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They want painless childbirth - naturally.

FOR the mothers of the future, Nature will not be good enough. Why push, pull and scream through the agonies of childbirth, they say, when they could opt to lie back in painless peace and have their babies delivered by Caesarian section?

Two-thirds of women under 24 questioned have said that they would like to have the option of a Caesarian and one in seven pregnant women - as opposed to one in 10 just a decade ago - is choosing that option already.

Well, hoorah for them, I say. And about bloody time.

It is many years since it was actually necessary for women to suffer in childbirth. Yet most still do, thanks to an absurd and unholy alliance between the strangest of bedfellows.

The money-men who run the hospitals would rather leave the whole thing to Nature. Anaesthetics, epidural pain-blocks, Caesarian operations: they all cost. How much better to persuade women that they don't want to miss the "experience" of bringing a child into the world.

The National Childbirth Trust advocates natural childbirth unless there are medical reasons against it - but then they would, wouldn't they? Who is going to puff and pant their way through the ignominies of NCT classes if she isn't planning to go through labour at the end of them?

And the dastardly feminists have added their two penn'orth, arguing that women should keep control of their own bodies and not give them up to technology which, apparently - in spite of thousands of capable female scientists - is male- oriented and therefore essentially alien to women.

So powerful have these arguments been that I have even heard of cases where a woman has planned a natural birth, changed her mind once the realities of labour set in, and had her husband bully her out of pain-relief on the basis that she will feel "ashamed of herself" after the event for having "given in".

The infuriating anomaly here is that in almost no other area of our lives do we suffer for the sake of sticking to Nature's plan. We don't walk through frozen fields when we can drive. We don't put up with headaches when we can take an aspirin. We don't endure the sharpest pangs of a broken heart if we think a stiff whisky will help. Any more than we willingly eschew the wonders that science has created to make our lives more pleasant - from soap to jet planes - simply because our ancestors didn't have them and therefore "snot natural".

Yet when it comes to childbirth, these ridiculous people put these ridiculous pressures upon women to suffer...often urging them on with daft stories of women in foreign parts who squat in a field, give birth, and get back to the harvest. (Myth, actually.)

The craft of medicine is about relieving suffering. It is an honourable aim with an honourable tradition that needs every encourage-ment to develop further. To which end, I would like to see the hospital administrators cough up, the NCT shut down, and the feminists go sit round a cauldron and ponder the following:

If men gave birth - do you think they would be such suckers?

Amy pails out at 71

SMALLHOLDER Amy Cosh has finally hung up her pail after 57 years of milking her herd of eight cows by hand.

The 71-year-old widow milked the animals twice a day from the age of 14 and took just ten days off in that time.

But Amy, of Porchfield, Isle of Wight, now suffers from rheumatism and has had to give up her herd. "They finally got too much for me," she said.

Amy will still be busy. She's got her 80 chickens to look after.

Beverley's

twin win

CANNY mum Beverley Wills was celebrating a pounds 3,000 win yesterday after betting AGAINST having twins.

Beverley, 38, and her husband Chris paid pounds 600 for a special insurance policy.

Beverley, 38, of Westerleigh, Bristol, gave birth to twins Joshua and Jake in the city's Southmead Hospital.

Beverley, who already has another set of twins, said: "I felt ill in the early stages like I did the last time so I thought the policy was a safe bet."

Hague days and holidays

WILLIAM Hague has devised a plan for a happy marriage to the fair Ffion: they will see each other every Sunday, one evening a week, one weekend a month and two holidays a year.

Generally speaking, I think that rigid arrangements are risky in a relationship. But on balance, I think he might get away with it.

She just might be able to put up with that much of him.

Less pleasant, even, than the idea of marriage to Mr Hague is the strangely kinky mental image of Robin Cook sallying forth in leather chaps. He should realise that, like most of our Members of Parliament, he'd look rather more fetching in a black bin bag.

With a couple of satsumas thrown in for good measure.

KIDS ARE GENEROUS BUT NOT TO A FAULT

A NEW report, out this week, suggests that our kids are mean. They give less to charity than their parents, which raises grave concerns for the future of those organisations that rely on donations to keep going.

I don't think our kids are mean - not if my own daughter is anything to go by.

Like many of her friends, she cannot pass a Big Issue seller without buying a copy, even if she already has one. She opens her purse for beggars and buskers at the drop of their hat...and the lavish sums she thrust upon the scruffs who came carolling at Christmas put one heck of a smile on their chops.

In other words, when it comes to giving money directly into the hands of the needy (money that won't show up on surveys and reports), the young hearts are there. But when it comes to the big, organised charities, the youngsters are deeply sceptical about where the money actually goes.

And stories of lawyers creaming off pounds 500,000 for 11 weeks' work on Diana's Memorial Fund do nothing to prove them wrong.

Daughter did find one Big Issue seller a little too spirited in her selling technique at our local Tube. "Big Issue," she cried. "Big Issue. Stop us having to mug and burgle you. Buy a Big Issue..."

RAP star Mark Morrison was sentenced to 150 hours community service for taking part in a knife brawl - and got his pal Gabriel Mafereka to do it instead.

So it's OK for Morrison (left) to assume some people will have trouble telling one black man from another.

But not OK for John Motson to agree with him.

Facing facts about all these miracles

SUCH excitement in Leeds. Patricia Cole, an Irish Catholic cleaning lady, stared at the rag she had been using to apply metal polish to a brass rail - and there it was. The face of Jesus Christ, clear as anything.

"I knew who it was immediately," she gasped, as she ran off to tell her priest about the miracle she had seen.

Leaving aside for a moment the small detail that nobody actually knows what Jesus Christ looked like, I notice one interesting thing about these hardy perennial stories of statues that weep blood, ornamental pigs that drink milk and dusters that sprout portraits: they always seem to happen to those whose religion pre- disposes them to believe in miracles in the first place.

I can't help feeling that if He (or They) really wanted to make a point, they would pop up on someone else's J-cloth.

Mine, for instance.

KENNEDY AFTER A PEACE OF THE ACTION

NO sooner does Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam think she might have a breakthrough in the Ulster talks than up pops that old slob Senator Edward Kennedy, grabbing his share of the headlines.

What in hell does he think he is doing, poking his nose into other people's business? Lending support and advice to Mo?

Or just waiting to offer her a lift home?
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Sarler, Carol
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 1998
Words:1340
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