Throughout this nine-month journey, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what an intense process of self-discovery pregnancy and parenting is. And how. I, for one, would never have pegged myself as one of those hardcore natural types when it came to giving birth. In the early months of pregnancy, after getting over the “holy crap, this is really happening and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it” phase, I began confessing to Andrea how absolutely terrified I was of labour pain. A pretty normal response, from what I’ve gathered. It’s just amazing to me now how far I’ve come since then.
I have now spent the last three months doing as much as possible to prepare myself for a totally natural birth. And I can honestly say that today, four days before Peanut’s due date, I feel a sense of confidence and excitement I never dreamed possible. The resources out there to help women with this kind of thing really are effective. My resulting recipe includes these heartily-recommended resources: the documentary The Business of Being Born; Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth; Pam England’s Birthing from Within; yoga; and natural-focused pre-natal classes, both the informational and physical kind.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not exactly looking forward to the pain. But I’m not dreading it either. One of the most important things I’ve learned throughout my research is the power of a positive mindset. I really believe that’s going to help me through this process. As is being totally open to peacefully accepting whatever outcome awaits us. Even if that means a cesarean section. I feel like this is key. While I hope beyond hope that Peanut’s birth will remain intervention-free until the very end, I do not want to promote feeling traumatized if that doesn’t happen.
So where are we planning this intervention-free birth? I think if I had started down this path a little earlier in my pregnancy, I would have fought harder to have a home birth, and amazingly Andrea has even come around to this idea now too. In the end, however, we’ve decided to go with what we’re hoping is the second-best option, i.e. a birthing centre staffed by midwives.
From everything I’ve continued to learn about the Italian system, I feel very lucky to even have an option like this here, one that’s taxpayer-funded to boot. The centre we’re booked with is called Margherita (which means both “daisy” and a plain, cheese-and-tomato pizza but also refers to the patron saint of birthing women) and it’s attached to the maternity ward at Careggi, Florence’s main and largest hospital.
I actually struggled for a while with this decision because of another one of those infuriating Italian paradoxes. As I’ve heard more than one Italian put it, the problem with the Margherita (if you choose it for natural-birth reasons and not because it’s like staying in a hotel), is that if anything at all goes “wrong” (i.e. even a labour that stops progressing or goes too long), you get transferred on a gurney from heaven to hell.
Careggi is indeed the very last place I would choose to birth in this city. Everyone who is in any way into natural birthing chooses Ponte a Nicheri as their hospital of choice. The midwives teaching my pre-natal classes are unabashed and shameless in their exclusive promotion of this hospital. So I had to make what felt like a rather agonizing decision between a sure-fire middle-ground and risking hell by trying to get into heaven.
So far, I’m happy to say that I’ve at least made it through the gates, which in itself is an accomplishment. I’ve heard a lot of women grumble about how strict Margherita’s acceptance policy is. You have to be 100% risk-free and in practically perfect health.
On a related, fascinating note, upon which I plan to ruminate more in the future, the real word for “midwife” in Italian, levatrice, remains a neglected and unused relic of the past. Kind of like where we were in North America, um, forty years ago? And unlike the more enlightened languages in the rest of the western world that actually use their specific name for a person trained to assist in childbirth (my absolute favourite is the French sage femme, literally “wise woman”). Instead, Italians use the same word for a non-physician midwife and a medical obstetrician: ostetrica. Talk about confusing, not to mention a sad reflection of how Italy views this grand and honourable profession.