"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Get your rosaries off my .... um... Birthing Centre?

This was going to be a nice little post about how during our hypnobirthing class on Saturday, my uterus decided to demonstrate Braxton-Hicks contractions* right at the very moment the facilitator started explaining about them. But then I read this article by Leslie Cannold.

And realised that the birthing centre where we are booked for Haloumi's birth is part of several "public hospitals", which, despite being publicly-funded, is subject to this edict from the Catholic Church:
"Catholic health-care institutions, whatever legal, financial or other pressure they are under, may not co-operate with abortion, sterilisation or euthanasia."
Cannold continues,
"Nor do Catholic-run health care institutions offer a full range of contraceptive services."

Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, the Catholic church's episcopal vicar for life and health. Should this man be deciding on your obstetric care or your baby's perinatal care?

I don't want to even think about the possible situations where we could encounter this policy. But if anything went wrong with Haloumi, or with my pregnancy, I think we'll have enough heart-breaking decisions on our hands without the Catholic Church telling us that some options are off the table because of THEIR religious views.

I've just rang our birthing centre and had a chat to one of the midwives, who was lovely and did her best to reassure me that these policies only come up very very rarely in the most awful of situations and that even then, the hospital aims to respect the patients' (ie parents) wishes while also respecting "the sanctity of life". Which wasn't terribly reassuring to me, because I can imagine few things could make such an awful heart-breaking situation worse, but one of them would be to have someone telling you about the "sanctity of life" at a time when you have to make such awful decisions. She did, however, tell me that their hospital policy puts the mother's health before the life of the baby, and that if a baby is not showing any signs of brain activity, they will let the parents decide whether to continue life support. But that these situations are always complicated and decided on a case-by-case basis, but that in the end "it is in God's control anyway". Well... yes - depending on whether you believe in God, and whether in your understanding God has control or not...

So where does that leave us? So far, all the midwives and the one doctor we've met the birthing centre have taken our same-sex family in their stride without blinking an eyelid, so I would not anticipate we'd have any issues with them on that front. But it scares me that, if the worst did happen and we had to face decisions about whether or not to continue with the pregnancy, or whether or not to continue treatment / life support for Haloumi or me, that these decisions would be constrained by the dictates of the Catholic Church.

Yes, other hospitals also have ethics committees etc which may also limit our choices - but at least those ethics are broad, secular ethics, and not those of a Church which a) we don't belong to and don't believe in, and b) which has a number of positions we disagree strongly with.

I asked if I could get a copy of the Mercy's Ethics policy - she wasn't sure if they had such a document, but gave me the number of the Pastoral Care department so I could ask them. I will follow up, but I have lots of work to do, and I hate the sick feeling I get in my tummy when I have to think about these "adverse scenarios" when we could come up against Catholic hospital policy. I just wish I had known when we were choosing our care that some public hospitals have such limitations. Or rather, I wish that "public hospital" meant that only public health department ethics limits applied. (I've written a very grumpy missive to the Health Minister about that).

Blech. I don't really want to end the post on that rather depressing note - so will leave you with this cute misunderstanding from one of the dads at the hypnobirthing class while we were watching a waterbirth DVD:

dad: How long can they stay under water for?
facilitator: Well, they have been in water for 40 weeks...
dad: Forty minutes! Really?

*sorry, "practice labour" - part of the whole hypnobirthing approach is to use less medicalised language. And actually, "contraction" doesn't really capture what they are like - I had some bizarre idea of some kind of mini-abdominal earthquake. Instead, it was much less dramatic than that - my tummy went rock-hard for about half a minute or so, and that was it. Just like a big ol' muscle is wont to do now and then.

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