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Were my professor's words in regard to child birth stories cruel and demeaning?

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 
After submitting my rough draft essay to my instructor she sent out an Announcement to the entire class that I find to be cruel and demeaning. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive. Ie am not sure. I do know that after 24 hours I am still on the verge of tears. I followed the directions and wrote a personal narrative of my choosing highlight my horrific amniocentesis and refusal to have a spinal block before my c-section. My life is quite boring, so I wanted the paper to be somewhat exciting. I am reeling and confused. I don't think that many people will understand my frustration. I do believe that the posters of this forum though will be able to give me the subjective feed back that I need. If I am making to much of this situation, please tell me.
Below you will find my rough draft essay and the instructors announcement to the class.


My essay:

Rough and Tumble

Rare are the mornings that my rambunctious son fails to utter my first name as he slowly tumbles out of sleep each and every morning. “Pia, Pia…..P…….iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiia”, he croons before his eyes ever open. “Yogurt mommie, I want yogurt.” My days begin with a sweet hug and the slightly sour smell of Horizon Organic Yogurt, both, staples in our household. I reach down to scoop him into my arms, and hold him close before he wiggles down my body and scampers away to awaken his father. My days are filled with sticky hugs, but rarely am I ever granted the opportunity to snuggle with my son for longer than 10 seconds. Even when asleep he rolls away from my embrace and sleeps spread eagle in the middle of the bed. His independence gladdens and frightens me. I am proud not to have a clingy tot who is glued to my side 24 hours a day, but I would like to hold him near me to cuddle and love on a daily basis. It is generally during times like these that I long to have another tiny baby to hold and adore I am quite sure that I am ready to bring another life into this world until I recall the un-pleasantries of being pregnant and my less than natural birth experience. The pain and the agony are all too fresh in my mind, perhaps time will lessen the memory of the torture that I experienced due to my son’s birth.
“Well, do you not want to have this baby?” Dr Wyant asked from behind his surgical mask. I cannot recall my word for word answer, but it was clearly no. Just as I poised myself to jump off of the operating table the doctor demanded that a nurse bring my anxious husband into the operating room. “Your wife”, the doctor stated, “does not want to have a spinal block.” “Would you eagerly allow anyone to stick a foot long needle into your spinal cavity?” I questioned. Unwilling to argue with a near delirious pregnant woman Dr. Wyant turned to speak with the other doctor in the waiting room before asking me if I would allow them to sedate me before administering the spinal block. I agreed on the condition that I would feel no pain. Within minutes my body fell limp and I was rolled onto my side. “Liar, you liar,” I screamed or I think that I screamed as the needle plunged through layers of muscle, tissue and other matter before penetrating my spinal cavity. As I lay strapped to the table, I prayed that the worst was over. Eight months into my pregnancy I was tired, irritable and no longer willing to have my body pierced by needles. Just twenty four hours earlier I proclaimed in loud agonizing sobs that I did not want to have any more babies as an amniocentesis was performed to test the viability of my unborn son’s lungs. The two minute procedure rendered the term cruel and unusual obsolete. The injection site stung even once I returned home after the baby’s birth.
The clock on the wall behind me ticked each second as my husband stood next to me peering over the curtain that shielded my eyes from witnessing the baby’s birth. Though I could feel no pain, I felt the tugging and pushing sensation from the doctor’s hands as he cut into my stomach and through my placenta in order to pull Andrew Nathaniel Davis from my womb. My belligerent placenta was the cause of all my misery. Instead of implanting itself away from my cervix, it chose to take root and flourish over the exit route that babies are supposed to take. I was forced to abandon the natural vaginal birth that I so desired. Not to save my son’s life, but to spare my own. With each passing minute the tugging became more intense. I knew that his birth was imminent. “He is coming, he is coming!!” I whispered to my husband as Andrew was yanked from my body and presented to the world. My head rolled to the right, and from the operating table I watched the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit team assess my newborn son for signs of breathing trouble and the million other maladies that plague pre-term infants. My healthy six pound, thirteen ounce, eighteen inch long, five week premature son was swaddled and placed in my arms for me to inspect as the doctors stapled my stomach shut. Andrew was and forever will be the most beautiful newborn ever. From the top of his head that was covered with silky straight black hair to the tip of his tiny sweet toes, Andrew was just perfectly scrumptious. Unlike most mothers, I can’t say that we fell in love with one another as we gazed into each other’s eyes. My infant son and I bonded months before he made his official entrance into the world. “Mrs. Davis…….Mrs. Davis”, a nurse questioned, “The baby can’t be carried out of the operating room. We can place him between your legs, or you may hold him. Which do you prefer”? Staring into Andrew’s black eyes, “I will hold him”, I cooed and mentally prepared my weak body to keep my arms taut as we glided back to my Labor and Delivery suite.
The four days that I spent learning and loving my son at Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, GA are looked back upon with a halcyon sweetness that is bittersweet. Andrew is no longer a newborn. He is a rough and tumble 21 month old with a broad vocabulary and a sweet smile. However I miss and even long for those briefly few days that I could hold him in my arms and love him without the worry of work or dishes or the general interruptions of life. From my fourth floor window, I looked out onto of the most beautiful metropolitan area in the Unites States and all that I saw were green hills that stretched to the horizon. His sweet baby breath and his tiny cries served only to reinforce my already full grown love for my sweet baby boy. We were in perfect peace.



The instructor's announcement:

Deleted for copyright infringement.


Thank you for reading this far. Please submit any and all feedback. It is valued.

Yes I know that the essay is not the best, but it is my first draft. She requires complete rewrites so I never submit my best work.
post #2 of 84
YES! How cold, seriously...sorry I don't have any advice for you though.
post #3 of 84
I couldn't read and not reply (I came in through "new posts"). This is horrid! Please report her to a dean or the head of the dept.. This is sooo insensitive and misogynist. If a male prof had said that, they'd be in serious trouble.
post #4 of 84
What I think....is that if she doesn't want stories about birth or sports, she needs to say so upfront, not after assignments are already being turned in.
I also find her communication style to be way too verbose. As a teacher, I find that simplicity is best. Cruel and demeaning? Not really; just a little forced. I'm guessing she's been teaching these kinds of classes for quite awhile without much of a break, but I could just be projecting.

This, I think is the heart of what she is trying to draw out of people:

Quote:
The narrative can be about something very trivial, like a birthday present, but you can MAKE it interesting by the unique way you handle it.
The draft you've shared with us touches on so many things that could fall into that category! obsessions with yogurt, the particular, um, challenges of co-sleeping with a toddler (no concept of personal space that I've ever noticed!), changes in how you view the world....

post #5 of 84
Your professor is a UA violation.

If she didn't want child birth stories, then she should have told you that BEFORE she gave out the assignment. That is poor teaching!

Her phrase "Not that birth isn't meaningful, but I've never had an interesting narrative about it." is insulting and demeaning.

I would write her a polite, but firm e-mail saying:
"I am unclear as to why you did not inform the class that you were not willing to accept narratives on certain topics. Had I known that you did not want narratives on child birth or sports, I would have chosen a different topic. I feel singled out that you posted your message about not wanting child birth narratives after I had submitted my first draft, which was a child birth narrative. Sending such a blanket statement to the whole class is humiliating.

I would suggest that in future you modify your instructions for the assignment to include this information up front. A less demeaning way of stating your preference for no childbirth stories would be "Many childbirth stories contain very familiar and predictable elements. Because of this, they rarely produce compelling narratives. Unless there is something truly extraordinary about your childbirth story (giving birth in a cab during a blizzard while lost on a mountain), I suggest you find a different topic."

OK, and what I would be really tempted to write, but probably wouldn't because this will give you a grade:

"In addition, I find your assumptions that most men would write about sports and most women about childbirth to be painfully outdated. Surely someone has written an interesting narrative about childbirth or sports. Does the fact that no one has done so in your class say something about the stories or about your tutelage?"
post #6 of 84
Oh my GOD.

I am usually someone who rolls my eyes at students who complain about professor feedback, but this is totally unacceptable! This guy sounds like a misogynist UAV.

To give him probably more credit than he deserves, I get the "don't write about what everyone always writes about" point. But to say that about childbirth is pretty horrific. If he had given you suggestions as to how to make your essay more unique, that would have been one thing. But to completely disregard the topic was pretty jerky.

Again, I usually get annoyed when people complain about instructor feedback, but this is so over the top! I would suggest talking to his department head. They need to know (if they don't already) what a they have on their hands. And I would guess it's totally against your school's regulations to post one student's feedback in a public forum!

I'm so sorry you got this feedback.

Wait, I just re-read that this is a woman? Wow. I have a hard time with some academics who have such issues with childbearing and mothering. I really don't get it.
post #7 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
"In addition, I find your assumptions that most men would write about sports and most women about childbirth to be painfully outdated."
that's a good point.

You know, I'm reminded of an intro to poetry class I enrolled in as an undergrad--first year. The professor stood in front of us on the first day and said in essence that he (his teaching of great poetry) was going to make our meaningless, trivial lives worth something.

Or something like that. I'm not really sure, because it's been 25 years and I only heard it the one time. I immediately dropped the class, because even at 18 I knew I didn't want to waste my time on a professor who didn't demonstrate basic respect for the students.

Something to think about.
post #8 of 84
O.M.G.

Wow. I'm very offended and hurt on your behalf.

I'm a former teacher and this woman's response to you and your class is really offensive and cruel.

She clearly has issues w/birth? fertility? women? I don't know what, but her response is very inappropriate and unprofessional, IMO. Demeaning and ridiculing students' efforts, using sarcasm and gender-stereotyped examples are really not effective teaching tools.

I'm stunned and don't know what else to say, but that you are right, she is way out of line.

I'm so sorry you had to endure this treatment. I would also be in tears in your shoes, but it is *she* who is in the wrong here and should be embarrassed, not you.

Her response should be shared with the dean or supervisor of her department.

PS- I really enjoyed your essay- I thought it was very touching and had many thoughtful details that put the reader in a place to feel your emotions and smile and hurt with you- not a "typical" or "generic" piece at all
post #9 of 84
Well, you could write a personal narrative of the first time you had sex! But, I bet virtually everybodies first time was identical (sarcasm here). Would men find this interesting I wonder? What are her criterion for a personal narrative anyways? It has to be interesting she says. Even a birthday party can be interesting if written the right way, she says. Well then, EVEN BIRTH can be interesting then. I get her point about writing something that is unique somehow and great writers will find something poiniant in the most mundane--there is no need to ban a topic. The prof probably has some undealt with feelings about birth. She is hiding behind the "boring" excuse. Frankly, many a great sportswriter bores me, but if it was my job to read essays, then it is also my job to fairly judge each piece of work on its own merits, not "how many birth stories do I have to read today, sigh" mentality. If you want to confront the teacher and write the essay anyways, try to find that universal element that will grip even the coldest heart.
post #10 of 84
If she didn't want to read about birth stories, she should have said so up front. Stating it as an "oops, oh yeah, I forgot" at this point is out of line. As is her language.

Now, I know what she means about boring birth stories. To some, the idea of a birth story being boring is heresy, but I've read lots, and really, it's the writing that makes them memorable. I see what she is saying, but to pick on a specific genre, rather than to tell you that, whatever you write about, you should fill it with details that will be interesting to other people...that's totally uncalled for. Totally disrespectful.

I think you should email her exactly what LynnS6 suggested - word for word. And you should blind cc the head of her department, with the original comment attached.
post #11 of 84
I think your professor is telling you something very important about narrative writing, but she told you in a very hurtful and tactless way. She's right about some things--reading 15 birth stories which are all the same (and they are to someone who doesn't feel passionately about birth) is boring. Birth stories do tend to just "report facts" like a journal entry, though yours delves into your feelings and emotions. This is not narrative writing.

Here's the thing she should have said: Narrative stories need to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It needs to be attuned to your reader (your audience) and you need to be sure that there's a fairly "universal" quality to it, without being common. Birth stories do have a beginning a middle and an end, but much like the story of buying a car, they are not necessarily a story which requires much creativity, and birth stories vary little (in literary terms) from mother to mother. You go into labor and the baby comes out. It's reporting an event, and one that most women do go through at some point. The end of the story is known--you became a mother, and while this is a very important story to you, it is rather like other mothers, who also experienced their babies coming out.

Is this helpful to you?

Having been on the end of 100 essays needing to be graded, each of which took me about 10 minutes minimum, I was desperate to have good reading material. I do also understand your terribly rude professors words, but she brought up the addendums to the assigment in an obvious and cruel way.

And, I find your thoughts to be very well constructed--especially for a descriptive essay. The narrative assignment, though, is a little more precise in plot.

What I told my students was this: write even a first person account of something in 3rd person (he, she, it). With that distance, add information enough to make it not a journal type free write. Make stuff up, get crazy with it. Make it interesting and insane. Pick a particular object and insert it in a meaningful way. In short, take the basis of the story which would come from a free write (like what you have there) and make it someone else's story. Give it a twist, give it a climax. Make me CARE like you care about this.

If I were your instructor, I would return this assignment to you also. I would tell you the things I wrote above, and ask that the next draft be bolder and written in 3rd person. (You might revert back to first for the final copy, or subsequent drafts, but I would want to see it in 3rd). I would encourage you to tell a different story if you could, or write another essay about a completely unrelated topic. Or write it from the perspective of the surgeon. (This is a good idea, I think.)

But, here's the kicker, I would have told you this PERSONALLY. And, if I needed to say it 15 times then I would because it's important that you feel safe in my class. This was a huge thing to share with someone, and I'm sorry that she treated you like that. Yes, it's tough to be a writing teacher, but she shouldn't have forgotten that she was teaching real students for whom this story was incredibly wrenching.



Sorry this got long. I guess I miss teaching writing more than I knew!
post #12 of 84
While I see her point :, she was definitely colder and rambled on longer on the subject of childbirth. The words she used were demeaning because a) pregnancy and childbirth are miraculous, b) it doesn't matter HOW many children you have, they are ALL special and c) there is a HUUUGE difference between a child and a "high school sports" award.

The professor's verbage needs some major rewording.
post #13 of 84
Piad, I really enjoyed your essay. I was not able to read what the professor wrote but I suspect what it was after I read other pps comments. I had a somewhat similar experience although my "degree of the burn" was not as severe as yours because I did not go into detail about my birthing but only touched upon it. I wrote about my pregnancy and birth experience in the context of the lack of birthing choices and the need for change in this country's treatment of these aspects of a woman's life in my personal statement for law school admissions. I asked several of my friends and present and former professors to read and comment on it. One female professor said something like "I am sure the birth of your son was not your only life achievement..." and suggested that I write about something else. I found that comment very hurtful. I also disagreed with the professor because my resume and applications covered all my other life "achievements". Most importantly, I feel very passionate about this topic and do hope that legal education would give me powerful tools to perhaps change this world for the better. Anyway, I didn't listen to her, submitted my personal statement the way I wrote it (with an exception of editorial changes suggested by other people) and was admitted to a really good school!!!! And yes, I aslo think that you should write to your professor!
post #14 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
...
If she didn't want child birth stories, then she should have told you that BEFORE she gave out the assignment. That is poor teaching!

... I would write her a polite, but firm e-mail saying:
"I am unclear as to why you did not inform the class that you were not willing to accept narratives on certain topics. Had I known that you did not want narratives on child birth or sports, I would have chosen a different topic. I feel singled out that you posted your message about not wanting child birth narratives after I had submitted my first draft, which was a child birth narrative. Sending such a blanket statement to the whole class is humiliating.

I would suggest that in future you modify your instructions for the assignment to include this information up front. A less demeaning way of stating your preference for no childbirth stories would be "Many childbirth stories contain very familiar and predictable elements. Because of this, they rarely produce compelling narratives. Unless there is something truly extraordinary about your childbirth story (giving birth in a cab during a blizzard while lost on a mountain), I suggest you find a different topic."
...
"In addition, I find your assumptions that most men would write about sports and most women about childbirth to be painfully outdated. Surely someone has written an interesting narrative about childbirth or sports. Does the fact that no one has done so in your class say something about the stories or about your tutelage?"
Piad,
As you probably know by now your professor's email has been deleted. However, I think I've gotten the gist from the other posters.

I think LynnS6 is almost dead on. However, I would suggest revising the last paragraph by deleting the last sentence. I think it's a little adversarial and may compromise your ability to develop a positive teacher/student relationship.

Also, while I agree that someone out there has probably written a pretty compelling narrative on these subjects it may be that the real problem is that it is too difficult for a new writer. My sense is that there are two reasons for this: 1) These are very common experiences and even when they are unusual there are only so many variations on the beginning, middle and end; and yet 2) the subject matter is inherently dramatic so the writing itself has a hard time living up to that.

I do suggest you follow up with the professor because it will probably make you feel better and it may improve a couple of aspects of her teaching. You may be helping the soccer mom or dad that makes the mistake of describing their kids' first game.

ETA
If you do use LynnS6's email I would suggest re-working it a little to make it your own and put it in your "voice". Otherwise there is a good chance that your professor will realize you had "help" with it once she becomes familiar with your writing style. Not that there is anything terribly wrong with it since it's not something you are being graded on but it might leave her with a bad taste in her mouth. Especially in light of the brouhaha over the Obama/Patrick speech.

~Cath
post #15 of 84
Oops double post.
~Cath
post #16 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Calico_Skies View Post
The instructor's announcement:

Deleted for copyright infringement.

How can an posting an instructor's announcement be copyright infringement? I know quite a bit about copyright, and this poster has clearly identified that the announcement was not her original work, but belonged to an instructor she chose to keep anonymous for her privacy. Nothing wrong in that.
http://www.mothering.com/mdc/copyright_concerns.html
post #17 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
OK, and what I would be really tempted to write, but probably wouldn't because this will give you a grade:

"In addition, I find your assumptions that most men would write about sports and most women about childbirth to be painfully outdated. Surely someone has written an interesting narrative about childbirth or sports. Does the fact that no one has done so in your class say something about the stories or about your tutelage?"
Just fYI, I am NOT suggesting the OP put in my final paragraph. I agree it's too adversarial. That's just what I would be tempted to write.
post #18 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
Just fYI, I am NOT suggesting the OP put in my final paragraph. I agree it's too adversarial. That's just what I would be tempted to write.
LynnS6,
Ooops. That was reasonably clear but I misread that paragraph. However, I'm not sorry for emphasizing the point on the off chance the OP may have made the same mistake as me.

~Cath
post #19 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by claras_mom View Post
It depends on wether or not a "school" is considered government, and wether or not this was a personal note to the student, or written to the whole class. An assignment, flyer, announcement from a PUBLIC school doesn't fall under copyright because it's a small part of government, and government publications are allowed to be copied and distributed. But being it's a college class it might not be a public school.
post #20 of 84
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