Firstly, I’d like to say that this is no way an attack on people who
provide services to pregnant women – everyone has to make a living,
and I know there is a market for it. I know there are a small number
of voluntary organisations that offer support in pregnancy and birth.
If I could I would pay for every service on offer – I have lots of
friends and relatives who provide the sort of services I’m going to
talk about and I think they do an excellent job and I understand why
they do it. In fact, I’ve seriously considered training in some of the
things I am talking about here. But …
When you become pregnant you are immersed into a world where you are
marketed at from every angle. In my experience marketeers, at their
most cynical, deal in fear and unachievable aims (oil to prevent
stretch marks? knock it off) and at their best try to inform parents
of the best/most useful products and services out there to improve
their experience of pregnancy and birth and newborn babies.
I have been thinking about what would make this second pregnancy more
bearable (aside from a butler, chef, cleaner etc etc etc). There is a
HUGE group of very eager people out there who want to sell me things
to make it better. Massage for example – I know I would benefit from a
massage as I think this perpetual headache is caused by tension in my
back and neck. But, the cheapest I’ve found is £30 for half an hour.
I have PGP (or SPD as it used to be known) and I am in almost constant
pain, some days it’s pretty severe and stops me walking/sitting/lying
comfortably. I cried in the middle of town on Thursday at the thought
of the 10 minute walk home as it hurt so much.
I know I would benefit from Pilates or Yoga for this – again, this
comes at a cost. Around £7 a class, so if I was to go every week for
the rest of my pregnancy that would be £140.
I have heard that reflexology and aromatherapy can help with this too
– again, at unobtainable prices.
I would also benefit from Physio, the physio I have been offered on
the NHS consisted of one appointment where they told me how to get out
of bed and to try to not sit still for more than 20 minutes at a time.
I was told to come back if I wanted a support belt later on in the
pregnancy and that was that. No offer of manual therapy throughout the
pregnancy. Private physio/osteopath/chiropractor would be hugely
beneficial – but the cost is too high. The Pelvic Partnership supports
women with this problem and they say that manual therapy is the only
thing that works to help with the pain during pregnancy. But it is
unavailable to most people.
Most things that would really, really help are unavailable – in their
fullness – to most women. The demand for Doulas has hugely risen in
the last few years and I have heard such wonderful, positive stories
of births involving Doulas – but only for those people who can afford
it. Similarly the NCT and others offer wonderful antenatal classes,
which are also rather expensive. I know Doula UK and the NCT offer
reduced rates to those on the lowest incomes, which is fabulous, but
it leaves people like me out. We are not poor but we are on a tight
budget. The squeezed middle, if you will.
There are so many products out there for expectant mothers – bubble
baths, books and vitamins to name but a few. They all claim to make
your pregnancy and birth less painful, more enjoyable and more of this
wonderful, beautiful, calm and natural experience that we are told
Breast pumps, birth pools, special pillows etc etc etc etc all cost a
lot of money.
Now all of these things are, rightly, classed as complimentary
therapies or services. They are not vital to pregnancy or childbirth.
The woman and the child can survive without them. I know that. Plenty
of people can’t afford all these things and go through pregnancy and
birth without them. Hell, some people have complication free pregnancy
and straight forward births, or so I’m told. The NHS and NCT offer
feeding support and Children’s Centre’s do something to support most
communities. But sometimes we need more than just survival, don’t we?
I feel as though the hospital I gave birth in felt that Joni’s birth
was a ‘success’ because we were both alive at the end of it. That IS a
success, when you consider that before all the medical interventions
we needed existed we probably would have both died in the process. But
really, NHS, is that all we can expect? Life = success, Death or life
limiting damage = Failure.
Something I know I would benefit from is counseling about Joni’s
birth. To close the door on it and have a calm birth with baby 2. You
know, where I’m not refusing to listen to the heartbeat for fear of a
panic attack. As far as I know, the hospital I am registered with do
not offer any sort of birth reflection service (funnily, the hospital
I had Joni at does – I guess the demand is pretty high there?!). So,
what am I left with? Do I pay for counseling (probably a minimum of
£35 per session) to deal with this?
Counselors on this subject see it as vital to be able to go over the
previous notes with me in order to deal with how and why things
happened. Good idea – I thought. So, after sending 3 letters (by
recorded delivery) to Ashford and St Peters Hospital Trust requesting
the forms to obtain my notes, with no reply, I spent 40 minutes on
hold and 30 minutes being transferred between two people and was
eventually told that I could fill out a form and send a cheque for £50
then I would be allowed to collect my notes from the hospital (20
miles away). So, all in all, to get my notes it would cost me around
£70. Not to mention my time.
As I’ve said – we are not poor. We could find a way to get this cash
together (our house is cluttered, I sell a lot of things on eBay, we
could feed Joni less etc) and pay for it. But why?
Why should I pay for maternity notes from that hospital? I’m asking
for them because I was traumatised by the events that took place
there. I need professional help to come to terms with it. By their own
admission it was their fault that things ended up how they did. They
sighted their lack of staff and inexperienced midwives in their
defense of my complaint. And they would like me to pay £50 for the
privilege of re-living the whole thing?? I don’t want the notes for a
What about people who simply can’t afford it? What must they do? Be
happy they merely survived? Suffer in pain? Experience an inferior
pregnancy and birth because they couldn’t afford all the things they
are told would make it all better?
Its one thing not being able to pay for something as luxurious as a
massage but quite another being told that I have to pay for something
as essential as my notes.
I guess those who can’t afford it probably have to suffer in silence.
I expect William Hague would blame them for not working hard enough.