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Homebirth and Oppression of Women - Page 7

post #121 of 144
This is a bit out of place now but I wrote it last night and was about to lose it so pasted it somewhere else!

The female OB at the hospital is the one who is most against me having a homebirth. She birthed at home herself and agrees that hospital is not the ideal place for a baby to be born but mine should be. My female GP was the one who refused to remove my IUD without sight of a letter from my hematologist confirming that I would get specialist treatment if I should fall pregnant.

I am being monitored by a high risk team for a blood clotting disorder so I am aware that my pregnancy is not in the range of 'normal' in any book.


I am still a woman, I am still nurturing and caring for my unborn child, I still believe that I have the power within me to birth this child in the way that he or she wants to be born. I have fatih in my child to send me signs that it is time and then trust me to ask for help if we need it.

I am not naive nor afraid of what the birth may bring but I feel talked down to every time I enter the hospital. No-one there knows me as a person: I am a problem pregnancy. My soul and my spirit are not part of my pregnancy in that world it is only with my close women friends that those parts of me are part of my whole. My pregnancy is not seen as part of my life, inextricably bound up with my everyday continuing radicalisation on this parenting journey (thanks anna for that). Can a hospital with all its strictures and controls ever see me in that way or treat me as a whole person? I think they are too afraid to do so.

Hospitals are afraid of this: Roaring the Baby Out Pam England it doesn't fit with their furniture or their neat charts.
post #122 of 144
Originally Posted by Arwyn
Jennica - thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story.

May respond more later. Just couldn't read it and not respond to the beautiful gift of your painful story you just gave me. Thank you.
Well, your welcome, I'm glad it touched it you.

Originally Posted by AllisonR
Your post made me sick because it brought back all the same horrible, degrading feelings for me too. DH was a human being. I was talked about, around, over, as if I was not even human. Maybe I was dead?

You mentioned how angry you were no one told you the real truth when you were pregnant. In my experience, it doesn't work. I tried to tell a friend who was brainwashed by the hospital "yes, your husband stays with you, yes, you have the same midwife..." I said, "No, there are three women plus three babies per room, unless you are lucky enough to have the place to yourself, your husband has to go home at night. No, you get the same midwives for all consultations, you get a total stranger for your birth." She got angry and won't speak to me anymore, because I was spoiling her dreams. I don't know of a way to inform primps, but if anyone out there knows, please start a thread.

Yes, they treated DH with so much respect, and like he was a human being. They looked at him, but not at me. They talked to him about what they were doing and they even involved him in violating me by having him hold the harpoon thingy's package and then hand it over at the right time so that they could break my water. They even told him to take a good look at the baby crowning, so with me on my knees to deliver, he bends down and looks up at what is going on. I mean there's nothing wrong with him looking, but in a natural way, not like I am some piece of machinery or something. And I know what you mean about pregnant women not listening, and I know that I would not have listened either. I think it is something about being pregnant, I don't know, but it's really frustrating when your trying to warn them and they disregard you.

Originally Posted by jenniey
I just wanted to highlight the above quotes from this post. I've never read anyone else give such an accurate description of what a natural hospital birth is really like in many instances.
One out of three of my hospital births was good. (And we were still fighting in that one instance.) I wonder if that statistic holds true in general? (i have no idea...)
Wow, thanks. And also, I'm so sorry for what happened with your baby. It sounds so scarry and horrible of them. That is one thing that I was totally unprepared for, the fact that the nurses were just plain mean and cruel. My L&D nurses were extremely hateful toward me and I think them not allowing me to hold DS was their way of punishing me for misbehaiving. The other nurses in the recovery were nice, but very manipulative. They knew exactly what to say to get me to do things their way.

Originally Posted by lurve
Jennica-I just wanted to say that it is women like you who are brave enough to come here and tell their stories that have helped women like me become more educated. I thank you for that. You are empowering a new set of mamas today.
I explained to my own mother (who is a doctor) that I was having a homebirth. She said I didn't need to that, I could get the care I wanted at a hospital and they would have to obey my wishes. I just wanted to laugh! I know better and I also know how vulnerable I will feel and how easy it will be to take advantage of me in that situation. So I am trying to protect myself and babe. Again, thank you
Your welcome, I'm glad you got something from my story. What your Mother told you is exactly what I thought I could do. I imagined telling them things as labor went along that I wanted them to do or not to do. I never imagined things would play out in a way that made that impossible. My labor was very fast, 6 hours total, 3 in the hospital, and extremely intense. I was totally vulnerable, and I never realized before hand that I would feel that way. I was prepared for it to be painful, but I wasn't prepared for the vulnerability.

Getting back to the original subject, I just wanted to add one thing. When I tell most mainstream people about my birth experience, they just kind of stare at me like they're thinking and?, but when I get to the part where I tell them that I was put on my knees to push because the baby's heart rate dropped, they then chime in with things like "what, why did they put you like that, that is so wierd, can you even push like that?" And these are women who have had babies! Talk about not thinking outside the box. I think it's strange that the way I was treated and the hospital not delivering on any of it's promises just seems normal or okay with them, but pushing in an upright position, now that is just terrible, how dare they make me do that!
post #123 of 144
Thread Starter 
I have been thinking about this thread all day. I feel like I have been backing down a bit. I feel I need to re-clarify.

I often find myself most upset by the state of birth (particularly in America) when I meet or know women who are politically progressive and feminist and well-educated who take no flack from partners or teachers or employers, who examine history and understand the oppression of women in the workplace, in the home, and in society at large, and yet they get pregnant and hand their bodies and their babies over to the hospital like so much meat with no justification and immense, huge, gigantinormous lapse in judgment. When this happens, I am particularly pissed off and heartbroken for these women who thought they were simply consumers. But what are we consuming really?

We're clearly not offered legitimate choices when to do anything other than the norm takes such immense sacrifice. Choosing homebirth can be about doing what is best for mother and baby when it is a viable choice, as in cases like my own where my immediate culture accepted and even embraced homebirth as normal. But I am finding there is a better reason to do it. Even more important than my comfort, than my personal experience, than the well-being of my baby, choosing homebirth subverts the dominant paradigm. Choosing homebirth is a reclamation of spirit, of sisterhood, of feminine power. We are a global community of women and we owe it to each other to make personal choices with positive political resonance.

There is a historical context for the choices we make. We cannot divorce ourselves from judgment in this matter. In this era, under these circumstances, all choices are NOT created equal. With empowered and truly informed decision making, we have a unique opportunity to make waves and set off questions in the minds of our sisters. It despairs me to witness the acquiescence to misinformed and illogical cultural norms. If you want to kick ass and take names, if you wish to be truly radical, take back your body, take back your birth!

The question is also hanging in my mind - why did the first male step into birth? Was it a problem that a village elder or medicine man was consulted for like fever or something? And beyond that, was it when Louis XIV wanted to see a birth and had the midwives have his mistress lay down flat for his viewing pleasure? The next step was barber surgeons, was it not? With their forceps hidden in a case and the mother covered from neck to toes so she couldn't see what they were using and steal their most precious invention. These men were called in in times of trouble. Later on, James Marion Sims experimented on slave women, creating the newly separate field of gynecology by performing countless surgeries without anesthesia. Even today I have to ask what motivates men to choose obstetrics as a practice. I just think the question is central to this conversation and I don't claim to have answers to it.
post #124 of 144
Anna: I've never wondered why men would choose obstetrics as a practice. If I were a man and read the way many women here talk about birth, I'd probably want to be part of it. I read scenes in fiction a lot...fantasy stories, usually...where the women (midwives, family, etc.) all get together with the birthing woman and then boot the father out of the room, because he doesn't need to be there, or he can't handle it or..whatever. I don't know if it was like that or not, but I can see a man not relishing that situation very much. Actually...as the birthing woman, I wouldn't like that very much. My dh isn't just a sperm donor.

Also...if a man believes in modern medicine - science, technology, drugs, surgery, etc. - as the answer to our ailments...what does he do if he has a mother or aunt or something who dies in childbirth? Wouldn't he get the idea that helping women birth is a good thing? I'm not saying that he's necessarily right, but I could see him thinking that way.

I'm not talking about men who choose OB/GYN for the GYN side of it. You only mentioned obstetrics. I do think there are some...sick reasons that men might get into the gyn side of it. But, I think there are a lot of different reasons why a man might get into the field of obstetrics, and it makes me uncomfortable when women here (MDC and the natural birth community in general) always seem to ascribe the worst possible motives. I don't know if that's where you were going or not, but it sounded that way to me.

(I've been told by somebody else that the OB/GYN I've seen for my last two four pregnancies went into the field because his mother died of uterine cancer. That seems like a fairly reasonable motivation to me.)
post #125 of 144
Thread Starter 
That sounds like a resonable motivation to me too, Lisa. I wasn't trying to say that men go into obstetrics with the worst possible motives, though I guess the implication was there. Certainly, there's a curiosity in what has traditionally been women's work as it is after all, the greatest miracle, imnsho. I just think that historically, the interest has resulted in a whole lotta interferance, and that troubles me greatly. It seems to in part be a way to keep women under the thumb of men in every arena. Not that men consciously walk around with that on their minds, I'm just speaking of the historical context and its very troubling outcomes. I honestly don't know. Just posing the question. The historical reasonings seem very suspect though, whether or not the modern ones are.
post #126 of 144
Originally Posted by annakiss
Certainly, there's a curiosity in what has traditionally been women's work as it is after all, the greatest miracle, imnsho. I just think that historically, the interest has resulted in a whole lotta interferance, and that troubles me greatly.
Hey - I'm a woman with three scars on my uterus, who can't feel my bladder properly, who has almost no feeling between my navel and my scar, and who had my first c-section while cursing, crying and saying "no" repeatedly...I'm not arguing. Believe me...I'm not arguing...

I've cried more tears over my reproductive history than everything else in my life combined. It's both depressing and infuriating that doctors don't get that...
post #127 of 144
Historically, across the world, men have been exerting power over women and controlling women's bodies. This starts from the moment girl babies are born, how they are treated during adolescence, and continues into old age. It's nothing new. Men who are practicing OB/GYNS are continuing in that role of power. Not to say by any means that most men go into this field of medicine for nefarious reasons -- I think most "mean" well, but ultimately our society (and many others around the world) do not trust women's bodies. There is a fear of women's power and a need to control them -- especially when it comes to sexuality and reproduction. The rise of the involvement of men in this field of western medicine accompanied a distrust (and worse!) of midwives and a belief that men and science knew how to do it better. I think pregnancy and birth are two of the most amazing aspects of being a human being and for that reason I can see why anyone -- man or woman -- may want to be involved in this experience. I do think it can be problematic however if this involved caregiver is male and therefore inherently part of the patriarchy. Whether his views are conscious or not, he is still coming from a position of power. Not only is he male, but he has also got "science" to back him up. It can be a dangerous combination IMO.
post #128 of 144
OMama expresses it so perfectly, I just want to send everyone back to re-read her last comments.
Even the OB who is "nice", "kind", "warm" or whatever, who listens politely, has LLL posters on his office wall, whatever, is still part of the medical system and mindset in which he was trained - one that basically mistrusts the female body and the birth process, and feels right in controlling those things for the woman's own good. It's not a question of whether he or she is a nice person or not. Some of the nicest OBs I've known have expressed their 'niceness' by working to save women from their own inferior bodies. They can't help but absorb the attitudes of the medical system they work for and learned through.
post #129 of 144
Originally Posted by mamabadger
OMama expresses it so perfectly, I just want to send everyone back to re-read her last comments.
Even the OB who is "nice", "kind", "warm" or whatever, who listens politely, has LLL posters on his office wall, whatever, is still part of the medical system and mindset in which he was trained - one that basically mistrusts the female body and the birth process, and feels right in controlling those things for the woman's own good. It's not a question of whether he or she is a nice person or not. Some of the nicest OBs I've known have expressed their 'niceness' by working to save women from their own inferior bodies. They can't help but absorb the attitudes of the medical system they work for and learned through.
I agree. But, I also think the focus on men blurs things. Of the three main caregivers I've had during my various pregnancies, my male GP has been most inclined to sit back and let my body do its thing...my male OB has been next most inclined to do so...and my female GP has been, by far, the least inclined to trust my body to do what it was designed for. I honestly believe the biggest problem here and now has to do with the attitude that science trumps nature in all ways much more than it has to do with men.

The medical world doesn't trust male bodies, either. At least as a female, I was spared having pieces of my body cut off when I was a newborn - I don't know any males my age who can say the same thing. Their doctors didn't believe their bodies worked right the way they were, either, so they had their "unimportant, unclean" foreskins violently removed...all in the name of science and medicine.

I have a great deal of difficultly with the medical establishment. I always have had. However...it was a female relative who convinced me to go to the hospital with ds1, because she believed something was wrong. It was a female resident and female nurse who told me I was going to have a c-section and started inserting a catheter and putting monitors on me (without having consulted with anybody). I've had many experiences with medical professionals (doctors and nurses) dismissing my statements about things being wrong with my body with comments to the effect that "that wouldn't happen", or "that's discomfort, not pain" or "you're overreacting - there's nothing wrong with you". Most of these comments have come from women, not men. The people who have been most dismissive of my pain - emotional and physical - from my c-sections have been women ("that's cheating", "you're lucky you didn't have to push that baby out", and most especially, "all that matters is a healthy baby").

Historically, I'd have to agree that men horned in out of a belief that they were inherently superior to the "ignorant" midwives. There was a real (stupid) belief that women didn't have the intelligence to understand anything as complicated as medicine. However, I also feel that the medical system that currently exists has taken on a life of its own, and it's being fed by the arrogance of men and women who believe that their years of study make them the only experts on people's bodies. They forget that the [i]real[i] expert on any individual body is the owner of that body. They forget, or don't know, that our bodies mostly do eat, breathe, pump blood, operate muscles, eliminate wastes, hear, see, taste, heal, birth, etc. without problems. I see their entire view of the world as being warped...but I also see the warp as being in their perception of nature and of people, not specifically in their perception of women. I also don't see it as being about "men's" view of things - more about a self-reinforcing belief that nature is flawed and that "we" (the medical professionals) can fix it. This is not, ime, a male view...it's one that's widely held by many men and women...
post #130 of 144
There was a really interesting class in university about men taking over the world of medicine from women, etc. Anyways, one of the things the profs said is that it isn't just about a male or female doctor because even female doctors are trained in the paternalistic medical model.
post #131 of 144
Thread Starter 
From my reading, I believe that due to female oppression, women have taken on the paternalistic attitude in medicine and the clinic to an even higher degree than men because they must be that much stronger and more dedicated to be successful within the historically male-dominated field. Women trained in that model must be more over-confident and cold than their male counterparts in order to survive. It's a defense mechanism and one that has served them quite well. You should read The American Way of Birth. It is quite illuminating.
post #132 of 144
Yep. (coulnd't find the nodding smilie.)
post #133 of 144
I may read the book you mentioned. It sounds interesting. I do also have to remember that many of the women posting here are coming from a different system than I am. Although our medical system is rooted in many of the same assumptions, things are handled a little differently in the details. For one thing, most women here do not see OB's for their main prenatal care. I saw one during my last two pregnancies, because I was considered "high risk" (due to my primary section), but I still only saw him once during the early part of my pregnancy and then regularly during the last couple of months. So, as a general rule, women here aren't seeing doctors who chose obstetrics in the first place.

I have to wonder about the influence of medical training on women's attitudes, though. Many, many women have said many of the same things to me, including women who aren't medical professionals. Also, my female GP is definitely not "cold". She's actually a very big-hearted, caring woman who doesn't like to see her patients upset...but she can't get over her belief that he status as an "expert" makes her know more about me than I know about myself. (For example, I told her repeatedly during my last pregnancy that a c-section was not going to be a good outcome for me...that I knew the risks of a rupture and was prepared to take the chance, because I was more comfortable with a 1% chance of really bad outcome than a 100% chance of bad outcome. I wrote to her after my section, to tell her about the PPD, and the PTSD...the insomnia, the nightmares, the fantasies about ripping out my own uterus with my bare hand. She was surprised. She didn't believe me when I was pregnant. I'd been through it twice, and knew how I'd feel afterwards...but she believed that once I held my baby, I'd be just fine. My self-knowledge didn't count, because she "knew" that I'd love my baby so much that the surgery wouldn't matter.) She was very supportive in many ways...but she also felt that she and the OB could give me a good outcome, no matter how plainly I stated that they could not do so through surgery, because the surgery itself was a bad outcome for me. She believes in the tools of her trade...and doesn't trust my knowledge of me.
post #134 of 144
I agree that we can all find examples of situations in which male medical professionals are more respectful of women's bodies and examples in which women professionals aren't. I don't think the case is that just because someone is a particular gender, that they will automatically behave in a certain way. I do think however that men and women have been influenced by the larger social system in which we (western/northern) women live. And I still posit that this society is dominated by men and that it functions to control women in numerous ways. Reproductive health is a clear example of that IMO. Even if you are attended to predominately by women caregivers -- as may be the case in B.C. for "normal" pregnancies, the medical system I'm sure (and I'm guessing on this -- I was actually born in Canada but only lived there as a child and know very little about the current system) is still run by men. In the US, Canada, and most every other country in the world, health care policies at the macro level are most often crafted by men. THIS is what often dictates the type of care -- and the ideology behind that care -- that women receive. You can have a caring individual of either (or any) gender but as long as he/she is working in a society with a particular kind of discourse and structure of power inherently rooted in a patriarchal system, you are going to be subjected to a particular form of treatment. And again I really think at the nexus of this lies a need by men to control women's bodies. This is isn't even only a western thing. Many societies around the world have all kinds of interesting creation myths, "pollution" theories (usually a fear of menstrual blood), and so on. Big scary vaginas with teeth that will eat mens penises! (Thanks undergrad anthro prof for forever putting this image in my mind -- along with making me read Ritualized Homosexuality in Melansia!). Anyway, the bottom line is that modern western medicine is in bed with the men in charge and they are not interested in any interference from subversive, questioning women.
post #135 of 144
Originally Posted by annakiss
I get so accustomed to my little bubble of fellow homebirthers and AP/NFLers that I forget that the rest of the world is pretty much not at all like us.

Originally Posted by annakiss
Birthing at home is about taking back one of the most sacred and innate events in a woman's life. It is about reclaiming our bodies as our own and our physiologic wisdom as inherent. It can be about doing what is safest, but I am beginning to see it as a first step in putting the medical model in its place of "only in emergencies" and moving women away from the supine position of inexpert in our bodies and for our children. Birthing at home is a quiet frontline of resistance to the continued subjugation of women. March on, sisters.
I LOVE what you've said here....beautiful. :

SAHM to a spectacular DS (5/2003) & delightful DD (2/2006 HBAC!)
“You never know when you are making a memory.” ~ Rickie Lee Jones
post #136 of 144
i took an interesting university class about women's health (canadian class). it is pretty clear that women are thought of less than men in the health care system (we are not talking how an individual doctor treats his/her patient). think of the experiments women are subject to - birth control and hormone replacement therapy, cytotec for use during labor as well as drugs used in the past (the name escapes me ... the drug that women took for nauseau while pregnant and ended up with deformed babies?) for example. women are guinea pigs for the medical system.

what about the attitudes towards women suffering depression ... throw them drugs without addressing the possible underlying causes contributing to depression (again not saying drugs are NOT helpful). what about the continued practice of certain procedures (episiotomy, hysterectomy, etc etc) that are not evidence based? what about the whole issue of women's natural cycles (menstruation, birth, menopause) being treated as illness by the medical system?

just the set up of the doctor being the "authority" intimidates many women (unconsciously as well) and can prevent women from asking questions about what the doctor is recommending or even speaking up about something.

anyway i do find this a fascinating discussion - thanks
post #137 of 144
Originally Posted by lurve
you know, that's just beautiful! i mean it really is. and i can feel the catharcism from your story. and i understand it too. my friend loaned me her copy of the book and i started reading it and i felt like there was something wrong with ME! i mean everyone i know reads this book! and now they have the damn infant and toddler books too! and everyone's first words to me are "have you gotten the What to Expect When..."
And then I came here and looked at pregnancy books. And a cyber friend of mine told me her sister called the book "What to Expect When the Apocolypse Comes" and wow, hearing that just made me feel so good. Like I was not alone in hating this book, because in real life I know of no one who doesn't worship at its paper spine.
So I can totally relate to your story and it's stories like these that make me feel like I am doing the right thing! thanks!
I called it "the scary book" throughout my first pregnancy. anytime I was freaking out I'd read it; anytimme I had a question about a potential problem, I'd read it. I didn't even pick it up during my 2nd pregnancy, and only looked at one of them (toddlers maybe?) once when a vaxxing friend asked me about a vax schedule.
post #138 of 144
Originally Posted by annakiss
I should have said "call themselves a feminist". I was meaning women who label themselves feminist, not that it is questionable whether or not that is true. I understand the implication though and apologize for that.

You're using post-modern relativism, saying that we cannot elevate one system of judgment above another, which can devolve into the aphorism that despite science, there are no truths, no real values that can be assessed. Although this is an instructive viewpoint for shedding one's own anthropocentrism/chauvinism, it can lead one into a moral quagmire, a night in which all sheep are black. There is power invested in institutions (such as the hospital) and the architecture of such an institution will allow for a wide array of experiences to be had--including empowered birth. However, we must recognize that the calculus of such a system only allows these options so long as they maintain it. If empowered birth cut into the bottom line, as it did for my mother's practice in Xenia, Ohio, the midwives are sent packing without trite goodbyes by the stockholders.

You can "use" the hospital system to your advantage but must remember that the culture of the medical profession is one of the expert: the patient is to surrender his/her body to their gaze, as Foucault said in "The Birth of the Clinic." That a few "subversive" births take place within the setting only further secures the larger machinations of the system: the dominance of a culture of surrendered bodies to expert advice and the continuation of an order where the profit motive not a patient's health are the prime mover. In such a setting, agency is only an illusion tolerated if it prevents large-scale revolution.
I think I love you.

I've been formulating this very thought (not only the post I quoted, but your OP as well) in my head for years, and never had it come out as eloquently as you have here. I've been saying since I started doula-ing that this is a feminist calling to me, a way to show how to take back our power. For years, I've been discussing this with my mom, a L&D nurse (one of the good ones) who comes from a background of catching friends' babies, as well as her own, about how the hospitals seem to hate women and our bodies. Thank you for putting this out there.
post #139 of 144
Originally Posted by Storm Bride
She believes in the tools of her trade...and doesn't trust my knowledge of me.
In my opinion, this is generally true for not just male OB/GYN but all of the medical people, male / female / Dr. / Midwife / Nurse / Student Assistant..... All of them are the "experts", here to fix your incompetent, failing body. I had a female GP ( no seperate ob/gyn), 8 female midwives and midwife-assistants, a female Dr. performed my c-section, and uncountable female nurses afterwards. Come to think of it, the only male I saw all 7 days and nights was the guy who put a cold cloth on me before the section to ask if it was cold or not. And my husband. Not a single one of these people ever believed in me.
post #140 of 144
What percentage of OB/GYNs are male? Female?
What percentage of Dick Doctors (ugh, I am sure there is a more appropriate term for this) are male? Female?

Are there stats on this?
I'd love to know.
I'd just love to see a female doc telling some guy why he suffers from erectile disfunction.
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