HAPPY BIRTH-DAY TO ALL MOTHERS

Posted on September 7, 2009.

Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

Safe motherhood for all. By F. Beaumont.

My daughter Esmeralda turns 18 today. Like all parents, I am amazed at how time flies. Like all mothers, I get reminiscent about those days, 18 years ago.

I was very pregnant and very happy. I lived in Rome, Italy, and I wanted a home birth.

I wanted music, soft light, friends, baby on my stomach still attached by umbilical cord, no drugs, and no epidural. A birth by my own rules, not by a cold hospital’s.

I found a group specialized in home births – Il Melograno. Their package included ob-gyn and midwife, courses, support and, more importantly, a woman-friendly feel. A photographer from Marie Claire magazine would do a photo reportage on my happy home birth.

Our premise: pregnancy is neither a disease nor a disability. Pregnancy and birth have become over-medicalized; women should reclaim it from doctors overly fond of control and caesareans. My family, my colleagues and the baby’s father thought I was crazy. Home births are more common now but women still battle to extricate pregnancy and birth out of the hospital realm.

In Brazil, we recently lost a battle for a  centre for natural birth in Rio de Janeiro.

Clueless mommy

In my case, at midnight, after 30 hours of labour, I was stuck at 6 cms dilatation – and exhausted. A home birth must be 100 percent natural, so the few drops of oxitocyn to trigger full dilation had to be administered in hospital, three blocks away. There I went. At 2am my daughter was born – and promptly taken away to the nursery.

At 5:30am a nurse literally dumped my baby girl in my arms and left. No instructions on how to feed, nothing. My midwife and friends were coming at 8 am. What to do?  I had never been around a newborn. I was like Carrie Bradshaw in Season 2 of Sex and The City – domesticity and motherhood were not part of my landscape.

So there I was, baby on one hand, baby book on the other, trying to figure it out. This is the most ridiculous and pathetic image of modern motherhood, I thought. How did we end here, from birth as a group event to 6 AM loneliness in hospital?

Less than 24 hours later, against hospital rules, I signed waivers absolving doctors of any responsibility and checked myself out.

I went home and turned on the CD player. My daughter’s godmother had been listening to the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want”. I chuckled.

Two close friends, one in Windhoek and one in London, recently tried a home birth but ended in hospital, just like me. Still, we were happy to go through labour at home.

Meanwhile, many women struggle to have a safe birth – anywhere. About half a million women die in childbirth very year. There are not enough trained midwives to ensure a safe labour, whether at home or at a clinic,

Photo:

Art by Nelly Romeo Alves, photo by E. Zimbres

from Mexico to Uganda.

At a conference on reproductive health in Berlin last week, the World Health Organisation reported that one woman dies every minute for lack of adequate pregnancy and birth services.

A cruel paradox: the world proffers to revere motherhood but does not make it safe and comfortable for mothers to give birth.

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