Why "I wish I'd known you when I was pregnant" really pulls at my heartstrings....
It's both a great compliment and a great sadness to me that I hear this statement several times a week. I don't just hear it from new mothers of tiny babies. It's often from women who aren't planning any more children - some of them have children in their teens and beyond.
The compliment bit is completely ego-centric and superficial. It does confirm to me, though, that I've made absolutely the right decision to leave marketing behind and focus exclusively on birth work (I can honestly say I didn't ever feel this verve for either Andrex or Waitrose - however much fun we had together!).
It's a huge sadness to me, though, because when these women tell me this, they are really telling me about regret. And regret about one of the most important days of their lives - a day I can fairly confidently guarantee you'll remember for the rest of your life.
This conversation highlights the problem women face when they're pregnant - it's nigh on impossible to access really good resources and information that adequately prepares and equips women for the actual realities of birth.
It's fairly straightforward to get information about the physiology of birth - although I'd argue that it's too often weighted with risk, insidiously persuading women that their bodies require management without reference to the inhibition of physiology that this often entails.
What we're missing is sensible information about the factors that actually do influence birth, in preference for facile pitched battles about whether home is 'better' than hospital, or 'natural' should be the goal.
Armed with sensible, informed information about what really influences positive birth outcomes, women can actually begin to make positive plans. I don't mean committing their colours to a particular birth-ie tribe (I spend quite some time in my life suggesting to women that they don't rule out sweeps, or inductions, or interventions), I mean working out what sort of experience they want to have, how they feel about various interventions, how they can be adaptable & resilient & flexible, how they can make shared decisions with their carers.
The problem women face is systemic misogyny in maternity services. I'm sorry, I know that's a bold statement to make, but bear with me. I don't think it's intentional. I don't think medics set out to damage women, or undermine them, or treat them poorly. But if their treatment of women predicates a narrow set of outcomes, and those narrow sets of outcomes are all those medics see, well, it's easy to see how this becomes a truth for them.
Bear with me again, for a second, partly because I'm going to link to the Daily Mail (possibly the first time EVER!), and partly because I'm going to reference Harry & Meghan. This is an important example.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail reported Dr Timothy Draycott's performance at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists. Dr Draycott, a British doctor & member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacologist publicy mocked Meghan Markles supposed birth plan. That's right. A respected and recognised British Dr took aim and an individual pregnant women, and made fun of her plans. "Meghan Markle has decided she’s going to have a doula and a willow tree… let’s see how that goes", he said.
This is an example of how wide of the mark we are in our treatment of pregnant women. Meghan Markle is no fool. Neither she nor her husband have done anything I'm aware of to draw his opprobrium. Every woman has a right to make plans that will allow her to feel safe, comfortable & secure on the day. That does not sound radical or unreasonable to me.
It's this attitude that leads to conflict between women & medics when women are at their most vulnerable. Women who want to take some control are often derided & patronised, when actually what they - we - really need is the benefit of both expertise AND compassion.
In the meantime, Meghan and Baby Thing are, according to Prince Harry - just brilliantly hopped up on oxytocin and awe - doing very well. Better than lots of women, who are confined by convention, coerced, persuaded and sometimes bullied. All those women who confess to me, sometimes years later, that they wish they had met me when they were pregnant.