The pointy end of pregnancy

Having been glued to my “Up the Duff” guide to pregnancy by Kaz Cooke for 33 weeks now, I realised with a shock today that I was suddenly up to the part where Kaz is packing her bags for the hospital and wrapping up her pre-natal course.

“I have been thinking about the birth plan and I’ve decided that I don’t want the baby to come out of the vagina, and I don’t want a caesarean. I may have to do some more research,” she writes.

I love this quote because it pretty much sums up the way I’m feeling right now.

I know I should be looking to the birth as a marvellous, bonding moment with La Lola, and part of me really is, and I want nothing more than to meet her… but a big part of me is still in the I-am-a-big-chicken, “Holy moly, how can a baby come out of me?”, terror-stricken phase.

Roxana, our prenatal course leader, kept driving home the positives about the birth experience, and the wonder of it, during our veeeeeeeeery long introductory session, and hearing her was both reassuring and emotional.

Hearing her thoughts on the Peruvian medical system’s approach to pregnancy was worrying – nurses who feed babies formula and discourage mothers from breastfeeding, medical teams who snatch babies away without that first skin-to-skin contact so they can pretty them up and give them their once-over, etc, and an 83 per cent caesarean rate. Yes, 83 per cent.

My “birth plan” will be a strange new concept at my clinic and I’m going to have to be assertive about my wishes, she advised.

Forewarned is forearmed, so I’m going to get the basics down on paper for my next doctor visit so I can gauge his reaction and find out more about clinic policy etc. My doc has already told me he’s in favour of routine episiotomies and recommends epidurals… so I want to have a very specific conversation with him about these issues. Like Kaz Cooke, I wish there was another way of doing this thing, with zero possibility of ripping or cutting my lady parts, or having major abdominal surgery, but hey ho. It seems like routine episiotomies are not favoured in Oz, the US or the UK.

Our class seemed to cover nearly all the different visions of birth – the woman next to me was scheduling her caesarean a few weeks early to fit into her and her husband’s work schedules; the woman across from me was going for a drug-free, full-natural birth; the rest of us seemed to fall into the “We’re going to try for a normal birth, but were not opposed to some intervention if something unexpected comes up” camp.

It was great to be among lots of couples experiencing the same kinds of fears, doubts, and  joys. It also made me a little homesick, having to do the whole thing in Spanish, and having that extra layer of uncertainty that comes from not being in your own culture for something so fundamental.

I’d love to be able to have a nice laconic, professional but laidback, understated, able-to-see-the-funny-side, Australian team on hand to help me through this thing. Not that I’ve ever had a bad experience with Peruvian doctors or nurses – the nurses in particular are so kind and warm and reassuring. But when you’re vulnerable and in pain, the last thing you want to be doing is translating in your head or being ambushed by unexpected cultural differences.

Even the list of “things to take the hospital” from our prenatal course had a little surprise for me:

“For girls, a pair of earrings”

I’m not up for piercing our baby girl’s ears until she’s at least 13, and I don’t care if people think she’s a boy.


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