I teach childbirth classes and when I first started, about 8 years ago, there was always a hilarious conversation regarding birth plans and “shaving.” The curriculum I taught at the time contained some things that were a tiny bit outdated.
We always had a fun conversation about enemas and shaving the “birthing area.”
Oh yes, while it hasn’t been common for years, there was a time not too far off when women were routinely shaved, “down there,” in preparation for birth. They would also be cleaned with some disinfectant because, as we all know, women and their special parts are kind of dirty.
Warning: the following post may get awkward.
Now I hear that so many women are getting a full Brazilian wax in preparation for birth.
Do they have doulas for that? I’ve heard people ask…
Does anybody else think it is strange that antiquated, forced, and degrading obstetric practices that have since been abandoned are now being accepted, and even embraced, by women — and that they are being called empowerment because they are choosing them?
I’m an old lady, obviously. But I’m baffled.
For the record, you don’t need to have it all gone “down there” lest you offend someone at your birth. Yes, you will still look beautiful for your birth pictures. No, your care provider won’t be shocked if you are au naturale. As my friend says,“Viva la Bush!”
Doesn’t it seem like we have done this with other aspects of birth?
We recoil in horror at the few images that exist of twilight birth — women forcibly tied down so that they don’t hurt anyone during the birth process.
What were those fools thinking? We are shocked women could be treated in such a way. We would never allow that in our modern, liberated day.
Or would we?
Is it possible that many current obstetric practices accomplish the exact same thing — and we are often choosing them?
A woman with an epidural will also very likely have an IV, a catheter, and continuous fetal monitoring — just to get started. She could have internal fetal monitoring, an internal uterine pressure reader, and more. This all adds up to five or more things effectively tying her down to the bed. Not to mention that the epidural itself prevents walking.
The biggest difference between today and the years of twilight sleep is that, today, women are choosing this to some degree, and they are even MORE compliant.
Those twilight ladies were thrashing and fighting.
Now, we sit and be good patients as we are tied down to a bed with wires. We don’t make a fuss. We make even less noise than the twilight birthers.
And we call it empowerment. Because we chose it.
I’m not convinced.
I’m not convinced that we need a Brazilian to look good for our birth pictures or to be clean. I’m not convinced that we are more empowered in birth today than we were 70 years ago. I think we have bought into the same lies — they are just packaged a little differently today.
Women used to be shaved by their physicians. Now they pay someone to do it prior to the birth.
We still believe our bodies don’t work.
We still believe our bodies are dirty.
We still fear “losing it” and appearing to be out of control in front of others.
We still want to be saved from the pain of childbirth.
We still fear birth and all that goes along with it.
The truth is that women WANTED twilight birth. It was part of the early feminist movement and was embraced by feminist leaders.
Women were scared and they didn’t want to be in pain. They wanted technology to save them from this painful, sometimes dangerous, misunderstood aspect of womanhood — childbirth.
Women lined up and signed up for twilight birth, just like they line up and rave about current, modern obstetric practices.
We call it empowering when we are handing our power — and our very ability to walk and move — over to experts who, very often, don’t even have the right parts for the job.
I know, I know. This is probably the most offensive post I have ever written. How dare I question the empowerment of a woman’s birth choices?
I guess empowerment lies in the eyes of the empowered.
It it feels empowering to you, no matter what or where it was, then it is empowering. But I can’t help but wonder if we are buying and paying for a lie that really doesn’t benefit us, but instead benefits those who would rather we be quiet and do as we are told.
Choosing bondage to a bed doesn’t empowerment make.
And yes, I shave my legs and armpits. Full disclosure.
Yes, birth can hurt. It can hurt a lot. It is not uncommon for women to say, “That is the hardest thing I have ever done!”
It is also not uncommon for them to say, “I am so strong! I never knew I could do that.”
We meet ourselves in the trenches of childbirth.
The blood, the sweat, the pain — they purify. We meet our strength and we meet our weakness, all in one howling, messy experience.
It isn’t easy. But oh my, it is empowering. All birth is empowering and all birth is humbling, no matter what. This is just the nature of the event.
I just wish we would stop fearing it so much and stop making birth choices based mostly on fear or on being a “good girl.”
To me, I think the difference between empowerment and compliance is partially in the motivation behind the choice — and how much of a choice it really was.
Did you really want that epidural or that wax? Or did you feel you needed one because of outside pressures? Was it fear that motivated you? Was it something you were pushed into? Was it subtly hinted that you didn’t work so many times that you started to believe it?
It’s hard to pry apart the “why” when our culture and our birthing practices are so entrenched in a very real, and very deep, distrust of the female — so much so that even women themselves have a hard time seeing their own beauty and power.
What is motivating your birth choices? What did you find empowering about your birth?
I hope we can all honestly say, at the end of the day, that our birth experience was one we cherished — one that helped us see our own strength — an event that left us in awe of our power and our vulnerability.
I hope you loved your birth experience and I hope you felt empowered by it.