Wednesday, 8 January 2014

It's all about trust

When I was pregnant with Dom, my midwife told me that my two cats weren't a problem as long as I didn't go near the litter tray. She had me tested for toxoplasmosis and told me to enjoy my furbabies. My friend, however, was told by her midwife that the cat had to go, and go he did.

It's entirely possible that Mooch regrets my choice of midwife.

The thought that our midwife could easily have said the same thing still freaks me out now - even though I already knew that cats were fine as long as certain precautions were taken, I know for a fact that, had we been told by a medical professional to get rid of the cats, Mat would have moved heaven and earth to follow orders. As he'd never been around babies, he was very reliant on the advice of authority figures such as doctors, midwives, some fella down the pub who had a kid... I was a bit more relaxed, though in general I did think that the doctors should be obeyed. They're the professionals in this, after all. In fact, unless something seemed very strange to me (or unless I just didn't want to do it), I often didn't even think to question it - I did as I was told.

However, I had possibly more opportunities than some to question the advice I was given. As I'm from England and live in Spain, I had some knowledge of how things are done in the UK. I knew, for example, that eating sushi, shellfish and deli products was completely verboten.

Except, in Spain, it's not. Pregnant women are actually advised to eat a small amount of shellfish (though some varieties are still off the menu), and a more common sense attitude is applied to food in general. In my antenatal class, the midwife explained that they would never suggest that you go to your uncle's farm, have a squirt of milk straight from the cow and gnaw a chunk off the pig's leg that's curing on the back of the barn door (OK, the exact words are mine, the sentiment was hers). However, if you want to have some Philadelphia or a slice of jamon serrano on your toast, feel free. Supermarkets and the firms that supply them are so rigidly regulated that the likelihood of their products causing any harm to a growing foetus is practically nil. The rules given to pregnant women haven't been updated along with food hygiene laws, so they are out of date. As an extra precaution for the nervous, she suggested freezing steak before cooking if we planned to eat it rare, and only eating sushi which had been frozen prior to preparation and had not been left to stand.  This would kill off the bacteria that could cause problems and allow us to still eat our meat with flavour.

Anyway, I'm not here to tell anyone to go and eat a slab of beef that's still mooing. Everyone has their own comfort levels and will do what they feel is right, or what suits them. But it's an interesting way to look at things that I'd never previously thought to question.

Unfortunately, it then opens the door for a lot of uncertainty. I'm much more aware that doctors may not always be right, politicians usually don't have anyone's best interests at heart but their own, companies sell us food and cosmetics that they are fully aware could kill us, and that almost everybody has their own agenda. Of course, this isn't exactly surprising (especially the part about politicians), but now that I see this reaching into every area of my life, I'm obviously much more aware of it. Since I had Dom, I've done my own research on things like vaccinations (I'm with the doctors on this one), extended breastfeeding, circumcision (still over my dead body - luckily, not a 'thing' here) and the like. I've educated my own doctor on what contraception is suitable while breastfeeding and refused a painkiller that he said was OK for lactating mothers when its own literature said otherwise. In short, I appear to have grown a pair.

Maybe I'm very naive to have only come to this conclusion in my thirties, but it genuinely never came up before.  Sure, everyone's heard stories of cancer sufferers who decide they're going to fight the disease using nothing but herbs and organic chicken, but they're few and far between.  Until you're in a position where you're dealing with lots of new information and people on a daily basis for something can be literally life or death, it just doesn't come up.  Or maybe I was just lazy.

So yes, it is scary when you realise that there really is nobody out there that you can trust. No-one has all the right answers and nobody does everything perfectly. Doctors recommend the NuvaRing when it's known to have side effects on nursing babies and my own mother has to be reminded that Dom's food should not be salted. It's a terrifying world once it becomes apparent that we're effectively on our own in making some huge decisions and have the potential to mess up so much. When I left the hospital with Dom for the first time, I hovered by the door expecting someone to come and ask me where I thought I was going with that child and had I sat the exam so they knew I knew what I was doing? Even now, 18 months on, I find it hard to remember sometimes that I'm the boss (well, one of them) and I get to decide what works for my son. There really is no-one you can trust 100%, even yourself. We're all just doing the best we can with the tools we were given, and sometimes the only answer is to trust your gut.  

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