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Tuesday
Feb162010

¿Quién Es Esa Niña? Who’s That Girl? 

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I promised an introduction, and I’m a woman of my word.

In no particular order, I’m :

  • a lawyer
  • a wife of a man
  • a mother of two boy-children
  • Latina
  • a feminist
  • a birth activist
  • a reproductive justice advocate
  • blogging about the law, parenting, and whatever strikes my fancy at Courtroom Mama
  • tweeting @CourtroomMama

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a strange vortex of groups that aren’t pulling together the best we can, and aren’t being as sincerely inclusive as maybe we should be. Let’s just say I definitely feel the pinch as a woman of color. My calling, as it were, it to try and bridge those communicational gaps to improve the lot of pregnant women and mothers. I had already decided on the law as a tool for social justice before I found that calling, and I feel strongly that there is a place for lawyers in building this movement.

More questions, just ask! Although, in the interest of not getting dooced or stalked or whatever, I have to remain pseudonymous (which means I can’t answer “are you so-and-so” or “didn’t I meet you at such-and-such”? sorry!). And even though this site is properly “disclaimered,” I have to say it again: I love the law, I love writing about and contemplating the law, but my ethical obligations prevent me from giving legal advice. These are just my musings on something I love.

Nice to be here, and big thanks to Jill for asking me to contribute.

A note about my last post. As I feared, it seems that a few people have gotten a little distracted by the issue of FGC, which was the thing that led me to ask my “tough questions” and not my central thesis. Let me be clear, I don’t think that the practices of FGC and maternal request cesarean are similar, nor do I think that genital cutting is okay or anything just because I don’t feel like my privilege entitles me to rush in on my white horse and tell people that what they’re doing is barbaric/ignorant/etc. (a perennial, perhaps deserved, critique of Western feminism). Like I said in the post, the conversations are reminiscent of one another in that they’re conversations that we have about—or “around”—certain people without really listening to what they have to say, and have both inspired me to wonder whether I’m really thinking about the women or just letting my own revulsion get in the way of a meaningful conversation about a procedure I can’t comprehend.  

Without pretending to get into the complexities of Western outrage over practices that are outside of our cultural understanding—because 1) that’s a dissertation, and 2) the book I linked to does a much better job than I ever could—I can definitely say that I’ve seen a lot of judgment and derision of people whom we believe chose elective cesarean. People can let fly pretty easily with allegations of vanity, poor parenting, and ignorance. If we totally drop our baskets when women’s stories don’t conform to our pre-scripted narrative, are we really honoring and respecting the people we are fighting for? Are they real individuals, or just stand-ins for what we already think? I think that the only hope for any lasting change on issues we care about is to be mindful that we’re not speaking on behalf of anyone who didn’t ask for it. Even if we’re completely and utterly right, we won’t prove it by putting words in other people’s mouths and making people in the “victim” group who disagree feel silenced.

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Reader Comments (11)

Hello Courtroom Mama. I really enjoyed you tweeting from inside the maternity conference so many months ago. I wonder about birth centers being bad business models. Is it because there is less net profit than standardised care? (Less interventions to bill for?) I'd be interested to read more.

I have heard a lot more stories about how women, myself included, feel battered by their cesarean experience, and are subsequently dismissed as selfish for caring that they were cut open because they have that beautiful healthy baby, then women being shamed for having an elective cesarean, although I don't doubt that it happens.

I totally get the whole sisterhood/solidarity thing, but are the planned c. mammas protesting VBAC bans and unreasonable barriers to midwifery and birth center births based upon the principle of choice for others who choose differently?

Does trying to be *nice* get in the way of a civil rights movement?

Watching the comments fly about the TodayShow cesarean, with people tripping over their keyboards to be considerate, was eye-opening to say the least. If we are too afraid of being seen as meanies because we question whether there was informed consent in that situation, to the point that the episode in question gets off spreading cesarean myths to the general public so the mamma in question doesn't look in on the online world and, oh no, feel bad (just possibly!) about her (just possibly!) informed choice, then I don't know if we collectively have what it takes to stand up to the medical profession who are also in possession of feelings that might get hurt.

I guess what I'm trying to get at deserves a comparison. Back during another civil rights movement there were blacks who didn't want MLK rocking the boat. They were happy with their lot. Did he stop and step down for the few on order to be nice? I'm sure he was called much worse than a sanctimommy!

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I find it easy for myself to get onto the high horse that Courtroom Mama describes and Anon (above) fears is necessary. I'm really grateful for this series of posts, because it made me go back and find Alice Dreger's post about how she works to change the medical treatment of intersexed children.

http://www.alicedreger.com/sleeping.html
It's a fascinating (and not too long) look at a third way between confrontation and capitulation when you hit what seems to be an impasse she describes as "It turns out, while I was saying, 'What you’re doing is ethically and scientifically problematic,' they were hearing me say this: You’re bad people."

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristie

<<If we are too afraid of being seen as meanies because we question whether there was informed consent in that situation, to the point that the episode in question gets off spreading cesarean myths to the general public so the mamma in question doesn't look in on the online world and, oh no, feel bad (just possibly!) about her (just possibly!) informed choice, then I don't know if we collectively have what it takes to stand up to the medical profession who are also in possession of feelings that might get hurt.>>

Great point Anon, and similar to my question about the defensiveness, which I understand a little but not really...for me understanding something really helps me to address it properly. I do think moms' decisions need to be dealt with with extreme compassion...and even when we think we're doing that we often don't realize we're not coming across as compassionate. I have been guilty of that myself, completely floored by how someone took what I said. And yet, I have to say it does work both ways. There needs to be more questioning in the vein of when you said this I heard that, is that what you meant to convey, and less namecalling (feminazis, sanctimommies, etc.).

I see some people were offended that some of us consider informed consent a joke these days. When *I* say that (not putting my thoughts in someone else's brain), I am referring to the informed consent I was given for my c/sec, as well as complaints from many many women I've spoken wtih online and IRL who believe they were not told the risks of the procedure they felt bullied/ coerced into. It is not a judgment of the mother at all, but of the medical professional who is not giving informed consent. And no, it doesn't mean all of them are bad, or none of them give informed consent. But IME (not scientific), there are a heck of a lot who don't. I was not given informed consent for my c/sec, and I thought I was educated...turns out I was educated but also naive to the way hosptial brith works these days, having a mom who had two natural (mostly - one AROM) hospital births in the 1970s.

That being said, I know I was naive, but I also know I made the best decision I could have made with the information I had at the time. Am I angry at myself / the doctor for our respective parts in what I consider the coercion? A little, but I'm really past that. I can see my part in it, my responsibility for it, but I know I did the best I could at the time. There is no defensiveness if someone tells me my c/sec may have been unnecessary, because I believe it likely was. And I am ok that I had one...it was prudent (breech) and I would not be the same person I am today if I had an easy, natural hospital birth like I planned. There is also no defensiveness about my decision to VBAC or homebirth with #2, as I am fine with the basis for my decision. It was what was right for us. Not saying it would be right for everyone, but *for us* it was the best choice. And the fact that I'm 5 min from the hospital on a bad day (and 2 min from EMS) probably impacted that decision alot.

I guess maybe I've answered my own question...oftentimes defensiveness is a sign that we're not comfortable with the choices we made? See, that sounds pretty condescending though, and I'm sure someone will take it that way. I really try not to call individuals names like "uneducated" or "too posh to push", although I may use it as a generalization when speaking of a hypothetical woman. Heck, the mainstream media does, so I really don't see a problem with that. And I'm very careful to offer individualized advice only when asked...the only unsolicited advice I am likely to give is to make sure you're informed and making the decisions *you* want...because you'll have to live with the consequences. This goes for any issue, from birth to any other parenting choice. Anyhow, I guess what I'm saying is, if someone truly made an informed choice, then I think there's no defensiveness to be had...it was informed, it was the choice that was right for them, they took on the responsibiltiy for the consequences, end of story. I understand defensiveness to a certain extent if the choice was not informed (it is painful to re-examine our premises sometimes, or to see where we could have done a better job of informing ourselves), if someone felt bullied into their choice, or if they are not comfortable with the choice they made (which could be b/c they were not properly informed or caved to others' wishes...again, not blaming the woman here, to me it is the doctor's job to inform them or to at least guide them to informing themselves).

And yet...it's true, we do have to strike a balance between compassion for the individual woman and education of the general population who has never considered anything other that WTEWYE and doctor's orders (again, know this is a generalization but I know a *lot* of these IRL...and probably fit in this category at one time myself). To me, it's not ok to browbeat them and make them feel bad about their choice...but it's also *not* ok for them to think it's ok to browbeat someone who makes my choice (while I may be able to withstand it, there are others it really affects in a negative way). There needs to be some sort of rational discussion about it, minus the defensiveness, where they *get* that I/people like me made my/our choice based on a combination of research and faith, JUST LIKE THEM, and with the desire to do the best for our babies, JUST LIKE THEM. If we can come to this understanding of each other, on both sides, we'll have made progress. But it will take a balance of compassion for the individual but not mincing words when it comes to misinformation being distributed by doctors and the media, etc. As long as we allow the media and doctors to publicly state that we're a marginal group who cares only about the experience, and if we neglect to offer a real response so as not to offend someone who may have made a choice different than ours (informed or not), then we have made our own bed, IMO.

I think the discussions on this blog go a long way toward beginning the dialogue. I hope we can keep it going in a civil manner, because I think it can only benefit us all in the end, *if* we can keep it civil.

Thanks Courtroom Mama, Jill, and all the other bloggers for the (mostly) daily thought provoking posts.

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

"But it will take a balance of compassion for the individual but not mincing words when it comes to misinformation being distributed by doctors and the media, etc. As long as we allow the media and doctors to publicly state that we're a marginal group who cares only about the experience, and if we neglect to offer a real response so as not to offend someone who may have made a choice different than ours (informed or not), then we have made our own bed, IMO."

Yes. You put it more succinctly than I.

I found this article questioning the soaring US c. rate. The comment section turned into a bash-fest unfortunately. It does no good to point fingers at each other as all the attention is diverted from the real issue - practice patterns and rising maternal mortality.

http://community.todaymoms.com/_news/2010/02/02/3843277-troubling-trend-the-skyrocketing-rate-of-c-sections

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Anon, you say my post was succint??? It was a book!

Well, I guess you're saying my point on that particular thing was succint :-) Thanks...it's a compliment I rarely get.

Just had to respond, because it made me chuckle. Have a good day!

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Anon,

Read the article from the link you posted, and some of the comments (not many, got sick of the tone on both sides quickly).

This is precisely what I'm talking about. Opinion columnist said nothing that sounded judgmental to *me* about having c/secs, just commented on the high number and how she's pretty sure they're being overdone. Then someone with a c/sec posts guns blazing and blasts everyone who wants vaginal or esp natural birth, and says a bunch of offensive things. Then of course the other side throws the mud back. I don't have time to comment there today but honestly, I think when c/sec lovers post crud like that, we need to take a deep breath and not sling the mud back. Answer with reasoned arguments, and sensitivity...there is probably something she's not sharing that makes her feel so strongly. Or OTOH, maybe she posts that way to get wacky responses from the natural birth side then say see? They are nuts. We play into their hands when we do this.

Although I understand why...but we need to take the high road.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

The comments are WILD and got personal from #1, way out of proportion to the content of the article itself, agreed. One particularly interesting exchange went something like this:

Y: I scheduled 2 c/s because I just couldn't go into labor.

Z: It's too bad you think your body is broken.

Y: I don't think my body is broken. My c/s were necessary.

Z: If they were before 42 weeks then nope, sorry 'bout that, they weren't. Were your c/s before 42 weeks?

Y: *crickets*

This is what we are up against, and in so many different forms.

In my case I was so angry at the doctor et. al. for cutting and extracting for what I thought was no good reason, so I started doing research in order in order to prove to myself that it was necessary. Of course, I found no justification for my "treatment", AKA "Let's lie to Anon about risks, and then force procedures!", which is still a hard blow. We're programmed to believe in doctors, nurses, fireman , and police, and darn it it HURTS to be proven wrong. The rabbit hole is a dark place. Information and advocacy is the light at the end.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnon

<<We're programmed to believe in doctors, nurses, fireman , and police, and darn it it HURTS to be proven wrong.>>

Which is why we need to be sensitive to each other...not so dang personal like those comments to that article. BUT, THIS GOES BOTH WAYS!!!!!!! I'm sure both sides are somewhat equally guilty...but usually the pattern I see is

x: states facts, not personal, such as article written

y: loved my c/sec stop complaining you stupid hippies that want to kill your babies

z: blasts y for her misinformation.

mudfest begins.

This is where my question about defensiveness comes in I guess. To me, in that thread, commenter #1 was defensive way out of proportion to what was being said, and then went on the offensive. That made *our side* (for lack of a better characterization) go on the defensive. My issue is twofold: (1) *our side* (me included) needs to stop taking the bait, that's all to me this over the top stuff is trying to do...bait someone into namecalling so they can point fingers and continue to label us as crazy; and (2) the other side needs to understand (like I think *our side* does, for the most part, there are always exceptions) that their experiences don't mean everyone will have the same reactions to the c/sec...and that's ok, it's ok to be different...it's not a judgment, it just is. However, at the same time, I'm not going to stand down and neglect what I consider my duty to educate people/correct misinformation in general (by posting links to studies on FB, for example, not browbeating someone in particular...they choose whether to read it or not) so they don't get run over like I did with my first.

<<The rabbit hole is a dark place. Information and advocacy is the light at the end.>>

I guess what you're saying is poster #1's reaction shows she's not liking the rabbit hole, and being ok with knowing yours was unnecessary and doing something about it (advocacy/info) is the light at the end? It just takes time to get there? So maybe over the top reactions like poster #1's mean something struck a chord? And are a sign we're making a difference? If so, then we need to really be sure we don't take the bait I guess!

I don't know if there was any point to my return comment, just further rambling/dissection, so I'll quit. ;-)

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Note to fellow posters:
I know that my community of women does like to mobilize the troops when it comes to a story about birth in the mainstream media-I have literally had to hunker down in front of my keyboard a couple of times this year to rush to the aid of a beloved friend who was being royally screwed via the comment boards of America. When it comes to commenters- the National media, and newspapers are the LCD of commenters. It is important to defend what is worthy and make a presence but I wouldn't read too far into it. I liked Kitty's piece and I liked that she was older and experienced. I think it is always the shock of the new with our current culture. I say"Women don't lose heart over the battle on that board". I saw some low brow behavior from all sides.
My friend held a candlelight vigil in a small town in the Midwest on pregnancy loss and stillbirth remembrance day- and the first poster wrote this nutty diatribe about the genocide of babies from abortion, then the second poster- wrote about women's reproductive rights- third poster- me with my dirty mouth (my friend was devastated so she asked us to mobilize the girls) I wrote and not too kindly that the first two deserved each other and were total idiots. I don't know what this amounts to- just don't give up the ship. The Today Show comment board is not the best cross section of American birth dialogue.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgina

Wepa!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing! Eso es! Necesitamos mas de nosotras dando candela! Levantando nuestras voces en pos de una vision comun. Encantada de conocerte. I have been reading your blog for months now. Pa'lante mi hermana!

-M
www.poderyparto.wordpress.com

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterM
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