The conspiracy of birth

Exactly tweleve days ago today, I watched my sister gave birth to beautiful baby girl named Leena. In all honesty, it was horrific.

Now, I know it wasn’t me giving birth (and it will now NEVER be me) but it was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It was probably the most disturbing experience of my life. Even now, writing about it on my computer, it’s pretty difficult to go into detail as I honestly don’t want to remember.

I think I just get flashes of things that happened, like the shreaking, the desperation and just plain old feeling sorry for her when she cried with tiredness and begged us to push for her. It was so weird watching her reduced to just emotions of pain and suffering. And god, can she scream!

I remember talking to her about it later (when we both got teary-eyed again) and she was fuming that it was all a conspiracy. ‘No-one ever told me about this!’ – yeah, well I can guess why!?! No one in their mind could consent to giving birth if they knew what it was like! (clearly some people do but they by default must be insane..).

It part of Muslim culture that you don’t openly discuss personal experiences of sex or birth, periods etc with women unless you know that they have been through it themselves. I guess it so they don’t get freaked out by it or something but it does leave you a little shocked when it happens.

Even so, I think it’s wider conspiracy than that, I remember asking a friend about it and she distinctly said it was ‘spiritual’…HELLO! Was she even at a birth, the only thing spiritual about it was that my sister kept telling us she wanted to die.. not really the deep-breathing-lavender-scented-spirituality I had in mind.

Then there’s the TV and movies. Rachel in Friends didn’t scream, or seem to be in labour longer than around 20 minutes. And in the films, its all waiting outside and she’s squeezes the guy arms (a little angrily- admittedly) but its soon over and then aren’t they happy!! I mean what happened to the screaming, amply drug taking and the real gut-wrenching tiredness of having woken up in the middle of the night and the desperation. What happened to the desperation?!? It got conveniently forgotten that’s what!

Putting it all into perspective now, I realise that it wasn’t that bad. Her first contraction was at 2am and she gave birth at 10.31am. That’s only eight and half hours- her friend was in labour for three days. My sister was also fully provided for, professional staff at her side and the relevant drugs administered (when she would stay still for long enough, that is).

After she gave birth, I also finally got the courage to read this article I had put to one side about mothers who die giving birth. It was pretty grim reading.

1,500 mothers die giving birth every day

– 30, 000 suffer from side-effects which can leave them shunned by family/community

– In the Global South–> 1 in 8,000 women die whilst giving birth

– In the Global North–> 1 in 76 women die whilst giving birth

– At the either ends of the spectrum: in Ireland the risk is 1 in 47,600 whilst for women living in Niger the risk is 1 in 7

– 1 in bloody 7! That’s just not good enough… I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if it was 1 in every 7 women I knew..

The solution: Professional staff at the birth, and I’m sure you can guess why that doesn’t already happen… yep, money.

Facts from New Internationalist article by Chris Brazier ‘The Heartbreak’ March Issue 420, 2009.

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