Last Sunday I gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Annabelle.

When originally asked what type of birth I wanted, I said ‘oh you know, normal’. For me, natural births are normal. But here in Chile perhaps less so.

Annabelle is my third child, and contrary to expectations it was the most emotional, beautiful and quite frankly downright odd experience.

My first child was born in a small private clinic in Switzerland, my second at an even smaller hospital in rural UK and Annabelle was born at a huge private clinic here in Santiago de Chile.

All three were natural births.

The thing is, that while ‘natural’, i.e. non intervention births are common place in Switzerland and it was the only option for me in the UK, here in Chile people think you’re rather odd for ‘opting out’ of medication, epidurals and all that jazz.

I was lucky enough to be able to give birth ‘au naturel’ and of course this meant I didn’t really look my best at the time. Blood, sweat, tears and zero instagram filter.

No filter needed

The doctor was out of his comfort zone perhaps. Sure he’s seen blood, but I’m not sure he’s used to women screaming quite so much.

He sat in the corner, twiddling his thumbs, eyes downward. I’m sure I caught him sneaking the football score or the like on his phone. After a short while he left and only returned for the delivery.

While the midwife who was going to attend me was on holiday, thankfully her substitute was very open to natural deliveries. It turns out when the doctor did return, she recommended for him to leave.

Afterwards, he congratulated on my on my ‘very passionate delivery’. He is an extremely competent, experienced doctor, with goodness knows how many letters after his name, but he did seem a little fazed by it all.

I guess it’s cultural. Why would I refuse pain relief? Well, because it can slow the birth down, it can speed it up beyond my control, and yes I’m scared of needles. Is it just me or since when was being cut up or injected a luxury?

Medication for the soul – family photos, snacks, a good book… oh and a vomit bag…

Here in Chile, it seems natural births are still rather unusual. But among my British peers I’m hardly a hippie. Many of my friends have opted for home births, and would take the non intervention approach much, much further than me.

Expaters, where do you stand on this?

Afterwards the nurses kept going on about how I’d ‘opted out of the system’ and so my aftercare was a little different. One paracetamol and a cup of tea and I was back on my feet.

I was going to joke that I wanted to take the placenta home with me just to see the look on my ultra conservative doctor’s face, but needless to say in the heat of the moment I completely forgot.

Every woman and every baby is different. And every country is different too. A natural birth isn’t right or safe for everyone. The birth should always be the mother to be’s final choice, without any cultural pressures.

A dear friend of mine (let’s call her M) is Russian, married to a Brit and is due to give birth in Germany. I’m against offering advice, but I will say this to you, M: if anyone asks what type of birth you’d like, be sure to be specific.

In fact, request ‘abnormal’.

4 Comments

  1. Maryam
    August 3, 2018 / 1:10 pm

    Loved your abnormal birth story hehe. Isn’t it funny what constitutes normal. In Belgium Gas&Air is never ever given bur in the UK it’s dished out like hot cakes haha. With my second I had a home water birth. It was the most liberating, empowering and.beautiful experience in my life

    • theexpater
      Author
      August 3, 2018 / 2:44 pm

      Yes every country has its own ideas about what is normal. I was lucky in that my doctor in Switzerland was a French trained Afghan and was very open to lots of different cultures. Funnily enough in the UK I was offered gas, but I thought it’d make me feel sick… inhaling helium from a balloon for jokes is about as crazy as I get! And yes – liberating, empowering and beautiful are exactly the words I’d use to describe Annabelle’s birth. x

  2. August 3, 2018 / 3:26 pm

    I had totally natural hospital births in both Belgium and New Zealand and found them both beautiful experiences. I do wish I’d been pushier about the birthing position while in Belgium though – lying back with stirrups is just going against gravity. Kneeling second time around was the sooooo much easier for me.

    • theexpater
      Author
      August 3, 2018 / 4:20 pm

      Lovely to hear both were positive experiences. And yes, the medical team had suggested an epidural, but the midwife showed me another position and bam… hola Annabelle! 😉

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