Sunday, November 09, 2008

Keep mum and dad, lose the MIL (during labor at least)

A London woman who gave birth at home, and whose birth was filmed by the BBC, wrote about her choice in The Daily Mail: I gave birth in my bathroom ... so why are so many women made to have their babies in hospital? Her mom and dad were surprisingly supportive:
I was 12 weeks pregnant when my NHS midwife asked me: 'Where would you like to have your baby?' Guessing she wanted me to choose between hospitals, I went for the nearest - King's College in South London. 'So,' she said, 'you don't want to be considered for a home birth?' I had thought home births were the exclusive preserve of West Country hippies. But ten minutes later I left my London clinic with 'home birth possibility' written on my notes. And to my surprise, Mum and Dad thought it was a great idea.

'I was born at home in the dugout during the Blitz,' said Mum. 'Your granny said giving birth was like shelling peas. Not like today - pregnancy is treated like an illness.' Dad, a retired livestock farmer from the Highlands, added: 'Aye, an animal will always take itself off to give birth; you need to be somewhere private. Don't ever forget you're a mammal. Mammals aren't designed to give birth in a bed.'

Mum wasn't exaggerating. As a Forties baby she was one of the last generation to be predominantly born at home, often minus pain relief, hot water or a bathroom. Change came with the creation of the NHS in 1948. Soon, more than half of babies were born in hospital; ambitious obstetricians wanted everyone under one roof and the Government agreed.
But her Romanian mother-in-law was, to put it mildly, a tad anxious about the whole affair:
It was another day and night before Mara [her baby] arrived. I distracted myself watching movies, taking deep hot baths and eating to keep my strength up. I was glad to be at home. But my mother-in-law Elena, who had flown in from Romania, had other ideas. She hid upstairs, resisting the urge to call an ambulance, and spent 36 hours crossing herself, suffering sympathetic labour pains and shrieking that someone should give me an injection every time I let out a long moan.
Mothers-in-law are great. But anxious MILs at my labor? No thanks! They would get a gentle push out the front door, with the assurance that I would call when the baby has arrived.


  1. This story actually demonstrates the power of our own experiences to influece our expectations. A woman who has given birth without a lot of medical interventions experiences that as normal and can encourage other women. I'll bet the Romanian mother-in-law had a medicalized hospital birth experience that left her with no sense of a woman's power to birth her own child. My children have all been born in hospitals, but with every one of them I felt and knew that I was birthing this child, everything else was just sort of a necessary annoyance. I am always surprised to hear my friends who went the induction/epidural/episiotomy/maybe c-section route say "oh I could never do that" if I mention more natural birth options. We humans mostly accept as normal whatever is presented to us.

  2. the very last thing i want to see during transtition is a face full of anxiety. no, i want to open my eyes(if at all) to faces exuberant, reassuring, and patient. my friend asked if she could come in during the birth- she was a very anxious person and was always questioning my desire for a natural birth. i had to politely decline the request. such energy is not needed at a birth.

  3. "Giving birth is like shelling peas." Love it!

  4. I totally agree Paula,

    There was no way my MIL was coming, both her kids were caesared, first for breech, second because of the first. So for her birth is a surgical event. She had a lot of fear about us freebirthing.

    When my partner called to announce our baby's arrival she was more relieved than happy :(

    I'm very glad I only had people who love and trust birth in my birth space :D

  5. my MIL had her NICU friend-who I've NEVER met-call us 5 minutes after Rob called them to tell them of Zoe's birth. That's just a bit invasive.

  6. My MIL lives close by and with both our last home births she didn't get a call from us until after baby was here! lol She was not supportive at all. Had all hers by c-section, didn't breastfeed (and still thinks that's disgusting) and I hate to say this but she's a nurse to boot. I didn't want that negative energy in the room with me. She actually had the gall to say to my dh how "worried" she had been during our last homebirth. (And there was no cause for worry seeing as our first homebirth went off without a hitch.) And where did she say this? In her daughter's hospital room after the very medicalized birth of that daughter's first child, where it was nice and safe, yeah right. Despite her disapproval she still said she wanted to know when I went into labor so she could come over and be there for the birth, and no doubt will again with this baby - fat chance!
    My mother on the other hand who is a worry wart about everything, was surprisingly supportive. But she had two natural births herself (although in the hospital) and didn't think it was something to be scared of. She was present at our last birth and didn't like seeing me "in pain" but wasn't worried at all.

  7. Awesome parents and cool story!


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