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Monday
Apr122010

No, thank you.

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With a tip o’ the hat to Shakesville, Shapely Prose and other blogs that have well defined comment policies, I came across a comment that inspired me to give the whole “disemvoweling” technique a go. Then I changed my mind and opted for the sophomoric comment substitution method. Here is the original comment now only visible in the RSS feed:

There’s nothing inherently traumatic about having a C-section. It’s culturally determined. In the “natural” childbirth culture, a vaginal birth is an “achievement.” That’s why disappointment, trauma and “birth rape” are restricted to Western, white women who’ve been drinking the NCB kook-aid. .

It reminds me of my patients from certain ethnic groups who were disappointed and depressed about having a girl in a culture that deemed having a boy to be an “achievement.” It’s all about impressing others in the same culture.

While the second paragraph is interesting, it was completely overshadowed by the bomb in the first paragraph. There are two things in the first paragraph of the comment that cross the line of just being eccentric, outrageous or deliberately provocative for the purpose of one’s intellectual, social and blog traffic stimulation.

1. If a woman feels traumatized by her birth in some way, such as having her membranes stripped without knowledge or consent, has an ineffective epidural and experiences more pain than she had prepared for, is told over and over in labor that her baby is too big and could die and finally gives in to a cesarean for a very not big 7 and a half pound baby, is chastised or treated with disrespect, it had nothing to do with the hospital staff or the midwife, the institution, the system, or even the woman herself. It was the fault of some “natural childbirth culture” or “natural” childbirth advocates, much in the way that if Glenn Beck’s dog farted, he would claim that all canine intestinal upset is the fault of “progressives.” 

 

2. Feeling disappointed, traumatized or being (digitally or instrumentally) raped during or as a result of the birth process is restricted to Western, white women.

 

Patrice responded to this statement with a challenge to address her directly (which either went unread or was ignored):

I can say that I’ve been deeply affected by the comments on blog post. So affected that I decided to blog about my own first birth experiences. [Link] One thing I remember clearly about it, is my need to forget. My need to not complain. It wasn’t something that was forced upon me. It’s very much culturally ingrained in black women not to talk about trauma’s, not to complain about pain both physical and emotional and in cases not to even recognize it. Culturally we’ve learned to swallow our misery, deny shame, break our backs emotionally. The subject of birth and traditions of birth with black women over the last 50 years only shows how even more marginalized we are, not only by others outside our cultural, but within. We have pain, we have birth trauma. We just need to learn it’s okay to talk about it. We too, have to make our voices heard. We have to realize it’s not just, the way it is. Like everything else this system throws at us.

 

Courtroom Mama’s response also went unanswered:

Actually… you’re wrong about birth trauma being restricted to white women. Take, for example, the case of the Nigerian woman expecting triplets and forced to undergo a cesarean section in 1984 (cited in Susan Wolf’s Feminism & Bioethics: Beyond Reproduction,” among others), or Chao Lee, a Hmong immigrant in Wisconsin who was going to be similarly forced into surgery but found a culturally-sensitive physician to deliver her baby vaginally (cited in Merrick & Blank’s “The Politics of Pregnancy: Policy Dilemmas in the Maternal-Fetal Relationship”).

Indeed, both of them wanted to avoid cesarean surgery because of their cultural beliefs, including that a vaginal birth is a great blessing (and a triplet birth the greatest blessing of all), whereas a surgical delivery would be a shame upon the family or would endanger the woman’s spirit and those of her family. To the extent that it is about culture, it is not about impressing anybody, but rather about how the woman’s culture affects her experience. It’s entirely likely that neither woman would ever have to disclose the circumstances of their births, but to them a cesarean birth was undesirable.

As recent immigrants, both of them existed entirely outside of the white natural birthing movement. One would assume, given the ferocity with which the women fought against medical personnel and the courts, that surgery would have been very traumatizing to them.

There may be nothing inherently traumatizing about birth, but that’s a bit of a red herring: there is nothing inherently traumatizing about anything. Trauma is about a person’s experience, and the confluence of emotion and memory. Something that got left on the cutting room floor in my post was that people who undergo other procedures, like chemotherapy, bypass surgery, or other surgeries performed while they’re awake also experience trauma. Whom do you suppose they are trying to impress?

 

To sum it up, if you feel disappointed or traumatized or you have someone pinning you down and checking your cervix against your will, you only think you were violated because you were exposed to the evils of some non-specific type of natural childbirth rhetoric. However, if you were not exposed to natural childbirth advocates and if you are a woman of color or not-Western, then you do not experience trauma, disappointment or birth rape, as it is restricted to white, Western women, okay?

Too weird for me. Not worth it.

So go forth, commenter, and do… whatever you call whatever it is that you do. Do it elsewhere because it’s not welcome here anymore. Thanks very much.

 

 

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