I have learned a few things from the antenatal classes Hubby and I have been attending these last few weeks and right up the top of the list is that if you have an opinion that differs ever so slightly from the midwife who runs our group, you are looked down upon like an unfit parent.
This week in class we were learning about cord blood banking – where the blood in the umbilical cord is harvested after birth and the stem cells within it are kept in a cryogenic bank for your own use later down the track (should your child or their siblings have a disease needing stem cell therapy) or donated to the public cord bank for whomever needs it (although WA doesn't have a public cord blood bank yet). So I put up my hand to ask if you could get enough cord blood if you were planning on delaying cord clamping after the birth (not clamping until the cord had stopped pulsating). Well, I was not Miss-Popular, I can tell you! I was met with a self important chuckle and the response “In short, yes you can still do it. But do you really want to make your baby so sick? Have him put under lights? And you can't breastfeed him you know!?”
Woah! What just happened there? Did the midwife who earlier had told us her job was to help and encourage you to make informed decisions just tell me off for being informed? I could feel my face flush with embarrassment and guilt. A young bloke in the class asked at this point what delayed cord clamping was and rather than explain to him the possible benefits and risks (see I'm not delusional, I know there are risks to everything), her answer to him was “Delayed cord clamping is when you delay clamping the cord”. Thanks, Captain Obvious, pretty sure he could have worked that out by himself. With a smirk she added “It causes jaundice which is very dangerous” and apparently that was the end of the discussion.
I'll point out here that delayed cord clamping has been associated with jaundice due to the extra red blood cells the baby's immature liver has to try to break down. According to the World Health Organisation the benefits of delayed cord clamping (increase in blood volume, lower mortality rates in cases of infant haemorrhage, increase in iron stores protecting from childhood anaemia) far outweigh the risks, especially in developed countries where jaundice (which most babies get to some extent anyway) is easily treatable. One of the main reasons immediate cord clamping was introduced in the first place was because of the injection of drugs given to speed up the delivery of the placenta, which can't be allowed to get to the baby – that's right, speed it all up so the doctors and nurses can go home early and not have to wait around for Mother Nature to do her stuff – she is such a bore you know.
So back to the class where I'd just been told off: The couple sitting next to Hubby and I leant over and said excitedly “We'll speak to you after OK?” So I spent the rest of the night half listening to the midwife telling me horror stories of how my body just won't cope and half wondering what the other couple were going to say.
At the end of the evening, we turned to the couple and found our birth soulmates! These people were not falling for the scaremongering and had conducted their own research too! We sat there chatting about what interventions we did and didn't want and why, which journal articles we had referenced and so on. These were two well educated, reasonable people and together we were being frowned upon as 'the hippies' bucking the medical system and endangering our children's lives. At the point where we were discussing birth plans the midwife walked over and interrupted us saying that it was stupid to have a plan, that you can't plan for these things because “it goes wrong all the time” Yep, her exact words. Gee thanks for the pep talk. What's so wrong about having a birth plan? I know that writing it down doesn't mean its going to happen, but it will help me and Hubby concentrate on our goal and lets the midwifery team assisting the obstetrician (who had told me to write one and has already signed off on mine saying he supports our wishes) know how they can best help us on the big day.
As they say, there is strength in numbers, and together the four of us managed to tell her we would still be having birth plans and yes we knew that birth was unpredictable. More remarkably was that the four of us also managed to restrain ourselves enough not to punch her in the jaw. We excused ourselves from the after class supper and carried on a clandestine conversation in the carpark where we learned that while we agreed on almost everything there were still a few points where we had very different opinions – but that was OK too, and it was nice hearing a different, strong opinion voiced by someone who knew what they were talking about, as opposed to those in the group who get all their information from cranky midwives and Today Tonight and are therefore understandably shit-scared.
When we parted to go home (after promising to swap phone numbers next week) I couldn't stop smiling – we weren't alone! Meeting them gave me new resolve to stick to my guns and assert my rights when I needed it most, because if you're around such negative 'you can't do it' attitudes you begin to believe them. I plan on trusting my body to do what it was made to do - what women have done since time began. I know things can and do go wrong, thats why I'm under the care of an obstetrician and will be giving birth in a hospital setting - not quite ready to go full-hippy home birth just yet.