Tuesday, March 3, 2009

That One

On my first day of high school, my chorus teacher sat down in front of us and read us a story. It was a story, I forget the title, from the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book. While I'm sure that there are many different versions of this story floating around out there, here is a summary of the version she read to us:

There was a woman walking on the beach one afternoon. As the tide pulled away from the shore it left thousands of starfish stranded on the sand. As far as the woman could see up and down the beach there were starfish. As she continued to walk down the beach she saw a man walking several yards in front of her. She watched as this man would take a step, bend down, pick up a starfish and hurl it back into the ocean. Another step, another bend, another starfish flung into the ocean. When the woman was close enough to the man to speak to him she asked him what he was doing. "If these starfish stay here on the sand they'll die. I'm throwing them back into the ocean," the man said. The woman replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. Throwing a few of them back into the ocean can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the man took a step, bent down, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean. "Made a difference to that one."

Sometimes I get so frustrated. How do we change birth practices in this culture of fear? Doctors are afraid of lawsuits, women are afraid of normal birth and that harm may come to themselves or their babies. A few weeks ago a lady on a birth board I frequent posted a link to a beautiful unmedicated birth. Many of the comments to it were along the lines of yuck, gross, disgusting. How sad!

Another lady said she wanted to have an epidural because she was afraid of "losing control" in labor. She doesn't realize that by having that catheter in her back she gives up any control she ever had. She will be confined to bed, have a blood pressure cuff on one arm, tubes in the other, vaginal exams she can't feel and little control over pushing her baby out.

One poor lady said she hoped (hoped?!) to have a c-section because she was afraid of "tearing" and "being so exposed" during a vaginal birth. How ironic and tragic! Has no one told her that a surgical incision is worse than a tear? Does she not realize she will be exposed, at least for a time, from the chest down, and that her most feminine parts, her uterus and ovaries, will be exposed?

How? How do we change this? Sometimes it just seems so hopeless. Thousands, thousands, thousands of women lying stranded on the sand.

I am fortunate though. I have some hope for the future. I have one daughter (the one who was cut from me) and another daughter on the way (who will not be cut from me). They will grow up with a knowledge and respect for normal birth. They will see normal birth. They will know how babies are made and how they are birthed. My Sarah, 4 years old, can't wait to see "baby Anna" come out of my "fuh-jina". She delights in putting her hands together to form a "uterus", showing her two year old brother how it will contract, open, and "let baby Anna out to see us".

Made a difference to that one!


Jill said...

Beautiful post and so very true. SOmetimes the state of maternity care in this country brings me to tears. The attitude in general is, "Why not just schedule a C-section?" or "There's no such thing as birth trauma, women just make that up because they didn't get their 'perfect birth.'" Sickening and depressing. I always talk about how we should be accepting of other people's birth choices, but are they really CHOICES when they don't know all the options? A choice between a painful, undignified, medically managed to the nth degree vaginal birth complete with all the drama, or a surgical birth that leaves you with a scar and mucks up your body...THIS IS NOT A CHOICE.

It saddens me to know that so many women will not know the joy I felt when I birthed my second son. I get that it's not for everyone. But man, when I think about how awesome it felt, I wonder why WOULDN'T they want it?? Who wouldn't want to feel so empowered and autonomous?? At the very least it'd be nice to give birth without being emotionally traumatized and/or physically mutilated.

I was thinking about you yesterday, wondering how your pregnancy was going. You're over halfway there! Hurray!

Sorry if I sent this multiple times, Blogger keeps farting!

Jill said...

This is great.

I, too, am always a little confused when I hear the desire for control, modesty and autonomy connected to c-sections. I respect that everyone is different, but it just makes me wonder if people really know what happens during the surgery.

--Another Jill

Anonymous said...

Totally sad, since not the woman's genitals are exposed during the C-section surgery, too! I didn't realize this until reading it on an L&D nurse's blog, when an anonymous commenter told of how disturbed she was to realize that the doctor and a nurse had her completely exposed with them between her legs (making sure all the clots were out of her uterus), thus exposing her privates to anyone else in the room who happened to walk by. I guess most women don't realize that this happens because their eyes are on the other side of the screen. Maybe if these "modest" women's eyes were opened to the fact that C-section is at least as immodest as any vaginal birth, if not more so, then they wouldn't hope for or plan a C-section out of modesty.