Wednesday, September 14, 2011

To staceyjw: Reply-Turned-Post

staceyjw left a comment on a post I previously had a link to in my list of "favorite posts" in my sidebar, which prior to receiving this comment, I hadn't updated in a very long time.  I have now updated the list, and chose to no longer include that post, because I feel it no longer reflects the direction of this blog, and I have more recent posts that are "more favorite" for me currently.

The post, published October 23, 2010, was called Elective Cesareans as Commentary on a Failed Birth Model.  In it, I explored one woman's writing about her view of the choice of cesarean vs. vaginal birth, and how her assumptions about vaginal birth, which, in my opinion, were largely informed by our culture's negative image of childbirth and common obstetric practices that are often seen as dehumanizing, appeared to color her view.  I contrasted that with the view of birth held by the natural childbirth community, suggesting that perhaps if our system could make vaginal birth a better experience for the majority of women, perhaps less women would request cesareans.

This is the comment:
You don't have to think VB is dehumanizing or rape like to prefer the risks and recovery from a surgery to the risks and recovery from a VB. Sure, VB can go well, but when it doesn't, it can be very damaging (NCB or not, it happens). Personally, I would trade a belly scar and ab pain for vaginal pain and possible damage anyway. This doesn't mean we see "modern" VB as horrible, or anything else, just that when looking at all the ways to birth, we prefer one to the other.

This is because many Moms, including myself, see the actual arrival of our child as the life changing event- the act of becoming a parent, welcoming a new member of the family and enlarging our hearts with another human to love. How the baby gets out/into the family is irrelevant. I dont have to push a baby out my vagina to be a Mom! Focusing on a biological act to make a woman/Mom is also the very antithesis of feminism.

By focusing on VB as a "rite of passage", instead of the actual arrival of the baby (or child, in adoption) you cause a lot of hurt to Moms who didn't VB. This is not necessary, as women have enough to deal with without creating a distinction between Vb and CS, adoption, surrogacy as a way to parent.
Here is my response:

In this post, I was responding to the view of vaginal birth expressed in the Pregnancy Zone article.  I was disturbed by the way the author described vaginal birth, and it did sound very negative and verging on sexual assault to me. I do think that particular writer's negative view of vaginal birth was largely formed by the negative image of vaginal birth in our culture and common medical practices that disrespect women. Obviously, each woman is different, and each woman's reasons for her birth choices are going to be different as well, so your reasons for your choices will be different from hers.

You are right that vaginal birth does sometimes cause serious vaginal damage.  I don't deny that.  With good care, though, it is relatively rare, just like serious complications from c-sections (that some of us NCB people are so afraid of) are also rare.

I understand what you are saying about the arrival of the child being the significant, life-changing event.  I also believe that welcoming a child into your family is always special and sacred, no matter how it happens.  I have problems with saying that the baby getting there is all that matters, because that is hurtful to all the women who are traumatized by the way they are treated while giving birth.  Mistreating a women is never okay, even if you hand her a healthy baby at the end of it.  I do believe that the process by which a woman brings her baby into her family matters a great deal.  I do not, however, believe that there is only one correct way to go about it.  If you read my post Why Natural Childbirth is Not Important, you will see that I feel that  going through the literal biological process of natural birth or vaginal birth is not as important as being an informed participant in the process of a birth (which can also extend into other methods of acquiring a child).  I was referring mostly to medically necessary cesareans in that post, but it also applies to elective cesearans.  Only you know your body, your priorities, and your circumstances, and only you can make the best decision for you. 

The way you have interpreted my use of the term "rite of passage," will lead me to use a lot more care in how I use that term in the future.  There are some who believe women who do not experience natural childbirth will not be as good of mothers for not having gone through that experience.  I may also have believed this in the past, but I was wrong.  Just because one woman feels a certain experience was important or necessary to her development as a mother does not mean all women have to have that same experience to become a mother.  We are all different and all of our "rites of passage" into motherhood will be unique.  I believe that God gives us each individual experiences that best help us learn and grow in our own individual ways.  I feel that whatever you go through to get your child is your rite of passage into motherhood.  For some women, the rite of passage will be adoption or surrogacy--which are often very long and difficult journeys.  For one woman the rite of passage is joyfully pushing her baby out with an epidural, for another it is choosing a cesarean as her preferred method of birth, and for another it may be having an unmedicated birth.

Many women have described their unmedicated birth experiences as significant self-discovery journeys, that made their baby's arrival into their life special in a way that was right for them.  You may feel it wouldn't have be an awesome experience for you to give birth that way, and not all women who give birth unmedicated feel that way about it, but that shouldn't lessen the experience for the women who do.  A woman may feel giving birth on their own terms, without feeling powerless to authority figures or controlled by an obstetric system (that many feel is patriarchal), was an important part of her life, motherhood (and possibly feminist) journey.  Another may feel that having experienced the intensity of unmedicated birth is something she can draw strength from in the future.  Another woman may feel that giving birth naturally brought her closer to God.  To say that there is never value in the experience of natural birth is to discredit these women's experiences.  Not every woman wants or needs that experience for her personal growth, but those who choose it should be free to attach whatever personal significance to it that they see in it.  Seeing significance in the journey of birth doesn't take away from the joy of welcoming a child into your home, not any more than appreciating personal growth one might achieve through a challenging adoption journey would take away from that joy.  It is not a one-or-the-other choice between appreciating the process and the product.

And for some women, the process has nothing to do with it.  Some women will define their transformation into "motherhood" as being completely unrelated to it.  I understand not caring about how the baby gets there.  I used to say I was sure I wanted all the drugs I could get.  My own paradigm shift was more about the belief that it would be safer to avoid drugs and procedures as long as there weren't complications (I do still believe this, and it would take a lot to change my mind) than it was about wanting some great experience.  However, learning that it is possible to have a joyful, empowering experience birthing naturally, and that it wasn't necessarily the horrific ordeal I always assumed it would be was also part of it.  Attempting to birth without pain medication in my first birth turned out to be harder than I expected, and I chose to have an epidural.  For my second birth, I used hypnosis (Hypnobabies, which I now teach), and it helped me increase my endorphins and think of the sensations I was feeling in a positive light.  It allowed me to remain mobile when I wanted to be, and feel connected to what was happening as my baby emerged, which was important to me.  I was overall, really happy with the experience, and felt I learned a lot from it about my strength and the power of my mind, just like I learned a lot about being flexible and accepting change in my first birth.  Both birth experiences were different, both were significant learning experiences for me, neither was superior to the other, and I don't think either gives me any advantage over any other woman--we all have different needs for our growth.

I admit that I have difficulty wrapping my head around the idea of a woman wanting to choose a cesarean without a medical reason.  I know this is because of things in my background that influence my perception of the choice.  It has to do with my faith--my belief that vaginal birth is God's design, as well as my desire to have the option of having a large family for religious reasons (since having cesareans is likely to limit how many children a woman can have), my lack of experience with major surgery, and yes, my history of exposure to natural childbirth literature.  But I recognize that you may have a different background, beliefs, and life priorities than I do.

I take your point and I apologize, for myself and the rest of the natural birth community (though I guess I don't really have the right to speak for anyone else) for hurt feelings caused by the idea that there is any best way for all women to become mothers.  There may be a best way for me to welcome my child (and that "best way" may not be the same for each child--it hasn't been for me so far), but what is best for me and my baby may not be best for another mother and hers.  I will do my best in the future to avoid talking about vaginal birth or unmedicated birth in ways that are hurtful to those who do not have those experiences.

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