or, How to Fail An NCT Class.
This article apeared on the BBC website last week, if you are Geeky enough to follow me on twitter you may have already seen me "tweeting" it.
The writer claims that antenatal classes can leave women unprepared for caesarian births and perpetuate the myths surrounding them, with the result that those who do find themselves under the knife can end up feeling guilty about it. While I doubt this is universally true, it certainly struck a chord with me.
I didn't attend any NHS antenatal classes* at our "booking in" appointment the midwife took one look at Fred in a suit, in a deprived part of London and told us to: "join the NCT, to meet people like you." So we duly did. The basic logistics of a caesarian birth were covered, but with a distinct sense of distaste and the message that this was what would happen to you if you let those evil doctor types near you. If you were a healthy, western woman, who did her yoga and breathing exercises and stayed well away from said doctor types then there was no reason, or perhaps no excuse, for having a caesarian.
To be honest I hid my head in the sand about it and didn't seek out extra information on C-sections. I really really didn't want one and if the NCT, pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing CDs etc. etc. all told me they'd reduce my chance of one then I was pretty much guaranteed one of those life enhacing "birth experience" thingies, right?
Now, I can appreciate that antenatal classes don't want to promote caesarians and that a natural birth is preferable for numerous reasons, but many many women end up with a C-section, so surely it is better that they are adequately prepared for it?
After my own experience, I think there is another important aspect to this that isn't covered in the article. Namely, the treatment of women immediately after they've had an emergency caesarian. Admittedly I was rather away with some pretty ugly fairies at the time (actually a tiny moose running along the skirting board at one point), but I can't remember any of the midwives giving me a sympathetic smile and telling me it was ok I'd had to have surgery, or even giving me basic information on what it was or wasn't safe to do (it took more than a day to get someone to tell me if I could even have a shower, ich, never mind picking up the baby, driving etc. etc.). Add to that the seemingly endless stretches of night, pushing the buzzer for pain relief and being ignored and I got the impression that the postnatal ward staff thought I was, at best, an inconvenience.
Our NCT teacher was even less help. When, exactly two weeks after surgery, I agonisingly shuffled into our postnatal meetup, she asked how the birth had been, then asked to see my hands. After examining them, she hmmmed at them a bit and then implied that I probably didn't really need a C-section (answers on a postcard as to what the hand thing is about?!). Well perhaps I should forgive her ignorance, after all she hadn't actually seen the burly surgeon, legs braced against the operating table, applying his full body weight to the sink plunger on Evelyn's head in an unsuccessful attempt to get her out, but this, added to her take on all medical interventions in our previous classes, left me with the distinct impression that I was considered a failure.
Ok, mums have a bit of a reputation for feeling guilty about, well pretty much everything, but surely the way in which we became a mother shouldn't be one of those things and those who are supposed to inform and care for us both before and after that precious child arrives shouldn't treat those with some of the worst experiences like they've let everyone down.
*Actually I did go to a talk on pain relief given by a terribly cute anaesthetist; shame he wasn't on duty when the time came, that may have brightened the situation considerably ;o)
PS. Off soapbox now, promise to get back to cute pictures soon!