Also, just wanted to agree that the female ob-gyns that I have come in contact with, have been very agressive and interventionist in their care of laboring women.
I personally would not want to give birth with any other man present other than my husband. I chose a great female midwife to attend Hannah's birth at home. She is nurturing, respectful and kind, yet strong and empowering as well.
I want my care provider to understand, really understand what I'm going through. My midwife had given birth to 3 children when she delivered Hannah. She knew what it was like to have a good birth, and she knew what it was like to have a bad birth.
A man can not ever understand what it is to be with child, to give birth, to nurse a child, or have a hormone surge so strongs it brings waves of emotions that are sometimes difficult to deal with. I chose someone skilled and wise, who could also relate, understand, and and advise because she herself had been there too.
Growing up I wasn't happy at how most of the people in positions of authority were male, and how plenty of women seemed happy to keep it that way. My mother even told me once that she would never want to work for a female boss, which really irritated the heck out of me. Then later when she was a manager herself, she got upset when some people seemed not to respect her. Well, gosh mom, maybe they just don't approve of female bosses!
I remember as a very young child saying that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, and my sister said, "You can't be a doctor, you're a girl!" My mom actually corrected my sister and told her I could be a doctor and there were women doctors. This was in the early 70s, and I planned to be a doctor all my life until I was pre-med in college and realized there was no way I'd get into med school with my chemistry, calculus and physics grades. I had to do some major soul searching.
Anyway, I've always said I would only have a female gynecologist, but I knew at least two people who swore they would only have male ones. Part of it was I think they were "hung up" enough to feel like it was some lesbian sex act to have a pelvic exam done by a woman. That was part of the insinuations made. Well, if you are thinking of it in sexual terms, it doesn't seem any better to have some man you don't know doing it. But both of my friends also said that they just didn't think that women were sympathetic to a woman's fears over gynecological exams because they were women themselves and had to get it done also. Men tended to be a little more careful. I think it is just and individual thing.
I was very definite about wanting a female OB. I actually wanted my sister's, because she sounded wonderful and I actually got to observe a birth with her and was very impressed with her gentleness and manner. But I was living across the country when I got pregnant, so I just had to pick one. I picked a woman who was nice and had a child of her own, but ended up scheduling me for an induction when I was something like 28 weeks along. I remember going up to make my co-pay and the woman at the desk said, "Oh, I just scheduled your induction!" I thought she had to be wrong because I was no where near term. It turns out when I was 38 weeks along, I found out my induction had indeed been scheduled for my due date. Then my OB started saying things like I was going to have a big baby and she wasn't going to do anything heroic like let me push for 2.5 hours or use a vacuum extractor. If there were any signs of trouble, I'd have to have a c-section. I cancelled my induction the night before I was to go in, and I went into to labor four days later. The doctor on call was a male and I really liked him. He was very gentle and quiet, didn't do an episiotomy and said that I would have to push for at least 3 hours before they would consider any intervention.
So I guess my thinking now is that in the mainstream hospital birthing world, there can be plenty of forward-thinking, gentle men and women, and just as many that are hideous. In the natural birth setting, however, where women are in touch with their own bodies and birth isn't a medicated procedure to be performed on a mother, I think it is more natural to have female attendants. I would think that men who believed in this model would naturally defer to women as the ones better suited to be midwives.
I've been thinking and thinking about this, and I would still (other things being equal, of course,) prefer the woman to the man. That to me says that this is not, at least in my mind, about sexual modesty and/or fears, but something else. (I'm not sure what.)
I have recently been thinking that the reason some women choose midwives is because they have this archetypal vision in their heads of women helping women through a rite of passage that is specific to women. There is something romantic about the concept, in a goddess-based mythology fashion. I mean, you know, the woman go off to the menstrual hut to bleed together and beat drums or do whatever they do. There is something of this, perhaps, lost or not able to be shared when a man is involved.
Yes, some men are sensitive and some women are insensitive, and yes I'd rather have a sensitive man than an insensitive woman examing my genitals. But given a sensitive qualified man or woman, I'd still choose the woman, and not, as I've illustrated, because "men just shouldn't look at a woman's genitals, except for her husband." So there's something else, and I think it's just about the fact that women are women and men are men and some things can't just be gender neutralized any more than they can be mechanized. In a hospital birth, perhaps it is easier to gender neutralize the experience because it already is mechanized.
But why then do I prefer my husband over any woman as a birth attendant? Hm, well good question. And I think the answer to that is that I actually don't prefer him. I wanted my husband at the birth because it is an amazing thing to witness the birth of your own child, and I knew that would be a priceless gift to give to him. He was not, however, really a part of it. He was supportive and helpful and happy to be there, but he was not part of the process. It was a woman thing, not a man-and-woman thing.
I think that if I lived in a different culture in which the husband-wife connection is not the end-all be-all, in which women are emotionally and physically close to each other, the archetype ritual of woman-with-woman (midwife) would have been joyfully and satisfactorily played out. But (while I have female friends and family who I love) I have no women like THAT in my life.
Regardless, that archetype remains in our psyche, and I think that's why we tend to feel more right (not necessarily morally but in terms of what feels normal and natural) about having our medical labor attendants be women.
I guess, to be fair, women shouldn't be proctologists either. Although the male patient is still more powerful than the female doctor, so maybe it's different. Also, in the case of labor and delivery, you trust any professionals there with your life and your baby's life. Pretty scary if all you get are men!
I would not mind a lesbian doc (although I probably wouldn't know, unless she kept telling me she was a lesbian, which would be weird...) because lesbians, after all, are women! Women do not usually sexually assault other women.
Also, I really wouldn't feel comfortable with a woman who had not given birth. I've had drug counselors who never took drugs, and it just did not work.
The whole coaching thing is off topic but really think about it. How do you think a football team would feel if I marched out onto the feild and started coaching them? Would I be qualified if I had taken 5 months of classes and watched some videos of teams playing and practiced yelling plays? No because I had never played before, I have never even been through training. Would it make me any better because the team wanted me there? Not likely. I would still b e a coach who had no idea how it felt to be tackled.
So I don't expect dh to be my coach. I have tried it once and hated it. last time he was assistant coach and did o.k. This time I just want him to focus on being into it himself instead of doing what he thinks is helpful. Actually I will be happy if he stays awake this time.:
The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it. We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.
All other things being equal, two great birth attendents available who just want to hang out and see if I need any help... I would probably choose a woman over a man for the same reason I prefer women musicians. Their voices make more sense in my head. There is a resonance. But not so much I would not quiz the crap out of a woman and make sure she's not a wolf in sheeps clothing as someone else here has said. Too many of us have been led down the garden path by people who give lip service to 'natural' childbirth.
I was lucky enough to have one midwife, a nurse, my mil and sil, good friend, and my dh at the birth. It was a mostly all women show, but I don't think I would have done it without dh there. He was great.
Would I have done it with a male birth attendant? If he was like Dr. Sears, or Dr. Odent, or Dr. Bradley, (after his episiotmy phase) and they acted like midwives (staying with you, giving you encouragement, mostly from the other side of the room). Sure. Although I would never give up my midwife. Lori is da bomb.
My fundamental belief is that it's wrong to discriminate against people for a job based on their gender. A lot of what feminism is about has to do with opening up arenas to people that were closed to them because of their gender. So women have entered traditionally-male dominated careers, and become engineers, doctors, lawyers, and welders. And men should be able to enter traditionally female-dominated fields, like kindergarten teaching and midwifery, without stigma. Not all men are like those cold, uncaring OBs some of you have experienced: it would probably be surprising to find out how good some men would be at being midwives or doulas. I am concerned by the female image evoked by the terms "midwife" and "doula", because it serves to intimidate men from trying to enter those fields, even though those men might be better at being a midwife than many of the female midwives out there. I think we owe it to all men to allow senstitive, compassionate men to operate in the fields that they excel in. Besides that, in the United States, at least, the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on gender in employment, and has been tremendousy helpful in efforts to integrate workplace racially and with respect to gender.
I think the fundamental divide between OBs and midwives has to do with the training and background of people in the two separate fields: OBs are problem solvers, and logical, rational thinkers. Meyers-Briggs NTs. I am one of those logical, rational, people, too, and let me tell you that their inherent strength is not compassion, it's efficiency and problem-solving. They can learn to develop a compassionate bed-side manner, but for most OBs, this is not their natural talent (obviously, this is an over-generalization which does not characterize all OBs). This has more to do with the training and selection of OBs, than it does with gender differences themselves. This is why many people on this board have noticed that female OBs act like male OBs: they're all problem solvers. And it's not necessarily because these female OBs have been trained by the "male" medical establishment -- it probably is because they're just naturally problem solvers that they gravitated to OB in the first place.
Midwives, on the other hand, value an entirely different set of skills. Midwives tend to be more caring and compassionate because those are traits that are considered desirable in a midwife. Of course, CNMs and other trained midwives also know a lot about science, too, which is why I think midwifery is a great thing. It's a nice overlap of skills.
It's not that I'm all for allowing strangers to poke around around in your vagina for no reason. Clearly, you should be able to choose who your caregivers are for whatever reason. But I just think this is a very complicated issue.
I just cannot imagine applying the Civil Rights Act to something as personal as who you allow to touch your body. I don't owe that to *anyone*.
That said, I would still probably choose a female midwife. I choose female dentists, female doctors, female painters, female plumbers! But, I think there are a few select, very special men who can cut it as midwives.
|So I guess my thinking now is that in the mainstream hospital birthing world, there can be plenty of forward-thinking, gentle men and women, and just as many that are hideous. In the natural birth setting, however, where women are in touch with their own bodies and birth isn't a medicated procedure to be performed on a mother, I think it is more natural to have female attendants. I would think that men who believed in this model would naturally defer to women as the ones better suited to be midwives.|
Hypatia, you said you never discrimate for a job based on gender. We can discriminate based on experience though, can't we? A man will never experience childbirth, menstruation, or lactation. He does not have the potential to understand these issues as deeply as woman who has been through them. The inexperience of men has been a real factor behind the violent nature of contemporary female health care. An individual cannot fully value an issue they cannot fully experience. It is that simple.
The comparison of midwives to firefighters is bogus. Midwifery is about birth, an issue facing women exclusively. Firefighting is about putting out fires...hardly gender specific unless men start shooting fire from their BVD's.
When women denounce the existence of any special knowledge made privy to them by experiencing those things given exclusively to them, insisting that any man can easily equal or surpass their understanding, they hurt only themselves. There has been no trade off...giving men the dominant voice in female health for the last century has pushed women off the very platform from which they stood the best chance of being respected and heard.
Think about it. On what issue *do* men consider women to be the ultimate authority? Pretty scary, isn't it?
All I know, is to do what feels right to you, give your opinion to people if asked, and let them decide what's right for them.
My midwife for my first pregnancy had never been pregnant or had kids, and she was the most wonderful person I have ever met! Her not having given birth herself sure as heck didn't stop her from being great. We had the same midwife with dd2, and in the meantime she had had a child of her own, and it really didn't make a difference. She was just as wonderful and caring the second time around. To the point where I only want a third if she is still practising!
I have hired a male midwife for our home waterbirth--my 2nd baby is due in a couple of weeks. If you had told me at the beginning of this pregnancy that I would hire a male midwife, I would have said you are crazy, since I have a lot of similar emotions about the males I've encountered in obstetrics to most of the posting in this string. But this guy is the right person for the job. He basically sees his job as sitting quietly in the corner. I've learned from him that deep respect for the natural processes of birth can come in either gender. I should mention that I have hired a doula who has had two babies--it was still important to me to have a woman "who has been there" in the room with me and my husband.
My first baby, my beautiful son, is the product of an ugly hospital birth (I live and I learn...). The two most unsupportive, angry, tense, over-worked characters in that birth story were both women. I think American obstetrics/institutionalized birth saps the humanity out of all involved, male or female.
Midwives should be at births, not doctors. And the right midwife is probably going to be a woman. But maybe not. I don't like the idea of dismissing anyone's abilities based on her or his gender.
Thanks for reading, and yes, JenniferJeffrey, I did read "The Red Tent" and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a little disturbed by her portrayal of not one, but two radical episiotomies. I'd like to know if those scenes were born out of actual practices that the author has researched, or her own uninformed view of birth...
It's almost my turn "to put my feet on the bricks."
|Originally posted by KareninCT
As for understand the female experience and the sacredness of birth; I almost think you?d need to find a foreign midwife to do that. It really isn?t in our culture to have birth be a ritualistic celebration of life and the journey to motherhood. Not that there aren?t those here who believe in it; I just mean if you are looking for the Rediscovering Birth-experience that many of us crave, I?m not sure you can get it here.
I've attended quite a few births now (around a hundred and fifty or so) and I have not had a baby yet (this will be remedied in December, at home, with a midwife, my hubby and several friends).
I DO know it hurts, I DO know that labor can be really hard. I may not have been in labor, but I have stayed awake all night, physically supporting women, in some cases having women squeeze my hands or hang on my shoulders or just break down. I DO know that at some point, many women feel like it is more than they can handle.
I also know, both by faith and experience, that women CAN birth naturally, that they can have the experience that they want and that despite the challenges of labor they will survive.
When I look into a woman's eyes when she is in the grip of a contraction and whether I talk her through it or just keep contact with her, I know that she will make it, even when she doesn't. I do say "I know it hurts" and I also have been known to say "that's the right way to do it", the privilege of sharing all those births has shown me, has taught me that those are true statements, even if I haven't had them happen to me.