Saturday, July 23, 2011

Own Time Own Target

Before I got pregnant with the twins, I read a book by Naomi Wolf called Misconceptions. It's Naomi Wolf using her unplanned and somewhat traumatic C-section as a springboard to talk about how the maternity system in the US is highly interventionist and possibly takes away power from the mom. That set the stage for what I wanted and didn't want from a birth when I had kids. With the twins, I was sorely disappointed that I couldn't have the natural birth that I wanted. But the safety of the twins came first. But the minute the babies were out of me and I was lucid enough, I was able to articulate very clearly in my head that my next birth was going to be natural.

When I was pregnant with Muffin, I fought very hard to get that natural birth. I contemplated changing doctors, I read up on VBACs (Vaginal Births After C-sections), I talked to people and I bugged my doctor no end. I resisted his suggestions of planning a C-section and I threw rocks at the sky when it was nearing T minus 0 and Muffin hadn't made an appearance. And until today, I am still supremely awed by Muffin's birth and it makes me glad that I stuck to my guns and that my doctor while pushy did not pressure me into making a decision I didn't want to make.

The problem is I have come to realise that Muffin's birth story isn't very common. The above sight isn't the norm in Singapore. No epidural, not strapped to a machine (I opted for the wireless tracer), the ability to walk around the delivery room and if you spy in the corner, a MacDonald's Iced Lemon Tea that provided sustenance, relief and cold sweet distraction. Most doctors in Singapore are pro-intervention. They were obviously not schooled in the Packrat school of thought that believed that everything happens in good time (this was what he kept telling me while watching me hurl rocks in the sky and yell at God). And this makes me very angry.

I am hearing stories of doctors, I know not all are like that, but enough for me to be angry at a large section of obstetricians in Singapore, who 'force' their patients to abide by what they want. Packrat and I were very clear on how much risk we were going to take with the VBAC. As long as Muffin was okay and I was okay, we were sticking to that birth plan. But what of doctors who tell their patients, many of them first time moms that they should induce at 38 weeks because the baby is fully formed and there is a risk that the baby might at some point go into distress or have the cord wrapped around the neck? Never mind that there is no evidence of that. And what of doctors who induce their patients who have not even entered the early early stages of labour. No cervical dilation, no bloody show, no Braxton Hicks even? I was led to believe that those were signs that the body gave out to signal that the baby was ready. But when these signs are not there, why induce?

It really irks me. Of course, the same doctors provide caveats. "Oh, you don't have to if you don't want to." What lay person would take up the challenge of openly defying their obstetrician? Particularly if the patient was a first time mom? No mom would dare to take that risk. Shouldn't it then be the responsibility of the obstetrician to provide the best options for the patient and her child? How can it be right to scare and bully the patient into agreeing to an induction just so that it is convenient for doctor? I mean, what other reason is there when there is no imminent danger to the mother or the baby?

I feel so helpless when I hear about these things. Especially when I've seen how they don't work out and end up with a very unplanned, painful and drugged out C-section. And I feel so helpless that countless women think that this is their only option and they follow it blindly, be in more pain than necessary and be more traumatised than necessary. And who am I to tell them? I hold no clout. I am no obstetrician. I only have my own experience to go by.

This makes me sad. This makes me angry. But this reminds me that I can't do a damn thing about it no matter how much I believe it is not the way babies should be born.

And all I can do is pray or call the New Paper.

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  1. I hear you.
    Fortunately for me, I had a doc who believed there was no need to induce before baby was ready, encouraged me to walk when I was in labour, encouraged me to go without epidural, and didn't think episiotomy was a standard procedure for all deliveries.
    It was great that you stood firm on wanting a VBAC. It wouldn't have been that "difficult" or "complicated" if it were in the west I believe, but in Singapore, that seems like a very "risky" thing to do. For some strange reason.

    Anyway, congratulations on leaving your teaching job and starting on the other even more challenging job as a stay-home mom! Take care!

  2. I so agree with you! And so applaud what you did with your second birthing experience! Good for you!

    And boo to all those gynaes out there who go all out for the medicalised, interventionist approach.

  3. I had a C-section for Baby I. I don't know if I have the guts for a VBAC for the next baby. Can you enlighten me as to the insistence of a natural delivery? Is it best for mommy and baby if all medical conditions permit?

  4. Ivy,
    A natural delivery is always the best option if both Mommy and baby are safe, medically speaking.

    With a VBAC, there are conditions that need to be met.
    a. Baby cannot be too big.
    b. Baby must be in the right position.
    c. You go into labour naturally. Cannot induce, which in my book is a good thing!
    d. Your scar doesn't hurt.

    If all those are met, it does make a difference. I was up and about 2 hours after Muffin was born and 2 days later, I had actually to remind myself that I was newly post partum and needed to take care of myself.

    It was markedly different from the twins. I have very good memories of Muffin's birth and the days after. It made me so much more excited to bond with him and enjoyed him much earlier. I still feel traumatised thinking back to the twins' c-section and the days after and the feeling of constantly wanting to run away!

    So, to me, it was the best decision I ever made.

    Email me if you want more information? :)