Telling Our Reproductive Stories

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of sharing our reproductive stories. By reproductive stories I mean how we decided to have children, how we did or did not get pregnant, how our babies came into the world, and how all of that impacts the kind of parents we are.

As queer parents we had to do a lot of planning. I often say to my wife that if everyone had the choice to plan their children as much as we did, the world would be a much better place.  We are lucky enough to have a known donor and were able to do everything at home (more on the joys of having a known donor in a later post). Ari is a true Turkey Baster baby (well…plastic medicine syringe). We then labored and birthed at home with two midwives and a close friend (who also married us) as our doula. We were so lucky to be able to make the choices we made and have them supported.

Now, enter the rest of the world. What do people know about how queer people, specifically two women, have babies? A movie or two? The L Word? There are not a lot of stories out there like ours, or with people like us at all. So what does this lead to? Two major assumptions:

One (most common): Where did we adopt her?

Two (less common): What medical facility did we use to inseminate?

I do not judge people who do either of those things, adopt, use the medical system to get pregnant, etc. However, I have a problem with the assumption that either of those things are our experience.  I realized lately that straight couples can sometimes have a similar experience. Folks assume that they a) gave birth to their babies, and b) that it was an easy process. I recently had an experience where a woman with twins asked me how my wife and I “got” Ari. I started off being pretty defensive and (I’ll admit) braggy about our process. A little while later she said that she had asked because her twins were adopted. I realized that by not talking about our reproductive stories, we isolate ourselves. She was asking not to be aggressive or making assumptions about me, but because she was hoping to find someone with a common experience. And because I assumed that she was being insensitive, I lost the opportunity to find commonality in the fact that we both share “alternative” reproductive stories.

So my new goal is to tell my story truthfully and often and trusting peoples best intentions.

What is your reproductive story?

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