Monday, June 13, 2011

A Crone Considers Modern Childbirth

 About a month ago I wrote in “Pregnancy – It Ain’t What it Used to Be” about all the new wrinkles there are to the processes of pregnancy and childbirth since I gave birth (by Caesarian) to three children back in the seventies.

Since Christmas Eve, when daughter Eleni and her husband Emilio broke the news that we were to become grandparents (at last!) I’ve been having a lot more fun following her pregnancy than I did with my own and I’ve learned a lot at the same time.

I picked up such new-fangled terms as a babymoon, a push present, a birth plan, a birth mix (of music), a doula, and of course the baby daddy.  (How did we ever give birth in the olden days without all these improvements, not to mention the pregnancy web sites that e-mail you news and advice every week?)

Eleni’s blog is called “The Liminal Stage” and, as she says, pregnancy is the most liminal stage of all.  She has written several posts on the topic which have reduced me to both laughter and tears, because she’s so funny, while being honest and wise about the hurdles of a first pregnancy, that I have to share some of it with you.

In “Have Ipod, Will Give Birth” she discusses the almost universal tendency of moms to tell a pregnant lady their terrifying birth stories (which reminds me of a maternity t-shirt I saw for sale that read:

No advice
No birth stories
No touching the belly

Eleni wrote that she’s much more excited about preparing the playlist of music to listen to during labor than preparing the birth plan to distribute to the doctors.  As she says, “Birth plan? Who am I kidding? …I have a feeling that the list of people who are in charge of this birth is a three-legged stool: God first, Amalia [the baby’s name] second, me third (although without me, the stool cannot stand!)…So yes, I’ll study up and write a birth plan, and I’ll take childbirth prep class and breastfeeding class and infant CPR, but when push comes to shove …I’ll do whatever it takes to end up with one healthy, happy baby and one healthy, happy mommy.”

The classes Eleni and Emilio will be taking teach hypno-birthing, which was originated in the U.S. in 1989 by a four-time mother, Marie Mongan, who was inspired by the teaching of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, (who wrote “Childbirth Without Fear.”) They believe that by refocusing the mind away from pain, birth can be a painless process.  If you want to know more about it, here’s a video showing calm and happy moms popping out calm and happy babies.

Back when I was birthing babies at New York Hospital in New York, we were required to take Lamaze classes to prepare.  My husband dropped out after the first class, telling the startled nurse/teacher , “If God meant for men to help with childbirth, then men would get pregnant.” No baby-daddy would dare talk like that today!

I had heard from my children’s contemporaries about many unusual (to me) methods of giving birth—in a birthing tub, for example, or squatting and tugging on a bar, so that gravity helps. But last week, I learned about a method that left me speechless.  Eleni mourned that her pre-natal pilates classes in Miami had ended because her pregnant teacher, Kim, had gone off to Hawaii to have her baby in the ocean while attended by dolphins.  Yes dolphins. 
 (This image is from Jonathan Goldman's "Healing Sounds" -- "for birth meditation and deep relaxation")

Apparently dolphins bring calm and good karma and all sorts of help. Birthing with the dolphins is gaining popularity all over the world. If you don’t believe me, or want to know more, check out Eleni’s post: “The Dolphins Ate my Workout.”

Dolphin birthing would not work for me.  I’d spend all the time worrying about sharks attracted by blood in the water, or dolphins kidnapping the baby once it comes out.  But then, I always was a worrier. I was the only woman in my Lamaze classes who always flunked “relaxing.”

I know I’ll have a lot more surprises coming before I’m finally a grandmother.  I plan to go down to Florida shortly before Eleni’s  due date of Aug. 19.  I already know I won’t be allowed in the delivery room, which is fine with me—It will be crowded enough with Eleni, her husband Emilio, her sister Marina (who’s trained as a doula), and assorted doctors and nurses. 

Eleni is the only one in her pre-natal pilates class who plans on giving birth in a hospital—and I’m real glad she does.   She and her friends are much better informed about the whole childbirth process than my generation was.  As she wrote, “Not to get too Zen about it, but I’m not attached to any particular method of birth; my plan is all plans and no plans all at once. I’ll try to give birth without drugs, but if that gets unbearably painful, I’ll have an epidural, and if there’s some sort of issue with the baby that indicates a C-section is recommended, I’ll do that if I have to. Either way, I’ll be a mom in the end.”

Meanwhile, she writes, choosing the playlist of music for Amalia’s birth-day has been “hours of fun for the whole family.  I’ve been listening to it all morning, and Amalia has been dancing away.  I think she loves it too.”

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