Archive for August, 2010

Midwifery Colloquy

As the last eight months have progressed, wife and I have found ourselves in frequent contact with midwives (healthcare blessings in lilac blouses whose relative absence from America gives the UK a distinct advantage in pre- and post-natal care). Through the check-ups, scans, and birthing workshops (get with the program, America), we receive a massive amount of information, and occasionally an off-color remark. This entry is a tribute to those midwives who have let slip comments in our presence and never asked, “Why are you taking notes, sir?”

A string of favorites quotes came in a single day and from a single midwife during a course that helped prepare us for the birthing process and the post-natal period. In trying to help the soon-to-be-parents, the midwife fielded a question about the rate of increase in time between contractions. She began her response with, “Textbook rate, from a cervix point of view…” I did not hear the rest. Shortly after this, she encouraged those mothers who wanted to use the birthing pools which are available in most labor wards in the UK (can you hear me, America?). She encouraged the mothers to dress in what was most comfortable, or nothing, if they felt like it. If they want their spouses in the pool (nasty), however, the men must wear swim trunks because, “Midwives are used to seeing naked women, but we’re not so keen on naked men.” Eventually, she got beyond the items available to us during labor and spoke on the event itself. Her eyes glistened slightly as she looked around the room and told the wives, “When you start to push, you will feel like you are taking the largest poo of your life,” then reminded them at the end of the lecture on labor that you are “just pushing down into your body like you’re taking a big poo.” Ahhh, a veritable sonnet on the lips of a bard. Such skill it requires to punctuate one’s stanzas not with commas or ellipses, but with flecks of poo.

When she carried on into the information about actually caring for the baby, she made note of numerous foul, squirty, mucousy, and sticky qualities of this new person. Numerous items were novel to me, and I frequently caught myself grimacing in disgust. More often than not I only realized my expression when I looked around the room and saw all of the women nodding knowingly at our sensei. One of these (numerous) occasions resulted from our midwife’s description of the meconium poop that babies produce for the first few days of life. Apparently, it is a dark, sticky substance (that doesn’t smell!!) that gets all over the baby and can take some effort to remove (Wikipedia has a picture, in case you’re curious). She noted that dads are particularly sensitive to their baby boys being cleaned, and will cry out in horror, “Oooooh! How can you scrape his balls like that!” As she passed on from cleaning the baby, she encouraged us to have our hospital bag ready for the big day, and got very detailed in the process, not even realizing how it sounded when she said, “If you want to be really prepared, because I’m anally prepared…”

As the day drew to a close, she noted that mothers should do all they can to bring the labor on once the baby has reached term. “At 39 weeks [of pregnancy],” she exclaimed, “you should be eating hot curries, taking lots of walks, and having lots of sex. And if you do all three, you get a prize.” I just eyed her suspiciously, because I don’t believe she has any prizes. This suspicion was compounded by her frequent use of the word “squozen”as the past tense of “squeeze.”

She concluded it all with information on breastfeeding, noting that it would be difficult at first, but eventually things would just click. She cautioned, however, that if the baby is not on correctly this can lead to a great deal of soreness- soreness we cannot even imagine, because, to put it in her words, “I don’t want to get into anyone’s private life, but odds are you have never had that much suction on your nipples.” After wetting myself and several others, I gathered my belongings and made for the exit.

The comments above, though amusing, do not capture the awkwardness of another engagement with a midwife during an active birth workshop. She was attempting to demonstrate how a pregnant woman should sit on a birthing ball by actually having a pregnant woman sit on a birthing ball. A novice at it, she just could not get the posture that would please our midwife. “No, that’s still not correct… you’re back needs to hammock… No… stand up for a minute.” She then had her sit on the ball again. “No, you need to sit on your perineum… Wait… do you all know what your perineum is? It’s the place between your bum and your… um… front… between… um… it’s… the area between, you know… between your vagina and you bum.” The fact that a woman who delivers babies for a career had such a hard time saying vagina tickled me ever so much.

That’s all for now. Only four weeks lie between today and the due date. Unless something of great interest arises in the near future, the next time I write there will be another Talbert in the world.