Monday, 30 April 2012

Are some birth quotes damaging to women?.

This is a blog post I started two years ago and got stuck with. This is why I have not really posted since June 2010.

"We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful; it's that women are strong" - Laura Stavoe Harm

I have this quote on my Facebook profile. Let me tell you why.

I believe the fact that women are strong IS a secret and sadly it is kept secret from many of us. I did not know I was strong, I knew very little about my body, my hormones and myself. I had to reach my 40s before I began to realise. I had to have an emergency caesarean, post-natal depression, query Post Traumatic Stress?), a VBAC with spinal and forceps (so I still feel that my baby was extracted) and it was only after I began to become more holistic in my life that I began to realise. Seeing  (wish I'd seen this as a teen), for example, actually listening to my instincts rather than ignoring them, etc. has helped me to realise that I am strong, and that I always was, but that my strength and feminine instinct had been subverted for so long by science and over-medicalisation.

Medical science has given us the ability to save lives but sadly the tendancy of those in the medical profession with misquided intentions to help or fear of litigation based practice, has meant that routine intervention is actually more of a risk than a help. Iatrognic birth injury may possibly be the greatest cause of mortality or morbidity but I have no statistics, just the anecdotal stories I hear time and again.

I accept that many women do feel that some quotes hurt them, but I urge them to consider that it's not that they weren't strong. They were and they are, it's just that they didn't realise and were 'not allowed'.

We do the best we can, with the information we have at our disposal, in the circumstances we find ourselves. But for too long we have been conditioned to believe that birth is dangerous, and for too long women have been subjected to this very paternalistic system. It's no wonder we don't appreciate our strengths! So yes, it does hurt to think that we must have done something wrong and that we were not strong enough. But really, it's not our fault. 

Where did it all go wrong?

Women have lost the 'knowledge', ever since midwives were persecuted as witches back in the 1600s and then when they were superceded by obstetricians in the paternalistic model of medicine.

I hope that one day we will get back to the times when women were revered as the givers of life, when women had their faith in their abilities and no fear about birth, when women were respected for their strengths balancing against the strengths that men possess.

"But saying to me after a birth like that, that the secret is not that birth is painful, but that women are strong would have been like a knife twisting in my chest. It says immediately to me that ‘you should have been stronger’.  And maybe also “If you were strong, your birth wouldn’t be bothering you now”.
Of course, it saddens me greatly that women are feeling such pain. I am passionate about physiological birth, and of more women getting back to this type of birthing, but preserving their mental health is even more important to me and I would defend to the death a woman's right to a caesarean birth if this is her infomed decision. Unfortunately, women are being let down by maternity practices that do not serve the interests of individuals, and this leads to women feeling a failure because they were not able to make informed choices about their body, their baby and their birth.  

I believe women ARE strong, in many different ways, but that does not meant that we can always overcome the current medicalisation of birth when it happens to us in that fragile, hormonal birth dance of labour. However, I believe that strength will carry us forward as we strive to regain balance, as we strive to return to the instinctual, mammalian model of birth that our physiology affords us. When our birthing is returned to us, when the voices of Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Denis Walsh, Sarah Buckley, Gloria Lemay and many others are finally heard by the world, then... THEN we will see just how truly strong Woman is.

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