Thinking About Choices

I didn’t know what to write about today. I won’t be doing much cooking/baking writing for awhile since we have so many leftovers and I am banned from the kitchen till we eat them.

Then I heard this on WBUR this morning:

http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2011/11/top-maternity-hospitals-in-mass-stop-early-elective-deliveries/

And I knew what to write about. This piece talks about how many hospitals in MA are going to stop allowing women to elect to have scheduled c-sections prior to 39 weeks. There is research saying that it is unhealthy for babies before 39 weeks. But one mother in the piece says that this policy is taking away women’s choices and that pregnancy is so stressful. She says that women’s bodies are already out of control at that point in pregnancy and that this policy further takes away control from women. Also, just a note, we are not talking about early c-sections/inductions that happen for the mother or baby’s health. We are talking about convenience birth scheduling.

I have so many feelings and reactions to this that it is going to involve many posts. But lets start off with thinking about women’s choices and how they make them and why they make them. I strongly believe that women should be able to make whatever choices they need to make about their bodies and their lives. The problem with early elective c-sections/inductions is that women are making that choice inside a system that is horribly oppressive and deprives them of complete information (about their baby’s health, about birth options, etc). They are making that choice because they have no paid maternity leave. They are making that choice because their doctors don’t give them all the information about the health of their babies if they have them early. And they are making that choice because they not supported!

I am struck by how the woman in this report talks about how she feels like she is not in control of her body and there is a lot of pressure at the end of pregnancy. I know that many women feel ready for their baby to be born early. Pregnancy is exhausting! But the problem is the baby is not ready. So instead of having major surgery, we need to find ways to support women during this difficult time. Pregnancy is hard and birth is terrifying (another post later on why that is). Doctors should offer women support instead of casually suggesting that they could just have their baby early.

Also, and this is where it gets complicated, the babies themselves play an important role in the labor process and they decide when they are ready to come out. This is not to say that the baby’s “rights” are more important than a woman’s in any way, but I think we are so disconnected from a) how birth actually works and b) the babies in our bodies, that we forget the role they play in the birth process. My labor started 8 days after my due date and lasted for 73 hours. My daughter took the time she needed to stay in my belly and to eventually come out. And we were both so healthy when she was born.

This is the beginning of a longer conversation about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, culture, support, and the institutionalization of women’s bodies. I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and experiences.

-Rachel

Also, for a longer and pretty good conversation about this policy, check out Radio Boston: http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/11/14/early-deliveries

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4 comments on “Thinking About Choices

  1. Jen says:

    A subject so near and dear. thanks for posting this! I have so many thoughts and much to say about birth and more importantly, about how strongly I feel that something has GOT to give in mainstream america when it comes to how women, men, and the medical community view birth, the birth process, what ‘pain’ in childbirth represents and how it can be overcome without medication, etc. etc.

    FYI, there’s a group of folks in the JP area who have been getting together to talk about ‘natural’ childbirth (i don’t love that term, but it is what it is) and why they chose it, are choosing it, and want to support more women in taking back control of their own birth experiences (THAT’s the real control, people!). I haven’t made it to a gathering yet, but maybe if you’re planning on joining, perhaps we can attend one together.

  2. hemasara says:

    I really appreciate you 1) acknowledging that pregnancy can be stressful and 2) proposing that support rather than serious medical intervention be our preferred response to that time.

    It makes me so upset to imagine someone turning to medical institutions (which to me are often the opposite of supportive/nourishing) rather than community for support. And when I say support I mean feeling able to ask for time, financial resources, emotional space — all of that– to navigate that end of pregnancy time without feeling isolated or undervalued or unproductive or “crazy.”

    How many of us honestly feel like it’s okay to ask for things when we’re not in crisis?
    Even when we do, we often question our right to do so… We often find ourselves working so hard to allow ourselves to feel like we have a right to community, support, love. UGH. These are messages that were really handed to us…and we have to defeat them…(props to Mari Matsuda…)

    This trend scratches the surface of an entire ethic of care that promotes isolation over community and solutions/efficiency over wholeness… Thanks for your post! I love getting to think about this in the middle of my day!

    • rachhs2 says:

      Thanks friend. I agree with your comment. I know, why is it so hard for us to ask for support from our community, even when we know that is what it is there for… ?

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