Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Hardest Word

"Teach me the old ways; I'm ready to learn . . . /And we are ancient, built from bones"

In about five weeks, Dusty and I will be welcoming our wee beastie into this crazy lovely world. FIVE WEEKS. This past weekend, Dusty finished prepping the baby's room while I started washing all the baby's clothes and bedding. We also attended our weekend-long prenatal class with six other couples who will be delivering their babies under the care of the midwives at Westview Health Centre in Stony Plain. We learned and practiced natural pain management techniques like non-focused awareness, breath awareness, and massage. Ohhh, the massage.

We also discussed the "Labor Means Hard Work" section in Birthing From Within and watched two videos. The first one gave a detailed overview of all the stages of labor, with a few tips on how to help the laboring mother get through each stage. I was the only person in the class who had ever witnessed a birth and I think everyone at the birth [and in the class] was surprised that Karincita went through those stages in the span of about six hours, and delivered her child in two pushes, 20 minutes before the midwife got there. Snickerdoodle's birth was a rare, wondrous, and joyous event, but I and the other mothers-to-be in the class felt somewhat relieved that first babies generally do not arrive so swiftly into the world.

The second video was called Elk and the Epidural, done by Pam England, the author of Birthing From Within. The video was a 15-minute cartoon that purportedly "illustrates the truthful and typical experience of labor with an epidural." Except that the laboring mother is an ELK, her partner is an ELK, and her doula is a MOUSE. And the video uses language like, "If the elk mother decides to get an epidural, then she will labor at Cascading Falls, where there are a series of cascading medical interventions." and "When the elk mother is ready to push, the elk father encourages her and breathes with her through the contractions while the mouse doula reassures her that she is doing well."

Oh, Sister Pammy. NO. This is the kind of trippy dippy video that gives us hippies a bad name.

First of all, you know you're in trouble when you have to preface your video with "A lot of people asked me why I chose to represent the laboring mother as an elk and set the birthing process in the forest with animals. I thought it would be less threatening to women." Are you for serious?! If a pregnant woman in a prenatal class feels "threatened" by the sight of a human woman in labor, then she really should not be pushing a live human being out of her ladyflower. I think that Pam just wanted to draw elks and mice and owls and thought it might be cute to use them in a birthing video. It's not.

Second, this cartoon video is far from a "truthful and typical experience of labor". ELK DO NOT NEED EPIDURALS TO BIRTH THEIR BABIES. A mother elk walks into the forest, grunts and pushes a few times, and out comes the elk baby. Father elk is probably long gone by then. There aren't any fetal heart monitors or IV drips in the forest, and it's really unsettling and weird to see a cartoon elk strapped to medical equipment. Also, if in some parallel universe a mother elk were to have a doula, a mouse would most likely not be the first choice because, well, an elk could crush a mouse. And how helpful would a crushed mouse doula be? Not very, I'm guessing.

Third, this video shouldn't be advertised as an objective view of epidurals. Clearly, Pam advocates not having an epidural; how obvious a metaphor is Cascading Falls? None of the people in the class could take the information seriously; I looked around and all of the couples were exchanging "WTF?!" looks throughout the viewing. I felt like the video was condescending and I would've preferred to get information this important from humans, even cartoon humans. It would've been a step up from badly-drawn elk and mice.

Anyway, I’m feeling more prepared and informed about the laboring process in general, elk epidurals notwithstanding. Dusty and I are both getting really excited to meet this kid. Now the only thing left to do is paint and set up the baby’s room and start nesting.

Five weeks. BRING IT.

"The Hardest Word" by Kirsty MacColl

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