The beautiful Nerissa giving water birth to her daughter with her doula.
I rarely see POC in birth pictures on Tumblr. Are there blogs out there dedicated to POC and queer birth photos and experiences?
ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2012) — A new Cochrane Review concludes that all countries should consider establishing proper home birth services. They should also provide low-risk pregnant women with information enabling them to make an informed choice. The review has been prepared by senior researcher, statistician Ole Olsen, the Research Unit for General Practice, University of Copenhagen, and midwifery lecturer PhD Jette Aaroe Clausen.
Hopefully the US will start taking note. Pregnant people should have every option available to them so they can have the best birth experience possible.
From my other blog…
My friend is pretty far into her first pregnancy at this point and wrote me this message:
Also this: on reproductive rights. I want to give birth in a freestanding birth center. I am moving to the only state that has outlawed them (and one of over a dozen states that has made it illegal for cpm’s [Certified Professional Midwives] to attend homebirths … And so, made homebirth less safe). I have always been pro-choice regarding prevention and termination of pregnancy, but never have I felt personally victimized (having never had an unwanted pregnancy … Or the need to terminate a unwanted one) … Until now. Choice should include birth. Contemplating childbirth is a scary thing and I can’t even begin to explain how the fear is compounded by my anger that I can’t give birth where (and, consequently, how (want a waterbirth, no IV, and very minimal monitoring and cervical checks, etc. etc.) I feel the most safe!
There’s more at the link.
By making CPMs illegal, you prevent access not only by people who could afford them out-of-pocket or through insurance, but by people who could otherwise access their services through state programs - people who can’t afford time off work, expensive birthing tubs and other equipment, and a large, handpicked birthing team of diverse specialties, people whose homes may not be safe to give birth in but whose insurance (if it exists) won’t cover [enough of] their birth in a birth center or other setting, and people who didn’t even know alternatives existed. These people, if they aren’t fortunate enough to have personal relationships with experts, will likely get the lowest quality of care, the least education on, and the least control over their pregnancy and birth experience. That’s no choice.
Just thought this was an interesting sight on the #home birth tag. The two articles:
Fresh From The CDC: Home Births on the Rise! (Parenting.com)
Increase in home birth leaves women of color behind (Radical Doula)
I’d highly recommend Miriam Zolla Pérez’s other articles about home birthing and communities of color. She’s linked them in her posts, but I’m going to link them here as well.
THIS! Birth is a reproductive right, just like birth control, abortion, sex education, etc. Every parent should be able to have the birth that suits them and their coming baby’s needs, regardless of what *YOUR* idea of the right birth is!(via jasietaraevangesen)
Prescript: @Vikkiage wrote an amazing post a bit back about the problems with a lot of body positive slogans, especially for trans people. Cabell added her own thoughts about how these slogans relate to her own medical issues, and that definitely spurred this post. I felt that adding what’s below as a reblog would be derailing, as I’m taking it in a different direction, but I also wanted to give full credit for the inspiration here.
The evolution of childbirth in the last few decades has generally been in a positive direction. Home birth, the presence of midwives and doulas, and a decrease in the medicalization of labor and delivery have become, if not mainstream issues, at least openly discussed topics. There’s still a lot of ground yet to be gained: the Cesarean rate in the United States is still far higher than it should be, for starters, and there is a real gap between science and practice in obstetrics. But we’ve come a long way from the twilight sleep era, and for that I’m very grateful.
But we’ve also come to the point where a lot of talk surrounding pregnancy and delivery can be very difficult and even actively unhelpful for many parents. The natural childbirth community, like the body positivity movement, centers a great deal of its talk around the idea that birth is a normal, natural process. So far, so good. But its slogans focus on the concept of bodies as fully functional, fully abled, and working according to its design.
- Your body knows what it’s doing
- You need to trust your body and the process of pregnancy and labor
- Your body was designed to do this.
- Women have done this for millions of years
For many, this is empowering, and I want to honor how important and valuable many people have found these words. As a counter to the medicalization, to the idea that doctors knew better than women in labor and that the body’s natural process was something to be managed and controlled, words like this were revolutionary.
But for many others, they’re deeply problematic. I suffer from an auto-immune disorder, most likely rheumatoid arthritis. So here’s what that means to me:
- My body does not, in fact, know what it’s doing a lot of the time.
- My body is trying to destroy parts of itself, so trust is a tricky question.
- My body does not do what it was designed to do in many ways.
As a Survivor, the birth of my daughter was incredibly healing, and mothering her has been even more so. But it was a complicated and difficult birth, and the medical problems I have had since then have only made my relationship with my body more difficult. As I approach my second birth, I often feel disconnected from the birthing community because the rhetoric surrounding alternative (as opposed to conventional) birthing excludes me. It is essential that we talk about birth, and birthing bodies, in ways that are inclusive and can nourish all.
Many women are simply not aware of the risks posed by both methods of giving birth. In cases where cesarean is done as an emergency, the proceedure can be lifesaving and therefore outweigh the risks posed. Where there is a choice, however, the risks must be taken into account and weighed up when considering this choice.
I would not criticise any woman for electing to have a cesarean, as this us personal choice, but I am passionate about women making INFORMED choices based on the evidence available for each option.
Along the same lines, I’ve seen hardcore homebirth advocates (I myself used to be one of these naive people) state that cesarean cannot ever be necessary, that birth is always 100% safe. Not true, sorry, ladies. There are plenty of times when a cesarean, or any other birth intervention, can be 100% necessary.
Elective cesareans are another matter, and I have my own opinions on those, but I would always support a client electing to have a cesarean, regardless. It’s her birth, if she’s made the informed decision, who am I to tell her she can’t do it her way?
It’s Christmas Eve, and I’ve finally settled down and found some time to somewhat compose my thoughts and reflect on what I’ve learned, academically, from studying abroad. This is important to me because I’m sure I’ll be asked about my academic experience abroad, and I don’t want to throw out a generic “good!” (which I undoubtedly will if I don’t take the time to think first.)
In particular I wanted to critique the doula and birth movement based on my observations in the Netherlands. Part of the reason I’ve waited so long is because I really had no outlet for these thoughts in Amsterdam. Sure there were times when I returned home from a birth workshop/seminar/training and made my poor host the subject of angry rants directed at bougie white women for their essentialist, heteronormative claims and “problems” that clearly only affected women with the money and time to conceive of them. (“White woman problems,” if you will.) Obviously I had the common sense to keep my mouth shut in front of the very women whose beliefs I questioned. And because my ISP paper is circulating in that same group, I only dedicated four pages (out of 45+) to critiques disguised as “theoretical framework” and “paradoxes of doula care.” Moreover, I wanted to wait until I left Amsterdam to process this experience as a whole so I don’t make any premature judgments based on one single event or person. But I’ve held out for too long, and here I go…
(I must say much of the following list stems from this article I read on post-structural feminist critiques of the “natural”/”alternative”/demedicalized birth movement in America. It provided me with a skeleton on which I built some of my own thoughts in Amsterdam, but it could mostly be applied to the birth movement at large.)
- Home is better. Ricky Lake’s movie “The Business of Being Born” did wonders to popularize home births as a birth alternative in America. So much so it makes it seem like having a home birth is the only way to prove that you are a die-hard feminist mama(-to-be). That is probably true if you are a white, upper-middle class woman. The article I mentioned above totally changed my perspective on what it calls the “veneration of the home.” Painting the home as a place of sanctuary and the antithesis to the image of an uninviting, heavily medicalized delivery room is simply not a reality for all women. For some women whose homes are disorderly and whose families are unsupportive, the clean sterile rooms and knowledgeable men in white coats might prove to be rather welcoming alternatives to their abysmal circumstances at home. Poor women, teenage mothers, and women who are in abusive relationships are not afforded the luxury to birth at home, if they even care to call their place of residence their “home.”
- The useless, confused, unhelpful, inexperienced husband. This is where the essentialist claims are elaborated. Women I spoke to far too frequently used the previous descriptors for husbands at birth. They make two claims: 1) their husbands are inherently inept at birth and 2) only experienced women can help fill that awkward gap between husband and the birthing woman. In regards to the first point, women believe that their husbands’ maleness render them useless at birth. They can’t act properly at birth and thus need to be “coached” and “helped” so they can make themselves useful for the duration of labor. Thankfully, an experienced woman (read: doula) comes to the rescue! She is obviously experienced having given birth herself and possesses the intuition to facilitate some positive interaction between the woman and her useless, confused, unhelpful, inexperienced husband. Unfortunately this caricature of the husband’s behavior at birth, whether or not it’s true, only serves to further confine women to their role as mothers and “life-bearers.”
- “Doctor’s for the baby, doula’s for the mother.” Again, another popular sentiment expressed by the women I talked to abroad. They all believe that the baby is in good hands with the doctor, or at least the midwife, but had an epiphany (thanks to the movie “Orgasmic Birth”) that they deserve to have a good experience out of this. Relating back to point number 1, many working class women can’t afford the time and money to be pampered during birth. At my ISP presentation, I was asked whether or not I think doulas are a luxury. While I believe the proven benefits of a doula should be for all birthing women, having a doula who provides good emotional support in addition to the continuous support for the mother is definitely a luxury in the current climate.
- Corollary: Are you strong enough to endure the pain? During my time in Amsterdam, I heard two quotes from opposing viewpoints that are equally misguided: “she was too late to the hospital to get an epidural!” and “Awwww, she gave up and got an epidural” Unfortunately the latter is not uncommon to the “natural” birthers. Women in the “natural” birth movement often use the epidural as a litmus test for a birthing woman’s commitment to the “natural.” It gave me the vibe that any woman who wanted to have a drug-free birth but eventually failed to do so was too quick to give into the system and not strong enough to endure the pain (it’s natural after all!). The blame is too easily placed on the birthing woman. Let’s go back to the our example of a working class woman. Perhaps she performs manual labor on a daily basis and is consistently overworked. Maybe she has put up with pain most of her life and birth is one of her only opportunities to be freed of it.
- Planning for a “natural” birth. I filed this one under “paradoxes.” At first glance, one can see how ironic this statement is, but drafting a birth plan is an integral part of a doula’s job description. I’m not asserting that the birth plan is not necessary; rather, I question the need to embellish the desire for a “natural” childbirth into a much more arduous mental process. To their credit, however, almost all maternity care systems have the tendency to medically interfere with the birthing process. Still, the idea of carefully planning for a “natural” birth is bizarre and possibly excessive.
- Holier than thou. All of my gripes with the birth movement I’ve come to love and hate stem from the “holier than thou” mentality these women possess on their “natural” birth mission, whether or not it’s a conscious decision to overtly express it. Although no one explicitly told me that “natural” is better (only that it is better for them), the pity and disgust they show suggests they feel differently. Ironically, I came out of this journey less judgmental of women’s birthing preferences despite being immersed in a fairly judgmental environment. At least some good can come out of being critical and negative. As a potential doula, I would never wish to cloud client’s own judgments of what is best for her. I can only hope women are clearly informed about their options at birth. Of course, having the time and money to access pertinent literature or talk to a birth professional is in itself a luxury.
I don’t mean for this post to be an attack on the doula and birth community in Amsterdam or globally. In fact, I am so thankful for them for welcoming me into their community. I agree with most of everything they are trying to do. I just think that their mission reaches a limited number of women and tends to overlook race and class issues.
This is an awesome list. I’m so jealous of - no, happy for! this poster. They got to live in Amsterdam and train as a doula. It’s two of my favorite things/aspirations combined in one!
I can’t believe I’ve never given thought to #1. In all the birth videos on Youtube (I know, I’m weird, shut up), home births are always portrayed as lovely, peaceful events, bathed in a soft glow, surrounded by a supportive birthing team and adorable wide-eyed, curly-haired children. Not everyone’s homes are ideal for giving birth, making good birthing centers all the more important - in and outside of hospital settings.
I’m not sure I understand #5, though. If you don’t mind elaborating, what is ironic about planning for a natural birth?
Brooklyn artist Marni Kotak and Ottawa chiropractor Nancy Salgueiro both gave birth in front of an audience - one in a Brooklyn art gallery, and one at home, livestreaming her labor and birth.
Salgueiro and Kotak—along with the tens of thousands who have posted their birth videos on YouTube—may be emblematic of the age of the overshare. After all, women now use Facebook to share sonogram pictures, breast-feeding tips, and even cervical dilation during labor. But they may also be ushering in a new era of women’s empowerment, helping to change the common perception that childbirth is a nightmare.
“I believe women like me who share their birth stories are driven to share a self-affirming experience of giving birth, one that society at large does not allow for,” said Kotak. “There’s fear around birth, fear of women’s bodies. It’s about a woman’s power over her own body, which for some reason has become taboo in our society.”
I just reblogged a list on someone’s personal pro-choice philosophy, which has already garnered a number of positive responses.
Nessfraserloves correctly pointed out that not all of the items on the list were choices - I assume the points addressing sexuality and gender identity. However, there are some things to consider about the other choices on the list.
We know choice doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Socioeconomic status, relationship status, religion, race, gender identity, sexuality, ability and past experiences all play a part in our reproductive futures, and to say that, for example, a home birth with a full birthing team is just as viable a choice for one person as it is another would be to ignore these factors.
Being pro-choice means supporting and fighting for access to affordable reproductive care for everybody. Too often the pro-choice movement has left behind those who are not white, well-off, able-bodied, and straight. We let injustices occur under our noses - the sterilization of people of color, the refusal to treat people who do not fit neatly into the gender binary, and those who are virtually forced to give up their babies for adoption because they cannot afford to care for them, much as they may want to.
Being pro-choice also means working to improve the conditions that play a role in our reproductive futures - affordable education, support for parents and children of all incomes, sexualities, gender identities, and abilities, safe places for abuse survivors, education on sex, sexuality and birth control, affordable housing, affordable health care, a better foster care system, and the destigmatization of reproductive experiences like abortion, adoption, infertility, surrogacy, and voluntary sterilization.
How do you support choice?
As a former employee of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association; as a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend; as a student of history, I have never questioned my dedication to the pro-choice movement. I am pro-choice to my core and have proudly pledged my time, effort and energy into making sure that access to abortion, birth control and preventive services are within easy reach for every American.
It is with sadness, then, that I question the movement’s dedication to me.
I am a woman “of childbearing age.” I know Planned Parenthood, NOW, Choice USA, et al, will defend my right to choose abortion if I were to get pregnant and needed that option. I know they would provide me with subsidized birth control and pap smears if I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford to pay full price, or they would at least direct me where to go. And I know they will fight hard to ensure that legislators cannot stomp out my right to choose, or my access to subsidized birth control and yearly exams. Yet, when it comes to where I choose to give birth, they are silent. It would appear, in their eyes, that ensuring “choices” essentially ends with the decision to have a baby—more specifically of where and with what kind of attendant to give birth.
How is that possible? The birth of her child is for many women one of, if not the, most transformative moment in her life. And the circumstances surrounding it can be just as empowering or disempowering as those surrounding a woman accessing her right to an abortion.
The right to choose how a woman gives birth is not confined to just whether she’ll have a cesarean or a vaginal delivery, or whether she’ll have an epidural or go natural. In many states, the right to choose the very place where a woman gives birth is a contentious subject. While maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States continue to rise [link], legislatures continue to refuse to grant licenses to Certified Professional Midwives, the most common type of midwife who attends home births. And even in states where home birth is legal, hospital policies can prevent a woman from being accompanied by her midwife should she need to be transferred during or after the birth. Women are ostensibly free to make the choice—-in most states it is only midwife-attended home birth that is illegal—-but the choice often comes down to going to a hospital and risking losing their autonomy or planning a home birth and losing their advocate (and the person with the medical knowledge) if something goes wrong.
The hesitation on the part of the major pro-choice groups is understandable. The right to make the choice where and how one gives birth, and especially to choose a home birth, is often seen as outside of the mainstream or more often, the choice of the uber-religious (the oldest Duggar child’s first baby was born at home), not exactly a natural ally of the pro-choice camp. And with access to abortion growing harder and harder to guarantee, it’s hard to find energy to devote to other aspects of reproductive choice. And it goes both ways, too. I saw a recent exchange on Facebook where a pro-lifer expressed their concern that if pro-choice groups began to take up the call for choices in childbirth, the cause would be lumped under “abortion rights,” a possibility that vexes many anti-abortion activists who nevertheless fully support having a choice when it comes to childbirth.
As a pro-choicer, I have to admit that I find the hesitation on the part of the anti-choicers rather short-sighted and naive. It is not our side, after all, that continues to propose and pass legislation [link] granting fetuses “personhood,” that doctors then cite to get court orders for women to remain on bed rest or to be forced into having cesarean sections, all in the name of “fetal rights.” A recent editorial [link] in the newspaper of the city in which I live appealed to those “who believe in the rights of the unborn” as a reason for denying licenses to Certified Professional Midwives. Translation: the unborn baby has the right to the best care (only available at the hospital), and the silly women who choose home birth are endangering their babies just as much as if they’d laid down to have a D&C.
It is clear, though, and has been clear to even anti-choicers (Jennifer Block, in her book “Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care” about modern obstetrics in the US, describes such a couple who, despite their deeply held belief that abortion is wrong, nevertheless attended the 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, DC, because they realized it is the pro-choice side that is best-suited for championing their cause) that these indomitable organizations like Planned Parenthood and NOW are the ones that can best advocate for the right of a woman to choose how and where she gives birth.
The key to the abortion debate is the old NARAL standard: that it is the woman who is best suited to make her own reproductive choices. Childbirth is such a choice. Those of us who advocate for the rights of women to make their own choices, about birth control, about abortion and about childbirth need them officially on our side.
[Emphasis mine. This article illustrates what I call #ProlifeBeliefsInAction. I think it shows what happens when “prolife” goes from abstract misogyny to real life consequences that affect all pregnant people. It doesn’t just affect pregnant people that want to terminate but also people with wanted pregnancies. People lose rights while pregnant. THAT is how your “prolife” laws play out in real life, regardless of what you “intend.” And I think the author is 100% right: choices for childbirth (homebirth, c-sections or not, VBACs, midwives present at hospital, etc) ARE the domain of the pro-choice movement because even people in the process of giving birth are denied their autonomy and bodily integrity in favor of “fetal rights.”]