While reflecting on the woes of the hapless freelance writer in search of fresh commissions during the downturn (all reasonable offers considered!), I made a flippant remark to a friend that “we should work in marriages, births or deaths”. My friend replied: “Or perhaps we should work as insolvency practitioners.” A fair point but accountancy’s a bit dry for my tastes and my folks used to ‘joke’ that they wanted me to marry a “young Scottish accountant” (sigh). Retraining to be a liquidator sounds a step too close to this delightful path eschewed in my ‘yoof’.
One of my friends works as a registrar of marriages in Brighton. This career is clearly worthwhile in view of the members of public whose hour/day/life you are making happy and it remains stable in these “uncertain times”. Funeral direction doesn’t even vaguely appeal (“caring lady” imagery, shiny hearses and embalming fluid – no thanks!). That leaves births. I have an acquaintance who’s training to be a midwife and it strikes me that this career is both interesting and of value to society (unlike, for example, writing endless blog entries). However, I wonder if I could cope with being a midwife within the NHS, especially in view of the horror stories that keep emerging from the UK’s labour wards.
Births have been playing on my mind recently. Not because I’m planning to produce a third child (never beget more children than you can physically take on a plane, I say). No, the slight fixation has a simpler explanation: a good friend has told me that she’s pregnant with her second child and, meanwhile, a lady I know from Spain is organising a UK tour to promote the benefits of natural birth to mothers and babies. I’m no expert on natural birthing as I had two Caesarean’s: one an emergency C-section after my intended home birth went wrong and the other elective (I was scared of childbirth by pregnancy number two). Yes, pregnancy and birth are rewarding experiences (when you get to hold the baby, at least!) but it’s a painful journey for most women, hospital births appear to be a lottery of “you may hit it lucky or you could hit a busy spell and be left to give birth in the corridor” and, apparently, the whole scenario has become “political” too. That’s all we need.
Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just focus on harmless media features such as “sheep can stand the rain so why can’t Uggs” or “research shows women make three times more tea for workmates than men”. But, no, yesterday’s foray on to the Daily Mail Online immediately flagged up a disturbing article about a mum who had undergone five years of IVF being refused a Caesarean when her labour became complicated: she was pressurised into a forceps delivery instead. It went wrong: the medical professionals bungled the complex procedure to turn the baby around, broke the poor thing’s spinal cord and it died a couple of days later. I don’t know why I insist on perusing these features because, speaking as a Mum of two beautiful small children, I find them almost unbearable to read but, here it is for reference.
With UK hospitals coming under increasing pressure to curb the number of Caesareans because of cost issues – i.e. a C-section is more expensive than, for example, a forceps delivery – it strikes me that these incidents could easily increase. I find the anti-forceps story poignant because my first son had shifted into the wrong position during labour and the umbilical cord was wrapped round his neck. The emergency C-section came after 48hrs of the labour not progressing and, eventually, the baby’s heartbeat became dangerously fast. When I was pregnant with my second son 21 months later, a cheery obstetrician told me “yes, before Caesareans, you would almost certainly both have died”. At the time, I wondered what would have happened if I’d tried to persist with a home birth in a far-flung location away from medical intervention.
Now I can’t help wondering if hospitals will adopt riskier procedures in borderline cases if their budgets are being slashed. East Sussex hospitals currently deliver a high percentage of babies by C-section (see UK statistics here). While I can understand the arguments against this particular birth method (yes, it is highly medicalised, in no way natural and a second C-section on top of existing scar tissue can pose hazards for Mum), I also dislike the idea of mothers being forced into the use of forceps or other such devices. The thought is enough to make you shudder.
Hats off to women who manage a natural home birth – I really do admire their resolve and pain threshold.
Could I work as a midwife? I think it requires a special sort of person. That’s why I remain a writer, even though the downturn is challenging those who operate outside certain professions that will always be in high demand. And if the economic ‘realities’ worsen, no, I don’t especially want to work as one of those other “caring ladies” either!