Monday, November 16, 2009

Surrender to our birth experience? Rely on medical intervention? Or both?

I simply don’t understand the article I read in The Telegraph on Saturday. In it, Laura Donnelly writes that 'maternity guru Sheila Kitzinger says 'fairytale' expectations of childbirth end with dashed hopes for women, and warns that new mothers are often consumed by guilt when they do not experience said fairytale.

Ok, nothing new there…

But who is Mrs Kitzinger blaming for raising women’s expectations of birth in this way? Could it be herself, who has in the past described childbirth as a ‘potentially orgasmic experience’. Or natural birth advocates, who often employ language that encourages women to trust in their innate ‘empowerment’ and a body that’s ‘designed to know exactly what to do’ during the birth process?

No. It’s our ‘consumerist agenda’, our tendency to ‘test everything’ and ‘see birth as a performance’. In addition to the over-medicalization in hospitals, she says that ‘many modern women, accustomed to taking control of their careers, made a mistake in applying the same thinking to childbirth.’ Rather, they should ‘surrender to the experience’.

Yet in every other aspect of a woman’s reproductive life, control is precisely what it’s all about. Is it really feasible that on the day of our baby’s birth, we should all want to simply surrender to Mother Nature? Maybe for some women this is a desirable approach, but I doubt it’s the case for the majority. After all, Mother Nature has a nasty habit of engineering the most undesirable and traumatic experience just as easily as the orgasmic one Mrs Kitzinger suggests.

I never expected nor did I desire an orgasm during the birth of my baby, but in terms of fairytale expectations, is it really fair to blame everyone and everything else (for women’s negative feelings when their birth doesn’t go according to plan), and shoulder no responsibility yourself Mrs Kitzinger? I’m not so sure…

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