The more time I've spent in the company of pregnant women and their partners, studying ethnographies of midwives, and hearing freshly trained doctors' accounts of delivery clinics in various parts of the world, the more I've come to understand that our collective birth narrative is by no means a universal one.
Celebrated on May 5th each year, the International Day of the Midwife recognises the invaluable role of midwives in health. As the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), I would like to personally thank midwives for their inspiring work in delivering quality care to women and newborns.
As I have reflected back on my own childbirth experiences, I remember the push to have an epidural, which I refused both times; instead, choosing on my own, less medicine to help me with the process. I also remember at the exact moment when I was pushing my daughter into the world glancing down and seeing my OB/GYN's hands up like he was going to catch a football and his head averted so he wouldn't miss a second of the University of Kentucky football game... another stellar moment.
For me, that morning when I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test, I was filled with excitement, expectations and a sense of craziness. The thought of survival never crossed my mind. I didn't have to worry about affording care or being able to access a midwife, and I knew that this privilege was due to where I lived.
Bent over a wood-fired oven, drying the fish her husband caught yesterday, 29-year-old Leticia Sam blinks the smoke from her eyes, one hand stoking the fire, the other holding her swollen belly. Expecting her fourth baby, Leticia lives atop an old graveyard piled with trash, strewn with crumbling cinderblock homes.
Most births don't have complications but some do, and it is unfortunate when women feel they or their births are failures for failing to meet their preconceived notions of success. Women should strive for a birth that is manageable and meaningful, but without a sense of entitlement that it must be fast, painless, and stoic.