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One body becoming two: how women experience childbirth

There is a substantial literature on labour and childbirth in medical, midwifery and social scientific research. But we still don’t know much about how labouring women experience that pivotal time when…

It can take some time for women to come to terms with the conceptual as well as physical change of giving birth. Remy Sharp

There is a substantial literature on labour and childbirth in medical, midwifery and social scientific research. But we still don’t know much about how labouring women experience that pivotal time when their bodies are working hard to push out their infants and deliver them into the world.

As part of a qualitative longitudinal study of first-time parents living in Sydney, we asked 25 women who had recently given birth to recount their birth stories.

Sixteen of these women gave birth vaginally (ten without anaesthesia); the remaining nine delivered by caesarean section.

When retelling their birthing experience, women who had given birth vaginally without anaesthesia noted they were surprised by the powerful physicality of giving birth. Of course, they had to cope with labour pain but also often reported feeling vulnerable during the second stage of labour, when the foetus is being pushed through the birth canal.

One of our interviewees discussed her sense of feeling her body “open” to the world as its boundaries were stretched and widened:

The fact that you have to open up so much – you feel raw and exposed to yourself and to others and there is this expectation of just having to open up more.

The words of the women in our study attest to the profound nature of birth, simultaneously awe-inspiring and overwhelming, as a woman’s known self and body “splits” to become two.

It can take some time for women to come to terms with this conceptual as well as physical change.

Several of our participants commented that when they gazed at their newborn infants for the first time, their first reaction was to exclaim, “Where did this baby come from?” It felt foreign to them, at first, that their babies were now separate from their own bodies.

We found the sheer physical exertion and often significant pain that women who delivered vaginally experienced often helped them to come to terms with the concept that their infant was now out of their bodies.

Our research showed that for women who had undergone caesarean sections, this experience of “meeting the baby” for the first time may be even more challenging.

The sensation of their infant’s body emerging from their own was completely dulled by anaesthesia. These women were not even able to view the moment of emergence because of the screen placed between their upper and lower torso.

They described how they found it difficult to accept their infant had been born. They were forced to rely upon others’ observations – those of their partner or the attending health professionals – to receive some idea of what was happening.

One woman commented on the speed of the operation and how she was taken aback by being presented with her infant so quickly, before she had quite prepared herself.

She felt so little physical sensation that she found it quite astonishing that the birth had occurred:

The actual operation was – the sensation was weird. Like you can feel something going on, no pain whatsoever, it was so quick, and the baby was out. I don’t know, it was all very gentle it seemed. And they obviously cut me open at some stage, and then held her up, and I was like, “Oh my God, that was too quick!”

It’s important that people supporting a woman at the moment of birth, including midwives, other health professionals, partners, and other support people, are aware that women may respond differently to this experience.

Some women want immediate contact with their newborn infant, reaching to bring their child close again to their body. Others, particularly those who give birth vaginally, may look away momentarily or may take longer before being ready to bring their baby close.

It’s as though they need to re-establish a boundary between what is inside and outside their bodies as part of coming to terms with the birth experience.

For a woman to successfully recover from giving birth (regardless of the mode of delivery she experiences), she needs people caring for her during childbirth to be attuned to her needs. Our research shows that these needs may include understanding that a recently-delivered mother has to come to terms with a profound conceptual as well as physical disruption of selfhood.

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62 Comments sorted by

  1. Bianca Hart

    Self employed

    Everyone has different experiences in birth, many of our views and thoughts are formed before we have even fallen pregnant and may effect our thoughts during and after labor. The most important point made in this article is that it doesn't matter how you birth what matters most is that you are wholly supported by Thea people who are around you when and after you give birth. This can help the bonding period or make it harder for women to bond with their newborn.

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  2. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    Thank you for the article.

    The other factor that is of interest is how an individual woman's conceptual framing of childbirth might influence her reaction to the process.

    For example, women who conceptualise the endurance of a labour and birth without any form of intervention as an important personal achievement may see the eventual need for pain relief or surgical intervention as a personal failure. Those who have detailed and firm birth plans may be bitterly disappointed if the labour and…

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Good points, Sue. There's a lot of research to back up your arguments that expectations prior to birth affect how women view the outcome, and also the tendency for some women to want to exert control over what can be a chaotic and unpredictable event.

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  3. Susan Ross

    Director, Birth Right Aust. Pty. Ltd.

    I am always amazed when I read articles like this, with the description of birth as pain and suffering and pushing and delivery! Such volatile language. I teach a program 'Inside Birth', which is deep hypnosis for birthing women, where they learn about the power of their subconscious mind, truly connecting with their baby on the 'inside', and trusting their innate birthing power. This is not hippy stuff, but simply eliminating fears and anxieties that women have absorbed from fear based articles in the media. These women have beautiful, enjoyable, pain free birthing experiences. This program plus a doula is a guarantee that a women will have the best option for a wonderful birthing experience.

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    1. Julie Leslie

      GIS Coordinator

      In reply to Susan Ross

      Good lord. What utter hippy crap. Around 90% of first time mothers need intervention of some sort - from mild pain killers all the way through to ceasar. Therefore to have the 'pain-free' birth is very much in the minority. And largely down to sheer blind luck. You can prepare yourself for months and be just as likely to have an easy birth as a hard one.

      This sort of thinking sets women up to fail and in a bad way. Lets face it: labour and birth are uncomfortable experiences for most women (if…

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    2. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Julie Leslie

      Pain is a deeply individual sensation and what feels like pain to you may not be experienced as pain by another.
      I found contraction pain not dissimilar to the sensation of soreness after major exercise - something quite manageable and associated with a good reason - although in the case of exercise soreness i could chose not to actively aggravate the sensation.
      Without using any medication during one birth process, i found that my body revovered much faster and my mind could not recall what i would call 'pain' - unlike my memories of another hospital birth with more outside intrusion/examinations which i considered painful, although not part of the actual birth process.
      Yet, i am not against using painkillers to deal with pain that has a detrimental effect on my wellbeing (unlike a birth), such as a migraine or injury. Luckily, I just did not experience birth as such an instance.

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Many people experience a different second birth and assume that it's because of something different they did.

      The fact is, second and subsequent births are statistically easier.

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    4. ann moffatt
      ann moffatt is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      i do agree suzy.

      i used to be a v keen cyclist. labour for me was like toiling to get up a steep hill. the difference with cycling is that you can get off, in labour you can't.

      my first birth experience was in hospital. i kept being told i was 'so good' so could students come and examine me? being keen to help others to learn i agreed but after about 20 inexperienced hands had delved into my innards i called stop. i didn't need painkillers but spent a couple of miserable hours in the delivery…

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    5. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Julie Leslie

      Gee, I wish I could have had whatever it was you guys below were eating, smoking, sniffing, thinking, feeling whatever (oxytocin?). The first indication to me that the baby was on the way was pain and numbing of brain, and then the waters broke and all I wanted was to stay sitting on the toilet for where else would you be? But it wasn’t nearly over yet, in fact just the beginning and then pain and fantastic shock that rent through my whole being (I believe I may have passed out for a bit) and…

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    6. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Then again, after a first intrusive experience some may also chose to be more in control, i did. My labour experience was very similar during both births and required no painkillers, yet the constant demands to get checked, to move from one place to another and to interact with different people was so utterly distracting and intrusive that i avoided getting myself into these 'painful' situations at all cost the next time.
      There is more to the experience than the speed of delivery or the length of labour - both are more manageable when dealt with in one's own control (with one's chosen midwife/helpers) than out of control. The difference between births is more than physical, it is build on personal experience, conscious and sympathetic.

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    7. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Susan Ross

      We used the words of the women we spoke to. Other women may have described the process differently, but we could only draw on those women in our study and their accounts of their own experiences.

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  4. Susan Ross

    Director, Birth Right Aust. Pty. Ltd.

    O.K. Not crap at all. Happy to have an intelligent and respectful debate. I have 40yrs experience in this business and the published author of 2 books. I attend many births, and all of them have a positive experience. It is about getting the 'right' education. All of our doulas also have similar experiences. None of us who are mothers should feel guilty about our birthing or mothering, but it is important to debrief after every birth, no matter what the outcome.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Susan Ross

      Thank you for illustrating my previous point, Ms Ross.Trusting some sort of ''innate birthing power'' is exactly what sets up some women to fail.

      The pain of labour has been recognised throughout history, and is recorded in the Bible and other ancient texts. This would suggest it is not a product of ''fear based articles in the media'', but of human anatomy and physiology, (and is not abolished by ''getting the 'right' education.'')

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    2. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Hello Sue,

      What the media is responsible for promulgating the lying on a bed to give birth. So the baby has to rise over the bones, and get through a narrower channel to find the outside. Those women that can walk around have a terrific advantage, as when they squat there is something like 13-15% bigger passage the the outside, assisted but gravity.

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    3. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to David Maddern

      Yes, lying on a bed is not the best of approaches, but sometimes the woman does not have the strength to do otherwise. Technically squatting sounds like a good idea for the reason you give amongst other things, but squatting is no longer a natural body position for most Australian women and can be found to be tiring and therefore not able to be sustained. Also, the after birth effects of squatting where there is no support for the pelvic muscles whilst they are under inordinate pressure is not favourable in regards to later prolapse of pelvic organs. But moving around does seem to be a very natural response for many women including at times rolling up into a tight ball.

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    4. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Those wards of women, on beds, waiting to give birth on T V give me the horrors. I change stations. The naivety astounds me.

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    5. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to David Maddern

      Sorry, David - that gravity thing is a myth.

      Almost all the force that moves a baby through the pelvis and birth canal is generated by the contracting uterus. The course of labour and delivery is also influenced by the size of the baby relative to the pelvic outlet, the presenting position of the baby and complications like shoulder dystocia.

      The relevant Cochrane review on positiod during birth states:
      "“There were no differences between groups for other outcomes including length of the second stage of labour, mode of delivery, or other outcomes related to the wellbeing of mothers and babies.”

      Women should ideally give birth in whatever position causes them the least pain, modified by whatever manoeuvres might be necessary to assist. If a midwife or obstetrician is required to release a stuck shoulder, of course this will require access.

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  5. Susie Protschky

    ARC Postdoctoral Fellow in History at Monash University

    I think it's interesting how the caesarean birth in this story is reported as a distant, anaesthetised experience. I assume it's representative of what all the women said? But perhaps the researchers need a larger sample size.
    I had my child by C-section, and was overwhelmed by how physical the experience was, even under sedation/anaesthesia. I had all the sensations of evisceration without the pain; it was quite violent and I remember most of it. I heard my baby cry only a few seconds after he…

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Susie Protschky

      Yes, it was a small sample, and including a greater number of women would have produced a greater diversity of accounts of birth. But it was also longitudinal - we followed up the 25 women and their partners for three years, interviewing them regularly prior to and following the birth of their first child. We had huge quantities of data from this, as you might expect! We emphasised depth rather than breadth in this particular study.

      Interesting to read your account of your own CS as violent and eviscerating. Makes me want to do a study focusing solely on the accounts of women who have had a CS, as lots more to explore here!

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    2. Julie Leslie

      GIS Coordinator

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      I was wondering about that - did you talk to the women before birth and after?

      It would be interesting to see how these views changed, especially of labour and birth. I can imagine (as it was for me) the feelings associated with birth change from the time perspective you look at: leading up to it, immediately after and then many months after. Also how does this experience affect subsequent delivery methods?

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    3. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Julie Leslie

      Yes, we interviewed the women before the birth and several days following the birth. We didn't really followup discussions about the birth in the months/years afterwards, as there was so much else going on for the women in their transition to motherhood. But I agree that perceptions of birth in the the early days following it are generally far more vivid to women and they may change their perceptions as time goes by and as they may have other births. It's a continuing process of making sense of the experience.

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  6. Michelle Bourke
    Michelle Bourke is a Friend of The Conversation.

    CEO at Artlivemedia

    I found this article to be really quite emotional to read - the merging of physicality, psychology and the final stage of reproduction of life does feel unexplored as, while I'm not a mother, I've read quite a few books on pregnancy, birth and parenting. I find myself sometimes saddened/frightened, sometimes amused, sometimes enlightened by different descriptions of the experience.

    My friend recently had her first child, she was the first of any friend or family I have been close to that has…

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  7. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    Another study that leaves out the father.

    Its all about women and THEIR children.

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    1. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Your right Dale, how dare they research how women experience childbirth. Everyone knows males give birth too?

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    2. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      We did interview the fathers - they were part of this longitudinal study that followed couples having a first baby from pregnancy until their child was about three. Another colleague involved in the study and I wrote an entire book based on the fathers' experiences: Constructing Fatherhood (Deborah Lupton and Lesley Barclay, Sage, London).

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    3. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      I would be interested to read more about fathers' experiences of birth, watching their partners and their emerging children.

      Anecdotally, I've heard of fathers being appalled and distressed at the pain endured by their partners, and also of delight in being the first person to hold their child after cesarean, spending time with them while the mother is in recovery.

      Conversely, some men are proud of their partners for enduring labour - much as they might be for running a marathon.

      It seems to me that the experience of men with birth also depends on their sociological framing of the event, but also that men are likely to have less investment in the mode of birth or use of drugs but more in the safety and welfare of both partner and child.

      Did these themes emerge in your book?

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    4. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yes, all of those themes were evident in fathers' accounts of the birth and their feelings about it, and we discussed many of these in the book. We also discuss in the book the expectations men had of the birth and becoming a father before the birth had occurred and lots about their experiences in the early weeks, months and years and how their role changed over time for many.

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    5. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      I was there throughout a 12 hour labour followed by an epidural and a caesarean.

      There were complications, and I was concerned for the mother and my child.

      But throughout I was never told what was happening by any nurse or doctor, and I only learnt about what they were doing by asking questions and demanding an answer.

      To them, I was just a meaningless, insignificant father who was asking questions, and because of that I didn’t thank the nurses or the doctors for the delivery of the baby.

      And of course they never thanked me when I paid their bill.

      So that was the birth experience for a meaningless, insignificant father.

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    6. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Deborah Lupton

      That is interesting.

      I have quickly browsed through a number of books at the library on births and caring for babies that never mentioned the father at all.

      These were new books and all by female authors, but I am not sure if books written some years ago were similar.

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    7. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Why, Mr Bloom, aren't men interested in writing about their childbirth experiences?

      You clearly were unhappy with the experience you relate. Have you followed it up with the hospital or the obstetrician?

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    8. Rebecca Graves

      Teacher

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Many women have the same complaint about how they are treated. I couldn't imagine giving birth without my partner there. Knowing that he was there for me made an often scary experience, more comforting and made me feel less vulnerable. I depended on him to ask questions that I couldn't think of. So while you say meaningless, insignificant father, I'm sure you weren't to your child's mother and the medical fraternity could learn a lot to make all involved feel less insignificant and often stupid.

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      There would be no use in questioning the bill.

      There is a problem for fathers.

      In our present society, women can (and often do) have babies to different fathers.

      So eventually a father can be regarded as meaningless, insignificant and dispensable to people such as doctors and nurses.

      Feminism has made parenting into a total mishmash.

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    10. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Mr Bloom - did you follow up with the hospital and obstetrician regarding the apparent failure in communication with you?

      Questioning the bill is another matter - that depends on what agreement you had initially entered into and what services were provided.

      I am also interested in your opinion on why men don't find childbirth an area they see as worthwhile to write about.

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    11. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      I would be interested to know what was so alarming to you Dale. The participation of the father in the birth is a very recent thing. My husband accompanied me to the first child’s birth only to have the receptionist usher him from the hospital front desk and literally slam the door on his reluctant departure, having offered his wife and child up to the mercy of strangers he turned about with mute appeal and walked the x number of kilometres home in the fog and cold of a central European late autumn…

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    12. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      No, "participation of the father in the birth" is not at all recent, merely part of post-WWII and with it as you say yourself post-Victorian, post-modern Western liberalisation which yet sadly remains partial in the extreme.

      Speaking of humanity as a whole, on the other hand, child-birth is a highly social event with not only fathers but brothers and sisters, grandparents, siblings, cousins and age peers close at hand.

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    13. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Correct in what particular, Chris, and in what way?

      "Confinement" is very recent, and cultural highly specific.

      It is a huge mistake, and thoroughly misleading, to retrospectively measure all of humanity by contemporary late-modern standards.

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    14. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Well, you may like to speak of humanity as a whole, I cannot bear witness for humanity as a whole. What I can bear reasonable witness to is 150 years via family record of Australian experience. To attempt anymore is beyond my ability and I strongly suggest beyond yours.

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  8. Comment removed by moderator.

  9. Chali Young

    logged in via Facebook

    Thank you for the article.

    I love reading about women's experiences of childbirth and it is so refreshing to read something with some conceptual/theoretical insight, as well as the "Sarah's Story" genre that are peppered through preparing yourself for labour books.

    Giving birth (twice so far) has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. As soon as the events happened I wanted to talk about them, relive them, revel in them, but it feels like a taboo topic...not normal dinner-time…

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    1. Deborah Lupton

      Centenary Research Professor at University of Canberra

      In reply to Chali Young

      Some very perceptive points here. As our study was longitudinal, and followed the first-time mothers (and their partners) over three years, we were able to trace how the women conceptualised their infants from pregnancy through to birth, the early days after birth, the first months and years. We have written elsewhere about these topics, including the women's accounts of their breastfeeding experiences. I have also done a separate study of women's experiences of caring for their children when they are ill and promoting their health and development, and came to similar conclusions as you suggest: women's caring practices extend their conceptual relationship with their children and sense of feeling connected to their children well after pregnancy and birth.

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    2. Rebecca Lew

      medical writer

      In reply to Chali Young

      I must be a bit different from many of the other mothers when it comes to that "one body into two" thing - I was always cognisant of having a whole other, completely separate person inside me during pregnancy (well, at least once the baby began moving around - each of my two boys clearly had a mind of his own even in utero!). I kept thinking about that scene in Alien... Fortunately, the separation was better than in that film - although still painful! My main post-partum feeling was of a fog lifting from my brain and begin able to think clearly again as one set of hormones subsided and another took over. Still remember that 16+ years later - those childbirth memories, good or bad, stay with you forever, I reckon.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Rebecca Lew

      Ha! Yes, thanks Rebecca. Part of the fun is the quickening, lying back in bed; part of the togetherness of father and mother.

      Our eldest son jumped and kicked and pushed, and the moment he arrived opened his mouth and yelled his heart out. We called him Wei Ming.

      Our second was quiet, at peace with himself, arriving quietly without much ado, and we called him On Ming.

      And to the point, the first took 5 hours and the second 1 1/2 hours. I arrived myself in 12 hours. I hear tell of women who take 30 hours, which is traumatic for both mother and child.

      Good reason for girls as well as boys to be physically active and healthy from infancy, with good muscle tone and a good firm pelvic floor.

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    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      I am finding this enthusiasm for easy childbirth by a father somewhat embarrassing as well as disturbing. Were you not noticing any pain or distress in your wife. I assume she is Chinese from the fact you use an English name and call your children Chinese ones. I have a close relationship with a Chinese lady and I can assure you they do feel pain, but they are very good at covering. Why boys and girls in this context need to be physically active .... and with good muscle tone and a good pelvic floor, which of course boys do not have, completely alludes me.

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    5. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Chris, I don't know what reason you have for trolling through this discussion to pick on my comments in particular.

      You find enthusiasm for a quick easy birth embarrassing, over prolonged, painful and highly stressful childbirth? By God, I can't see anybody in their right mind who'd want birth to take up to two days, in preference to an hour or two. The mother and baby suffer unnecessarily and at times harmfully the longer it takes.

      My boys have both English and Chinese names. Neither did I…

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    6. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      I thought it was obvious I was pointing out that your participation was as observer, not as the child bearer. A bit like the coach and not the athlete if you prefer that metaphor.

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  10. Chris Booker

    Research scientist

    In reading this I was surprised that 10 out of 25 in your sample gave birth with no anaesthesia - is that representative of the wider population?

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    1. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Booker

      Why anaesthesia? We didn't.

      We held hands, shared the load, or should I say she bloody near ripped my arm from its socket.

      Do you anaesthetise and athlete, or teach them to breath, and absorb pain, and transcend it?

      What's the difference between pregnancy and childbirth, and running a marathon?

      The idea is if you want to bring a child into the world you prepare yourself for the event.

      The problem, I think, is that it's all just to easy to start, and easier to start harder to complete.

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    2. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Well, if you don' know Tom, I doubt anyone would be able to explain to you. You claim to have witnessed how many births and are clueless on this? Time to open up some medical texts and educate yourself.

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    3. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Clueless on what, Chris?

      You appear to be suggesting that being fit and healthy in the lead-up to pregnancy and childbirth is clueless, in defiance of medical texts, and that I should read a few.

      Or more likely just trolling for some peculiar reason of your own.

      Sorry, not going to bite further . . . it's easy enough to see that whatever reason you might have for having a go at me in particular is groundless.

      It's just as easy to unfollow the thread and no longer bother trying to make sense of whatever it is you're on about.

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    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Well it was the "We held hands, shared the load, or should I say she bloody near ripped my arm from its socket." And Tom I apologise before hand if you did not mean it like that. No, I wasn't trolling. I just found 4 or 5 of your posts all in a row on my email list. They hooked me in, so I answered them as I viewed them albeit two days later and I received a reply from you with ten minutes and yet no-one else on this thread had bothered to answer you from two days ago. That in itself is interesting.

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  11. Pat Moore

    gardener

    The little individual human mother meets the Great Meta Mother through the birthing process? She takes our little organism via Hyster the womb in her awesome jaws and literally presses the new life out of us? Throughout all those moon-tuned, pain-marked womb lining sheddings, those pearly egg monthly ripenings, those sudden hormonal waves of desire and those loving orgasms perennially seeking conception, we get to know the mysterious, deeply buried womb in one way. But through birth we meet her…

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Pat Moore

      More than a bit of poetic license there, Pat Moore.

      Childbirth has been conducted in a segregated, women-only space in various cultures throughout history, but not always due to the control of the patriarchy.

      In ancient China, women were allowed to practise medicine because they were needed to attend labouring women - male doctors refused to do so. These women practised medicine, not just midwifery.

      In some traditional tribal cultures, women have elaborate rituals surrounding birth, from which men are excluded.

      Some would say that the midwives of ancient times are now represented not just by modern midwives but also by the huge number of female obstetricians - now the majority training in the specialty.

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    2. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Yes, while in some "traditional tribal cultures" men may have been excluded many more include men, not only during childbirth but in celebrating menarche, and first coitus often called "awakening", and as likely preceding menarche.

      There are great song lines on this theme containing hundreds of stanzas, poetically beautiful, so let's all climb down off the moral high horse finally, and get a grip.

      Let's dispense with this false modesty; this fake "civilisation" and its associated emotional gush, and see what happens in the mess of childbirth "primally" for what it is.

      I dare suggest that the embarrassment of public display may well be signal in birth control.

      After all, Indigenous societies - "traditional tribal cultures" - never had condoms, nor prudery or modesty, but contained themselves nonetheless.

      It's urgent. Within the next 15 years there will be 8 billion of us, and by 2047 9 billion.

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    3. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Tom, you have not given any actual examples of these traditional tribal cultures which have celebrated these landmark times. As to the concept of false modesty, on what basis are you placing this statement? And to connect it up to birth control is rather strange. If you have Tahiti in mind, according to historical record this civilization was singular. I'm not sure what the urgency is about or in reference to what.

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    4. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Read Berndt's 'Love Songs of Arnhem Land' is but one example, Chris, or Mountford's 'The Tiwi of North Australia' as another. From divers reports through to the post WWII period there is no reason to doubt the generality, except that what we have been witnessing since is enforced clothing and 'public decency' on the one hand, and strict censorship of written accounts on the other.

      Sadly, these days the literature of the time, including extensive film footage and still image collections, is locked…

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    5. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Tom Fisher

      Well Tom I am not indigenous, I can only speak from my own experience and history. If you think that indigenous women have been culturally diminished and indigenous practices overwhelmed so that birth has become more difficult for them in modern medical practices then again you would need to point to studies or testimony. As for the dominant culture in Australia, death because of the complications from childhood was a major cause of premature death in women which has now been radically changed via medical intervention. I can only assume that this would be similar in indigenous women; athletic or not.

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    6. Tom Fisher

      Editor and Proofreader

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Sorry, mate, your 'IF' is far to big for me to bother.

      Medical intervention first and foremost strongly advises good health and physical fitness, as does sound midwifery, both for very good reason.

      That's given.

      Seeya.

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  12. Leo Braun

    Conscientious Objector

    "There is a substantial literature on labour and childbirth in medical, midwifery and social scientific research. But we still don't know much about how labouring women experience that pivotal time when their bodies are working hard to push out their infants and deliver them into the world"... without a doubt, hence have it transcribed below for your perusal ... http://mihow.com/articles/2009/04/08/type-o-negative-blood#comment-123592

    • I was 18 when I became pregnant with my one and only child…

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  13. Tom Fisher

    Editor and Proofreader

    The pity is that the headline states a fundamental untruth in the idea of one body becoming two, when all the while it's commonplace that there are two bodies separated by a placenta for nine months, then separated completely at partition.

    The piece is still also loaded with maternally possessive terms - in "their infant" - when the newborn infant is in fact and in law their own person, not owned by anybody.

    At that stage, decisions are made on their behalf by both parents and by close kin…

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