Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Telling Scary Stories (About Childbirth)

The Navel Gazing Midwife posted this article on her Facebook page about the horrors of scary birth stories.  The reasoning in the articles goes something like: women tell pregnant women scary stories about childbirth, these scary births are likely due to over-medicalized birth, and talking about these scary births encourages women to seek over-medicalized births and to be emotionally unprepared for a good birth, which lead to a scary birth, therefore, women should stop telling other women scary birth stories.  The author also give the example of unspecified other cultures where women don't hear scary birth stories and have unmedicated and uncomplicated births.  Certainly this may be true for "other cultures," but Anglo American culture has a long history of fearing birth.  Just think back to 11th grade English and Anne Bradstreet's (1612-1672) poem "Before the Birth of One of Her Children."

Now I generally think women should refrain from saying shitty things to each other.  Examples of shitty things you can say to a pregnant women include: "you'll be screaming for that epidural," "only self-centered hippies want a natural childbirth," "doctors are butchers and hospitals are filthy," and "only a maniac would give birth in a tub full of jello."  If you want to have a conversation with a pregnant lady, you might instead say: "that's interesting, how did you decide on that plan?"  Or you could say, "Have you seen any good movies lately?  That new Adam Sandler flick Jack and Jill looks pretty awesome."

I also understand why some women don't want to hear scary stories while pregnant, and in that case it seems perfectly appropriate to say "Can I stop you, because I'm already nervous and you are freaking me right out."  Even though I was super nervous during my pregnancy and very scared of having a c-section, I still liked medically interesting birth stories (maybe that's why I developed pre-eclampsia).  Some birth training programs like Hypnobabies really encourage women to avoid negative birth stories. 

And if you could choose between a lovely, peaceful homebirth and surgical birth with various lives at risk, wouldn't you choose the former?  This is a really great birth story.  My story (mine, B's, and LB's) is not lovely in any traditional way.  It involves early and severe pre-e, hospital bedrest, ultrasounds, IV ports, magnesium sulfate, a surgical team, blood loss, and LB's infamous first photos that we refer to as the baby in a bag pictures (for heat retention-and her head was not in the bag).  Our story may not be a "good" birth story in the traditional sense, but for me (with memories softened by mag and morphine) it is a beautiful story because it brought us LB, and because even though B and I were both terrified we were very strong.

So does it hurt other women if I tell my story?  Should I not be allowed to participate in motherhood's ritual of swapping stories?  On the preemie message board that I read there are often women who feel desperately guilty and ashamed to have had a preemie, and as well, to have "failed" at natural birth.  I respect the emotions of those women, however, I don't understand.  Getting sick with pre-eclampsia was no more my fault than getting any other disease (although maybe if I got the flu after licking a subway railing I would blame myself).  I so desperately wanted LB to stay on the inside, and if I had been able to control my body through sheer force of will surely she would have been full term.  I really resent the implication that women have high risk births because of bad thinking or because they are duped by "The Man." [And of course there are dupers, but it my case the medical team including OB, nurses, and midwives wanted exactly what B and I wanted-for me and LB to live.]  Certainly there are mind/body connections that we don't fully understand, but I think any reasonable person would agree that telling a woman who shared her experience with breast cancer that she was A) harshing your mellow, and had B) brought it on her own self by being such a stress case, and C) maybe should take these herbs I read about online because western medicine will kill you, would be a total asshole move.

I am a woman and a mother, and I have a beautiful story to share about the birth of my daughter.

(If you had a scary birth, how do you tell your story?)

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