I was the first person I knew to insist on a “natural birth,” back in 1964. I had read books on breathing techniques, practiced them, and delivered Sean vaginally in a hospital with no medications. Likewise, Colin, 20 months later.
As Sean’s head was crowning, I remember looking through the columns of my legs, as if they were pillars in an ancient temple, marveling at the miracle pushing through my own young, vibrant, muscled loins. It was at that moment that my authentic spirituality was born. Earth-based, goddess-centered, all-one with the universe. The birthing experience was of a piece with my pregnancy. Even though I had not wanted a child, I have never felt so alive and embodied as during those nine months when the mysterious, primal power of the universe took over, used my body as a vessel for the sheer abandon of endless creation.
That revelation, that the entire universe is sacred, and creative, that it continuously births forms from emptiness and dissolves them back into emptiness, was so stupendous that I immediately blocked it, went into denial, for another six long years.
So for Kate’s sake, I hope that Rebecca is correct in her assessment.
Update, 7/29/13: She was. See this.
July 23, 2013
I’ll admit this is entirely speculation. I have no idea what has been going on inside the Lindo Wing for the last 36 hours and it is good that I don’t know. Very few people, Romola Garai excepted, want the world’s media to have knowledge of the state of their post-partum perineum.
However on careful viewing of the footage of Kate emerging 27-ish hours after birth, I’m putting myself on the record saying that I think she had a spontaneous vaginal birth without instruments and without an epidural. Why? Well, as @midwifeyhooper, @beverleyturner and I have been saying on twitter she is walking and carrying her baby with ease. There’s no hesitation or grimacing when going down steps or in to the car – all of which would be pretty impossible so quickly after a caesarean.
The baby has no tell-tale lumps from a ventouse cap and no forceps marks on his face. Kate herself has no bruises on the back of her hands or wrists suggesting no epidural or synthetic hormones were used.
Of course, anything is possible, but her apparent lack of discomfort, her energy and her short stay in hospital and seemingly quite speedy timeline all point to a straightforward birth.
In many ways I feel guilty for speculating, for grubbily pouring over the photos searching for evidence. She’s just a woman adjusting to one of the most momentous changes in her life and I’m sure she doesn’t need us all wondering about ‘mode of delivery’ (hateful phrase). It’s her business and as long as she feels happy, well-supported and that it was a good and safe experience who cares if she had an elective caesarean or a water birth?
Yet, I can’t help feeling that it does matter. If Kate was really keen to have a natural, vaginal birth and had really spent time practising antenatal yoga, Natal Hypnotherapy and the like I feel delighted for her that she had the birth she wanted and prepared for. The odds were stacked against her. Like over 90% of UK women she gave birth in a consultant-led unit (in her case with two dedicated consultants) when the evidence clearly shows that midwife-led care is the most appropriate, safest and cost-effective for low-risk women. She also gave birth at a private hospital with, reportedly, a 100% epidural rate, a high caesarean rate and no birth pool. I do, however, wonder if an inflatable pool is being deflated as I type.
Sadly many UK women aren’t so lucky. Shunted in to consultant-led care through lack of available options they have a 45% chance of having an operative birth. Shocking when you think that stepping through the doors of the birth centre down the road would have dropped that chance by nearly 30%, while costing the NHS less and giving identical outcomes for the baby.
While medical intervention is life-saving, much-needed and a positive choice for some, there are far too many women wanting to have Kate’s birth who end up feeling that they’ve been cheated.
So, perhaps I’m justifying my tabloid curiosity as I guiltily examine the backs of Kate’s hands, but the fact that the most high-profile birth of our time seems to have been a natural one, in a sea of rising interventions and rising dissatisfaction amongst women, seems important.
The headline “woman has birth experiences that she wanted and planned for” probably wouldn’t go down too well at The Sun’s newsdesk, but sadly it is becoming almost deserving of the front page.