Sunday, April 6, 2008

Club Med birth, please

Had another appointment this week, this time with a midwife at Pembury, the hospital where I plan to deliver. Unfortunately we weren't yet able to have a tour of the facilities, but apparently there are a few of the conventional all-singing, all-dancing labour rooms (take for that bleeping machines and deeply unflattering tube lighting). There are also a couple of 'homely' rooms at the end of the hall reserved for low-risk, 'normal' pregnancies (take for that dim lighting, potpourri and Barry White). Okay, so not that sort of ambient. Still, the idea of giving birth in an atmosphere more like a boudoir admittedly holds far greater appeal than the surgical slab. In fact, all things considered, this room seems the next best thing to delivering in the comfort of your own home. If (God forbid) anything untoward should happen when labour is well and truly underway then it's just a case of being wheeled down the hall.

Fingers crossed all will remain healthy and (there it is again, that word) normal till the finish line, so I can have a dip in the birthing pool. They almost make it sound like Club Med, but I'm not fooled. The fact that labour is probably the single most violent ordeal the female of the species will undergo -- a natural process that not so long ago occasionally resulted in her own DEATH -- never strays too far from my thoughts. Praise be modern medicine! And yet. And yet I fear we've come full circle to some extent. These days there is all manner of gadgetry and fancy tests you can have to detect (as early as 10 weeks) whether or not your baby is 'defective'. While these screening tests are optional and inconclusive, when I decline on the strength of my low-risk status, each and every midwife I see raises a dubious brow and stares at me like I'm short of a few crucial well-placed marbles.

Just the other day I listened to a radio programme about a woman whose first scan revealed that her foetus was 95% defective and doomed to die in the womb. Rather than focus on the other 5%, medical staff strongly urged the woman to terminate the pregnancy then and there, offering all kinds of support should she choose to abort. When she decided to continue with the pregnancy in spite of the risk, she was virtually shunned by the medical community and beyond. Because she didn't want to terminate, she was utterly alone. There is a happy ending, though: the child did live but with some minor defects (she wouldn't grow taller than 5ft1 or 5ft2). So it does make you wonder.

Of course I pray Little Green will be born healthy and happy but whether he/she does is not in my hands. Even if an abnormality is detected, I wouldn't have the heart to terminate (a euphemism if ever there was one). So screening is a moot point as far as I am concerned. I am not a particularly religious person but neither am I godless either. I have long ago learned that my fate -- and, by extension, the fate of Little Green -- is not for me to decide or to control, try as I might. All I can do is vow to be the best mother I can, whatever path is set out before me by the powers that be.

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