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ParentsMay 28, 2019

Emily Writes: How childbirth works, according to a man

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Following a roadside birth in an ambulance, the Southern DHB chief said it is ‘important for mothers and midwives to plan well ahead of their delivery’. Emily Writes wanted to find out more about how pregnancy works, so she asked a man who knows.

Here at The Spinoff, we had our first piece on the wonderful Lumsden Maternity Centre in 2016. In 2017 we asked: Are we about to lose another rural maternity centre? In 2018, the government downgraded the Lumsden Maternity Centre to a non-birthing unit.

And as predicted, on Sunday, a mother gave birth on the side of the road. Health board executive director Lisa Gestro told 1 News that “some aspects of the transition have been challenging”. Because challenging is the word I’d use for having to give birth in an ambulance that’s pulled over in a ditch. If the Lumsden maternity unit was still open, the mother would have been able to give birth there.

But just when I began to feel grumpy about it, my fears were allayed by comments from Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming. Here we all were worried about the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies when Chris had the answer all along – plan ahead!

I talked to Steven “Steve” Steverson from the Southern DHB Vaginal Integrity Unit to ask about how pregnant people can better plan their labours.

Kia ora Steve, thanks for meeting with me.

G’day love.

I was interested to hear pregnant people can plan when they go into labour. Can you explain that to me?

Of course sweetheart! So, the way it works is a baby is in the baby home for nine months. When you get to nine months, you go to the hospital and the baby comes out the baby hole.

Oh. I had my both of my babies at 37 weeks-

Darling listen, this is how babies work. They come out after nine months. They grow and grow and then they come out. You need to hold them in until then. You can cross your legs.

I feel like that’s not-

It’s science sugar tits. I have read the Wikipedia page on birth three times since this whole drama came out. The way it works is you put on the calendar the day that you’ll have had the baby in the baby home for nine months and then when it’s that time you go to the hospital the day before. Don’t go on the day of. That’s just asking for trouble isn’t it? If you go the day of, the baby might come early and you might be caught out. That’s hardly the fault of the DHB is it chicky?

But what about premature babies?

They don’t exist.

They definitely do though, we have whole units-

That’s what we have helicopters for innit?

Have you ever been pregnant Steve?

Woah woah woah! Is this because I’m a man? Look don’t get your knickers in a twist just because it’s your time of the month girlie! Everyone has babies and it’s not a big deal. You just have to be organised. This isn’t about gender. But it is very hard to be a man these days.

Midwives do plan for pregnancies, but having to drive two hours to get maternity care is a danger to pregnant people and babies. Having an unstaffed hub will never be as safe as having a resourced maternity unit.

Look lady, urgent births happen all around the country, not just in rural settings. If your baby is coming out your baby hole you need go to the hospital. That’s how birth works. It’s only a drive. You have to drive places, that’s how life works.

I live 10 minutes from the hospital and it was an agonising trip just getting there. I cannot imagine a two hour drive. 

The bumps are good for your lady parts. Helps the baby come out.

I don’t know what to say to that.

An ambulance is a very safe place to have a baby if it is an emergency. If I was having a baby I’d probably like it to be in an ambulance. In fact, you should think of an ambulance as a travelling Lumsden.

There. Solved it.

At this point Steve stood up and begin singing God Defend New Zealand. I called time on the interview. 

Keep going!