“How are you going to get that big thing out of that little hole?!” “You’d better go to the doctor’s to make sure nothing goes wrong when it happens.” “Make sure to lie down; that’s the proper position.” “Oh, you wait and see! You’ll be screaming in pain, all right!” “We’ll tell you when to push. We know when the right time is.”
Suppose we talked about pooping this way? We’d get laughed out of town! The anus expands, for God’s sake! The digestive system is natural; we don’t need a doctor to “help” it along. Lying down works against gravity. Telling people to expect pain makes them tense up and causes pain. And how does the doctor know when to push? It’s not happening to his body.
Everybody knows pooping comes naturally and we don’t need medical intervention to do it. So why do we talk about birth in this special, scary way? Is it because we’re bringing a new life into the world? No, because then we’d be talking about sex this way, forcing people to have sex under a doctor’s watch, poking and prodding. It’s because it’s a female only experience. If both men and women gave birth, or if only men gave birth, it would not be regulated and treated like a disease. Since only women give birth, it has to be coded as an alien experience and a potential disaster, since, as we all know, women’s bodies are completely fucked up weaker versions of men’s bodies, and if men cannot do something, it needs to be vilified and the person who’s able to do it should be seen as “needing help”. It’s like when Johnny’s jealous because his neighbor got a shiny toy car, so he says, “Well it’s a stupid car anyway!! It’ll break!”
We don’t send men to the doctors’ every other hour to make sure their bodies don’t spontaneously combust, nor do we force doctors to watch men when they have sex “just in case” they get priapism or some other sexual problem. So why do women need doctors to help them fulfill their functions? Answer: we don’t.
Laura Shanley, the owner of the website Unassisted Childbirth (www.unassistedchildbirth.com), and the mother of four home delivered pain free children, believes childbirth is inherently safe and relatively or completely pain-free, and that the reasons we experience pain are because of poverty, illness, and fear or shame about our bodies. If you don’t think something psychological like fear can influence something physical like birth, think again, and use stage fright as an example. If fears of being onstage can cause shaking, sweating, vomiting, fainting, and dry mouth, then your fear of birth can cause you to tense up and feel pain as well, because, as Shanley puts it, your uterus literally turns white when you’re afraid, since the blood drains out of it, like it drains out of your face. Here you are, on a hospital bed, possibly in stirrups like an animal, with people surrounding you, watching you, and you’re expected to perform a private function like expelling something from your vagina? Get real! (Don’t forget your old aunt told you horror stories)!
It is a very common and very wrong misconception that childbirth was universally painful until doctors came to the rescue. (Excuse me. White, western, male doctors). Native American tribes gave birth with little or no pain and you could observe a tribe for a hundred years and see one, maybe zero complications. Births were painful for women in “the old days” because of poverty, being underfed and overworked, and, in the case of wealthy women, they were corseted, kept away from the sun, and told to be ashamed of their bodies. Normal women with healthy bodies have rarely died in childbirth throughout history, and when birth was largely moved to the hospital in the 1920s, mortality rates actually rose. A large study conducted in 1933 proves that homebirth is safer than hospital birth. (Mayer Eisenstein, MD, The Home Court Advantage, 1988.)
When birthing women enter the hospital, they are swarmed by machinery and people- often men- in white coats, told what to eat (usually nothing), told when to push, and made to lie down, narrowing her pelvic opening and making it hard to utilize gravity. She’s kept “on schedule”, often for the convenience of the doctor, and treated like a machine instead of an intelligent adult. The schedule is often arbitrary and if she’s not on it, she’s given dangerous drugs to speed up, making contractions very painful, causing her to need more drugs, and dulling her mind and body so she cannot bond with the baby after birth. The “complications” doctors cause during birth have led to 1 in 4 babies being born through Caesarean section. Babies are taken from the mothers after birth to be weighed, as if they are specimens or Nazi Superbabies. They give the babies eye drops “in case” the mother has a venereal disease, which is an extremely rude thing to assume.
Fortunately, women all over the world are rediscovering the fact that birth works best when it is not interfered with and when the mother is free to listen to her own body, the way eating and walking and every other activity work. But there is much poverty and shame to overcome.
You can see why doctors want to regulate birth- it’s a 50 billion dollar a year industry and it’s the number one reason people go to the hospital. Cesarean sections are being sold to women for “complications” such as breech births (easily dealt with) and not giving birth “fast enough” (every birth is different). Pitocin is given to women to help speed up labor, and it can have the following consequences: slowing labor down, requiring more drugs to speed it up; dangerous drop in the mother’s blood pressure; baby has to be pulled with forceps because the mother’s body is too lazy to expel it; breathing difficulties for the baby; dulls the mother’s and baby’s minds, making it hard to bond after birth; vomiting and inhaling fluids, resulting in the mother choking to death; paralysis of the mother, retardation or death of the baby.
The idea that women need help to give birth comes from male jealousy of ability to give birth and from the idea that women’s bodies are not as competent as men to deliver babies. Part of this hatred is pushed by religions, such as Catholicism, which taught that women’s bodies are sinful and dirty. Women were told by religions to be ashamed of their bodies and therefore tense up during birth, and are not given the correct knowledge of how to care for their bodies before they are pregnant. Since our society thinks women’s bodies are inappropriate and since medicine is usually geared towards men’s bodies, women are less prepared for childbirth and menopause.
Of course, if you happen to need a doctor to give birth, or believe, for some reason or another, you will be in pain, by all means utilize one (be sure they’re a natural doctor, though, and not a drug pusher in a suit), and if you do happen to have a true complication, then get help, just the way you would if you had a complication with walking or eating. But don’t go through your pregnancy with fear and shame and don’t let yourself believe you need “help” to give birth if you’re happy and healthy. Nature didn’t intend it that way.
If you had pain during birth, it was because of patriarchal medicine, clothes, and foods, or because you were sick or overly afraid of the experience. Don’t blame yourself or think you are less of a woman, and do not think birth is supposed to be painful just because you were unlucky. If something “went wrong” or your child even dies when born at home, remember that the same number (probably even higher) babies have complications at the hospital as do when they’re born at home, and babies who die at home would have died had they been born at the hospital as well. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without help and if the death and destruction rates were anywhere near as high as the pro-medicalized birth crowd says, the human race would have died out.
Someday we will bring birth back to where it is supposed to be- in our hands!