Sunday, January 20, 2008

Midwifery Anyone?

Recently saw this great documentary called The Business of Being Born. Directed by Ricki Lake, but don't let that deter you. I don't know if any other women out there are ambivalent about having children, but I will confess that this subject often makes me a little crazy. Why should I, simply because I'm a woman, have a child? Why should I endure the pain, the domestic duties, etc., etc? I'm 19 years old for god's sake, and my grandmother is already asking me if I plan to have children. I think I told her something to the effect of "not unless something goes terribly wrong." Besides, overpopulation isn't getting any better, and there are plenty of children to adopt should I decide I like smelly, screaming, snotty-nosed babies.

Well, personal prejudices aside, this was a really mind-opening docu. It basically focused on how the maternity care industry has become just that: an industry where doctors want you in, out, and paying all the way. Birthing, always stigmatized, is now simply seen as an unimportant event in a woman's life. Apparently, now you can tell your doctor what day and time you want to give birth, they will induce labor, give you a c-section, and then a nice little tummy tuck and send you on your merry way. My mind went into a frenzy. But...

1.) that sounds really dangerous

2.) what kind of narcissistic pigs are we?

3.) I thought giving birth was supposed to change your life. This arrangement sounds more like getting a haircut

Well, I really don't suppose I should be surprised at this, but as a woman, I would think that the feminist (and this is assuming that most women in this country, if not feminist, are at least somewhat progressive) approach to birth would be anything but this. I mean, birth is like a ritual that you go through because your body is strong and capable. A child is not a tumor.

The film goes on to talk about midwives. Midwives and their importance to the birthing mother. Not only are they trained nurses, but they are also trained in birthing techniques, massage, and numerous other details that would help a woman in labor. And this can take place within your home. Well, I expected to see a bunch of footage of women giving birth in their homes without medication screaming at the top of their lungs and uttering obscenities to make a marine blush. But no... There was a little groaning but nothing near what I expected. These women were having children in the comfort of their homes without medication and with only the help of a midwife. I was amazed.

What gets me riled up about hospital birthing practices is that for nine months a woman (most women) eats healthily, stops drinking alcohol or caffeine or sugary things, is very careful about any medication she might take, exercises or does yoga, and in short does everything she can think of to protect and nourish the unborn. Then, she goes into labor and allows men in white coats to dope her up with a cocktail of labor-inducing, pain-relieving medications that could potentially harm her and/or the child. Then, she lays on her back (which is, by the way, probably the worst position a woman having a child could be in aside from hanging upside down) with her feet in stirrups (sounds rather embarassing to me) and the doctors and nurses telling her to push and not to cry. If a doctor told me not to cry while having a baby I would probably tell him where to put his stethoscope.

In short, the woman, for nine months, is the master of her own body. She takes care of herself and the baby. Then, at the climax, she gives all the power over to a doctor and his clipboard. Umm, what the hell is that about? Midwives are starting to sound pretty good, aren't they?

Well, now I know what my options are and I'm thinking that maybe I should become a midwife. I mean, how can I say no to one more way to stick it to the Man?

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