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Friday, 14 May 2010


Once upon a time, I used to live next door to this gorgeous young mum. Late 20s, pretty as a picture. With hair that does this amazing flowing billowing thing, very infrequently experienced by my own locks.

This young mum used cloth nappies, grew her own vegetables, never touched alcohol and recycled the bath water. She walked to the corner shop, hung her washing on a clothes line and I never saw a Dominos delivery car in her drive way.

Mind you, if I wasn't joining the daily derby to find my way unarmed and unharmed into the city each week day to masquerade about, I'd grow vegetables. Probably even in the dirt.

(Me, August 1991, about 30 minutes before giving birth, great hair)

This gorgeous mum had just had her third baby. A little girl, called Katherine. Well, it's pronounced Katherine, that's how they introduced me. But I've noticed that it starts with a "Z" and ends with a "C" and there's no "TH" in the midst. Perhaps it's a name from some remote Slovakian village? Or they found it inscribed on the upper reach of a minor pyramid in Egypt? Or maybe Mum and Dad failed Year 10 English?

The baby is gorgeous too. All eight pound two of her (I've no idea what that is in Fahrenheit). And she was delivered naturally. As you would assume a child of such an earth mother would be, I was proudly told by the lovely mum.

But what constitutes natural childbirth?

I know she bravely squeezed her eight pound princess from her half ounce aperture, but she'd had her baby manually turned from the breach position two weeks prior. She'd received pain killers throughout labour and was the recipient of some vaginal cross-stitch post birth thanks to a generous episiotomy. Is this natural?

(Me, one minute after I'd given birth, via c-section)

Natural to me is the stories of the Chinese ladies on the rice fields who work under the beating sun whilst nine months pregnant and then excuse themselves from their work mates in the same manner I would apply if I was racing to the bar to get another double scotch before happy hour finished. Courteous but hurried.

From all accounts they turn their back, squat a bit (miraculously without the aid of Pilates classes) and effortlessly bring a new life into the world. They pop bub on their shoulder and go back to picking rice without so much as a Huggie in sight. Let alone a pastel shaded Babygro. Edged in some fabulous white piping. With matching jacket.

I'm a mum. I did the birth thing. Once. So maybe that doesn't make me the oracle of childbirth. Then again, most opinions on birth that I hear are from childless women in their 30s and elder men. So really, I hold superior qualifications.

My daughter was a caesarean birth and whilst not a planned caesarean, I was certainly not unhappy about it. I guess I worked off the naïve principle that I was pregnant to have a baby, not a birth. I never felt less complete, I never felt that I hadn't honoured my child's world entry, I never felt that I failed. But plenty of other people felt I had. Comments ranged from, "Oh darling, what a disappointment." (This from my then mother-in-law as she stood holding her first grandchild. Clearly her diplomacy ran in the family hence the "then mother-in-law" reference.)

(Me, 3 hours after giving birth, content but looking for a drink)

"Do you feel like a proper woman?" (This from a cousin who had no children and resolutely no short to medium term intentions of having any either.) Well sweetie, I murmured, if they'd let me give birth in a pair of high heels, perhaps I would?

"Do you think you'll still be able to bond with your daughter?" Well, if I gave birth and then moved to the northern end of Greenland for the best part of 10 years, I might have a problem bonding.

To me, these were just dumb, insensitive ramblings. That aside, I couldn't understand why I was being held up for comment. But if I'd had a vaginal birth with major medical intervention, I would be regarded as a modern-day Wonder Woman.

A girlfriend of mine laboured dreadfully for 18 hours and steadfastly ignored the advice of her doctor to have a caesarean delivery. It took 34 hours, epidurals, forceps, episiotomies, the suction cap and enough pain killers to keep Amy Winehouse happy to bring her child into the world.

Yet her birth is still classified as natural...

I've started a new vocabulary for childbirth. You have a vaginal birth or you have a vaginal by-pass. Sometimes I call it the sun-roof option.

To me, it's about mum and bub. She's the one who has been incubating the little blighter since dad got the whole thing started and she can be the one to choose what feels right for her body and her mind.

And if choice goes out the window and she has to follow doctor's orders, that makes her smart for wanting the best for her child.


  1. Here here.....

  2. haha so true, I hate the way people crap on about labour, who cares about the labour the hard part is actually bringing them up