Homebirth and Oppression of Women - Mothering Forums

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Old 06-06-2006, 02:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been thinking of late, due to the shocking number of intelligent, feminist, progressive women I meet who make the most typical, acquiescent "choices" regarding their health care during pregnancy and birth, that birthing at home is indeed radical, that midwifery is grassroots political protest, and that women need to get OUT of the hospital if for no other reason than to buck the system created and sustained by men for no other apparent reason but to oppress women.

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. I have had lengthy discussions with close friends who insist that they would never birth at home despite the overwhelming evidence that it is a safer, friendlier option and have in the past dismissed my own frustration by acknowledging that it is their choice. I no longer believe this. It is no more the choice of women in America today to birth in hospitals than it is their choice to spend 80 dollars every time they walk into Target or to buy gasoline for their car. Sure, there are other options, but they are not remotely easily accessible.

Making alternative choices requires first stepping outside of the box, divorcing oneself from the norm, from one's peers, from the status quo. This may additionally require being ostracized and ridiculed. Secondly, one must be solidly educated on how to even make an alternate choice, finding out what those choices even are, how it works, where to find it. Thirdly, one must pay for that choice either by sacrifice or by additional expenditure in time and money. To make an alternate choice, one must think for oneself, do research, dedicate hours and days to understanding and accepting the ins and outs of that choice.

That first step is a doozy though, and once you take it, you will be taking it for the rest of your life. Announcing that you birth at home will forever invite stares, slack jaws, and questions. You may always be radical to friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and how sad it is that normal birth may appear to the outside world as so abnormal. Homebirth may get the token mention in a book about pregnancy and birth here and there, but it is mostly misunderstood and misrepresented. Even Dr. Sears, whose own children were born at home, does not give it a solid endorsement for most women.

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.


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Old 06-06-2006, 02:36 AM
 
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Old 06-06-2006, 02:46 AM
 
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Well said

Amy ~ Web Designing Single Mom to 4: DD14, DS12, DS5, DS3
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Old 06-06-2006, 03:22 AM
 
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I love it when you rant!!!
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Old 06-06-2006, 03:30 AM
 
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Well said Anna.
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Old 06-06-2006, 03:31 AM
 
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Very well said!!!

Jenny ~ Mama to three and another due in October!
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Old 06-06-2006, 03:36 AM
 
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Old 06-06-2006, 04:42 AM
 
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That was really beautiful, and echoes a lot of the reasons why I am becoming a midwife. It is a perfect combination of my interest in birth and my feminism and love for women.

K, 26, married to D, 27, still trying to conceive our first child after a 7 week loss in January 2011
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Old 06-06-2006, 05:11 AM
 
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Old 06-06-2006, 05:30 AM
 
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I loved that thread.
I HB my last and future kids and would never go back to the hospital...
1. it's safer to birth at home
2. I love feeling like a feminist and rebeling just to rebel. its fun!!!

mother to E-(8).... A-(6) .... & N-(5)
Vivian Claire born 3-11-10.... ...still an , extendedmomma :
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Old 06-06-2006, 05:51 AM
 
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Lovely post. Have you read Naomi Wolf's "misconceptions"?
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Old 06-06-2006, 05:54 AM
 
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Well said and unfortunate.

Yes, I do love being a freak and I do hope that some of my choices may have a ripple effect "out there."

I that my kids don't understand why some Moms go to the hospital instead of staying home in the hot tub and I that they saw a crib the other day and asked why people put babies in cages.
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Old 06-06-2006, 09:43 AM
 
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that was really well written and quite persuasive... i read your blog so i know how passionatly you write, this is no exception.
i am wondering... are you inviting discussion? i had a story to share about the effects of home birth criticism,
Quote:
Announcing that you birth at home will forever invite stares, slack jaws, and questions. You may always be radical to friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and how sad it is that normal birth may appear to the outside world as so abnormal.
but if you are just wanting to share your thoughts, that is cool too. they are worthy of their own thread for sure.

Jennie Young

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Old 06-06-2006, 10:19 AM
 
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I don't mind stares,slack jaws and questions it's the idea that some see me as irresponsible that makes me sad.

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Old 06-06-2006, 11:13 AM
 
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Old 06-06-2006, 11:32 AM
 
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Old 06-06-2006, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by jenniey
that was really well written and quite persuasive... i read your blog so i know how passionatly you write, this is no exception.
i am wondering... are you inviting discussion? i had a story to share about the effects of home birth criticism, but if you are just wanting to share your thoughts, that is cool too. they are worthy of their own thread for sure.
Absolutely, I am inviting discussion. I don't want to talk just to hear myself talk. Please share your story.

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Old 06-06-2006, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by AllisonR
Lovely post. Have you read Naomi Wolf's "misconceptions"?
Yes I did. I really hated it, actually.

anna kiss partner to jon radical mama to aleks (8/02) and bastian (5/05)
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Old 06-06-2006, 12:26 PM
 
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Anna, I loved what you posted but hope you will allow my slightly different perspective. I don't think birthing at home vs. in the hospital is what is a particularly critical differentiator of a woman taking back her body and owning her birth. I think being in charge, informed, and making informed choices, owning what happens to you every step of the way is far more powerful. This is not intended to dismiss homebirthing as a radical feminist act, but I think a woman can be just as radical and just as feminist and still choose to have a hospital birth. I think the important thing is not being a sheep led by a male, mainstream OB and instead making your own well researched, well informed decisions and choices about what is best for YOUR OWN body, your pregnancy, your birth, and your baby.

p.s., I hated Misconceptions too (I thought I was the only one!)
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Old 06-06-2006, 12:34 PM
 
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Rah! Rah! Yes! Yes!!!!
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Old 06-06-2006, 12:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BusyMommy


Well said and unfortunate.

Yes, I do love being a freak and I do hope that some of my choices may have a ripple effect "out there."

I that my kids don't understand why some Moms go to the hospital instead of staying home in the hot tub and I that they saw a crib the other day and asked why people put babies in cages.
that is so wonderful about your kids! i have to agree with you that i kinda like the shock and awe affect when you tell someone you had a homebirth. i like making people think there's another option out there. they usually get a whole lecture on the benefits of homebirth and all the horrid hospital facts.
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Old 06-06-2006, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Periwinkle
Anna, I loved what you posted but hope you will allow my slightly different perspective. I don't think birthing at home vs. in the hospital is what is a particularly critical differentiator of a woman taking back her body and owning her birth. I think being in charge, informed, and making informed choices, owning what happens to you every step of the way is far more powerful. This is not intended to dismiss homebirthing as a radical feminist act, but I think a woman can be just as radical and just as feminist and still choose to have a hospital birth. I think the important thing is not being a sheep led by a male, mainstream OB and instead making your own well researched, well informed decisions and choices about what is best for YOUR OWN body, your pregnancy, your birth, and your baby.

p.s., I hated Misconceptions too (I thought I was the only one!)
See, I used to think that too and on a personal, one-to-one level I in some sense belive that women should do what makes them most comfortable. I think though that the reason hospitals make women more comfortable (or give the illusion of comfort) is that we have been brainwashed by our culture and our history (written by the historically male obstetric community and awash in its propaganda) to believe that hospitals offer that insurance of technology which will save you from the flaws of genetics. The truth is that these technologies are used almost indiscriminantly and cause more harm than good.

The statistics indicate that the second you walk into a hospital your risk of a cesarean increases by 30% (or so, given the hospital/OB/CNM's specific stats). This does not even bring into the equation the risk of injury to mother and baby (episiotomy, oxygen deprivation due to rapid cord-cutting, unnecessary bruising, infection, starvation/dehydration, interferance with breastfeeding, etc.) or the risks of interferance with the essential hormonal balance that giving birth brings for mother and child.

My point is that I do not believe that for most normal, healthy, "low-risk" mothers that the decision could possibly be entirely researched and informed and still indicate a hospital delivery. Not for a minute. And I won't call anyone who chooses that route radical and I can no longer believe that they really understand the full scope of their oppression.

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Old 06-06-2006, 01:06 PM
 
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Well said Anna. :
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Old 06-06-2006, 01:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by annakiss
My point is that I do not believe that for most normal, healthy, "low-risk" mothers that the decision could possibly be entirely researched and informed and still indicate a hospital delivery.
Agreed. But this isn't every woman - not by a mile - so what to make of women with preterm labor, high BP, diabetes, health problems, breech presentations, multiples, footling breech presentations, placenta previa, placenta accreta, TTTS, babies with severe birth defects that will require immediate medical care, the list goes on. And while some women who do not fall into this "normal, healthy, 'low risk'" category may still successfully have homebirths, others may choose a hospital birth. It's about knowing what is best for YOUR OWN body, birth, and baby, and even if you are the most high risk woman in the world, not letting your birth happen to you, but still owning your choices and doing your research.
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Old 06-06-2006, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Periwinkle
Agreed. But this isn't every woman - not by a mile - so what to make of women with preterm labor, high BP, diabetes, health problems, breech presentations, multiples, footling breech presentations, placenta previa, placenta accreta, TTTS, the list goes on. And while some women who do not fall into this "normal, healthy, 'low risk'" category may still successfully have homebirths, others may choose a hospital birth. It's about knowing what is best for YOUR OWN body, birth, and baby, and even if you are the most high risk woman in the world, not letting your birth happen to you, but still owning your choices and doing your research.
Absolutely. Given extraordinary circumstances, things get cloudy. I think though that there are ways to understand and treat those extraordinary circumstances that make them not so extraordinary, which is even more radical, really. Approaching midwifery with a real, solid trust of birth (even though it may not always yield perfect results) makes a lot of these issues part of the whole of it. There are different ways of looking at it. What is really, legitimately a risk? Practicing evidence-based care changes how we view all these supposed problems.

I also want to add that I don't blame anyone for where they are at in their lives or for being oppressed and making choices that are different than my own. That's not what this is about. I recognize how difficult it is for most women to step outside of the box (at every level, especially as things get cloudy). I certainly wouldn't categorize myself as having started out radical (though I was certainly way ahead of most having been born at home, being the daughter of a midwife and having studied feminist issues at Antioch College, known for its radicalism), but I have been radicalized by my parenting journey. I am still on my way. The realizations are coming though, as evidenced by my ranting.

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Old 06-06-2006, 01:24 PM
 
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That was beautiful!
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Old 06-06-2006, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I also need to mention that all of this is of course a very privileged perspective to take. Most women don't even know they're in the box, or as in the case of the really really oppressed and impoverished, are so far outside of it, they don't even have the option of consistent care at all, let alone the possibility of seeking alternatives.

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Old 06-06-2006, 01:40 PM
 
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Agreed. But this isn't every woman - not by a mile - so what to make of women with preterm labor, high BP, diabetes, health problems, breech presentations, multiples, footling breech presentations, placenta previa, placenta accreta, TTTS, babies with severe birth defects that will require immediate medical care, the list goes on
Hi, I am not sure if this is what you meant, but I felt the need to point out the breech presentations and mutiples don't automatically mean hosptial birth. Plenty of breech babies and twins are born at home.

Blessed mama of four
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Old 06-06-2006, 02:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nancymom
Hi, I am not sure if this is what you meant, but I felt the need to point out the breech presentations and mutiples don't automatically mean hosptial birth. Plenty of breech babies and twins are born at home.
Yup... I think I said as much in my post. But "plenty of" doesn't mean all.
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Old 06-06-2006, 02:09 PM
 
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hmmm. well, i love this discussion. mostly i sit on the fence. i just don't know. i feel a lot of the time that the actual reason for MY medical intervention (first babe, induction, pre-e) was not physical. what i wanted to post earlier is this:
we planned an unassisted home birth with our first baby. we planned it thoroughly, talked to others who'd done the same, read a million books on the subject, even had our nurse midwife's blessing (we thought). we really were going to do it, without reservation. before i ever had a single doubt my mil called. and she called. and called. and my fil called. and called their son (dh) at work. and they prayed that we would come to our senses. they were relentless. they said things that you cannot imagine. horrible terrifying things. eventually that seed of doubt was planted firmly. i started, unconsiously, to look for a way out. if you asked my mil today she would swear up and down that it was her praying that saved our lives. if you ask me i would say that much negative energy sure can affect a person. i do not believe i had pre-eclampsia at all. (i really wasn't sick, my bp was within normal, a bit of protein showed up) but, the midwife was looking for the same way out. they said pre-e, induce... i couldn't say no.
for all the reasons you are talking about anna. fear mostly. and sitting here today healthy with 3 healthy boys, who am i to regret, doubt? but i do. the fear is what landed me in the hospital. and once there, you are just a sitting duck. you are surrounded by life saving instruments. but you are not safe. it is an illusion. an addictive illusion.
despite all my wanting, all dh's wanting, we never got a home birth. that fear took over me and everyone was always supporting it. without even meaning to i think, people, like many here, people who believed in homebirth, were throwing their own beliefs to the side, unwilling to question my fear. no body ever wants to really jump over that fence and say, "hey, come on, do it at home. you can do it." but a million and one people will stand on the other side beckoning you to enter the safety of their hospital room... where babies are lost every minute.
yes, it is all about fear. everybody wants a healthy living baby. but at what cost? i could list for you at least a thousands points of disappointment, regret, grief, loss, sadness, anger... over my hospital births. i will always feel a heaviness in my soul for never having gotten to experience the feeling of my membranes rupturing spontaneously, and getting to get down on my hands and knees with my husband beside me as we explored the mess and cleaned it up.
once in the hospital situation labor turns into a timed event, even with the best midwife. it turns into a competition. you and the clock. you and death. you are just lying there thinking, okay, come on, lets get this going. by my last birth, i requested my water be broken! just to speed things up. like it weren't a beautiful event that should be respected in its progression, however slow, fast, or intense.
i consider myself lucky to have come through 3 hospital births with an intact sense of the dignity of child birth. with the good sense to still mention to EVERY ONE we meet, "we were planning a homebirth. we wish we had just done it despite the complications."
allright, enough. i want to add quickly about this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Periwinkle
Quote:
Originally Posted by annakiss
My point is that I do not believe that for most normal, healthy, "low-risk" mothers that the decision could possibly be entirely researched and informed and still indicate a hospital delivery.
Agreed. But this isn't every woman - not by a mile - so what to make of women with preterm labor, high BP, diabetes, health problems, breech presentations, multiples, footling breech presentations, placenta previa, placenta accreta, TTTS, babies with severe birth defects that will require immediate medical care, the list goes on. And while some women who do not fall into this "normal, healthy, 'low risk'" category may still successfully have homebirths, others may choose a hospital birth. It's about knowing what is best for YOUR OWN body, birth, and baby, and even if you are the most high risk woman in the world, not letting your birth happen to you, but still owning your choices and doing your research.
I am not in my post suggesting that the above listed problems are all in a woman's head and they should just have a homebirth and damn the consequences. I do not feel that way for myself or anyone. I do feel that in my experience, I should have, it was in my head. Just want to pre-clarify that. :
And yes, it is what is best for you. I just can't stress enough: we had support, research, brains, hearts, motivation. But, my mil and fil's fear was heavier than all that. It infected us. I think a lot of women face this. The weightiness of the people standing on one side screaming FEAR and the gentleness of people like us on the other saying, do what is best for you. The FEAR wins. I know you are just suggesting a more compassionate way of easing women over to the side of informed birth, and no one can say that is a bad thing. It is a great thing. Occassionally though, doesn't someone's passion for homebirth need to motivate others? Damn, i wish i had talked to someone as passionate about it as annakiss, maybe i would have gotten the guts to do it, at least with the last two.

Jennie Young

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