Oli and I have been contemplating the idea of having a second child (and I want to stress the words contemplating and idea!). Before we became parents, we’d daydream about how many kids we wanted to have and we settled on the number three (if we could be so lucky). We both come from siblinghoods of three so that was a number that made sense to us—it felt neither too large nor too small. Also, they say good things come in threes—the three musketeers, three-piece suits, the Hanson brothers…But then we actually had a child, reality kicked in, and we finally understood why many couples choose to have only one or two children (or none at all!), ha. Guys, raising a child is hard work. Still, we kind of feel like we’re finally coming out of the thick of things and we’ve found our groove as parents.
André is now 22 months old (almost 2) and the thought of having another child isn’t quite so terrifying anymore. Besides, we’d love for André to have a younger sibling to bully around (kidding!). We’d love for André to have a younger sibling to watch out for and take care of, a playmate, confidant and close companion (sibling rivalry notwithstanding). There’s also the fact that I work for an organization that provides support services for new and expectant families, so I am surrounded by pregnant women and babies all the time. My baby fever = very, very high! And I’m not going to lie—many of our couple-friends are sprouting their second babies and I’m experiencing some intense F.O.M.O. I often catch myself thinking “argh, that should be us, too!”, which is definitely not a good reason to have another child, but…
One of the many decisions Oli and I have had to wrestle with is whether or not to have a second child here in California (at home with the same midwives that delivered André) or in Mauritius. This isn’t so much a question of where to give birth as it is a question of how to give birth. Ok, let me explain. During my pregnancy with André, there were certain things I knew for sure: I knew that I wanted to have a (trained & experienced) midwife deliver our baby; I knew that I wanted to have a planned home-birth; and I knew that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth, if at all possible. Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to be as informed as possible about my prenatal care and birthing options and determine how I wanted to experience birth (acknowledging that birth is an inherently unpredictable process, of course). Whatever the outcome, I wanted to play an active role in the decision-making process.
Oli and I were fortunate to find midwives that we came to know, trust, and love because we spent many hours talking with them about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Fun fact: Over the course of my pregnancy we spent at least 20 hours with our midwives in both group and individual prenatal care. By comparison, the average expectant couple in obstetrical care will receive a total of 2 hours of prenatal care. To me, this speaks volumes about the degree of involvement and investment midwives have in the care and wellbeing of their charges.
As part of my Masters coursework in Public Health, I spent many months reviewing the literature on prenatal care and maternal health outcomes in the United States. One of the more fascinating things I discovered was that most pregnant women today rely on electronic and digital media sources (such as the Internet, reality television, and social media platforms like Facebook) for childbirth information. This raises concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of the information they receive, and the childbirth messages they are exposed to. As researchers have pointed out, the prevailing media representations of childbirth (at least in Western culture) emphasize fear, pain, and risks associated with childbirth (note, oh, just about any pop-culture TV show or movie involving a woman giving birth), as well as medical technology and interventions for childbirth. When I was pregnant, I wanted to watch every movie about childbirth and/or parenting (The Switch, Baby Mama, What to Expect When You’re Expecting etc) that I could find, just out of curiosity, and (spoiler alert!) there’s a lot of screaming and writhing and expletives. But I knew that what I saw on the screen was not necessarily indicative of what childbirth is or could be. Fortunately, I found a birth community that had a radically different conception of childbirth (no pun intended!). In my midwife’s group prenatal practice we followed the Birthing From Within philosophy, which doesn’t pretend that childbirth is painless (it isn’t) but that it’s pain with a purpose, and that there are practical ways (besides pharmaceuticals) that the pain can be managed. I wrote this piece about my home-birth experience shortly after giving birth.
The special relationship Oli and I developed with our midwives, and the birth community we have come to know and love in the Bay Area—these are really difficult things for us to give up! I’m trying to imagine being pregnant and giving birth in Mauritius and I realize that I know nothing about birth culture in Mauritius. There is nothing that I am sure about. In some important ways, it will be like starting all over again. Are there (trained & experienced) practicing midwives in Mauritius? Are home-births socially (or even legally) acceptable? What is the quality of hospital-based prenatal care there? Where or to whom do expectant couples turn to for pregnancy & birthing information and support? Do expectant couples have access to quality (scientifically rigorous, unbiased) prenatal and childbirth information? And, perhaps most importantly, to what extent do women have a say in determining their childbirth experiences (including, for example, the types and degree of medical interventions they are exposed to)? These are questions that I’m looking forward to investigating, both for personal and for (public health) professional reasons. And, as I learn more, I’ll share my findings right here on Mommy In Mauritius!