Birth, for the modern human, is not without difficulty.
Does a positive birth come down to luck,
or is it a matter of Good Management?
or could it be something else?
We are high-level thinkers and social beings…this impacts our ability to birth. Some women experience birth without the need for assistance. And some women are fortunate to get the assistance* they need, when they need. Many more, experience birth with far more assistance than may actually be necessary. The availability of assistance varies from place to place – some who need it do not get it. Some get it, without need…and some need it because they got it….
The medicalisation of birth is just one part of this puzzle, it is a fairly recent (in human history) way that humans have interrupted the physiology of birth. We have to go back further in our history to find the point where we parted ways with our instinctive nature, and attempted to control birth.
Religious and cultural influences have long interrupted the flow of birth. With shame attached to the female biology, and ‘witches’ being burned, women were prevented from gathering to share knowledge as they once had. This interruption not only led to the oppression of women, but means that now – even after ‘women’s liberation’ – we are still impacted by this interruption. Childbirth is the elephant in the room for feminism.
For far too many women, this has meant that interventions are required. We have come to believe that birth is dangerous, hard, and impossible on our own. We have lost our instinct, or do not trust it. This is called The Nocebo Effect.
There are those, who have managed to reclaim the lost knowledge and have been sharing it. Slowly, but surely, the tide is turning. We are seeing a return to uninterrupted birthing.
Once we know about, and have experienced, uninterrupted birth, the desire to help and support other women drives us. Maternal Feminism* is a quiet corner full of love and support, where biological knowledge is shared and embraced. Unfortunately, this is often met with tension and suspicion. Women’s Liberation freed us from the ‘shackles’ of our femininity, to focus on natural birth is often received as judgmental, old fashioned, essentialism or reductionist. It seems humanity has progressed beyond our biology, and to discuss such things is most unseemly. Those who birth naturally, and are happy about it, are deemed ‘lucky’. As are those who are breastfeeding with apparent ease. The ‘lucky ones’ are culturally silenced in order to ‘protect’ the feelings of the ‘unlucky’. To point out biological facts or to offer support, can be received as offensive, adding pressure or judgement.
Many people believe that we have evolved beyond an ability to birth naturally*. Indeed there is some warning, that we are now the authors of our evolution and we may very well be on this path. But at this point in time, natural birth is indeed possible.
Matrescence is a very real life phase. It must be recognised and honoured.
To birth on your own terms gives you a confidence that carries over into you motherhood. To birth under the dictation of others is to enter this important phase of life oppressed and voiceless. This means that our children are raised in a culture that has devalued Mothering, and care work. Our workplaces are rarely conducive to a family-supportive structure. This impacts all parents, not just home-based ones. We spend our formative work years in a culture that values overtime and ‘career progression’, but places ‘career limiting’ options on parents that choose to focus on their families – primarily women, but increasingly men. More often then not, we convince ourselves that we will be the exception – the lucky one – who will manage to maintain a career and be a parent. We will be the one who embraces Motherhood completely and with Joy, it will be sunshine and daisies all day every day.
These expectations, unrealistic as they are, are very common. Our pre-baby selves imagine days at the cafe having deep and meaningful discussions, creating perfect crafts to display in our immaculate homes. Baby product adverts create images of these perfect scenes, insta-worthy lives, with perfect perfection perfectly performed.
And a performance it is.
So many of us ‘fake it until we make it’.
So many of us pretend we are coping, for fear of admitting that maybe, just maybe, this Motherhood caper is NOTHING like we imagined. And what the hell have we gotten ourselves into!
Modern parenting is not the ‘takes a village’ meme that (anti)social media would have us believe. It is more realistically done in isolation, with unrealistic expectations of perfect children, in a perfect home, with a ‘perfect’ mother. A counter-culture of ‘good enough’, is trying to paint a picture that down plays our biology (all that matters is a healthy baby*), down plays our emotional intelligence, downs plays the importance of care work, and downplays our humanity.
THERE IS NO ONE WAY – BUT CAN WE REALLY DETERMINE OUR OWN WAY?
The influences over our birth choices* will also impact our ability to breastfeed, because birth, breastfeeding and parenting are social life events. They are not just a biological process, that comes down to luck or good management. They are vulnerable to unfavourable social and cultural influences – from the sexualisation of women and children, to misinformed and widely spread beliefs*, from patriarchal decision making (of husbands and of medical system*) to toxic facebook groups.
I would argue that the first intervention in natural childbirth is the sexualisation of children and women, the continued oppression of motherhood and the focus on consent that prevents Informed Decision Making and robs women of their autonomy.
Assisted Birth – what does it mean?
TED TALK: A new way to think about the transition into motherhood (external link)
The Key to achieving the birth you want (natural or not) in the current maternity climate is Birth Cartography. Creating a Birth Map, the advanced care directive of birthing, means that you can navigate the system with confidence and grace. You do not need to hand over your power, you are more than capable of making decisions.
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