Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Prenatally Pertaining Punitive Paradigm

Ordinarily, the circumstances surrounding anything "punitive" would be in my railing against many behaviorist theories about raising children. I'll stick that on hold for another day (or another few days, unless anyone feels like reading a novel).

In talking to various women of various generations about pregnancy and birth experiences, a very common, common refrain is the lack of ownership in the language used regarding their own bodies.

"I wanted to... but my doctor didn't allow it. "

"What will your doctor let you do?"

"I knew I was in trouble, I gained a few extra pounds more than the doctor wanted me to."

"They require that I ..."

Depending on my audience, I sometimes make the effort to re-script. "Oh, you mean they objected to this because it wasn't what they ordinarily do?" Usually, they stand firm in their coy determination that the almighty doctor knew what was the very best for them. And for the other three-thousand patients at their care facility. Don't you know- we're all factory assembled. All alike, no variance between any of us! Naturally, a textbook is the first thing to consult when there is any question.

Now. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how the rest of their pregnancy and birth story goes. Even though the majestic, wonderfully masterful doctor controlled every square inch of what was or was not allowed with their bodies, they end the same way- mamas totally out of control of their bodies, the doctors stepping in to do *whatever,* and baby and mama ending up on meds, attached to tubes and/or wires, and the sensation that crisis was averted.

Mothers of the world- I ask you:


Don't get me wrong. Humans are innovative and clever, and have derived genuine ways to revive and maintain the life of mothers and babies who are in very dire circumstances. But when the exception begins to become the norm, it's time to pay attention. A lot of attention is paid to the reasons why, and how come, and the many hundreds of facets behind the legal, political, economical reasons why human birth in the 21st century in one of the biggest superpowers of the world can be so colossally screwed up. All of those reasons do fit into the giant puzzle that makes this up.

Little is discussed about women and the choices they make. No one likes to think that sometimes, people themselves can be a reason (trust, not the reason). We are the most over-informed people of any generation that has ever preceded us. How can we know so much about the state of the Dow, where our stock portfolio stands on an hourly basis, and the current Facebook status of our neighbor's cousin, but we typically don't try to find out what really is going on with our very own bodies? When a doctor says that a woman isn't designed to push out a nine pound baby, why does that woman typically just accept it, shrug and tell the world, "Well, that's the way the ball bounces," without even bothering to look at actual medical statistics? Many people, upon receiving a forwarded email that states that a particular company is putting some slogan in teeny-tiny words along the edge of their product, or that a certain law is in the process of being passed, will Google or Snopes the claim. Part and parcel of this over-informed culture. But the doctor mentions that he only "allows" labor for a certain period of time, and then it's out with the scalpel? And this is blindly, overwhelmingly accepted?

I think a large chunk of it lies with how people, particularly girls, have been raised. The same strange cultural floop that makes it a crime to not be smiling while walking through a store ("Smile! It won't kill ya!" inexorably yells someone, directly breaking the concentration required to remember what I'm locating), and that makes my sister's auto mechanic rub his hands in wicked glee as he watches her approach, seems to turn women into the very stereotypes of obedient children in the presence of a white coat. Pee into a cup? Sure, gladly. Step right onto this scale- harmless enough. Here, read this printout of what I expect all women, of all ages, body types, races, and lifestyles to do during the course of a pregnancy. Aye-aye, Doc! Oh, and by the way, I'm not liking the shape of your belly. Oh goodness, now you're not dilating quickly enough/ you're dilating too quickly, time for an injection. Because, of course, you've gotten our "Required IV," so it's now easy for anyone to pop anything directly into your veins, whether we clear it with you or not. All the consent forms are mashed into one haze of a paper storm, so you'll sign yourself away before you know what's happened...

How would this fly with any other natural bodily process? In the course of eating, eliminating, having sex, and breathing, complications can arise. I can choke on my food, of course. I can eat something that causes an anaphlactoid reaction. I can have all kinds of gastro-intestinal troubles, that range from the mildly uncomfortable, to impending doom with some kind of intestinal impaction. I can suddenly develop an aneurysm during sex. Or simply fall off the bed and give myself a concussion. But during these typical processes, no one has someone standing right beside them, prepared to give the Heimlich or do a tracheotomy. Heart monitors are not hooked up every time someone decides to get some action. Helmets, at least in my experience, are not employed. And yet somehow, the addition of monitors, IVs, automatic drug pumps, multiple examinations and lots of bright lights and poking and prodding are instantly given to each and every birthing mother in hospitals, unless she declines them, whether she wants them or not. Since declining these things are so rare, mothers who do decline them are instantly flagged as a "problem patient." Declining is the exception, rather than the norm. And until more women choose to decline, until more women decide that they're not going to ask permission to allow their bodies to function in the way they've functioned for years before anyone was around to interfere, and until women start viewing themselves as capable, thinking adults- no amount of modification of laws and studies and action taken against doctors who abuse their profession will amount to squat.

1 comment:

Jenny said...


Thank you! It's sad how far from "normal" birth has become. :(