Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Post: Giving Birth in Serbia!

Greetings, dear readers! Has anyone else noticed that I have been a very bad blogger recently? Yes, I've been in one of my non-productive blogging slumps - hopefully to be resolved soon!

However! In my mental absence I have something wonderful to share with you all - a guest post by a wonderful sister birth-blogger of mine - Olivia over at Write About Birth, which I am delighted to share! (And when you visit her blog, check out her latest entry with the pics of placentas from early-clamped v. late-clamped cords, and you'll see why I am 100% for delayed cord-clamping! Wow!)

And so, without further ado, here is Olivia writing about birth in Serbia. Thank you, Olivia!


Giving birth in Serbia

Having lived in the Netherlands for a while, homebirth was always something I considered to be normal. I have to admit to not having given birth and the issues surrounding it much thought before I actually became pregnant – even while I was trying to conceive my daughter. Then, pregnant and living in Serbia, I realized that I simply assumed that I would give birth at home in the absence of any medical indications that would prohibit this. I spent months looking for a homebirth midwife, and eventually found her. There is one, in the whole country, and I was lucky to find her. In the process, I learned a lot about the maternity “care”
system in Serbia, and resolved never to see the inside of a hospital unless there was absolutely no other way.

Medical birth advocates in the United States often wonder what “the natural birth crowd” is complaining about – after all, we are no longer stuck in the dark age of twilight sleep and a total lack of both choices and respect for laboring mothers. We no longer need to opt out of the system and turn to desperate measures such as giving birth at home. While I don’t think the maternity care system is perfect back in the States, and would give birth at home all the same over there, that dark age does continue to exist today, in Serbia and many countries like it.

Imagine joining the conveyor belt of laboring women to participate in the bureaucratic and inhumane process that is birth in Serbia. Admit your extensive paperwork of prenatal appointments, blood tests, and insurance documents to the shouting nurse while having contractions, and being scolded because the doctor at your local “health house” (the communist equivalent of a family practice clinic) wrote something down the wrong way. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to say goodbye to your husband before having your pubic hair shaved with the same razor all the other women at the hospital already met before you, and receiving an enema. “Make sure not to ‘redecorate’ the walls with your shit, because we don’t want to clean it!”

A friend who gave birth twice in different Serbian hospitals asked about refusing some of the many routine interventions – pubic hair shaving, enema, pitocin augmentation for every single woman, artificial rupture of membranes, giving birth flat on your back, an episiotomy, and an active management of the third stage of labor. She was informed that it is much better not to protest, because “they” would force the interventions upon her anyway, and would treat her with even less respect than they would otherwise.

Hundreds of women shared their story’s of what giving birth in Serbia is like with an organization that campaigns to make hospitals more humane.

One woman who said no to vaginal exam number five within the hour was told they she should stop being hysterical if she did not want the doctors to give her a general anesthetic and a c-section. Some refused augmentation, and were reassured that their IV drip just contained glucose, only to notice the label later on – pitocin. Almost all were shouted at and degraded.

The most common comments were “you didn’t mind spreading your legs nine months ago, now shut up!”, “don’t be hysterical, you spoilt bitch! You’re not the only one giving birth, you know!”, and “If you don’t push your baby out right now, it will die and it will all be your fault!” (after five minutes of pushing).

Babies are routinely taken away for days on end, and only brought for breastfeeding “sessions” three or four times a day for 15 minutes – after they were already filled up with formula. Unless you opt for the baby friendly program, in which case you’ll be left to your own devices entirely, including having to clean the bathroom you share with six other women yourself, if you don’t want to bath in other women’s postpartum blood.

But nothing quite compares to the stories of women whose babies “died”, or “disappeared”. The one I remember most vividly is the story of a single mother, who was told that her son weighed 3.6 kilos and was healthy. She heard him cry. They took him away without her ever having seen him, and when her baby was not among those brought for a breastfeeding session when the others all got to see their babies, she asked where he was. “Oh, your daughter weighed less than 2 kilos and would never have made it. We cremated the body.”

Every single time I hears other mothers’ experiences, I am so thankful I gave birth at home. But the midwife who attended my daughter’s birth also used to work in a hospital, and was dyed by the wool. She, too, yelled at me while I was pushing, saying that I was putting my baby’s life at risk by not pushing her out in two pushes. She, too, attempted to cut an episiotomy, and applied fundal pressure (AKA as pushing on the abdomen to get the baby to come out). I gave birth to my son unassisted. It was a wonderful experience.

Serbian women and babies deserve to be treated with respect, just like anyone else. Unfortunately, the efforts of the campaign group I mentioned earlier have been largely fruitless. Television shows that include their members portray them as a bunch of hysterical women that talk about issues that do not matter to anyone else. Patient rights exist on paper, but not in practice – especially when there are no witnesses.

What can we do to help?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

NFP, Mittelschmerz, and Russian Roulette

Between babies #1 and #2, we used NFP (Natural Family Planning) as our baby-spacing method. Right now, we are "technically" using NFP, but I'm not taking my temperature (which means that we're not really using NFP). Why? Well, I don't get up at the same time every day right now (too tired!), and I don't get the requisite four hours of straight sleep needed to get accurate temperatures.

However, here's something interesting! Every month, I get predictable "Mittelschmerz," also known as ovulation pain, cramps that occur mid-cycle cramping during ovulation (I'm assuming that it occurs during, and not before or after).

Assuming that mittelschmerz is the day before temperature rise, and that the next day would be the first day of temperature rise (the first day of the luteal cycle), I have been using Mittelschmerz to predict when my period will arrive. Since my luteal phase is 10-11 days long, I count off 10-11 days after Mittelschmerz, then mark the following two days as possible period days. For the past two months, I have been dead-on with a 10-day luteal phase.

Thus, if I experience mittelschmerz on March 1st, I would count off 10-11 days (that is, March 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and possibly 12) and predict that my period would start on March 12th or 13th.

It's worked! I'm interested to see if I can keep up the run of accurate predictions.  

Any thoughts on this? And does anyone know if Mittelschmerz really does occur during ovulation (and not before or after, or all three?)

(Oh, and if anyone was wondering - Yes, I technically do have a "luteal phase defect," that is, a luteal phase that is "too short to support a pregnancy." However, we have never had any fertility problems (quite the reverse!). How that works I don't know!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Two Beautiful Birth Videos

Just wanted to post these really quickly!

Firstly, Rixa's Birth of her third baby - from yesterday! - a beautiful, surprise-unassisted home waterbirth (the midwife comes in about 4 minutes after the baby is born). I was surprised to notice that Rixa labors a lot like me - upright in water, kneeling, forward-leaning, powerful use of the voice during contractions. However, Rixa - unlike me - also labors while looking beautiful, stylish and completely put-together! (Ah well, maybe I'll master that part next time.)

You'll notice after the baby's birth that the baby, born pink, starts to lose muscle tone and needs some help - and Rixa, who is trained in neonatal resuscitation, immediately starts mouth-to-mouth and keeps it up till baby is stable.

Lesson #1 - If you're planning an unassisted birth, you need these sorts of skills!

Lesson #2 - I am going to sign up for the next neonatal resuscitation class offered (too bad I just missed one!) - I too need these skills! One never knows when they will come in handy, at one's own births or at others, and I want to be prepared like that. If our second baby had been a surprise-unassisted, we would have had the same situation (even more severely), and I would not have known what to do. I would rather be prepared.

And also, posted by my friend Laura on Facebook - a video of vintage French births. I actually know nothing about these births (where they occurred, etc.), but they are gorgeous births! I was so amazed! One doesn't think of hospital births from those times (i.e. somewhere in the 1960's-1970's) being anything to write home about, but these were joyful, beautiful, and respectfully attended. They were a joy to watch! (I haven't watched the entire film yet.)

'Night, all!