Monday, December 10, 2007

Birth quilt

I was painting endless timber panelling this morning - a lovely tinted white, very cool and calming - and as I got on with the job, my mind turned to pregnancy. Heh. Now isn't THAT something I've thought about before.

Not me being pregnant, but the trials that some women (so many women) face both getting pregnant, keeping the baby and then also once it's born (safely or otherwise). Over the past couple of months, I've heard a few pregnancy announcements to women who've withstood some of the most gruelling tests of their lives... the waiting, the angst, the sadness, yet a couple of surprise effortless ones thrown in to the mix which are a blessed wondrous gift. And congratulations to all/any who may still be reading this blog who are newly pregnant ;)

But my thinking went further than that today. I was listening to a woman being interviewed on the radio. They have made a birthing quilt to bring awareness to the issues faced by indigenous Australian and Islander women, who are forced to travel outside their communities, sometimes outside of the country (not just their country/nation but across the seas to a completely different land) to receive medical assistance to birth their children safely. These women go alone. They leave in the final weeks of their pregnancy, leaving behind obviously their partner and any other children they have, they have no birthing support, their mothers and sisters or aunties do not travel with them.

So here they are, completely alone with unfamiliar caregivers, and then basically left alone to birth by themselves - or at the most, with a stranger they've just met - before returning with their newborn/s on their own again.

They gave a statistic this morning: that for every non-Indigenous mother and baby that dies there are 5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that die and 3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies that die at birth (or from complications of).

And so, is it medical negligence? Too much or too little intervention? For a woman to give birth safely, she herself must have some sense of safety, surely. How can it possibly help to ensure the smoothest possible passage of delivery if she has so much stacked against her to begin with? Where are her emotional and other birthing needs being met in such a practice? The more narrow-minded might say "Well they should move closer" (and I have met such folk who use this as the all-rounded, bigoted, racist answer to everything that needs "fixing"). But seriously, wouldn't allowing any or all her support people to travel with her be at least some teeny tiny start in ensuring the process is somewhat safer?

Once again, my perspectives and realities become even more sharply defined as I am reminded of my place.

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