I love hearing and talking about birth. At mothers' group, playgroup or wherever there is a congregation of newish parents, and the subject inevitably comes up, I am always at the middle of the conversation, asking questions, nodding along or clucking sympathetically.
Despite the traumatic birth of my twins, (you can read about it here) I would love to do it all again, this time with a proper plan in place. But according to writer Mia Freedman, this makes me a Birthzilla. Freedman likens what she calls the “Birthzilla” to a Bridezilla – a woman whose meticulous plans and demands for her wedding apparently mean she cares more about the ceremony than the marriage. In the same way, says Freedman, the “Birthzilla” – one who prepares for a baby's birth with a written birth plan – places an undue amount of importance on the birth process than the resulting baby.
I didn’t write a birth plan during my pregnancy. I didn’t think I would need one, because my midwife and the obstetrician knew exactly what my preferences were. They took notes during our appointments, so I didn’t see any reason to have my own list. I didn't expect to be transferred to another hospital with unfamiliar staff and procedures – a place where I wasn’t even “allowed” to wear my own nightgown or have my mother and sister present for the birth.
I carry a fair bit of resentment over the way I was treated during the birth of my twins. I hated almost every minute in that hospital and I completely understand why women choose to have homebirths, especially following a traumatic birth. Do I think having a birth plan would have changed things in my case? Probably not, but having a set of simple requests would have reassured me that the staff knew at the very least, that my husband wanted to cut the umbilical cord, rather than the medical student who was so quick to grab the scissors.
Mia says that for the Birthzilla, it's all about the birth, not the baby, but can't it be about both? Birth is a huge deal for most women. I looked forward to giving birth so much, and I am really disappointed I didn't get to birth the way I wanted. And I don't mean that I didn't get the drug free, natural birth I envisaged, rather that I didn't feel safe, supported or respected by the people looking after me.
I didn't feel safe, supported or respected by the people looking after me.
My sister, a midwife, would agree in part with Mia. She gave a sad little smile when, early in my pregnancy I floated the idea of a birth plan past her – she has seen many paper plans torn in half once the contractions really kick in – but she didn't try and talk me out of it. She laughed a bit, but when I said it was less about jungle drums in the background, and more about practicalities (let my partner announce the sex, cut the cord, wash the baby etc) she agreed that they can have some merit in the birth suite.
Ultimately, a birth plan is about putting it in writing that a woman's body is to be treated with respect and dignity by her caregivers – not simply as a vessel or incubator for the baby. I care about the baby, but I also care about me. If that makes me a Birthzilla, I'll happily wear the badge.
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