When I worked as a life guard I didn’t tell anyone how they were supposed to swim. If I saw a man go a bit too far into the sea, where I knew he wouldn’t reach the bottom and a wave could take him, I would start preparing mentally in case I needed to intervene. Luckily, I never had to.
When I go to the toilet nobody tells me when I should push, nor when I should swallow when I eat. Why do people think it is normal to tell a woman in labour when to push? If we don’t shit lying down nor eat lying down, why on earth would it be a good idea to give birth lying down? Also, whose business is it anyway?
Not only that, the style in which the thousands pieces of advice that rain on a pregnant woman can be irritatingly patronising. As if pregnancy were an illness that annulled the brain. In fact, I would say it is the opposite, but the mother’s priority is not to other people in that moment: it is to the baby. She would sign anything to get the baby born well. Unfortunately others often take advantage of this.
Thanks to my midwives
When my pregnancy was confirmed at the doctor’s surgery, the first question I was asked was: would you like to have your baby at home or at the hospital? I had never thought about it before that moment and I didn’t know I could choose. I am very grateful that hospitals exist, but for emergencies. So happily I replied that I wanted to have my baby at home.
I got assigned a group of midwives that worked as part of King’s College Hospital in London. They came to my home every now and then during the pregnancy to see how things were going, to check, analyse, measure, have a cup of tea, chat. They took it in turns so that I wouldn’t get a stranger during labour. With the information they gave me and that which I had read on my own, I made a birth plan where I said no to episiotomy, no to unnecessary medication, not to be told when to push nor ordered about in any way, to have my daughter on me as soon as she was born, to wait for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before cutting it off, and other things I had researched and that coincided with what I felt instinctively. My midwives liked my plan and so did I.
I had read and heard from friends about so many horrors in hospital births, and about what I now know is called obstetric violence, that I felt very fortunate to have such a competent and extraordinary group of women by my side and to not to have to fight the system.
Instead of an epidural we put a hexagonal pool in the kitchen. We picked it up from the house who had used it last and added the new disinfected bit that the midwives gave us, and after the birth we took it to the next house where a baby was due.
The midwives told me that, when home births ended up in hospital, it was rarely because of an emergency, but rather that the woman wanted an epidural, which can’t be used at home. So everyone had to drive to the hospital. Later on I read that the United Kingdom had declared home birth the safest option.
I experienced my pregnancy as a very normal thing. But now I know that Oakwood, the group of midwives that I got assigned by chance, is an exception, and that I was incredibly lucky. I don’t think I would have been able to resist the tyranny of expectations on my own. I will eternally be grateful.
Artwork that I have done inspired by pregnancy and motherhood:
- I will resist the tyranny of expectations (2012). Self-portraits with text containing my reflexions during pregnancy.
- Magnificum lacte (2012). Watercolours of mother and baby inspired in classic art that I did while my daughter slept after breastfeeding.
- Tetix (2013). A video about the politics of breastfeeding and the greed of corporations putting babies at risk for the sake of their profits.
- Lullaby (2015). A video about the beautifully strange experience of being a mother.