Choose your Birth Companion Carefully
“Birth Stories.” That title of a Discovery channel series recently caught my attention. It reminded me of high school Biology class where the whole class was forced to view tapes of women giving birth with their birth companion with them.
The students emerged from that Bio lesson traumatized- we concluded that those videos were a highly effective, natural form of family planning. With those gruesome images fresh in mind, we inwardly resolved to follow a life of celibacy.
Well, here we are over a decade later, most of us with kids. Obviously, like most human parents, we are very forgetful creatures. One thing I still have not forgotten is the birth of my firstborn. My husband was a real trooper, by my side from start to finish. My Big sister was there too, cheering me on, bringing me drinks, updating folks on the phone and tirelessly encouraging me. She stuck with me until the very end – in fact she even got to meet my baby before me. I promised her if she were ever to go through the same thing, I’d be there for her.
Little did I know as I cheerfully volunteered for that daunting assignment, that it would come sooner than later.
Fast forward to her delivery. It was her turn in the hot seat and my turn to watch as her birth companion. Unlike Westerners who go in the delivery room, camcorder in hand, eager to film their sisters/wives/best friends’/cousins giving birth, most of us Kenyans have no desire whatsoever to witness that ordeal. On the said day I was an absolute basket-case. I was in jitters the entire morning and when I finally got to her hospital room, she was a lot more composed than me.
There she was, braids neatly tied back, in her maternity hospital gown. She even managed to make drab hospital clothes look elegant. On the other hand I hadn’t even combed my hair; I was such a wreck with my faded ‘mommy jeans’ and my toddler’s breakfast smears adorned my wrinkled Grey T-shirt.
She and I have always been super-close but with personalities like night and day. In contrast to the staid stoicism she maintained at hers, during my delivery I was whooping and hollering, screaming and carrying on like some deranged woman. Yes, she was in pain, but typical of her pragmatic personality, she reasoned that screaming would simply be a waste of energy that could be better utilized for pushing.She was calmly breathing as instructed at previous Lamaze lessons. Her hubby got up at intervals from his newspaper and dutifully rubbed her back, returning to his paper when the contraction subsided.
It was hard to imagine that neither one of them had had a wink of sleep in more than 18 hours.
I paced the floor nervously waiting for the baby, then joined my other family members the hospital cafeteria for a snack. We came back only to be told we weren’t allowed in. Later when we got the news, it turned out that everything had happened very quickly. Drugs were administered to induce labour and the physician stepped out. Shortly thereafter, my sister rang for the nurses, they saw the cord coming out first and then it was all a panic from there. Gripping stuff, worthy of an ER episode! “Code red! Code red!”
In a flash, the doctor, the anaesthesiologist, the nurses, and the surgeon were in scrubs to get her into theater for the operation. Meanwhile the baby is in distress and some consent forms are thrust at my brother in law whose hands are shaking so much he can barely sign them. Big sister at this time is being wheeled frantically up a ramp and through a busy corridor with her legs and bare backside up in the air. She later said she had been so embarrassed she just covered her face.
Then there came a pregnant pause. (Excuse the pun.) It turns out the theatres were full.
Quickly, the obstetrician did what a traditional midwife would have done. He inserted his hands, unwound the cord and realigned the baby manually for exit. Thanks to his wisdom and quick thinking, my niece was fine. We are eternally grateful to this aged obstetrician, whose decades of experience saved her life. Had there been any further delay, she would likely have been born with brain damage due to the restricted oxygen at birth. I sure am glad I was not there to watch.
The last thing the medical personnel would have needed is a random spectator passed out in the middle of the floor. The moral of the story is – pick your birth companion carefully. If your man cannot handle blood, let him wait in the lobby with the other nervous Dads. If your Sister or Mother is the panicky type or worse, the type to tell you to “relax – it’s not that bad!” leave her at home. Because, during baby birth you need your birth companion to keep you calm. Finally, choose your obstetrician wisely based on experience and referrals – it could mean your child’s life.