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Chris Magyar

Papa Don't Preach


So we're actually getting a bit militant in our birthing preference here at Camp Magyar. Not with friends and family, of course, because there's nothing more obnoxious than implying that someone else is doing it all wrong, and we're very careful to acknowledge that people should squeeze their babies in whatever way they find juiciest. But we have our preferences now, and they're growing by the day, and we took a hospital tour that made us feel like were just plain weird for having preferences at all, much less our particular ones.

Here's where we stand today, before I get much further: we want to have as natural a birth as possible, meaning no extraneous pain medication and no induction that isn't necessary to prevent death (mother or baby, or father, should the birthing process somehow become life threatening to me). We include epidurals and pitocin, as usually administered, on the list of things we don't want. Yes, we've had the looks and heard about the pain and how hard this is going to be. In my more snotty and defensive moments, I've considered starting a charity people may donate to called "Veronica's Future Pain and How Frightened We All Are About It." In my more charitable and understanding moments, I absorb the warnings in order to brace myself for the frankly messy reality of childbirth.

But anyway, we picked this path, and nothing about it has been more frightening than trying to see that path winding through a hospital. We went on a tour on Sunday, and the first feature the nurse showed us was the wheelchair a volunteer would use to push the mother out the door. Because, obviously, nobody leaves a hospital on their own two feet, and giving birth automatically renders a woman paraplegic. 

This particular hospital, which doesn't need to be named because it's hardly Bedlam Lunatic Asylum and it's staffed by extremely nice and generous people, also requires a 24-hour post partum stay, which turned us off. I love hospitals. My mom spent her professional career in one. I had my life saved by a lengthy hospital stay. But there's no way I'm hanging around any longer than absolutely necessary with a brand new toy called a daughter. We've got bonding to do, and you don't bond in a hospital. At best, you awkwardly socialize amidst a sea of commisseration. When I asked the nurse if, assuming the birth happened naturally and without complication, we could leave once V felt comfortable walking, she said it would be Against Medical Advice. You know, like checking yourself out with your arm still broken, or refusing to have a bullet removed.

Also the level of baby security is frightening as hell. The nurse kept prefacing each precaution with, "We've never even had an attempted baby snatching, but," and then detailing how our firstborn child would be magnetized and catalogued and holo-stamped like an advanced copy of the new Windows OS getting ready for the shelves at Best Buy. I never thought the languages of medical precaution and loss prevention would intermingle, but they do, and the result is hideous.

What all this means is that we're going to make this baby happen either at home or a birthing center. Somehow, despite much less planned medical intervention, shorter facility use, and less medical resource drain in general, this decision will cost us way way more. Thanks, perverse incentives of the health insurance medical care paradigm! Anyway, we've been merrily interviewing midwives (which sounds like the 13th Day of Christmas, I know) and are just comparing numbers to see which provider/facility we can't afford the least, and we're gonna lock ourselves into a good old fashioned hippie birthing. Bring some nettles and a dream catcher!

It's not like we're primitive thinkers longing for a yurt-in-the-dirt delivery. We just feel, in our bones, that some kind of pendulum has swung too far in the direction of surgical birth in hospitals (35% C-section rates? No joke?) and we'd like to politely sidestep that whole scene. I'd sing a different tune if Veronica were engaged in more of a high-risk pregnancy, but right now the prospect of donning scrubs and doing the whole Baby Daddy dance I've seen in countless movies and TV shows seems absurd. It would be like negotiating a business deal in a police station. You know, just in case things go wrong.

By the way, we're totally getting a no-nonsense midwife who will drive our asses at full speed to a hospital if things do go wrong. 

I promise this is the last of my natural birth justification posting. I have far more obnoxious pedantry to spend on the education topic (clearly) and besides, I also feel strongly that all of these decisions are -- in a long-term sense, no matter what several dozen specious "studies" say -- kind of meaningless. The birth experience itself is extremely important while it's happening, and I want to support and do whatever makes Veronica the most comfortable, but I'm living proof that a healthy and happy life requires no magical moments in the first minutes. Just good, loving parents and maybe a few well-timed pieces of chocolate.


Comment on this post

Kate 05/16/2011 23:58

We had plans too - though I have to admit, I was *totally* into the pain medication. BRING IT ON! said I, with the full confidence of an embarrassingly low pain threshold. I say, don't let anyone talk you out of them, because they always always will try, and they always always always know better than you do (even the ones without children). Wait, does that count as forced-upon-you advice when I'm telling you to try your hardest to ignore all forced-upon-you advice? Probably. But it's meant in the best possible way :)Due to Australia's *awesome* (/sarcasm) two-tier health system, there aren't really birth centres here, though I think I'm probably a hospital person anyways. I absolutely understand the whole argument against the medicalisation (or whatever) of birth, because, damn. It's there. But I'm a worrywart, and I'd want to be within seconds of medical help if I needed it. Not that I did. 29 hours of labour, my friend. 29. I had *plenty* of time to get anywhere. In fact, I could have got to your birth centre by the time things actually started happening. Mind you, my 'things' were actually an epidural and an emergency C-section, but that's beside the point. I think all those stories about taxi drivers delivering in the back of their cabs are urban myths. Nothing happens that quickly. Also, you may need medical intervention. While high on morphine, I totally smacked Kirin right in the mouth (accidentally, of course). Loosened a couple of his teeth (he claims - but he hasn't gone to the dentist, so I think he may be exaggerating). Also my dad still has scars on his hand from my mom's teeth during a particularly painful contraction, so don't get cocky. We were in hospital for 7 days after the birth, mainly 'cause I had a gaping hole in my abdomen, but also because it's standard here to stay at least 3 days. It was pretty groovy - meals brought to us, laundry done (especially her diapers and the millions of little smocks and blankets and sheets and towels she threw up on), plus occasionally the midwives would take her away so we could sleep without worrying about her. They were also way heaps helpful with advice if she wouldn't settle (which she didn't, the entire time she was there) and feeding and bathing and all that. I probably would have moved in if they'd have let me. It wasn't in any way medically necessary; but it was nice to have a bit of a rest afterwards without worrying about laundry or food. Though if my mom had been able to come right after the birth, I imagine it would have been the exact same service. Anyways, these are the things your post inspired me to say. One of the things that seems universal (to the women at least) is the need to share your own birth story whenever the subject comes up. It's a compulsion not easily denied, and I clearly haven't even tried very hard here. Warn Vanessa though - she may find herself stopping strangers in the street to talk about her 3 minute contractions and idiot husband who got in the way of her fist ;)