Your body was meant to have a vaginal birth? Says who?

And B and I got that news on Wednesday and B and I and the midwife cried together in her office.

We cried for the loss of something that I had hoped for since the day that G was born. And the thing we talked about and read about and learned all about for 9 months. We cried about the potential I had to deal with postpartum depression again after a disappointment like this. Because in all likely hood, a VBAC now just wasn’t in the cards for me.

And I’ve been mourning this loss now since yesterday and really struggling with coming to grips with never having a birth like my body was meant to. And never having that experience that was so important to me…to feel like my body isn’t broken and it can’t do what it’s meant to.

That’s what Amanda Domergue wrote several days ago on her blog MODG (The hand we’ve been dealt and the struggle to accept it.)

What accounts for disappointment grossly out of proportion to the loss?

It isn’t that women expect their bodies to always perform according to the population average.

Consider:

My husband and I got that news on Wednesday and he and I and the optometrist cried together in her office.

We cried for the loss of something that I had hoped for since the day that I first put on glasses. And the thing we talked about and read about and learned all about for 9 months. We cried about the potential I had to deal with depression again after a disappointment like this. Because in all likelihood, getting by without glasses or contacts just wasn’t in the cards for me.

And I’ve been mourning this loss now since yesterday and really struggling with coming to grips with never seeing 20/20 without glasses or contacts like my body was meant to. And never having that experience that was so important to me…to feel like my body isn’t broken and it can’t do what it’s meant to.

Or:

My husband and I got that news on Wednesday and he and I and the nurse practitioner cried together in her office.

We cried for the loss of something that I had hoped for since the day that I found out I have high blood pressure. And the thing we talked about and read about and learned all about for 9 months (not to mention the weight I lost and the exercise I have been doing. We cried about the potential I had to deal with depression again after a disappointment like this. Because in all likelihood, normal blood pressure without medication just wasn’t in the cards for me.

And I’ve been mourning this loss now since yesterday and really struggling with coming to grips with never having normal blood pressure like my body was meant to. And never having that experience that was so important to me … to feel like my body isn’t broken and it can’t do what it’s meant to.

In each case, women are capable of differentiating between the general and the specific. Expecting to have perfect vision because the average person does not need vision correction is like expecting to be right handed because the average person is right handed. You are no more “broken” for being left handed than you are for needing glasses or having high blood pressure.

And the reason for the disproportionate response is not because it is a universal human value.

The idea that a C-section represents being “broken” is restricted to incredibly privileged individuals in incredibly privileged cultures. In “average” cultures, women aren’t even expected to necessarily survive childbirth, let alone have a specific type of experience.

The idea that women’s bodies are “perfectly” designed for childbirth is a foreign to the average woman in a developing country as the idea that vegetables are “meant” to come from the supermarket. Both ideas would strike women in developing countries as absurd.

So if no one expects every bodily function to operate perfectly, if no one expects that everyone is average, and if the majority of women who have ever existed or currently exist don’t even expect women to survive childbirth, where did Amanda get the idea that her body was “meant” to give birth vaginally?

She read it in a book (or on the web or on an internet message board).

In other words, she was indoctrinated into believing it, in contrast to everything we know about how human bodies actually work. She was indoctrinated by a philosophy, biological essentialism, that reduces women to the function of their vaginas, uteri and breasts, and implies that anything other than average is “broken.”

Natural childbirth philosophy is responsible for the senseless, immature response to being different from the average. NCB philosophy is responsible for the bizarre notion that the human body must conform to the average and anyone who isn’t average is entitled to feel very, very sorry for herself.  NCB philosophy is responsible for privileged women wallowing in self pity because they had a C-section and all they got was a healthy baby.

And what’s her midwife’s excuse? Can you imagine an optician crying with a patient because of glasses? Can you imagine a nurse practitioner crying with a patient because that patient needs blood pressure medication? No, you can’t, because we expect professionals to have boundaries, and to help patients gain perspective. Midwives indoctrinated in NCB are just as invested as their patients in biological essentialism and entitlement.

Years ago, parents and educators believed that everyone was “meant” to be right handed, and a child who favored his left hand should be ridiculed, forced or even beaten into using his right. Now we view such as a response as cruel and ignorant. Yet today, women who should know better, encourage a similarly cruel and ignorant view of birth. Women who are both incredibly privileged and ought to understand that human bodies are not perfect, are pretending that they are “designed” to have a vaginal birth and they have every right to feel dreadfully sorry for themselves if they do not.

Evidently baby Domergue is scheduled to be born today. Let us hope that her mother has an easy uncomplicated delivery (vaginal or C-section) and a quick recovery. Let us also hope that the baby’s mother appreciates the miracle of her new baby, stops obsessing about whether that baby passed through her vagina, and stops whining that she was entitled to a specific experience.

  • Bonnie

    I really loathe this blog. This blog reminds me of the OB’s office who just kept trying to find something wrong with me through my entire fourth pregnancy, and kept telling me I needed a section for a big baby with my third. (He ended up being my second smallest!) It is crap! Crap goes wrong sometimes no doubt, but the survival of our human race is based upon the fact that you are supposed to have your baby vaginally. Don’t get me wrong, woman died in labor, babies died in labor and Csections are a fantastic tool we have now to allow for higher survival rates, but the way it is done is all wrong. Our country is pathetic in how it cares for pregnant woman and we are so OB centered when we should be Woman centered! Let her try! Keep your stupid failure comments to yourself, and sit on your dang hands until a woman actually needs you, that is all I am saying!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      What makes you think that I care whether or not someone like yourself, ignorant of science, statistics and childbirth, loathes the blog?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lizzie.dee.71 Lizzie Dee

      I really loathe this blog.

      Why do you read it then? Genuinely curious.

      I suspect that quite a lot of us here would have no problem with the idea that if nothing needs doing, doing nothing is a appropriate. You say your doctor “kept trying to find something wrong..” Presumably against your conviction that absolutely nothing could be, ever. But, again, some of us would believe that he was doing what OBs are supposed to do – watching carefully for the not always obvious things that can go wrong even in the healthiest of low risk women. You say he made a wrong estimate of your third’s weight – a notorious source of error, admittedly, and that in fact this child was your second smallest without actually telling us whether that was 6lbs or 12.

      Glad you managed to avoid CS, and any complications to date. Good for you. Even more glad you don’t get to apply your own ideas to who should, and should not, have a CS. You are entitled to make choices for yourself. You are not entitled to believe that they should be more widely applied.

    • LibrarianSarah

      Wow thanks for your opinion now the rest of us will just keep on not giving a shit.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.neely Kathleen Elizabeth Neely

    I was called an obstetric cripple by my midwife because I chose a C/S for my transverse lie Frank Breech Baby.