We had always decided that we would be coming home to have children. Hats off to our fellow Kiwis who are doing the hard yards raising a child in London – I do not envy you. I’ve not for one second regretted that decision. Because we were coming home late, and because we have far more confidence in doctors than we do in midwives (we have our ex-police prosecutor friend to thank for this – appreciate the horror stories) we opted for specialist care. I have to admit that the experience was significantly better than our London experience, but that’s hardly apples with apples.
I have to admit to feeling a little torn about going to a specialist. It’s not the money – I think it was worth it – it’s the principle. I don’t think that people should be able to buy better care because they have more money. And then I went and bought better care. I accept that this makes me a hypocrite. Consistency is hard.
And yet I wouldn’t change a thing. Having a specialist (and the fantastic midwife that worked with that specialist) got us through some significant difficulties. I don’t know how we would have coped without them – which also makes me out of touch with the reality of most NZ births, let alone international experience.
When you’re having a baby, the advice starts early. The best part? It’s mostly contradictory. One well-meaning friend will tell you something, then your mother will tell you the opposite. Who to listen to? We decided to stick with the specialist (medical training and years of clinical experience goes a long way in my book) and the midwife (because she appeared to be blessed with pragmatism in spades).
Depressingly, there appears to be one thing on which people agree. No matter where you are (this is probably exposing my ignorance of non-western tradition), Girls are pink and Boys are blue. Fighting these gender-identity flags is futile – the more “boy” clothes we purchased for our daughter, the more pink and mauve we were given. The stereotypes are so ingrained that, when we mentioned to retail staff that we were having a girl, we were pointedly directed to another part of the shop. Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you mistake my kid for a boy. Babies are fairly androgynous and it seems that the only reason to care about their sex at that point is so you can dress them up in the appropriate colour. It’s a cycle – break free.
Antenatal classes are a real treat. You sign up and pay a fee to sit in a community centre over eight Wednesday evenings (or in our case, two very long Saturdays) so that you can learn about the process of having a child. In our case, the facilitator was exceedingly pleasant and knowledgeable… but, as with all other things related to child-rearing, conjecture and received wisdom is king. These people really care about babies (our facilitator openly admitted she was a “baby freak”) and confirmation bias is everywhere. I particularly enjoyed the intersect of antenatal education and vaccination – tread carefully there folks.
I think my biggest disappointment about antenatal class was the discovery that Lamaze breathing is no longer de rigeur. Nowadays, Lamaze is less about the panting. In their words
“The mission of Lamaze International is to promote, support and protect natural, safe and healthy birth through education and advocacy through the dedicated efforts of professional childbirth educators, providers and parents.”
So bland. Bring back the awkward, vaguely sexual groaning – at least entertain us.
But fear not. Antenatal classes offers redemption, an elixir to cure your Lamaze disappointment: Pelvic Floor exercises (Kegels to their friends). You may or may not be aware of the deleterious effect that childbirth can have on a lady’s nethers. But there’s good news – there are exercises that you can do to reverse the damage.
If you’re really lucky, your Antenatal facilitator will encourage everyone in the room to practice their Pelvic Floor exercises… at the same time. As you sit in a circle facing each other.
I tried to maintain the façade of mature decorum, but the faces of my classmates were simply too much. Any suggestion that I was adult enough to be a parent flew from the room on the wings of my poorly concealed giggles.