Wednesday 6 April 2011

The Rules

I have now had a full nine months to brood upon how I would like to bring up my son (who will be liberated from his aquatic pod in two or three weeks, so I had better hurry up and finish washing the inside of the linen closet) and I've more or less settled upon a core set of principles. These are as follows:

  • plastic toys, brightly coloured ones in particular
  • voting Liberal
  • tv in bed
  • going to church (at the first sign of teenage experimentation in this direction I will say "here is $500, have a party with your friends instead.")
  • joining any sport which doesn't allow girls to play in the same contests as boys
  • especially, going anywhere near the local football club

  • eating meat
  • drinking Coke
  • getting a dog
  • working at McDonald's
  • finding anything remotely amusing about Charlie Sheen
  • doing after-school activities (music lessons etc) which require me to drive him to the place of the activities or do anything else organisational

  • table manners, including the ability to recognise implements of cutlery and use them for the purposes for which they are designed
  • not writing or saying singular 'they' indiscriminately

I am quite confident he will master all of these within a few days of being born: on Monday we had lunch in Daylesford and the lady who brought our food said the baby will be a Taurean Rabbit, which I knew already but hadn't considered the implications of, and will therefore be very creative and intensely good-looking, which as you may guess I was pleased to hear, since I've been trying to imagine what he'll look like and I never get any further than picturing a sort of Photoshop Disaster mashup of Dorian and myself. This despite having 'seen' him very regularly via ultrasound - I have now had seven of these, I think - at the most recent one yesterday there wasn't a lot to see because he's all curled up in a ball now, but he doesn't appear to be so monstrously huge any more. The ultrasonographer said he's in the 65th centile round the gut now, which sounds a lot better than 95th last time, and gives me a bit of hope that I will be able to avoid a Caesarian, which would be nice as getting better from a big cut in the belly is no picnic. I know the measurements and estimates arrived at by the scans are unreliable as predictors but if this is the info my obstetrician will be working from then she might be happier about letting me try to push him out. I'll find out what she thinks on Friday.

I have thought so very much about what sort of birth might happen, and about how I'll feel about what does happen. It is a fraught subject. I think women are encouraged to set very difficult goals for themselves, in terms of planning what sort of birth they'll have, and when things don't go to plan it seems to make recovery a great deal harder psychologically. On the huge pregnancy and baby forums there are sub-forums devoted to debriefing from disappointing birth experiences.

I am sad to say I think this over-planning is mostly instigated by people with the very best intentions aimed at returning some agency to women who are routinely divested of their autonomy by the medical system. Clearly there is a lot of evidence that a great many more women could very well be allowed to get on with it than are currently doing so. The hospital I am going into has a 40% Caesarian birth rate - a product of obstetrician-led care, plus the demographic of the mothers, their more advanced age and generally higher than average incidence of high-risk pregnancies - but even allowing for that this rate is much higher than it needs to be.

In my own case the decision to be looked after by an obstetrician privately rather than a team of midwives in the public system (where there are not so many interventions) has turned out to be absolutely the best one - my diabetes has been looked after so effectively because this one doctor has overseen my care all along, personalised it, and hasn't hesitated to move fast to fix problems as soon as they begin to appear. I like her, I feel very confident in her judgement and her experience, and this is why I grow impatient with sweeping dismissals of obstetrician-led pregnancy care on the grounds that it's taking too much control away from the mother. I know that it's also possible to assert or exert your authority over yourself by putting yourself completely into the hands of another. I haven't abdicated anything by deciding to do what my doctor recommends and not to make a birth plan. On the contrary I've decided to be consciously trusting in her ability to do what's best, and no less, to trust my ability to rise to the occasion, whatever it shall turn out to be.

The push to have mothers take control over birth within a context of increasing intervention doesn't seem good to me partly because alarm bells go off when I hear of women feeling emotionally devastated because they feel they've 'failed' at giving birth 'naturally', but also because it appears to be resulting in some extremely grotesque innovations which seem designed to get the mother playing an assertive role in proceedings at all costs. There is a procedure called a maternal-assisted Caesarean, available at at least one Australian hospital (PDF), where the cut in the abdomen is made by the delivering surgeon, and then the mother lifts the baby out herself. Does this sound like something you'd want to do? I don't find the prospect of putting my hands into my own belly all that enticing, in fact, it sounds like a nightmare scenario, and not a context in which I'd like to meet my child. But then, I will not be 'mourning the loss of being able to have a vaginal birth', and I think it's worrying that women for whom vaginal birth is dangerous or impossible are coming to feel that a c-section is anything but a blessed alternative we're extremely lucky to have.

Anyway, I said I would put a picture of the curtains I made so here it is, a bit dark sorry.


Mindy said...

Curtains are just gorgeous. I wasn't going to give any advice but I can't help myself - trust your body, and after the birth try to eat everything they give you or if you can't eat drink all the sugary drinks they provide because I nearly had a hypo after my second casear and it wasn't fun. If you feel shaky and sweaty ask for something, just in case.

All the best.

Elephant's Child said...

As a non mother to my eternal regret I have been horrified for quite some time about the pressure we place on women to 'do it right' according to the theory of the day/proponent. Your philosophy of trusting your doctor and yourself sounds pretty good. Lots of luck in this exciting lead up to the birth of your boy.

JahTeh said...

I didn't get much flack over the caesarean since baby and I were going downhill but the carryon about breastfeeding really did the mind in.

Not in a million years would I grub around in my own abdomen looking for my kid. Knowing my habit of dropping important things would stop that.

M-H said...

Lovely post Laura. Thanks. It is a shame that women feel the need to take responsibility for things beyond their control, or to feel angry with themselves (or others) when the birth doesn't go as 'planned'. Before the birth of my first child I had a series of repeating nightmares about 'things going wrong'. Nothing did go seriously 'wrong', in any of my three deliveries, but some were better than others. That's just the way things go.

Amd doorbitch says 'prefur' - is that what cat's skin is covered with before they're born, do you hink?

lucy said...

I recently discovered a school friend's blog and was fascinated in a morbid kind of way by her post explaining how she hopes to have a maternal-assisted Caesarean (in a country hospital).

I love the nursery.

lucy tartan said...

Mindy! I love advice! Do you have any more? I've put the odd two and two together around the blogs lately and worked out that your pregnancies have been similar to mine. Seriously, anything else you think of would be welcome.

Elephant's Child, one of the more sinister things about that pressure you talk about is how the specific theory of the day changes but the pressure itself doesn't. Mary McCarthy wrote really well about this. And of course, it's a thing you really, really want to do as well as possible, and thus it's oh so very easy to internalise the criticism and the sense of failure if you don't measure up to the impossible standards. Thanks for the good wishes.

lucy tartan said...

JahTeh, exactly! Or I'd be worried I'd pull out some wrong body part. It's birth, not a lucky dip.

M-H, thank you, and thank you for reading, and commenting. I agree with you. Although I believe prefur is the fluff newborns have if they come out a tiny bit early - doctors call it lanugo or some such, but everyone knows it's really cat hair.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I know nothing of childbirth but I can give you a hot tip about fusion astrology. This is something you really, really want to know. The Rabbit is one of those signs in Chinese astrology (there is one other, I think) that is sometimes called something else. The something else that it is sometimes (at least as often) called is a Cat.

Suzanne White, who is, I believe, the person who first invented or at least popularised what I think of as fusion astrology, is one of those who calls Rabbits Cats, and has this to say about the Taurus/Cat child:

'If you have a Taurus child born Cat, turn the classical music up louder and buy a harpsichord kit. These children adore music. They love to dream. They are happiest in peaceful and pastoral surroundings. [Lots of pram walks in the La Trobe bushland environs then -- Ed.] They are not fighters. You won't get anywhere with them by strict disciplinary tactics. Sit them down quietly and explain. Otherwise you might mar their gentle little psyches forever.'

No pressure, then. What she also says about the Taurus/Cat: 'inventors, innovators and breakthrough thinkers on subjects both artistic and creative'; 'They are nesters and snugglers and careful collectors'; 'Taurus Cats abhor indiscriminate mingling'.

The most you have to worry about is that they are vulnerable and easily hurt, and also that they like to stay at home a lot, surrounded by art, which I suppose could develop into a minor problem but solves the football thingy.

Mindy said...

Well I was wondering if you have told all rellies and friends about the rules? How to deal with an inapproriate present is something that I wish I had sorted out well beforehand.

You are certainly a lot better educated about this whole business than I was. If you are happy then it doesn't matter how your boy comes out.

Make sure you have your blood test kit with you at the hospital (its probably already packed). Take your bag when you go somewhere in the car even if you feel silly doing so.

If they do a blood pressure test when you go in for monitoring and freak out about it, ask to be left alone for 1/2 an hour before they check again so you can relax and rest to see if it comes down.

Have everything ready just in case (my first was three weeks early).

Every midwife you deal with is going to have a different way of doing things. Ignore the advice you don't like. Some midwives have really crap bedside manners.

Everyone else will be an instant expert on your baby. You and Dorian are the only experts.

You are a good mum. Repeat as needed.
Feel free to ignore all well intentioned advice.

Agnes said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy, L! I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but have to call you on one point: the plastic toys. I, too, wanted to avoid plastic before my daughter was born. Then I had a kid who had to spend a lot of time in hospital during the toddler years. Plastic toys are fantastic in that situation: they are durable and can be quickly sterilised and shared between kids. Now she is older, I wouldn't live without lego for the world :)

lucy tartan said...

Exceptions shall be made for Lego, and I'm pretty well aware that it's probably unattainable anyway. My aim is really just to keep plastic toys to an absolute minimum. Mindy I think I've told most people about the Rules. So I should be taking my hospital bag around with me now? ok. o_O

Kerryn I think the Taurus Cat sounds a lot like Basil: artistic, innovative, snuggler etc (just not the part about not liking to fight.) He's being a bit weird lately. In the middle of the night he creeps up from the bottom of the bed and lies on top of the mound formed by my bump and the pillow I've got it propped against. Strangely this isn't uncomfortable.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

You never know, Basil might be a Taurus Cat as well. He sounds as though he is being a bit of a midwife cat (as distinct from a nurse cat), or perhaps just bonding with your boy.

Helen said...

"JahTeh, exactly! Or I'd be worried I'd pull out some wrong body part. It's birth, not a lucky dip."

My thoughts exactly. "Gah, what an ugly... Oh shit, this is my gall bladder."

Very excited in the countdown to the big birth-day!

seepi said...

Birth is a major event. It is no wonder people get pretty passionate about it. And a lot of people wish they could have done things differently after the event, so they go all 'born again/fanatical' on others, trying to make them have the birth they wish they got.

Good advice I got: when you really think you can't stand it any more, there is probably only about 20 minutes left.

And writing a birth plan can be a trap, if you will be devastated to deviate from it, but having a rough idea of what you want, and telling this to other people is a good idea.

I seem to lose the power of speech in labour, and so Mr has to tell the midwives what I want etc.

Also - your OB may be great, but they will not be there for the entire labour - a lot of it might be just you, with them popping in every hour or so to see where you are at.

I would read Spiritual Midwifery - it has some good ideas about how to relax your body and mind, and is good for laughs as well with the 70s hippy lingo, and recommendations to pash throughout labour.

ppps - whatever kind of birth you get, the main bit is, you get a baby.

Unknown said...

Plastic tat: I too have the same distaste and all I want is for young Blobby to have beautiful handmade artisanal wooden and cloth toys I've bought off Etsy.

However, watching many of my friends have children has convinced me that plastic tat is unavoidable, so I am simply endeavouring not to buy any myself and trying to keep numbers under control.

And given that my mother-in-law has already proven herself to be extremely generous with the giving of plastic tat to her other 11 grandchildren I doubt I'm going to achieve even that.

Birth. Yes. I had that moment a few days ago where I really realised it was far too late now to change my mind and the baby would need to come out somehow. As Kaz Cooke writes in 'Up the Duff': I don't want to have the baby vaginally and I don't want to have a ceasarian.

Mr Kate read a pregnancy book for dads when I first got pregnant and he said to me one day, about eight weeks in, "so have you thought about your birth plan?"

I think I hit with some nearby object.

Now I am reaching the halfway point in this pregnancy and frankly I just don't want to do a birth plan.

I know what I'd like to happen - natural birth with no painkillers, short labour, healthy baby, no tearing, magically easy breastfeeding... but the idea that I could plan for such a thing seems ridiculous and like I'll be setting myself up for disappointment.

I mean, I don't know how painful labour is going to be and I really don't want to do myself out of an epidural just because I think I should. People say "birth is natural, women don't need painkillers" and I think, well, pain from broken legs or cancer is natural too but we don't just let people suffer needlessly, do we?

And if it comes down to it, and a C-section is called for, I'm 100% fine with that. My top priority is healthy baby, then healthy me, not some mythical "good birth".

And I've never had a baby before but my obstetrician has delivered thousands and I feel like I should trust his judgement - certainly I don't see this as over-medicalising the process or abdicating responsibility.

Shorter me: I agree with everything you said except the bit about getting a dog.

Meredith Jones said...

Oh god I think I am in the 65th centile round the gut too.

Can there be any exceptions apart from Lego for the plastic toys? What if I buy my little nephew one of these?

The nursery looks absolutely beautiful. I wanted a crib like that for Ruby but ended up with a post-colonial thing in hideous cheap wood.

After 18 hours of pain that I've chosen to forget, my caesarian was one of the best things that has ever happened to me xxxxxxxxxxx

Mindy said...

After having to wait for over an hour for hubby to turn up with the bag I'd almost put into the car that morning, but didn't because I told myself not to be silly, I don't think it is a bad thing to have your bag with you. That will ensure that you don't need it.

Midwives come in all shapes from fantastically helpful to downright rude and what the hell are you doing in this job. Feel free to ignore the nasty ones. Some of them seem to make a habit of ruining the confidence of first time mums.

Ask your Obs about eating during labour, if you need to. Take snack size food - chocolate is good if you like it, because you can suck on small pieces.

(Now I'm into unchartered territory) If your waters break at home and are clear try and labour at home for as long as possible, often labour stops when you get to the hospital just because it is an unfamiliar environment. Plan your route to the hospital, time it and have a backup plan in case someone inconsiderate starts roadworks or something. Make sure the car has at least 1/2 tank of fuel. Don't want to be stopping for petrol on the way.

WV: trottin

Ampersand Duck said...

Just wanted to add here that I have brought my son up on nearly all of those rules (and yes, do tell the rellies because nearly all the crapy plastic things come from well-meaning people), and despite his father letting him do exactly the opposite one weekend a fortnight (he has a tv in his other bedroom!), my side is winning and he's turning out to be a pretty fabulous human. Should be much easier if you both stay together & stick to the rules!

And EWWWWW I couldn't think of anything worse than bending forward in the middle of a caesarian and doing anything! I was flat on my back with a big sheet up between me & the docs and it was still gruesome.

Also -- Jahteh is dead right. The pressure to give birth perfectly is NOTHING to the pressure to breastfeed perfectly. Watch out for chicken-bum-lipped community nurses.

iODyne said...

and you are lucky not to have, as I have, a taurus in the year of the ox. she's a cow. 0r 38. possibly it's her Gen XY whatever.

Parents who create beautiful nursery (and yours is) will raise beautiful baby in it.
I had 3 children without any 'plan' or education and the one thing I do know is that none were anything like the births depicted in any popular entertainment - you know, with all the urgency, drama and shreiking. Labor onset was just like a vile hangover and I had plenty of experience there.
All will be lovely.

GS said...

As a Rabbit/earth sign myself I know your son is going to be brilliant :)

I love your list of forbidden things. You both are going to be amazing parents and Baz the perfect god-less parent.

So much attention is placed on just one day, a bit like a wedding, it's the rest of your life that matters. The most amazing thing about modern birth in the Western World is the high percentage of mothers and babes that live to tell the tale. A true success story, often overlooked in an era of crafting perfect moments.

Am crossing all my digits that all goes according to plan, whatever the plan is :)

Liam said...

I don't know the first thing about births or babies, Laura, but I do know a bit about working at Macca's: enough to recommend you push it from "recommend against" into "forbid" category.
And if he does work there or at a similar joint for high school pocket money, he should be told to immediately join the union and refuse to play the "clock off and unload the truck before you go home" game so beloved by dodgy franchisees.
And I'm with everyone else. Great curtains.

meli said...

i've been thinking about you these past few weeks as you approach this remarkable event! I want to wish you all the best! I'm sure your approach of not having hard and fast expectations is the best approach to have. All you want is to get them out safely - it will be a transformative and life-changing day however it turns out, but this isn't the most important thing! ah it's just so exciting. baby boys are just the best.

and your nursery is lovely.

Anonymous said...

Good luck. I think birth is hideous and had as many drugs as possible although I had initially thought I was a natural birth queen. Ha! No way would I be rummaging about inside either, never know what you might find! And after 8 years of being a mother I have developed a sneaky respect for crappy plastic toys - sometimes a hideous, cynical, vile bit of plastic becomes imbued by your child with some wonderful qualities. And maybe My Little Ponies are strangely appealing after all? At least when arrayed en masse facing an army of Sylvanians. My amended rule is to never give said hideous plastic but to accept it graciously when it is given. Banning things only seems to create a huge and powerful desire for them. I know this because I experimented with banning TV. No one was a winner in that situation.
Lucky you, about to start something wonderful, love the curtains.