Misogyny and birth - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-08-2006, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm doing some writing about the misogyny that underlies the culture of birth in the US. I'm interested to hear other people's thoughts (but only if you don't mind my shamelessly ripping them off! ). I'm considering a number of things: the indoctrination of fear that causes women to mistrust their own bodies; the control that the "system" has over women's bodies before, during and after birth (and the simultaneous pooh-poohing of any real interrogation of that system); the devaluation of the pain of birth as a rite of passage; media images of birth, particularly on television shows; the condescension, manipulation, and outright lies many women face during a hospital birth; and so on.

I'd be particularly interested to hear birth stories where mamas faced some of these issues--especially cases where women felt demeaned, manipulated, or belittled by a doctor or hospital staff member.
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Old 11-08-2006, 05:02 PM
 
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* Deleted (cause it doesn't compare to the other stories).

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:27 PM
 
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Condescension (sp?) is the main issue I dealt with. My OB gave me the most rudimentary explainations and answers to my questions, often repeating information to me that I had just expressed my knowledge and understanding of in our conversation. It was like he wasn't even listening to me thoughts or concerns, just honing in on one word that I had used in order to present to me a stock answer that he had ready. When I started bringing up my desires for the birth, he was always smiling and nodding and supportive, but followed all that with "unless something goes terribly wrong" or "as long as that is still safe" Over all, he always spoke to me in a sing-songy voice like I was a preschooler.

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:32 PM
 
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I don't have much to add, just wanted to say that it is a brilliant idea and I'd love to read it when you are done, if you feel comfortable and are able to post it. I actually think mysogyny in regards to womens health goes above and beyond birth issues though I know you are focusing on that right now. So great to see anyone delving into this at all!!!

Laohaire... I am so sorry for your experience!
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Old 11-08-2006, 05:41 PM
 
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Oh boy. I have to say, as a feminist, I thought I knew what misogyny looked like.

Then I got pregnant.

Lord knows how I will feel about it post-birth. I feel very lucky to be able to get midwifery care.

A lot of it comes down to the idea of women's bodies being fundamentally flawed, with pregnancy, birth and nursing being the epitome of the differences that make our bodies inferior to the male models. When I hear men tell me that their wives had to have C-sections because they didn't have the "right kind of pelvis" for natural birth, and that their doctor told them that most women don't have the "right kind." The quickness with with they do C-sections and episiotomy. The "be a good little patient" mentality that keeps women silent and compliant in the hospital. When people look at machines instead of the women they are supposed to be caring for.

I'm thinking about even little things. My MWs giving me copies of my chart, and letting me read the notes they make. I've never had a doctor do that.
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Old 11-08-2006, 05:52 PM
 
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I'm not in the US, and don't have much to add...but have you thought of also approaching the very fact that a pregnant women is considered a medical patient? Why does the fact that our bodies are performing such a basic function qualify us as "ill"? I haven't noticed anybody recommending that I go see my doctor when I have to pee...

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm thinking about even little things. My MWs giving me copies of my chart, and letting me read the notes they make. I've never had a doctor do that.
Yes, isn't that amazing? (I chuckled when I read the notes from my birth..."A. arrived at 11:30 pm and was having difficulty coping." Darn straight, I was! I went through transition in the car! ) And being able to weigh yourself and write it down? the first time I did that, I felt like this huge burden had been lifted.

It's pretty sad, when you think about it.
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Old 11-08-2006, 05:55 PM
 
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Informed consent often goes out the window. I can't tell you how many women I know whose doctors have swept their membranes without telling them until after, let alone asking for informed consent.

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:57 PM
 
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Yes, isn't that amazing? (I chuckled when I read the notes from my birth..."A. arrived at 11:30 pm and was having difficulty coping." Darn straight, I was! I went through transition in the car! ) And being able to weigh yourself and write it down? the first time I did that, I felt like this huge burden had been lifted.

It's pretty sad, when you think about it.
Yeah my mws give their clients their charts. I didn't have to weigh myself. I tested my own urine and did my own gbs swab.

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Old 11-08-2006, 06:05 PM
 
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Routine Episiotomy
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:44 PM
 
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I had midwives and they were no more respectful than an OB would have been. From stripping my membranes without getting consent or even telling me they were going to do it, to doing vaginal exams against my will and trying to manually dilate my cervix against my will, to giving me an episiotomy against my will, to giving me drugs without my consent, to not following my wishes, to coercing me into doing things I didn't want done, to not advocating for me to the nurses and letting them take my baby away from me right after the birth before I could even touch or hold him, to not caring about breastfeeding at all or bonding, to being on the side of any other hospital staff member that wanted to yell/scold/complain about me/take my baby away from me, at any given time during the birth and immediate post partum time period. My written wishes were totally ignored and no one in the room even seemed aware of them. My opinion was never asked, I was just told to do things and then they would get mad if I didn't comply. Most confusing to me was that my dh was respected, and HE was asked for opinions, told what was happening, and would gently have things explained to him, and they would even stop to allow time to show him and tell him what was going on, meanwhile acting as if I was not even a person, and refusing to even hear anything I had to say. They even told dh, 30 minutes after ds was born, that HE could hold him now. Umm, hello, what about ME!!! I just pushed him out, when do I get to hold him? It was like I wasn't even there, even though the whole event centered around me. It was the oddest, most confusing, most bewildering, most traumatic thing I've ever experienced in my life.
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:55 PM
 
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I think it's a great idea. I've been collecting stories about women being lied to, treated like children, and walked all over even when they did try to stand up for themselves. It's a seven page document so far and growing all the time. It's disgusting that it's so easy to find stories like these. And like my collection of anti-NIP articles, a disgusting thing to have to document but the work is too valuable not to do. It has to be taken out and shown for the sick sick thing it is.

Thanks for doing this difficult work, please share it with us when you are finished. Women need to be told the truth, and any way I can help, let me know. I'd be happy to share your work with my mother's group, my preschool co-op and link to my site too.
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Old 11-08-2006, 07:19 PM
 
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I had a standard first appointment with a doctor I had never met before in which he did a vaginal exam. That in itself is weird enough, isn't it? I have no relationship with this person, not even professionally, and it's considered normal for him to be sticking his hand up me? When I have no medical issues? I don't know that I would label that "misogyny", maybe just inhuman. It seems to me that people in general are treated as less than thinking, human beings when in a hospital environment. And I sensed no hostility from the doctor, latent or otherwise. I do wonder, now, what possesses someone like him to enter obstetrics. Clearly he had no interest in me as a human being, nor did it occur to him to have respect for my body or feelings. To him, it was just a clinical job. But why specialize in dealing with women's bodies, then? Why not, I don't know, be a podiatrist or something? I've heard that men tend to go into obstretics because it's considered easier than other specialties. Which reminds me of this: http://upalumni.org/medschool/ob-gyn.html which might be right up your alley for this project. There isn't much mentioned about birth, but about misogyny in women's health care in general.

Unfortunately the midwife I decided to go to instead turned out to be awful, contrary to the sweet gentle facade she presented during our prenatal visits. I hesitate to call that misogyny also, because I think it was a combination of how she was trained and her inability to deal with my style of laboring. I certainly felt demeaned, manipulated, and belittled, though. I wrote a letter to her, not to send, but just to get it out so I could start to move on. PM me if you'd like to read it.

My other experience that is worth noting doesn't have to do with birth but women's care. I had gone to see a nurse practitioner to... I guess to have a pap, and that evolved into the whole exam including a breast exam. She was very abrupt and sort of snorted when she found I'd had my babies at home. She mauled my breasts (so that I ended up with an infection) then asked what birth control we were using which I was kind of taken aback by, because really, if I wanted to talk to her about it wouldn't I bring it up? It felt kind of intrusive and condescending, like she needed to cover all the bases for my sake, it's her job to make sure I'm thinking about these things, you know. I should have just said that I had no concerns or needs regarding that but she was really into the "I am the expert you are the patient" mentality and I was too cowed to assert myself. So I simply answered, said we were using condoms. She said, in this very condescending tone, "well you can't do that forever. You're going to be fertile for a long time and you need to think about more reliable methods of contraception." !!! Here I am, an adult woman, and she's lecturing me! I wouldn't set foot in her office again if she were the last pap smearer left on earth. But I should have written a letter. Not that it would have done any good, probably, but I still should have.
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Old 11-08-2006, 09:07 PM
 
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I am not sure that it is necessarily a case of misogyny.... more a case of the medical establishment against the "patient". I have had some loving and wonderful care from men, and some horrible, demeaning, make you cry care from women. Just a thought.
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Old 11-08-2006, 09:09 PM
 
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women can be misogynists.

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Old 11-08-2006, 09:52 PM
 
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something that was said to a Native America woman who had some braxton hicks contractions and was sent to the hospital by a clinic she was seeing because she was dilated to 3 well she didn't have labor but spent the night in the hospital-- and both the extended families were in the room- the doc did not want her to go home he wanted her to stay and do an induction, so he said a vagina is a "dirty place" and I think that is an underlying thought all the time-- he just voiced it out loud. it is sort of the unknown -unknowable amount of dirtyness that is present, you could have been tested and cross tested but still not ok.
of course this is how this woman became our client- the family left the hospital , telling the doctor they just had a very different belief about a woman's body thank you very much but no thanks..
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Old 11-08-2006, 10:34 PM
 
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women can be misogynists.
Everyone who treated me in the hospital was a woman, and they were all misogynists.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:01 PM
 
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I was going to say that one of the scariest aspects of the misogyny in birth is that women can be the worst offenders.

It all comes down to trust. At this point women are expected to trust their care providers and the care providers aren't expected to trust the women.
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Old 11-09-2006, 12:30 AM
 
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One of the most amazing things is how reluctant we are to call it for what it is. And it IS misogyny. It is a disdain for women's bodies, for the very thing that makes us women. It's not about individuals even. It's systematic, which makes it so much harder to recognize and fight. Women often walk away feeling uneasy about their birth experience, but they assume it must be because of a problem with THEM, or if they look beyond that, it's THEIR doctor or THEIR hospital.

Control of reproduction is the very core of misogyny, IMO. The struggle is all about who gets to f*ck whom and who owns the babies when they're done. What you frequently see in the labor and delivery room is a naked power grab by men, often with women's assistance, over reproduction.

Look at how quickly they snatch our babies away from us in the name of "hospital procedure"?
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Old 11-09-2006, 12:46 AM
 
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I was going to say that one of the scariest aspects of the misogyny in birth is that women can be the worst offenders.

It all comes down to trust. At this point women are expected to trust their care providers and the care providers aren't expected to trust the women.
and midwives (even homebirth midwives **gasp**) can be just as bad as OBs. maybe even worse, bc women go to them expecting something better.

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Old 11-09-2006, 01:00 AM
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Interesting to note: I posted a link to this article on three different baby boards, and got three very different responses:

http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/middleclass.asp

One board was considered "crunchy" (very female-centered and free thinking)
One board was more conservative (very argumentative and the women took great offense to this article)
One board was middle of the road (more lighthearted support than a real exchange of information).

The members of the argumentative board were so consumed with the idea that they were being attacked for their actions/views during pregnancy that they couldn't see the big picture - or that they were the ones perpetuating an intervention-obsessed culture.
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Old 11-09-2006, 01:25 AM
 
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Ooo, I just read that article. I enjoyed it!

However, it really reads like it's talking about stereotypical 1950's housewives--you know the sort that appeared on TV, but weren't real? It's a negative connotation. If I identified with that group I wouldn't see "me" I'd see something that was clearly meant to represent "me" but was distorted and wrong. As I was reading it, I was getting defensive about the descriptions on behalf of women I know.

Quote:
They typically follow the advice of husbands, doctors, popular magazines and other authorities rather than their own wisdom, in order to behave appropriately to their standing rather than make waves by inadvertently acting differently.
For instance this would raise the hackles of any woman identifying as a "feminist" or "self-confident"/"powerful"/"in charge" etc--even if it's a completely accurate description of her.

In media directed at women (as opposed to in spite of women) there is a message that it is wrong to be dependent, women are supposed to be strong and stand up for themselves. So any message that this is not happening in birth has to acknowledge that women try to meet this ideal in other areas. To get the message through about birth, it can't be "you are weak and bullied in birth as in all other things" it has to be "you need to empower yourself about birth as you are empowering yourself in other areas of your life."

And I really don't think the article was written to be read by the women it's talking about.
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Old 11-09-2006, 01:31 AM
 
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Dear Goddess, I'm surprised they didn't burn you in effigy (or actuality for that matter). Attack the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm? Ye Gods!

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Old 11-09-2006, 01:39 AM
 
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Dear Goddess, I'm surprised they didn't burn you in effigy (or actuality for that matter). Attack the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm? Ye Gods!
That's just it. The article isn't just attacking the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm" it's simultaneously telling these women they are unwitting victims of the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm" and accusing them of deliberately perpetuating the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm".

The message, when presented to the demographic described in the article, is basically "you're a victim and it's your fault because you're bad." When presented to the intended audience the message is "there is a problem because these women have these ingrained beliefs, how can we help them?"

The first message is unproductive and judgemental in the extreme. The second message might actually help women some day.
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Old 11-09-2006, 02:17 AM
 
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Old 11-09-2006, 12:52 PM
 
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Cigilteach,

I'm so sorry... I wanted to cry to hear your story.

I'm probably breaking UA but... Hell must be full of OBs.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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Old 11-09-2006, 01:02 PM
 
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During my extremely medicalized first birth, the doctors and nurses did not even speak to me or look me in the eye. They asked my mom if it was okay to give me water. They told my mom I needed Pitocin. They never asked me if I needed anything or was comfortable at all. It was horrible. They cut an episiotomy and pulled my son out via vacuum extraction after telling my mom that my son was having decels. Not me.
I felt like a vessel giving birth instead of a woman and mother. Which led to post partum depression and difficulty bonding with my son.
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Old 11-09-2006, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Cigilteach...I'm just...shocked. That is one of the most horrible stories I've heard, and every single person involved should get their license to practice medicine revoked.

I notice that you're pregnant, and I hope you can find some healing in your next birth.
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Old 11-09-2006, 01:45 PM
 
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this thread is so sad. :

i don't know if what happened to me was entirely misogyny or what... i had a female OB and i thought that she was great before my ds's birth. she would always take the time to listen to me during our appts and was really great. she never criticized me for asking questions or anything. but when we got to the hospital that evening, she came in to check on me and told me how great i was doing. i expressed my wishes to her that i didn't want the cord cut until after it had finished working and she said that was fine. there was one nurse there that checked my dialtion twice, once when i was admitted to the hospital and once that evening, and she was really rough and the exams were painful. she didn't seem to care and didn't pay too much attention to me.

the next morning my OB came in and checked my dilation (i was 7 cm) and decided to pop my water. i didn't really want it done, but i was scared (i was 18 and i was in labor 6 weeks before my EDD, i was worried that my ds would have to go to the NICU and i just wanted to get through the labor and see him and make sure he was oK.) as soon as she popped my water, my contractions went from feeling like mild menstrual cramps to feeling like my body was being torn apart. i got up on the bed on my knees, because the contractions were less painful that way and i was able to cope better. the attending nurse tried to convince me to sit down and recline (be a good patient!) and i tried for half a contraction, but i just couldn't do it. so i labored for an hour on my knees until transition. i had a couple of minutes of rest after i completed dilation and i sat there reclining with my eyes closed waiting for the next one to come. as soon as it did i got back on my knees and the nurse again tried to get me to sit back down as my OB came in to catch my baby. my OB told her that i was fine, which was good, because at that point i really don't think i would've listened anyways. i pushed the baby out in 15 min. the nurse was shocked because she had never seen a baby born that quickly. i silently thought to myself "no wonder, if she is always making sure the mommas are 'good patients' instead of letting them be upright."

after about 2 or 3 minutes, the OB said "oK, the cord is finished working now" and had my dh cut the cord, even though it was obviously still working. i sat there in shock as it happened in seemingly slow motion right in front of me. then they whisked my ds away and gave him oxygen because he was a little blue. the OB proceeded to yank on the cord until i delivered the placenta. at least i got to have a good look at the placenta as she examined it there at the bed, i thought that was nice. my ds was still in the incubator. after the OB left, the nurse had me lay down on the bed and aggresively massaged my uterus. then she layed a bed pan underneath me and told me to pee. i tried and told her i couldn't. so she escorted me to the bathroom and gave me a bottle of water and had me sit on the toilet. she acted like i was kinda silly for taking so long and for hissing as i went pee because i had some small tears and the urine stung even with using the water. i thought it was weird to have an audience.

then she had me go sit back down in the bed and gave me the hospital menu and told me to order something. i told her i wanted to try and nurse my son and she said that i needed to eat something first. i wasn't interested in eating! but i listened. so i didn't get to hold my baby again or nurse him until an hour later. by that time, my ds was really hungry and wanting to nurse and he was hard to console. i think this is the biggest reason why my ds has a bad latch. the lactation consultant noticed he had a tight frenulum which he had surgery for when he was 3 mo but she said his latch looked fine other than that. he still has a bad latch though. : also, the nurse told me sometime, i can't remember when, that my ds was only 3 weeks early not 6, but that my OB said she didn't want to readjust the EDD. i think i suffered from more misogyny in the following weeks than i did at my birth.

*sigh* thanks for letting me share.

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Old 11-09-2006, 02:48 PM
 
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Are they victims or willing co-conspirators in their own oppression for the alleged benefit of being at the top of the socio-economic pedestal?


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That's just it. The article isn't just attacking the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm" it's simultaneously telling these women they are unwitting victims of the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm" and accusing them of deliberately perpetuating the "white supremacist, capitalist patriarchal social paradigm".

The message, when presented to the demographic described in the article, is basically "you're a victim and it's your fault because you're bad." When presented to the intended audience the message is "there is a problem because these women have these ingrained beliefs, how can we help them?"

The first message is unproductive and judgemental in the extreme. The second message might actually help women some day.

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