Originally Posted by pamamidwife
Are we basically demanding that a man go against his biological processes during labor and birth by requesting that he coach, be knowledgeable about the birth process, and advocate for us?
I'd love to get feedback on this article: http://www.michelodent.com/news.php?id=10
Keep an open mind, and really try to let go of your own experience and that of what we've been conditioned to believe is "best".
Back to answer, now that dd's in bed...
First I want to say that letting go of my own experience is impossible. That kind of impartiality is not possible when considering birth. However, I do think it's possible to think critically about the role of men and other birth attendants at birth without the illusion of objectivity. Oh, and I did read the article.
OK, to answer the first question:
I don't think it's biologically innate for anyone, man or woman, to coach/guide/advocate for a woman in labor. So you can't go against a process to coach and advocate and be knowledgeable. And I'm not so sure the division of labor is biological, either. At least in that protector/hunter (male) vs. processor/provider (female) way we all assume is innate. Nevertheless, I DO feel it is not right to expect someone who cannot experience what we do (birthing women) to intuitively provide birth support. I think it is possible for someone who loves you, man or woman, to support you no matter what. And to be receptive to what you need when you ask for it/describe it to the best of your ability. In a home birth, this is the only appropriate role for anyone who is not the laboring and birthing woman.
In another thread long, long ago another poster (fourlittlebirds?) theorized that midwives have been around for a long time, definitely since the beginnings of male-dominated societies. But that this doesn't mean that midwives are an inevitable part of our evolution, that women evolved to need midwives and other attendants to birth. That perhaps the idea of birth attendant is only a need of patriarchal societies who invest heavily in regulating the women-only activities of birth and labor, as other parts of society important in women (and children's) lives are regulated, monitored and controlled. This idea made SO much sense to me, and led me to part of what I think about the role of partners in home and non-home births: that when there is a male-dominated institution at work, such as hospitals, birth centers, even in the home, men and women are necessary or expected birth attendants. In the home without patriarchal control and rule, attendants are not necessary and/or expected because the woman and her physiological autonomy is not threatened at all during the process. She needs no buffers.
This is where the Bradley folks and I part ways, and where the hospital birthers and I part ways, and the nurse-midwives and I part ways, but that's OK.
I read the article, and think Odent's thoughts are applicable to hospital birth experiences primarily. And pam, I ask, who is "we", the ones you describe as "basically demanding that a man go against his biological processes during labor and birth"? Birth attendants? Moms? I ask because I think there are definitely cultural forces that expect dads to be present at birth and labor, at the expense of other, perhaps more appropriate, birth rituals for fathers and partners. And the sex thing is so wrong. But Odent implies something interesting: that by attending a Women's Mystery, a truly sacred event for women, that men are denied their own sacred mystery. That in our rush to include everyone men are told to participate without preparation, without a specific, non-dominating role to perform. Perhaps Odent's really implying that we need to consider non-male-dominant birth environments for women, without really suggesting alternatives because he doesn't feel that is his role.
Oh, if we had our tribes! Maybe we do in some relatively isolated religious communities, and some cohousing or other extended familial communities, but not for most of us. Then birth attendants could arise organically. Then perhaps we wouldn't need to think so hard about whether it goes against a biological process when someone else participates in birth.
My favorite author, Derrick Jensen, says that (paraphrasing now) when we (humans) still ourselves and listen to the land/animals/the world/each other, and hear the difficult parts, then we can start to hear ourselves. And that when we start to hear ourselves we can truly make decisions about what we need to do to support the well-being of others who share the world with us. That only then will our actions and choices arise "organically", from the nature of the situation itself. I feel this way about everything, but especially about parenting, birth, and wellness. This applies to the "necessity" of informed, active birth partners, midwives, or unassisted/free births.
Odent's article is useful because it helps us question the unquestioned assumption of men's presence and undirected "support" during most attended births. I have long believed that our dominant culture harms or diminishes men as well as women (the "patriarchy is bad for everyone" argument), and this is perhaps one example. On the other hand, it *is* important that women have advocates in hospitals and birthing centers! If a partner can be that person, wonderful. If it's a midwife or doula, great! But at home... not so sure.
I'll finish my long rant with a thought about my dp: he has been for me an amazing ally in all things important to me, including going unassisted for this upcoming birth. He is the anti-dominant male, the anti-racist white guy, the anti-fundamentalist, anti-sports and violence, the pro-queer, anarchist beacon of hope for gentle, thoughtful sexy men (and he posts regularly here on MDC...). Because of that, I firmly believe that my home is my refuge from the larger society, from the ugly and oppressive forces of dominant culture, religion, etc. I hold him to the same philosophical intentions that I hold because I would go crazy without another person who shares my values about family, life, work, everything. So... He has become my tribe, as others have described their DP's. In that respect I now trust him to be present in the house when I birth, without interference, without pressure. Not needing to fix anything :LOL , and not feeling like I need him to "deliver" my baby, he can focus on his role in our family: taking care of our dd, cleaning the house, feeding me, etc. This *is* how he is biologically wired. And, coincidentally, what I need. Go figure.
pam, thank you for starting this and all of the other "right" question threads... you rock my world over here!