This post is a slight departure from our typical cloth diapering topics, but relates to a subject which all of us have personal experience with in some form – becoming a mother when our babies were born. My friends and I are almost all in the family-building stage of life, with small children and more on the way; it’s an exciting life stage and so interesting to talk about! We all have some sort of “war story” about how our children came into our families, whether it was by natural birth, c-section or adoption. As I’ve shared many conversations with many other women about birth, I’ve started to see some common threads emerge that reveal a lot about the messages our culture feeds us about the birth experience.
We are overall pretty tuned into and aware of the messages rampant in our culture about womanhood in general. We fight these tooth and nail every day, both when we see them in the media and when we hear them in our own heads. Messages like: You have to weigh this little to look beautiful. You will decrease in value as you age. You must own these things to have status. These are lies! And we recognize them as such and reject them! But I want to know why no one is blowing the whistle on THESE lies: Your body doesn’t know how to give birth. Your pelvis is the wrong size. Your cervix is “incompetent.” Your mother couldn’t do it and neither can you.
I want to know why the women’s rights movement isn’t having a fit about the insults of women’s bodies that happens every day in ob/gyn offices and hospitals across our country. Have we been told so often and for so long that some of us just can’t do it, that we have begun to believe it?
I’m not talking about cases where medical interventions truly save lives; that’s indisputably necessary. I’m not even attacking our rising c-section rates or highly medicated births. Those aren’t the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is that women have been fed the lie that their bodies are defective. And I want to know why this isn’t in our general awareness, right up there with other body image issues. The message is essentially the same: You don’t measure up and you don’t have what it takes to make it.
“The Business of Being Born” is a very interesting documentary about birth in our country, and in it one of the interviewees made a very interesting point about how birth and women’s rights intersect. Her point (paraphrased very loosely by me) is that women experience this huge rush of adrenaline and empowerment and fulfillment after giving birth to their babies. It’s a moment of wonder and a realization of just how miraculous our physical abilities really are. (I remember thinking, “I just did THAT??”) This interviewee’s point was that when we take that moment away from women, we are taking away a very important part of the empowerment of women.
Has the women’s rights movement become so fixated on whether or not a woman chooses to have a baby at all, that they neglect to notice that women are being undermined in a much subtler, albeit powerful way? If you have been fed the lie that it’s somehow your body’s fault that your baby wasn’t or won’t be born how you’d like, let me say to you: it is not your body’s fault.
“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon…Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” – Ina May Gaskin
By Stephanie Gossett