfeed, or you choose to bottle feed. There is no middle ground, no safe haven for those who actually really, really wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t for whatever reason. In the socio-economic circles I live in, I do not know one person who bottle feeds. I am an isolated person within my peer group, and that isolation hurts.

I stopped breastfeeding with Max after 8 days. We had great latch on, position, etc for the first few days. Then a feeding frenzy where we must have had a not so good latch on. And then a terrible few days on the ward with psychotic patients, nurses and midwives through the night who cut their toe nails at the nurses station and bitched about patients for all to hear. Throw in engorgement, and over zealous day time midwives who thought it might be psychologically better for me to be at home rather than on the wards with all the drama, and my confidence was crushed, my nipples cracked, and high levels of anxiety set in. Once home I couldn’t get a good latch on. The nipples deteriorated. My anxiety increased. Max’s anxiety increased. Hysteria set in along with the trauma of the past week. Pain, bloodied feeds, lack of any sleep for 9 days straight and a distressed mother and baby. I withdrew from Max. I actually couldn’t bare to touch him or have him near me. I now know it is possible for someone to cry hysterically for an entire day. Days even. My husband made the call to stop. For our family. For me. For him. For Max.

There has not been one single day since that I haven’t regretted that decision, haven’t felt intense guilt and grief at what I did and what Max has missed out on. I have walked through the years of Max’s life with this burden of my own creation, and have gone out of my way to be a more than perfect mother to make up for it. The pressure and guilt I placed on myself was one of the major contributing factors in PND. I never, ever thought I would not breastfeed. It was never an option in my thinking. So to have to make that call, devastated me. I learnt very quickly, that motherhood is about compromises. Some of them are small concessions, some of them are huge. I got to make all the huge ones within the first two weeks. I had to come to terms with a birth which went totally against my beliefs, and feeding which was against my beliefs. Max though, was happier, less stressed, settled quickly, and is one of the healthiest, most alert, imaginative, intelligent children I know.

I honestly thought the feeding issue with Max was due to circumstance, and the situation I was in. I really did believe that Pia’s feeding would be different. I had a better frame of mind, I knew what was in store. I could do it this time.

The first feed my nipples shredded. Both sides. I had lactation consultants coming out of my ears in hospital. Not one of them/us could get a good latch on. We were constantly making do with nearly good latching. We stopped breastfeeding, and expressed to give the nipples a break. Every feed a midwife would come in and maul my breasts to get colostrum out while we chatted jovially about things. Every visitor I had copped an eyeful of fairly brutal breast manipulation, and a harsh lesson in motherhood difficulties. I shut them out. I decided to feed again with the help of a further lactation consultant. Again, we suffered with nearly good latchings. The nipples got even more shredded through the night. In the quiet isolation of the early hours of the morning, the anxiety settles in, building in intensity with each minute ticking closer to the next feed. The next stage was to express once the milk came in. Add engorgement again – I have no problem producing good milk – and we were on a path to destruction. With the electric pump on the lowest, mildest settings, my nipples still got further damaged. I could have persevered and used a nipple shield – but if the electric pump was causing damage, I really couldn’t see the shields doing much good. I cried long and silently with each feed, trying hard not to focus on the blood mixing with the milk. That is such a horrible, distressing thing to see. I talked to a number of people at the hospital, and decided to stop. Too many tears, too much anxiety. It just isn’t worth it.

I started panicking – a panic attack within 3 days of being a new mother is not a good sign really for someone on PND/depression watch. I really didn’t want to do this again. To open up old raw wounds and repeat past mistakes is just too much – I wanted to enjoy my first weeks with my new baby, not feel anxious and pressured, and panicked about each feed. I didn’t want Pia to know her mother in those weeks as someone who cries whenever they see her. I am so conscious of maternal depression and it’s affects on children – none of which can be accounted for till much later, but how much sorrow has Max seen that could have been avoided? I made my decisions for my family – my bond with Max and Pia is worth far more. My mental sanity is worth more.

Yet still I dread every feed in public where I am judged by other mothers who have no understanding of my situation. I dread answering the questions about feeding. I dread the smugness of mothers who find it easy, who assume everyone can do it. I dread the judgements. I now have twice the guilt – even though I made this decision much better informed, and with the total support of everyone at the hospital and I am ok about that decision. I understand now why it isn’t working: I have very small nipples, and they’re very sensitive. Pia and Max were never able to get them up far enough into the mouth to suck properly, hence their ability to shred instantly. Past damage hasn’t helped their cause. I know I tried everything I could to make it work this time.

But still, the pain will be mine forever.

This same post appears at 6.5st as well. For Pia's birth story, read here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

the problem of reciprocity

Sorry for the radio silence. Like many bloggers I am eagerly awaiting news from Alison - I expect it will be a while before we see her face round these parts. And what with my new job and all, it's been hard to wade into anything of substance to post about here.

But a couple of things have been happening in my world that have got me thinking. I've been thinking about mum's groups in particular and the reciprocal nature of community in general. For non-aussie readers who aren't familiar with mum's groups as they are here let me explain.

Based solely on geography and date of the birth of your first child, the local government health service for Maternal and Child Health organises a set of initial get togethers for new mothers. They start when your baby is between one and three months and usually run as organised 'sessions' for a couple of months. After this time it is up to group members to determine what happens to the future of the group.

As support groups in an age where extended family is nothing more than an ancestral memory for many women, they can be literal life savers. For those struggling with infant care, who are isolated, lacking information or just looking for someone who understands what's going on for them they are perhaps the government's single most effective initiative for battling the down sides of new motherhood.

There are divergent views on mum's groups - some become strong and binding extended families (I know one mum who still attends bi-annual get togethers for her mother's mums group!), others wither and die when groups find they have nothing in common and no interest in seeing each other. For me I simply can't imagine how I would have remained sane during that first year if it weren't for the women who came to be friends, allies, advisors, confidants and mutual time filler inners - and all in easy walking distance.

Next weekend my mum's group mums are getting together for a childfree evening meal. Although our day time kids oriented get togethers have dwindled to almost nothing and our members have moved suburbs, states and in one case countries, it seems almost everyone from our original group will be coming along next week. I'm really impressed about this and feel so happy to think that despite the pressures of our divergent lives we are all keen to keep that community alive. We still care for and support each other. But at the same time I feel kind of sad that one of the really important aspects of mum's group - the community we create for our children - seems to have withered on the vine.

And this had me asking myself - how much of mum's group is about kids and how much of it is about mums? Of course part of what scares me about this is looking down the barrel of a year at home with an infant and pre schooler and no other mum's around. Most of the mums had their second kids years ago already and have moved beyond those vomit and poo covered slightly hysterical sleep deprived days I am steeling myself for.

Who will I call on those afternoons when there are still hours to go before D gets home and I am up to my neck in feeling overwhelmed and really need someone to make me laugh? What will I say to Amy when she asks why no one wants to come and play, whatever happened to those kids she used to see? Who will I walk around the shops with when I don't need to buy anything but just have to get out of the house?

There's an expression in Thailand, mirrored I'm sure by sayings all over the world - it takes a village to raise a child. Mum's groups are a possibility for a modern village. The community we trust to nurture and keep our child safe while we as mothers are helped with our burdens and kept safe in other ways. One of the things that I've learned through experience, one of the things I used to 'know', but now really 'understand' is that healthy happy kids need healthy happy parents. My girl needs someone to play with, but so do I. The real promise of the mum's group is it's capacity to provide support to both mother and child.

So why don't mum's groups work more effectively than they do? Of course there's a million reasons, a lot of them are obvious and apply to all groups, all communities, all artificial social constructs - lives naturally divert people away from point in time shared experiences. Logistics and time constraints and personalities and other commitments. But there's a couple of things I think are particularly interesting about how people talk about these groups.

Much is made of the way mothers are judged for how they mother and the choices they make. From the brand of shampoo they use on their children's heads to their decisions to work or not, drink when pregnant, use dummies or cloth nappies there is no end of trivial decisions that are fodder for challenges. And the truth is that some of the harshest critics can seem to be other mothers. Perhaps because we are more defensive with people who know too much about what we do, perhaps because it is hardest to pass off criticism that comes from the people who face the same decisions we do.

Mum's groups can be microcosms of everything that makes mothering hardest. Support requires tolerance and when we are most needy, most confused, most overwhelmed and fed up is the time when we are least able to provide a non-judgemental helping hand to someone who has made different choices to us. Hosting other mothers in our homes raise all the questions we perhaps feel most ambivalent about. Do I miss out on that nap I want to clean the place up or do I say my sanity dictates cleaning remain at the bottom of my priorities, do I prepare healthy snacks or give in to my desire for some comfort food, do I discipline other people's children when they behave in ways I don't allow in my own child or do I let other mothers determine what is appropriate for their child? How do we deal with radically different mother behaviours?

The list of issues grows the longer you think about it and there are pretty much no easy answers. Communities which are diverse and tolerant require sacrifice - there's no getting around it. There are times when you do need to hold your tongue, watch possessions you didn't think to pack away get broken, disregard comments you feel are critical of choices you feel you are entitled to make and you have to prepare to feel let down by others who just aren't able to offer you the helping hand you really need. They are imperfect beasts.

But I do not want to teach my daughter that the answer to these difficulties is to walk away. The best response to difference is to disapprove and disengage. I want her to learn that with each complex social interaction she successfully negotiates, the better equipped she is to handle the next one life will throw at her. I want her to value her community and think that putting up with the hard stuff is a reasonable price to pay in exchange for being part of a bigger and brighter world. While I have no desire to expose her to certain perils, neither do I believe I am doing her any favours in teaching her that some people and some ways of living are not worth knowing and understanding, even if they are not what she chooses for herself.

So once every fortnight, despite diminishing interest, I tell everyone that they are free to come to my place. There's always something to eat, a cup of tea to be drunk and a kids room full of toys to be trashed. And if at times I feel ambivalent about how people behave in my house, if sometimes I have an inner dialogue that is less than charitable, then that's OK too.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

working on the chain gang

I started a new job this week and it's really got me thinking about work and my deep attachment to it. I think I really understood this when I realised that I felt guilty being at home and I didn't at work.

I'll say that I don't work long hours or full-time, and I have a child who is extremely social and needs a lot of time with peers. She has a dad with a very flexible work schedule who is engaged with parenting and she also has an involved extended family and a fantastic kinder and childcare centre she loves. If you changed a few of those variables, life might be very different for me and I might feel differently about the things I am about to say.

Work is deeply important to me. I'm a stereotypical twenty first century career woman who has had children later in life. I have worked in some capacity since I was a teenager and when there was no paid work on offer I did volunteering. In my last job before Amy I worked 50-60 hours a week and I loved it.

Of course in the moment there are lots of things to not like about working - especially if you have a job you don't like, a workplace where you don't feel valued, a boss or colleagues that you can't get along with. A lot of the time you can wish you were at the beach and dream of living outside the responsibilities of paid work.

But work has always helped me to define who I am. It has given me purpose. It's no coincidence that I have spent most of my working life in government and the community sector, where I feel that the work I do makes a contribution to something bigger and more important than myself. Where I provide service.

I'll admit too that beyond the inherent satisfaction of doing a good and worthy job, I like the personal rewards. I like the involvement, I like the sense of belonging and I like it that people notice what I do. I'm as pleased when someone takes the time and care to teach me something and make me better at what I do as I am when someone congratulates me for something done well.

But aside from liking being in a job, I feel committed to the importance of having a job. Perhaps because I was raised by a single mother who understood that our long term survival depended on her getting a job with prospects, perhaps because I grew up seeing how much satisfaction and recognition she got from doing that job, perhaps because I saw other mothers unhappily trapped by dependency. I wanted the power to choose what I would do with my life and it always seemed to me that freedom of choice was intimately bound to economic independence and some kind of status in the workforce. This is something beyond the amount I get paid - it's about choices.

When adults used to tell me what a great boss and colleague my mum was I used to burst with pride. I loved that her wondrous light was visible to others too, and I got to say you might get her at work, but her heart is mine because I belong to her! She made me want to achieve great things in my life, to be good and smart and industrious. Seeing her in the broader world really connected my experience of her with a much bigger picture and I suppose I want this same thing for my daughter. I want her to know that the love and care you give to others can be balanced with the things that are important to you and the world beyond your doorstep. I want her to know there are places out there in the world for her too.

As I've grown into being a parent I have also appreciated all the other mother things my mum did - the patience, the discipline, the domestic arts she never neglected. She grew veggies and baked bread and sewed dresses and maintained a home and raised 3 kids. Her choice to leave a bad marriage was very brave and had some really hard consequences, but work was a great salve for her and more importantly it allowed her to do what she knew was the right thing for all of us. It made her strong and confident and smart. I am eternally grateful to her for doing what she did and for instilling in me an understanding that you need to work for the things you want in life.

Alison's previous post about the disappointments of birth resonated with me, but not about birth. I was profoundly disappointed when I realised that birth had led me to a place where I no longer knew how to be someone in the world. When I realised that my pre-birth plan for a few years of part time work followed by a resumption of my 'normal' life was so horribly out of whack with reality. I think I began to understand this the moment she was born, when I knew I would never again be visiting that place I used to call normal. And then when I returned to my old job on a part time basis it was even more apparent.

I am sad and angry that it seems so difficult to find a way to parent and undertake meaningful work. That to be a mother so often entails a loss of independence, not just because someone now depends on me but also because having a child excludes me from so much of the world. In the world of work my child diminishes me. And I don't believe this is desirable or inevitable.

I treat my new job as a privilege. I like that when I talk to Amy I speak with pride, that my engagement out there makes me more alive in here. I wish I felt more confident that my future held more jobs like it, that I could help her be confident that the world will help her achieve all the things she wants to achieve. For now I'll milk it for all it's worth.

Monday, October 02, 2006


I should have been having regular pedicures. I should have been having regular manicures. I should have had a monthly – or even better weekly – facial. And full body pregnancy massage. I should have cooked exquisite organic low fat meals every day. I should have eaten more of this, and less of that. I should have had my eyebrows tinted. Except that dying hair is out of bounds. I should have worked for an employer who allowed time off – with pay – for things such as prenatal yoga, facials, massage, pregnancy aqua aerobics. I should have had a job which allowed me to pay for the facials, massages, and pedicures. I should have napped when I needed rest. I should have spent more time lounging on my bed, with dappled sunlight falling through the window, staring lovingly at my unborn child, reading it stories and playing gentle soothing music while stroking the belly. I should have written a birth plan.

And then after the baby was born, I should have used this sterilizer. I should have used this sterilizer as well. And I should have breastfed exclusively for 6 months. And I should have worn a silk negligee in hospital to help me feel sexy again (hello????????) And I should have eaten this, and that, and a little more of this, and a little less of that. I should have played this music. And I should buy these videos. But I shouldn’t let my child watch videos. I should have used this toy in the cot. And this one in the stroller. And this one in the living room. I should have used this spoon and plate set. I should have used this dummy. I should have used these nappies. And these wipes. I should have used cloth nappies. I should have made my own wipes. Except dummy’s are out of bounds, so I should have used this as a soother. But then again this dummy should have been used as well. I should co sleep. I should get the baby into a good routine. I should feed on demand. I should feed at strict times of the day. I should have photographed my baby every day and kept every memento of their life in a nice neat album instead of an old box under the bed. I should have read to them every single opportunity I had. I should use cue cards. I should let them learn of their own accord. I should have enrolled the baby in gym classes. And swim classes. And music classes. And language classes. And drama classes. Aunty Cookie has some great views on all of this.

Because if I don’t do any of this, my child will be so far behind developmentally, physically and emotionally, that I will be forever held to believe that it was all my fault if they do not turn out to be happy bright sparks who make friends with ease and never throw a tantrum.

Bollocks. Oh. I wasn’t supposed to say that was I. Yet, if you pick up any general pregnancy/parenting magazine on the newsagent stands, the entire magazine will sprout this philosophy to you. Read carefully, and every single item is phrased in such a way that to not do what they’re asking is tantamount to endangering your child and stifling their development. And the contradictions from page to page are no-ones business. Not only are you led to believe certain products are better than others – and yes I do acknowledge some products for some things are better – but to suggest that some products will make your child happier, healthier and brighter is really misleading.

But none of this comes even close to the anger and disappointment I have with many of these magazines in the way birth, and to a lesser extent, pregnancy, is portrayed. There is one popular pregnancy magazine commonly available in Australia and the UK (and possibly the states) which follows a soon to be mother - not necessarily a first time mother either – through her pregnancy and her birth. It’s a diary format. The idea is great – to show different birth and pregnancy outcomes. But it fails miserably. The pieces are so edited, that the reality of the birth experience becomes so sanitised, and eventually so glorified, that to go through the same birth for yourself, you could be forgiven for thinking you were going mad if you came out thinking it was anything other than glorious. There is no follow up report at 6 months, and a year, as the mother’s perspective on her birth alters over time.

For many women these magazines are a life line through their pregnancy, a wealth of information about what to expect, what choices they have, and the medicalisation of birth demystified. And there is a lot of great information in there, if you sift through and back up anything you read with further research and information. But turn the corner and look at some of the discussion boards on popular sites like Babycentre, and you’ll realise that dissatisfaction with birth outcomes due to lack of preparation and information prior to, and during, birth play a huge part in birth outcomes. Despite the wealth of information out there, women are still giving birth disillusioned and unsure of what happened and why.

And then we wonder why the statistics for PND are so high or greatly underestimated, and why women struggle to accept birth outcomes, and why women feel like they “failed”. This is a really personal thing for me. I have long held that antenatal classes teach the wrong things, and that there is a general fear of letting women know the reality of some births because we as a society have placed so much emphasis on natural birth. In addition, we as women have come to expect that because we choose natural birth, it will automatically happen, and we often turn a blind eye to potential problems. No longer is natural birth a natural occurrence – it is a thing which is planned and controlled: You did the yoga, you did the massage, you bought everything the magazines told you to buy, you bought the birthing ball and you have the essential oils all packed. Hell, you even got the cot ready at 34 weeks – look how prepared you are!! I know one woman who said to me that she had good thigh muscles because she’s been doing yoga, therefore she will, of course, have a natural birth. Good thigh muscles have little to do with a baby and body clock divorced from the preparations you have made.

When I did my first lot of antenatal classes with the hospital in London when I was pregnant with Max, I asked in the first class whether we would cover the potential problems of various forms of intervention and pain relief – it’s all very good telling us what options are available, but what of the consequences of those actions. The teacher looked at me aghast. Why No! We would not be doing that because you will all have natural births. Okaaaaaaay. Yes – we all were planning natural births, but the likelihood of us all actually having natural births was different. To suggest we needn’t cover other birth forms and their impact on us because we chose otherwise is really debased. Her version of what constituted important information for birth was spending two hours teaching our partners how to massage out leg cramps (true!), that was one class out of 4 gone, and another class spent going over and over how to ring the hospital to tell them you were in labour. After the entire class insisted on having some information about basic baby care post baby (apparently post baby stuff is irrelevant. Never mind none of us had held a baby before and had no idea), that left one 2 hour class to discuss birth. I don’t need to say it was fairly pitiful. Luckily I had booked in for NCT classes at my own expense, and they covered so much more, in so much detail, that I don’t think anyone there would have felt unprepared for various outcomes. NCT is very pro natural and that’s why you choose their classes – but they also know things go wrong, and that to be prepared for that is a part of their role as educators. Natural does not necessarily mean without drugs, without intervention - it can also incorporate understanding, and knowledge of cause and effect and being empowered to deal with whatever situation is presented at the time - planned or unplanned. We covered emergency c-sections in one class. While every one of us probably put a lot of that information away in a file in our head labeled ‘Not Needed”, I can tell you that when I did have to have an emergency c-section, knowing how many people were in the room and why, and what they did, and how long it would take and what generally was going on was a huge relief. I could focus on other things rather than why 11 people (yes 11) were introducing themselves to me. And I understood how I ended up there too.

I know I come at this from a slightly more technical background, and therefore my perspective is slightly different to other people, but because of that I also feel for the lack of real information which is given to women, irrespective of how they plan to birth. I did my Architectural design thesis on a birthing centre attached to a large teaching hospital in Melbourne. I looked at many spatial relationships of the pregnant women in society, and the labouring women through birth within an institutional environment, and how we could change those spatial relationships to gain a better birth outcome – ie a natural birth – for the mother, partner and baby. Part of my research led me to many medical books about intervention, and the prevention of intervention in birth. I have a much stronger appreciation of the cyclic cascade of intervention than most – I have read the pros and cons of basic care procedures, pain relief, induction techniques and management systems through labour. And because of that, I see how unprepared we, as intelligent women, really are when we go into the labour ward.

I don’t intend this post to be a negative slur on being prepared and making whatever preparations you feel necessary. I personally had a monthly facial from 5 months during my first pregnancy because I had such a horrid time that I needed something nice for myself. I don’t intend this to be anti natural birth or to take away from those who have had a great birth experience natural or otherwise – on the contrary my views are very pro natural and they continue to be despite the traumatic birth I had with my first child. I would just like to see a little more realism and understanding, and for women to acknowledge realism in birth outcomes and expectations of them as mothers. And to allow women more trust in themselves as good parents without magazines telling them what is best for their child, or pushing certain parenting ideals. It’s about taking pressure off ourselves.