Friday, April 17, 2009

Home Birth Back In The Day

When I was preparing for Cave Baby's birth, an old lady told me about how things used to be before the National Health Service began providing free health care for all in the UK (in 1948). She said it was very expensive to stay in hospital so people like her would give birth at home, attended by a midwife. But this was still expensive - I forget how much it cost but she said that it was about a week's wages. She said that weeks before your due date you purchased a box of supplies that would be needed by the midwife during the birth, and that this box was so expensive and precious that you dared not touch it. In fact she said you never knew what was in it because nobody ever opened them. I can just imagine the symbolic significance of these boxes in the houses of expectant mothers.

I am not trying to make any point with this vignette, I just really enjoyed it at the time, and remembered it today. It must have been really tough to go without health care because you couldn't afford it. It must have been scary to give birth without the back up of a nearby hospital, knowing that the loss of a baby would be a possibility. On the other hand it must have been nice when giving birth at home was normal, and all your friends and family could rally round to help, and birth would just be a normal part of life for everyone around.

Incidentally, the old ladies who had actually experienced home birth all that time ago were some of the most supportive people of my own plans to give birth at home.

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