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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

"And the Nobel goes to..."

Not long after the Lollipop was born I was sent an appraisal form from the midwifery council here asking me to answer some questions about my experience with my midwife. It was the easiest and quickest questionnaire I’ve ever completed. I have nothing but praise for my midwife and admiration for all women for whom midwifery is a chosen profession. I don’t know about anywhere else but here at the end of the world, midwifery is not a high paying profession, these women do this work because they believe they make a difference. If I had to do it all again I’d chose a midwife over an obstetrician without a moment’s hesitation. The midwives I met varied considerably in age and experience, but all of them had the empathy and understanding that comes with shared experience, something a male obstetrician will never have.

My principal midwife was young and almost bursting at the seams with enthusiasm, something I found to be oddly reassuring. I found myself relaxing almost instantly in her company and completely letting down my guard, I liked that I was allowed to have bad days and she remained completely neutral. The interest and time she took to accommodate us and get to know us made me feel like I was her only patient, while in truth she is was very busy. I appreciated her honesty, which was never brutal or “sugar coated.” It was refreshing to ask a question and not feel like I’d asked a stupid one; it was even more refreshing to have an answer that I understood the first time round. I’m sure I was not her most laid back or easy patient, it’s not in my nature to be so but she never lost her patience or her smile. She oozed positive energy which made the appointments worthwhile especially near the end when just getting out of bed was a lot of effort.

Apart from having to deal with characters like myself midwives also have the added pressure of hormone imbalances, ignorance, unrealistic expectations and complete character changes during labour. These women put up with some rather colourful abuse, my midwife said she had a lot of stories to tell the grandchildren. After a conversation with one midwife I was left with impression that midwives are not taken seriously by the medical profession. I am sure as a generalisation that is not entirely true, but one GP I consulted did refer to them as “just a midwife.” Not something you say to someone like me who happily puts midwives on a pedestal, though I didn’t have the energy at the time to tear a strip off him I did give him a dirty look. So it seems to me that on top of everything else these women also have to defend their profession to some degree.

Like everywhere else, I’m sure, having children at the end of the world is costly, but unlike home here you have options which make things a little less heavy on the pocket. I could chose to have a midwife as my “lead maternity care” or I could chose to go to a private obstetrician. I could choose to have free care or pay in the region of $3000 or so. I’m sure the cost varies depending where I went but that was the first and only quote I got. I didn’t look any further because I had made up my mind beforehand that I wanted this second pregnancy to be very different from my first and I didn’t trust an obstetrician to see things my way. It is a decision and experience I will always be grateful for! There are medical reasons for using an obstetrician, I had one but I was determined to avoid them if I could and thanks to my awesome midwife I did. Back home if someone uses a midwife or has a home birth, among the people I knew anyway, they were seen as unusual or labelled “strange.” Throw in birthing in water and you’d really be considered slightly odd. Having said that though it does seem to be a trend that is catching on and I think that’s bloody marvellous. Here it is so common for woman to have home births, hospital births seem unusual. I have no doubt that if pregnancy was not government funded here it would be just as expensive as anywhere else and the ratio of woman who have caesareans and bottle feed would be much higher than it is.
It is precisely because it is government funded that the more natural processes of pregnancy and birth are encouraged. As I have mentioned, midwives are not paid exceptionally high salaries, and giving birth at home doesn’t cost the government anything so encouraging woman to make these choices costs the government less. A winning situation in my book because giving the mum to be so many options empowers her to make choices that fit her best and in the end have a very positive birth experience, no mum wants to come through that thinking “if only.”
Back home a mum to be has to rely on her “medical aid” to help cover the costs of monthly “gynae” visits and hospital costs. Though I never came across it I know that alternative options like midwifery are available but they are expensive and not covered by “medical aid,” making it out of reach for someone like me. You end up going where the “money” dictates and, certainly in my case come away from the experience feeling rather vacant.

I know there are women out there who will completely disagree with me and that’s okay by me. I stand by my conviction that midwives do an awesome job and the role they play is seriously undervalued.

If there was a “Nobel” prize for midwifery, I’d nominate my midwife!

Musical Memories

So with all the craziness that seems to be afflicting us here at the end of the world I have stopped and started a few blogs over the last month or so. I am now attempting to finish the others; in the meantime I’ll leave this rather delayed thought for your perusal.

Today has, for reasons beyond me, been rather hectic so it was with much relief that we put the girls to bed and settle down on the sofa with a glass of wine to relax. I know what you’re all thinking and no, we didn’t watch the SA vs. Fiji game we were otherwise occupied with children and dinner at the time and I forgot about the delayed coverage. Anyway, so there we were on the sofa missing the rugby and listening to music. The Mauritian’s taste in music is eclectic so we have a music collection that ranges from opera’s like “Carmen” to “dance” music and everything in between. Somewhere among the mound of CDs we have collected over the years is music that I enjoy. Sometimes I get lucky and the Mauritian will play something I enjoy, this night was not one of those times, I was subjected to Elvis. Now I like a few of his songs, but I am certainly no fan and the Mauritian knew I would roll my eyes as the first notes of “Blue Suede Shoes” played. Grinning he sat down next to me and told me he liked to listen to Elvis because it reminded him of the parties his parents used to have in Mauritius. Odd as it may seem the songs of Elvis also spark a memory for me, well one song really: I have vivid memories of my Uncle, the family comedian, doing his drunken version of “Jail House Rock.” I have to admit I like my Uncle’s version better, it was much more entertaining. Thus started our evening of trips down memory lane aided by music, we both discovered that night just how many of our memories are surrounded by music. We shared memories from our childhoods and spent a lot of time saying: “Remember when...”

I was struck by just how many shared memories the Mauritian and I have. We are still so busy getting to know one another that we forget just how long we have known each other. The Mauritian has met most of my family and all of my friends past and present, in fact we no longer have “his” and “her” friends they are all “our” friends. The same is true of me and his family, though there are many more we still have to meet. So many of these memories are associated with music, it is amazing to me how the first note of a song sparks a memory.
Sadly I was also struck by how much music reminds us of loved ones that have died. I have classic music cds that belonged to my “Oupa” and cannot listen to them without recalling the smell of his pipe tobacco. When I hear a song from Nana Mouskouri I remember my grumpy father in law stomping about the house with a whiskey glass in one hand, cigarette in the other and a scowl on his face. Whenever he played her music it was at a volume that the entire neighbourhood could share. My mum in law would tap her foot to The Beatles, Elvis, Billy Joel and even some of the more bazaar music to come out of the 80’s. There are so many songs that spark a memory of Marnie and her “joie de vivre” and it always makes me smile, even if a little sadly.

I confess I am a very sentimental person. I have learnt to let go of most of those physical reminders that end up cluttering up your draws and shelves. You know those things I mean: the little souvenirs from all those weddings you’ve attended, the ticket stubs from your first subway ride in London perhaps even your diaries you kept in high school. I moved so many times after leaving school that I grew tired of packing and unpacking all these useless yet sentimental pieces of my past. There are some things that I will never part with, like my photo albums, my scrapbooks and all the letters I got from the Mauritian during our matric year but my many moves slowly whittled down the useless clutter. Moving to the end of the world required a huge clean out which at times was like peeling off a layer of my skin but now I don’t remember what it was that was so hard to part with or why. In the end I still have what’s most important, my memories.

My musical memories!