Giant Lamb shocks farmer

What is shocking?

For me it was reading reports in the local and national papers about our local hospital. Now then I know the hospital and many of the people who work in it. It’s ‘Our’ hospital. Like other people, when I go there I meet people I know amongst both staff and patients. It’s not some alien place staffed with people I’ve never seen before and will never see again.It’s a good hospital. Like a lot of other people round here, I’ve literally staked my life on that fact.

Yet to quote from the Guardian, “The investigation into deaths at Furness general hospital in Barrow between 2004 and 2013 found maternity services were beset by a culture of denial, collusion and incompetence.


Work inside the unit was found to be “seriously dysfunctional”, with poor levels of clinical competence, extremely poor working relationships and a determination among midwives to pursue normal childbirth “at any cost”.


The midwives at Furness general were so cavalier they became known as “the musketeers”.”


And this is where the problem arises. People start to believe in things. But they don’t believe in big things, they get fixated on details. So rather than midwives being determined to ensure that mother and child both come out of it alive after having the best possible experience, they get hung up on ‘normal childbirth.’

Look, I’m lambing at the moment; I know what ‘normal birth’ is. After over thirty years milking cows I’ve lost count of just how many calves I’ve helped bring into the world. I’m not a romantic.

If a woman wants to have her baby at home, and there are no sensible medical reasons why not, then fair enough. Both my grandmothers had five home births. But there will be cases where women could safely have a baby at home but would prefer not to, and there will be cases where they want to have the baby at home and it might not be wise. Pick your way through that one without offending anybody if you can.

A chap I know who’s in London married a lass who is Hong Kong Chinese. Their first baby was expected and the system sprang into life. First her mother (who is mainland Chinese) came to stay for several months. Next there was the first meeting with midwives and suchlike.

So the mother-to-be went, because she’d been invited. Her husband went because he felt he ought to, and her mother went because she’d done this however many times herself and wanted to know how other people tackled it.

The meeting was not a meeting of minds. Firstly the two ladies were not entirely sold on the idea of a father being present during the birth, in spite of the assumption by the medical staff that this is what would happen.

The other medical bits and pieces didn’t seem to upset either mother or daughter, until the midwife asked, “Would you like the baby to be born at home.”

It was at this point things went downhill. The grandmother-to-be obvious felt her English was failing her at this point. So she asked her daughter what had been said. But obviously she asked in Chinese. Her daughter replied, also in Chinese. From the point of view of the husband the Chinese was faster than he could cope with, but he did sense it was getting more and more vitriolic. At last the grandmother-to-be couldn’t cope any more, lost whatever English she had and a stream of angry Chinese poured out of her. Her daughter managed to retain her mastery of her husband’s language.

“Born at home! Are we peasant women? Do you think we are poor? Do you think we don’t know how to behave in hospital?”

At this point the midwife was obviously contemplating flight.

You see, it’s cultural. To these two ladies the idea of a perfect birth is that you go into hospital where competent people look after you, perhaps even fuss over you a bit and see that everything goes right.

Then after a few days you come home in a taxi. You’re smart, radiant even, with your hair done, wearing nice clothes, with a beautiful baby perfectly displayed in a robe handed down for the purpose.

As far as they were concerned, this is the first time your husband sees you or the baby.

But people get caught up with the cultural trimmings, stuff that doesn’t really matter. Just tiptoe tactfully through the cultural jungle, find out what those involved want, and see how far you can go in making sure they get it.

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8 thoughts on “Shocking

  1. M T McGuire March 6, 2015 at 9:18 pm Reply

    I wanted to have a home birth but I’d never have insisted on it. I think some women do. Quite forcefully.



    • jwebster2 March 6, 2015 at 9:26 pm Reply

      Some do. I suspect in most cases there is no medical reason why not. Mind you, knowing the amount of mess that you get with a birth, I’d rather it was somebody else who had to clean up after it 🙂

  2. Kay March 6, 2015 at 11:05 pm Reply

    You know my daughter Jim. You know she has had her first baby, In hospital, in a nice quiet room…. perhaps what you don’t know is she had a Doula. “The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth.” I copied that by the way. I have to say, compared to my experience of giving birth to my two children I was amazed by and wanted to take this fabulous lady home with me! She was there the whole time – I mean THE WHOLE TIME! Even when the midwife came in to do the birth thing, Miss Doula was there encouraging, rubbing my daughters back and helping her get into and maintain the perfect position for child birth…… Pure poetry in motion. All women need Miss Doula.

    • jwebster2 March 7, 2015 at 7:06 am Reply

      That is one of the things that we’ve lost. At one point the doula was the one thing that the family or community could guarantee to provide. Someone with medical skills was a bonus. But in some cases we’ve pushed ‘care’ to one side and replaced it with technical expertise. We’ve also come to regard serving as something degrading. We are not in a good place.

  3. Will Once March 8, 2015 at 8:25 am Reply

    My son, aka the best boy in the world, was born in a hospital. That was our choice because hospitals have doctors, machines that go ping and other medical stuff we don’t understand.

    Part way through the birth we ran into unexpected complications. The cord was both knotted and twisted around his neck so that every contraction caused his heartbeat to drop, He was being choked.

    As soon as the hospital realised this, all hell broke loose. Doctors appeared from nowhere shouting ER type orders at each other. We were wheeled into an operating theatre. Within twenty minutes our son was born by emergency C section – perfectly healthy and fine.

    Had we chosen a home birth our son would probably have died. At the very least we would have had an emergency ambulance trip with the risk that he would suffer brain damage through oxygen starvation,

    So I’m afraid that has coloured my view of home births. Admittedly our experience is rare. The vast majority of pregnancies go smoothly and don’t run into the problems that we had, But it can happen. It did happen. And when it happened we were very glad to be in the right place to deal with it.

    I have to wonder if home births are a style choice for the parents, but a hospital birth is the safest pragmatic choice for the child? And I am very sorry but for me the child’s needs are very important.

    • jwebster2 March 10, 2015 at 5:06 pm Reply

      I’ve been a participant in any number of births (I’ve literally lost count.) I’ve had to pick up the pieces from any number of ‘natural’ births that went wrong.
      I think one thing that we might be seeing here is a rebellion, not against hospital, but against over-control. I remember reading about a chap in the US who had cancer, was admitted to hospital. After a fortnight he discharged himself, moved to the hotel across the street and came in as a day patient. He laid down a set of rules, like “You can have all the samples you want, but you have to take them between the hours of 10am and 11am. ” Another, (if memory serves) was that he would be available for them every morning. If they wanted him in an afternoon, then fine, but tell him the day before.”
      Apparently his health improved because he wasn’t being constantly harassed and shoved from pillar to post at other peoples’ convenience, but his medical treatment didn’t suffer.

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