Mechanisms of Labour.
It is twenty seven years since a midwifery tutor called Jo Cotton took three student midwives to the beach in Dover. It was summer, and she decided that it was too hot to sit in a classroom. We parked near the sea front, and sat on the pebbles, in the sunshine, sheltered from the wind by the sea wall. The three of us brought a doll and pelvis and it was there that we learnt our mechanisms of labour. We learnt the mechanisms for different positions including breech. We discussed the pelvis. What works. What doesn’t work. I have the diameters of the pelvis, and the fetal skull engraved in my memory. Jo Cotton did a very good job.
The dolls we learnt with, and that are still used, are the ugliest dolls that you have ever seen. A baby’s skull is designed so that the bones overlap. Any midwife should be able to tell you the position of a baby’s head by the positions of those bones, by knowing the position of the two soft spots or fontanelles, and the long lines or sutures that run between them. By knowing this you can tell if the baby is in the right position to pass through the pelvis. The dolls are attached by a long cord that reminds us that there are two arteries and one vein between baby and placenta. And then we have the placenta itself. Once learnt these things stay with us, and are beautiful in their simplicity.
I’ve also used these dolls teaching Parent Education classes. I’ve never dropped a baby, but I do remember dropping a doll in a sort of bouncing from hand to hand way as I fumbled with it and it landed half way across the classroom. I looked up to see fourteen horrified couples. They weren’t planning on letting me cuddle their babies after that!
So what has this got to do with Creative Writing? I included this in my blogs because after conceiving a baby and then growing it you need to get it out. In writing, after conceiving the idea and letting it develop you need to start writing. And it should be so straight forward. Shouldn’t it be? Isn’t it?
I was talking to an MA student last month, on the Creative Writing and Publishing course and we were discussing the finer points of where to put a comma. You would think that we would know by now. We finish the course in less than three months time. Somewhere in the past two years we moved past writing impulsively and intuitively to the angst of punctuation. Like those babies making their ways through the pelvis. Sometimes it happens all by itself, but at other times you might need to find someone to help… or from the midwifery perspective you might, like me, have sat on the beach at Dover at the feet of someone who taught you what to do.
What do you need to be able to learn to write? A pen. Paper. Books to read. Someone with the time to teach you the basics. Later you need someone to guide you through writing as an art form. Or you can write irregardless of art or craft, and put words onto paper because it is all you want to do. All you ever wanted to do. It might be that it was never about publication, but to express all those things that you are unable to share with anyone else. There comes a day when to advance you will find yourself needing someone to hold your hand as you progress to the next step.
What do you need if you want to learn to be a midwife? Forget about exams and qualifications and essay writing for a moment. At its most basic, to become a midwife, you need two hands and a heart that is teachable. You might have dreamt of being a midwife since childhood. It might be everything you ever wanted. That’s good. That’s a start. But somewhere along the line you are going to need a Jo Cotton.
The video was recorded for student midwives to use when preparing for practical exams.