The Wisdom Tooth Effect

I think Midwifery suffers with the same problem as dentistry: The Wisdom Tooth Effect.

Person A: Guess what? I’ve got to have a wisdom tooth taken out.
Person B: Really? I knew someone that died after having a wisdom tooth out.
Person A: What? How?
Person B: The dentist couldn’t get it out so he stood on the guy’s chest but used so much force that his ribcage exploded, his lungs collapsed and his still beating heart fired out of his mouth, hitting the dentist on the forehead.

Everyone knows someone with a horrendous birth story and they’re generally not backwards in coming forwards in sharing that story. Obviously a heavily pregnant audience is preferred. Midwives play the part of the evil villain, scuppering birth plans, ruining feeding journeys and forging the inevitable pathway into post-natal depression.

First time round for me, I had the pleasure of a midwife that took one look at my self-worth….I mean birth plan, and sneered with such contempt at my wishes, that my uterus shrunk back like a pair of testicles hitting minus centigrade. If I had been a wild animal, I would have picked up my heavy vagina and made off for a quiet cave to feel safe again. Unfortunately for me, I was hooked up to machines so my escape would have been quite conspicuous and cumbersome.

I could say that because of her clock-watching, tutting and rudeness when I seemed to be taking my time over pushing the 37cm circumference out of my chuff, that I ended up having intervention that I really hadn’t wanted. I could say because of her lack of support in anything post-natal, including help with breastfeeding, that my nipples almost fell off and my sense of overwhelming failure was heightened. I could say that combining both of these things together lead me down the rocky road of postnatal anxiety and depression. I could, but I can’t.

Yes, she was incredibly unsupportive, but she wasn’t to know all of my hopes, dreams and desires that I had poured into my birth plan. The words may have been copied from my active birthing classes, but their meaning was so much more.

I was THAT kid that always ran up to a hurdle in PE lessons, full of guts and determination, only to come screaming to a halt right at the pinnacle moment. I was THAT kid that would go guns ablazing through an obstacle course, only to get frozen with fear at the top of the climbing net and have to be rescued. I was THAT kid, stood for hours, building my self up to jump from a 2m diving board only to turn around with eyes blinded with tears. I was THAT lady that got her baby almost through the burning ring of fire but was too scared to really push all the way to the end. I’d failed again and THAT’s why I plummeted into PNA.

Perhaps the real evil villain is our own sky high expectations of what kind of mother we will make depending on the outcome of how the baby decides to burst into life – literally.

Perhaps it’s the myriad of articles that now circulate daily on how to be the best mother: home birth, delay cord clamping, uninterrupted skin to skin, eat the placenta, breastfeed, get straight back into your pre-pregnancy clothes within 12 hours, make the visiting family a Sunday roast with eyebrows plucked to perfection.

May 5th is International Day of the Midwife. Despite the horror stories that get circulated like head lice, there are hundreds of thousands of midwives working tirelessly through the day and night. Disappearing up their own backsides making sure all the paperwork is filled in correctly. Working to reach government targets to turn low-risk pregnancies around as quickly as possible whilst simultaneously increasing the breastfeeding rates single-handedly.

I never got round to thanking the midwife that delivered my second child. The midwife that helped me to not be THAT person any more. The midwife who helped me see something through to the very end, despite all my fears and anxieties. The midwife that despite probably knowing that getting in the birthing pool 40 seconds before the baby was about to make it’s entrance was completely pointless, still helped me to lift my heaving body (and the baby’s crowning head) into the water to deliver my boy exactly how I hoped. The midwife who still managed to validate me as a mother despite there being so many things that didn’t go to plan.

Whether you’re about to hand over a birth plan, or about to receive one; be aware of how much that might be sitting behind those words. It could be enough to turn The Wisdom Tooth Effect into a Positivity Virus.

Something makes me think it might be a while before dentistry gets infected with that one….

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