Kirstie Allsopp, the host of UK TV show Location, Location, Location, has discovered that the National Child Trust (”NCT”) is politicised,dogmatic and scary. One of the NCT’s tutors has demanded that Allsopp be sued for describing the NCT as politicised, dogmatic and scary, which rather proves the point.
My youngest is now five, but I can remember all the NCT propaganda that we were subjected to. We were assured that home births are the natural way to deliver a child and that anything other than breast milk for your new born is a sin. But like Kirstie Allsopp, my wife endured two emergency caesareans. Both our children were delivered by a surgeon in an operating theatre. We had a friend who was determined to give birth at home. She too ended up in an ambulance with her child emerging into this world through an incision in her abdomen rather than the more conventional orifice. Thankfully, she gave up on the home birth malarkey for her next two children. Experience is a wonderful school.
It is not often talked about, but labour can be sheer agony over a long period of time. I’m not talking about “stubbing your toe and hopping around” agony. It’s more like a red hot poker in your nether regions... for hours and hours and hours. When you have seen what childbirth is like, the NCT leaflets no longer seem wrong-headed. They become downright sinister. The advice, to “welcome” contractions and that “pain is progress”, sounds like the preaching from a sect of flagellants. But far worse is the way that mothers who have had caesareans or epidurals feel like failures, as if they haven’t given birth properly. Worse follows once the baby is safely delivered, with massive pressure to breast feed. Again, if this isn’t suitable for a particular mother, they feel like they have betrayed their child. Breast milk remains slightly better than the artificial alternatives, especially for the first few months, but not by enough to get very stressed about.
Where there are no complications, home births are fine. It’s also true that delivering a baby at home is likely to be a less stressful for the mother. But it’s impossible to know in advance that a labour will go smoothly. Depriving the baby of oxygen for just a few minutes can lead to irreparable brain damage and that doesn’t seem to be a risk worth taking. So, I would discourage home births even though the scientific literature remains inconclusive on their safety. Certainly, I have little time for the earth-mothers who seem to think that “natural” birth is intrinsically better than taking advantage of modern medicine.
Luckily, the traumatic experience of giving birth almost always has a very happy ending. Welcoming new life to the world is such a great reward that women are willing to go through labour all over again. For that, men should be very grateful, while silently giving thanks that we don’t have to go through it ourselves.
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