Friday, August 22, 2008

Not a Hippie

Well, Bethany is certainly in early labor. When last checked on Thursday, she was at 3cm. Lots of hard contractions, so my job is to rub her back vigorously when each contraction strikes. I'd complain about my hand getting sore, but it would make me look like a jerk so I won't mention it. Our midwife, Lois, is coming this afternoon to check on her progress.

Speaking of midwife, I thought I might let you all in on a bit of correspondence I've been having with my best friend Paso. We were talking on the phone yesterday when he jokingly referred to me as a hippie. We had fun going back and forth on the issue for a while as I feigned offense. Last night I couldn't sleep, so I decided to write this rebuttal. I thought some of you might be interested to read it. If nothing else, the exercise provided me with an interesting opportunity to come to terms with how much midwifery knowledge I have absorbed during our first year here in the Philippines.

If you are an easily offended liberal feminist nut-job, then kindly move on to another corner of the Internet. The previous sentence was simply a prelude of what is to come. This little rant is all in fun, and in no way intended to offend anybody. But I should warn you that it's about birth, so if you're squeamish this may not be for you.

You asked for a few more Bethany pics, so I've included those as well. As I mentioned last time, I did a lame job of composing the photos. I tried to make up for it with post-processing. A rookie move.

Without further ado, here is my notice to Paso:

Bethany and I are not hippies. Yes, I understand that there is some evidence stacking up against us. I admit that our "globe trotting" may lead some to believe that we are "free spirits". We intend to name our daughter "Promise" which is kind of a "far out" name. My wife is indeed a midwife, an occupation that attracts some rather liberal women, many of whom could be considered "feminist nut-jobs". We are having our baby in our home, as opposed to an "evil", "fascist" hospital that's run by "the man". At first glance, I'm sure many believe us to be hippies.

But let us be reasonable. If we further investigate the evidence, we discover that, in fact, I am a rational man, and my wife is as rational as one can expect a woman in labor to be. When you suggested that I was as hippie, your first piece of supporting evidence was my place of residence. Indeed, I do live in what could be considered an exotic locale. But are hippies really drawn to the Philippines? Despite the large 1960s Volkswagen contingency, I have yet to see a single "VW Bus". Countless VW bugs populate the streets, yet nary a peace symbol can be found. The mayor kills drug users, which makes it difficult to find a pot-smoking flower-child feeling groovy in the meadows. We don't even have any meadows. This is hardly a bohemian enclave.

You next pointed out that my spouse is a midwife. This is your strongest argument. Again, at first glance, this would be an open and shut case. Midwives are notorious for their feminist viewpoints and their new age philosophizing. Many midwives have been heard referring to the female private bits as the "Yoni" or "Flower", which can only be explained by a complete and utter lack of respect for common sense.

I can assure you that Bethany is ashamed of these women who have marred the reputation of her chosen field of study. She cringes when she reads of the "beautiful birthing experiences" that take place in the hot springs of Iceland. She is quick to decline when her fellow students gather to watch the next video of some nutty housewife who has brow-beaten her husband into recording the birthing process for the benefit of all the other "touchy-feely" women who have taken leave of their senses. No, Bethany is not a typical midwife. I believe she has a firm grasp on reality, and is able to discard the flaky attitude that clothes the modern midwife.

The word "hippie" entered our conversation when you discovered our intention to birth the baby in our home. I'd like to approach this subject from two angles. First, at the risk of sounding like the modern, pushy midwife, I'd like to tackle this notion that giving birth in the home is an unusual prospect. Until very recent history, all women gave birth in their home...with the help of a midwife. The idea of the OB/GYN wasn't conceptualized until the 20th century. The decades-long struggle between these specialists and the midwives is most likely centered around money. Perhaps this is a cynical view, but one can't ignore that both parties are fighting over the same customer base.

Midwives argue that the birthing process is a "beautiful thing" and it should take place in the comfort of your own home. Now, I have trouble relating to the idea that having an infant slowly rip your most sensitive flesh is a beautiful process, but the comfort concept does resonate with me. Many of the women that I have heard speaking about their hospital birthing experience have described their surroundings as "uncomfortable" and "sterile". The doctors and nursing staff have insisted upon "unnatural" birthing positions (feet in the stirrups), which cause undue stress on both the woman and the infant, yet allow the doctor to have a nice comfortable seat during the proceedings. The hospital staff have also been known to speed the process along using drugs in order that the time of birth will conveniently fit into their working schedule.

Ironically, the pushy midwives - who are often overheard preaching about the evils of hospitals and pushing their new age beliefs on anyone who will listen - are the exact opposite when they are actually on the job. They are expected to gently guide their patient through the birthing experience, allowing the patient to choose from a number of sensible options throughout the process. It is their job to always put the patients needs first. Sadly, doctors and hospital staff do not always have this luxury. The nature of the hospital environment makes it very difficult to give each patient all of your attention. Consider the number of laboring women one doctor or nurse may need to attend to at one time.

The hospital experience in the Philippines is another subject entirely. Compared to our North American standards, many of the facilities in this country are decrepit and unsanitary. They are also consistently understaffed, and those that are on staff practice shocking methods. In the local hospitals, men are not allowed to attend to their laboring wives. It is usually forbidden for them to be present when the baby is born. Often, the mother is not given a chance to see her newborn before the infant is taken to a neighboring ward to be fed formula instead of her mother's milk.

In fact, formula manufacturers such as Nestle operate much the same as a pharmaceutical company, paying doctors to "push" their product to new, naive mothers. As you can imagine, this has far reaching health and social effects. The most obvious health problem related to formula is the water with which the formula is mixed. Much of the water in this country is not safe for even a mature digestive system, never mind that of an infant. The use of formula has also contributed to unsustainable population growth. When a mother is breastfeeding her child, her reproductive system remains dormant for a significant period of time. If she chooses to use formula instead of breast milk, she can begin her monthly cycle within six weeks of giving birth. This often leads to an unexpected pregnancy for a mother who is now spending her limited income on unnecessary formula.

With these things in mind, it is no wonder that Bethany and I have chosen to have the baby at home. I don't want my baby born in an unsanitary environment. I most certainly want to be in the room when my baby enters this world, and there is no way I will allow my wife to labor alone, without my help. Our child should spend its first minutes in her mother's arms, not being rushed off to some distant room to be fed powdered milk.

Having said that, we are not naive. We understand that there can be complications that require the intervention of a medical doctor. With that in mind, we recently visited several hospitals, searching for the facility and staff that could best accommodate us in an emergency. We consulted with two doctors and felt very comfortable with the second one that we met. She explained the hospital rules (which I explained above), but displayed an understanding of my concerns and seemed to indicate a certain amount of flexibility. Both Bethany and I feel that in case of emergency, we will be relatively comfortable at this hospital.

If these attitudes are "hippie" in nature, so be it. I, however, believe that they are common sense. Admittedly, I do feel like a hippie when I consider that I am about to name my child Promise. Certainly their are other, more psychedelic names available, such as "Rainbow" or "Flower", but Promise is also unusual. But I don't care. In this case, I'm happy to "stick it to the man". I don't care if "the system" doesn't like the name Promise. "The system" can take a hike.

Now, speaking of hippie suspects, shall we discuss your West coast vegetarian lifestyle?


BeccaLynn said...

Way to stick it to the man, Tim! Wait a minute ... does this mean that PASO is the man? Hmmmm...

We're praying for all three Stewarts, and can't wait to hear from you on the other side of labour!
The last picture of Bethany is just so beautiful. You are a blessed man to have such a wife (you know that).

Anonymous said...

AWESOME! comes to mind, Tim. Never thought of it all as hippie. Just adventurous. I am proud of you and Bethany's sense of individuality and adventure. Having Promise at home beats having a bunch of strangers hanging around watching you sweat and swear...just kidding about the swearing. :) Anyway, interesting blog. Love ya,
MOm Mc

kvanwely said...

Can you get granola in the Philippines? Tim you continually make me howl and will continue to be awesome as long as you never make reference to a "flower".
Bethany, you are stunning and I just want to hug you. Jesus is with you through it all!
Hope to talk to you soon, love kate

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Tim and Bethany on the arrival of Promise Grace. God has been good once again :)Lois emailed during the labour process and I just got it now as I wasn't home all day, but then she skyped with Sarah so we got to hear. We are so happy for you and that things went well. Can't wait to talk to Lois and get her perspective on it all. So glad she could be your midwife and that you were able to have Promise in you beautiful breezy apartment! God bless. Dorothy

heather said...

I agree, really amazing wife you've got. :)

And, frankly, I think Dave is more hippie than all three Stewarts put together. Massive amounts of unkempt facial hair and going days without a shower come to mind ... :)

Really gorgeous pictures of B.

Praying for you three!