Birth represents woman at her LEAST powerful

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One of the most depressing things about the philosophy of natural childbirth is that it treats women like children who can be chivvied into believing sugar coated nonsense. Perhaps the premier example of this tendency toward infantilizing grown women is the bizarre claim that birth represents woman at her most powerful. Milli Hill purveys this ridiculous drivel in her recent piece in The Guardian while whining that Facebook removed images that violate their policies:

You could argue that this is simply about nudity, but I think there’s more to it. Social media reflects our wider culture’s issue, not with naked women, but with naked women who look real and active as opposed to air-brushed and passive. It also reflects millennia of attempts to suppress women’s power, of which childbirth is perhaps the ultimate expression.

Oh, please, Milli; grow up! Women have been giving birth vaginally without pain medication (or dying in the attempt) since the beginning of human existence, and until relatively recently, women have had ZERO power. Indeed, in countries that lack access to modern obstetrics, where every woman is forced to endure natural childbirth, women still have ZERO power. In such societies women are viewed as the property of their husbands, have no political or economic rights, are married off while still children, die in droves due to hideous maternal mortality rates, have their genitals mutilated, and are raped with impunity in war and often in peace as well. Does that sound like power to you, Milli?

The idea that childbirth reflects women’s power would be ludicrous if it weren’t so offensive. Obviously Hill isn’t talking about poor women, women of color, women living a subsistence existence in developing countries. She’s not talking about THOSE women, who are the majority of women in the world. Hill is apparently talking about privileged, Western, white women like herself who are apparently the only ones who count.

But, you know what, Milli, you’re wrong about those women, too. In industrialized countries that accord women legal and economic rights, birth does NOT represent women at their most powerful. It represents women at their LEAST powerful.

There is no power in being in agonizing pain, incapable of doing anything other than screaming or moaning, barely rational, and totally bereft of the capacity to control anything. A woman in labor surrenders all her power to others. A woman in labor is extraordinarily vulnerable and is at the mercy of anyone who walks by. She can’t defend herself, she can’t assert herself, she can’t express herself, she can’t care for others and she can’t care for herself if the need arises.

Yes, the process of labor is powerful. Once it has a woman in its grip, it does not let go until the baby is born or the woman is dead. It’s powerful in the same way that a tornado or an earthquake is powerful. Claiming that labor represents woman at her most powerful, is like claiming that a woman sucked out of her tornado ravaged house is powerful. In both cases she is subjected to powerful natural forces, but she herself is completely powerless.

Birth doesn’t merely render women physically powerless, the storm of hormones that surround and follow birth can also render them emotionally powerless. Many women have trouble controlling their emotions, may experience unexpected sadness, depression and in severe cases, major mental illness. In addition, many women are uniquely vulnerable to psychological manipulation in the days and weeks following birth because they are overwhelmed with love for the new baby and desperate to do their best in caring for him or her. They can be helpless to defend themselves against the depredations of natural childbirth advocates and lactivists who gleefully shame them with false accusations that a baby won’t bond to a mother who had medication during labor or who chooses not to breastfeed.

No, Milli, birth does not represent woman at her most powerful, it represents woman at her most vulnerable, and anyone who claims to care for pregnant women and new mothers should recognize and acknowledge that. To the extent that some women are powerful, their power resides in their intellect, their talents, their money, their political power (if they wield any), their military power (if they wield any), their degrees, their qualifications, and their work experience. Powerful women do not derive their power from having a baby transit their vagina, and it is pure nonsense to pretend that they do.

Natural childbirth advocates need to stop treating women like preschoolers. It is fine to tell a toddler that using the potty means she is a “big girl,” but it is demeaning to tell a grown woman that pushing a baby out through her vagina means that she is “powerful.” Expecting women to accept sugar coated lies in place of real power simply emphasizes their powerlessness.

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  • Deborah

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  • Mrs.Sullivan

    I may have been at my most vulnerable point during the labor and delivery of my son, but that is why I surrounded myself with people I trusted with mine and my child’s life. During my chosen vaginal, unmedicated, successful home birth I was supported, loved, and cared for by my midwife, doula, husband, and mom. My son was born into a calm and safe environment. I may have been at my most “powerless” during labor, but I feel more powerful today because I know what my amazing body is capable of.

    • agrafka

      Good for you … that you’re lucky. If your babies head was a bit bigger your body could fail.

  • sdsures
  • sdsures

    On Positive Pregnancy’s FB page, there are many pictures of waterbirths. I shudder to think what’s in the water.

  • Amazed

    OT: Congratulations to Doula Dani for her first post on babyMed! She sounds happy and excited and I’m so happy for her. She’s come a long way on a road that not everyone is brave enough to choose in the first place. And she’ll make a difference. People of importance have already noticed her. Well done, Dani!

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    You ARE making a difference, Dani. You are, to you and others. I wish you all the best.

  • Entirely at the mercy of others, and often without recourse should those others fail her. That’s not a “power” situation, at least not for the woman. Even if a woman was given full shared decision making with respect to childbirth (many are, but some are denied this right)- I would hope that that would not be woman at her most powerful, as that is merely a right exercised by all other competent adults who are dealing with medical circumstances.

  • Julie

    While I agree that a woman in labor is quite powerless, the act of giving birth can be empowering. Humans tend to find empowerment in suffering, whether that suffering is by choice (i.e. running a marathon, natural childbirth) or not (surviving cancer or a natural disaster). The act of surviving/conquering a painful or difficult situation can make you feel stronger.

    It’s too easy to cross the line and assume any woman who desires a non-medicated vaginal birth is a selfish, woo-obsessed attention whore. Most of the other moms I know just prefer to have as little intervention as necessary in their births, and will give up any ideas of “keeping it natural” in a heartbeat to save their child.

    • Amy M

      I mentioned below—empowerment is not the same as confidence. Feeling powerful, physically, is not the same as having power (autonomy and control over your environment). I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to train for a marathon and increase personal strength. And like you say, some find personal strength in overcoming/dealing with suffering, perhaps in unmedicated childbirth. That’s fine too. But, personal strength and self-confidence, though good and important, are not the same as empowerment. I could see that a woman who has very little power would benefit greatly from having a large reserve of personal strength and self-confidence, to get through life.

      A better example of empowerment would be when suffragettes got the vote for women in America in 1920. Women were empowered because they gained a voice, and some control over their environment. Women who give birth gain babies, but do not actually increase their power, with regard to their communities. I am arguing semantics though, because I’m pedantic like that.

    • Yes humans can find power in suffering.. but does it mean they should? People want the world to make sense so much that they would give meaning to suffering and pain rather than accepting that the world does NOT make any sense whatsoever.

      • AlisonCummins

        When I was suffering pointlessly I used to wish that I believed in a religion that would give my pain some kind of meaning.

        Ultimately I learned empathy though I paid a very high price for it the lesson.

        • Many times I’ve wished for the same thing: that I was religious and believed that the bad stuff was not for nothing. The thing is of course, there is no objective value in pain but rather humans have the ability to create meaning out of objectively meaningless experiences. Andrew Solomon talked about this very beautifully in his TED talk.But I think it only serves to illustrate my point: suffering, in itself has no meaning whatsoever and it’s up to us to create this meaning or not. The reason I take issue with anyone who tries to convince me that pain has a meaning and that was for example to teach us something- that they actually forget that the prize we pay is sometimes too high. I am sorry you were suffering. I truly hope it’s over now.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “Humans tend to find empowerment in suffering, whether that suffering is by choice…[…]… or not…”

      Naw. The only reason you think so is because the stories of the few that do get advertised and repeated. The vast majority of humans suffer in silence and it leaves them wounded, often weaker, and not infrequently broken. Poverty, domestic abuse, rape, chronic pain, death of a child, torture– many survive, but it is rare to find empowerment.

      • AlisonCummins

        Yes. Thank you.

      • Hannah

        This. My now-former best friend attacked and tried to kill me (probably while on drugs) when we were 17. It was not empowering. I was an emotional wreck for years afterwards, and we think it’s what triggered my lupus. I like who I’ve become since then, but there is no way on God’s green earth that that was empowering, no matter how much suffering was involved.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “It’s too easy to cross the line and assume any woman who desires a non-medicated vaginal birth is a selfish, woo-obsessed attention whore”

      Yes indeed it is, especially when I am on the receiving end of a mass text that brags “No Epidural!” or a birth announcement that crows “Baby X—-, born naturally at home”.

      If “keeping it natural” is something that is just a simple personal preference devoid of any social significance, then why have you and “most of the other moms you know” felt the need to tell each other?

    • araikwao

      I think the concept of empowerment is a purely retrospective interpretation of events

    • Dr Kitty

      No.
      Humans celebrate people who come through adversity and suffering and are stronger for it precisely because it is unnatural, unusual and out of the ordinary.

      Most couples who lose a child divorce and many will suffer depression, most people who survive a natural disaster never regain the level of economic security they once had, most people who survive abuse or violent crime are left worse off afterwards.

      We LIKE the stories of “battlers and strivers”, we cling to “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”.

      That doesn’t actually make that narrative true.

      Suffering, real, enduring suffering, makes people suffer.
      It may be a crucible for change, it can occasionally lead to self improvement, but suffering is rarely beneficial, and almost never a moral good.

    • Elizabeth A

      I’m with Dr. Kitty on her no here.

      I have run long races, and I have had cancer. The long races felt empowering, but I didn’t suffer during them. I trained effectively in advance, and finished strong. I was in complete control of the situation. It was great.

      Cancer was not like that at all. I had very little control of the situation, and while I was fortunate to have a very treatable form of the disease, the aftereffects of my illness – the tire marks it left on my body, my family, my finances, and my career plans – are issues for me every day. Cancer has absolutely not made me feel stronger.

  • Sara M.

    The issue shouldn’t be about power, but empowerment. The mom should feel free to advocate herself and her baby without being judged and harrasses by ridiculous standards. Refusing help is the antithesis to self-advocacy.

  • Leara

    The worst thing about giving birth is the feeling of powerlessness and lack of control. You cant control whether a midwife with a sadistic streak turns off the gas and air or whether they choose to phone the doctor when you want an epidural or secretly laugh to themselves thinking ‘sure I will in about 4 hours’. I wish it was possible to sue midwives for neglect or abuse when they refuse pain relief, but being in a powerless position where you ‘aren’t quite yourself” and having no unbiased witnesses, makes it impossible.

    • toni

      I’m so sorry, Leara. I assume this took place in the UK. This stalling bs is a huge problem there. I think they honestly believe they are doing you a favour by letting you writhe in agony. It’s incredible. A relative of mine had her second last year and begged for an epidural because with her first she had needed forceps and there wasn’t time get pain relief and it was excruciating. (It seems to be a horribly commonplace experience going by all the stories on mumsnet and babycentre.) She never got one due to the typical ‘see how you feel in an hour’ and then four hours later ‘sorry luv, too late’. She didn’t need any help to get the baby out that time but she was still pissed that she was forced into a med free delivery. She wrote to them complaining about her treatment and received what she called a big eyeroll in the form of a letter. I still say it’s worth a shot to write to someone though, they need to realise this belittling of women is unacceptable.

      • Smoochagator

        This is scary and disgusting. I can’t believe this is happening in first world countries in 2014.

      • Yeah, sounds like one of these crunchy countries like the UK or the Netherlands… have heard similar stories as well from the NL.

  • TwinMom

    Yes. It is all I can do to keep myself from punching the computer screen at reading this ignoramus’ blog. A surrogate, pregnant with quadruplets, and it’s STILL ALL ABOUT HER, and how dare the parents be so selfish, and the doctors so evil, wanting to do a c/s. Her purpose is doing surrogacy is to feel powerful through a vaginal birth, even with QUADS. I just can’t, Dr. Amy. Everything you’ve said about these people and their mentality is so true. http://www.soleilessentialwellness.com/soleil-essential-wellness-blog/so-much-stress-over-four-little-babies

    • Sara Lucy

      Ugh. I read about a victorious triplet birth today. The vast majority of it was the mother praising herself for overcoming so many odds and being such a perfect candidate for a vaginal triplet birth. At the end there was a sweet note, kind of an icing on the cake addition, about having 3 little babies (and only one of them almost died during the process.)

      • Bugsy

        It’s all about her. How sad.

        • TwinMom

          It’s ALL about her! She says in her first blog post that she’s a doula “very educated in birth.” Lord help anyone who happens to have the misfortune of being her client.

      • toni

        Must be a parody!

    • Bombshellrisa

      “It has always been my dream, passion, and desire to have a beautiful unmedicated birth.” What in the world? I have passions, dreams and desires too and the only ones that included birth were the ones where I had a strong desire for everything to go well so my babies would be ok. (Right now my desire is that the parsnip apple purée I am attempting to make turns out ok.)

    • guest

      That was pretty gross for sure. I think most of it is a crock of crap too, especially the part where the OB supposedly goes on a rant about what a “horrible person she is”. Yeah right. What a bunch of horse sh*t.

      • Amy M

        If this is even real, probably the OB said things she didn’t want to hear, maybe even “if you want any of the babies to live, we should do xyz” and she HEARD “you are a horrible person.”

    • Bugsy

      Oh my gosh, can you imagine how infuriating it must be for the parents to have a surrogate like her? I read her other posts and am glad she came around to acting in the babies’ best interests, but am floored by her general attitude. It’s clear to me that she wanted to be a surrogate for purely selfish reasons. How sad.

      • Anj Fabian

        Her attitude sounds infuriating period.

        It’s as if the moment there was a positive ultrasound, she wasn’t celebrating with the parents, but instead relishing the amount of power she had over the everyone else involved – including the babies.

        I pity everyone else involved.

    • Ash

      This entire situation is a disaster…not just the c-section part…I can’t imagine any of it will work out well at this point, for the intended parents or gestational carrier.
      There is another entry:
      http://www.soleilessentialwellness.com/soleil-essential-wellness-blog/loss-is-never-easy

    • PrimaryCareDoc

      I don’t think it’s real. The ultrasound pic is of triplets, lifted from a website about ultrasound.

      And she’s selling essential oils. It’s some weird marketing ploy.

      • Anj Fabian

        I would not be surprised. It reads like a drama llama.

  • Cobalt
    • Elizabeth A

      Lois McMaster Bujold nailed that one over twenty years ago.

      • Karen in SC

        Indeed!

  • Sara Lucy

    I’ve been reading horrible things lately.

    In “Church of Lies” Flora Jessop, who was raised in the polygamist FLDS cult, wrote about her mother who had 17 children as one of 3 wives to an abusive, pedophile husband. 7 of her girls were handed over to be raised by an Uncle and his wives at birth, against her wishes. Her daughters were raped by their father. At one point, her mother is pregnant with her last child while Flora is being carried off to be married to some cousin at 16, when her water breaks and she goes into labor in the front yard. Flora’s father shrugs, leaves her with the other young babies at home in a community with only one horrible midwife who demands all women give birth without pain management, and says “she can handle it.”

    Childbirth might be a way for women to wield power over each other, to gain status within an oppressive society, or the basis upon which to celebrate female anatomy, but it isn’t inherently empowering anymore than menstruating is. It’s a physical disadvantage.

    I certainly think there may be some subjective, spiritual value for some women, but it’s never objective “power” unless you’re talking about hierarchies of women competing over reproductive distinctions.

  • just me

    Interesting. I went thru years of infertility, multiple IVFs. After that I sure as hell wasn’t going to risk losing my baby. I was induced early due to IUGR. Thank goodness b/c I had undiagnosed vci and vasa previa. Could’ve ended badly had I gone into labor at home.

    Meanwhile the leader of my parent and me class’s daughter had also gone thru IF and IVF. Yet she foolishly chose home birth b/c “after all that she wanted to control something”. Everything turned out fine, but really, wtf? Why take that risk when you finally have a baby coming?

  • DaisyGrrl

    The triumph of human ingenuity over natural selection is probably our greatest “power” as a species. From making tools to hunt, developing agriculture, to the creation of modern medicine – humanity’s basic nature is to tell nature to go eff herself.

    So when we think of a woman’s power in reproduction, it doesn’t make sense to claim power in succumbing to the natural. The power lies elsewhere. It lies in the ability to regulate our own bodies and control whether we become pregnant or not. It lies in developing technologies that enable women to have children when it would otherwise be impossible. The power lies in convincing the medical establishment to treat childbirth as a serious medical event – one deserving of its own medical specialty and dedicated hospital resources. And finally, the power lies in the right to chose. The right to accept or refuse an intervention or course of treatment based on accurate information about the relative risks and benefits of the procedure – that is true power.

    Passive acceptance of a force of nature is not inherently an expression of power and NCB advocates should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting otherwise.

    • AlisonCummins

      For at least some women, the screaming is part of the point. It’s one time when they really are allowed to yell and carry on and be praised for it. I wonder if that’s one way ‘powerful’ is being used.

      • theadequatemother

        But if that’s the case it’s an empty “power” isn’t it? Screaming and loudly expressing yourself in a setting where the expression isn’t going to change anything isn’t a real power. Loudly expressing yourself in protest resulting in political, social or personal change is power.

        • AlisonCummins

          I agree. But it says something about the circumstances of some women’s lives that being able to scream without guilt while giving birth is such a big deal.

        • Siri

          ‘He beats me, and I rail at him: O, worthy satisfaction! Would it were otherwise; that I could beat him, while he rail’d at me.’

  • Zornorph

    Wonder what the NCB people would think if somebody posted a picture of a naked woman giving birth and holding an AK-47 at the same time?

    • Sara Lucy

      Some of them would like it. I know midwives who have given discounts for their services to gun owners.

    • Amy

      Extreme crunchy types, in my experience, tend to be either neo-feminists who don’t fall on the left-right spectrum, or far-right libertarian types. I’ve actually been defriended by a few on Facebook who thought I was too liberal, who hate taxes, REALLY hate Obamacare (because they’d rather take their money and spend it on herbs, chiropractors, and naturopaths), and are just fine with guns. Lots of doomsday prepping, too.

      I’m pretty crunchy myself, but I’ll never fit in with the crunchy crowd because I’m a public school teacher, my kids go to public school, and I accept modern medicine and vaccinate my kids.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    The only part of my labor in which I felt somewhat powerful was when I pushed my baby out. And even that was tainted by the fear that I couldn’t do it. I am still glad I went through it, but now I am aware enough to know that not every woman feels that way. I think only way a woman is powerful in birth is if she has the power to decide how she gives birth — whether that is via scheduled elective C-section or otherwise. I am pro-choice in that I feel a woman should have a choice as to whether to have a child at all, or if she wants to have a child how that child gets from inside her body to outside.

    • Amy M

      Yep. A woman who is “empowered” where reproductive choices are concerned can choose whether or not to have a child, which care providers will help her during pregnancy and birth, choice of birth control and choice as to whether or not she wants to have sex. Unfortunately, many women in the world are not so empowered, in the reproductive area or any other aspect of their lives and giving birth wo/the benefit of modern medicine will not change that for them. That’s why all the women who believe the NCB idea that natural birth is empowering should ask themselves what kind of power they gain from it. Self-confidence is not the same as power.

      • Maria

        “Self-confidence is not the same as power.”
        I think that sums up the issue right there. Many women do feel much more confident in their abilities and more comfortable with their bodies after giving birth, but you are right in that this does not equate gaining more power as a woman.

    • just me

      Although I think when the baby’s health is at risk, she should not have a choice as to how the baby gets out. Eg, if a c section is needed that is all. No choosing vag birth so she can feel empowered.

      • Guest

        Um, no. Adult human beings are entitled to total agency over their own bodies, except where they are not competent for whatever reason. A woman has the exact same right to choose how the baby gets out when it’s health is at risk as she does at any other time. Better that the baby should die than her not having a choice as to how to give birth.

        • attitude devant

          Agreed. But by the same token she shouldn’t be misled about any risk she’s taking.

          • Guest

            Yes, of course. Regardless, the idea that a woman who is competent to make decisions should ever not have a choice is revolting, and one that needs to be countered at every opportunity.

        • just me

          Really? Better that the baby should die? So why all the criticism here of people choosing home birth etc?

          So the baby NEVER comes first?

          I am a lawyer, btw.

          • Carolina

            This site is about providing accurate information and dispelling myths. It’s not about making homebirth illegal. It’s about educated choices. I’m a lawyer too.

          • Amy M

            Well, I personally would always choose a Csection if my baby’s life or health were the slightest bit threatened. What people here are saying though, is that a woman shouldn’t be forced to do that. Would it be reprehensible if she valued a vaginal birth over a living/healthy baby? Absolutely. I don’t think anyone here would argue with that, and I think everyone here WOULD choose a Csection under those circumstances. But to take away the choice….that is something else.

            A less severe example could be seatbelt laws. A lot of people are offended by seatbelt laws because they think that the government shouldn’t have the power to tell them what to do in their cars. Most of those people would buckle up anyway, even if they wouldn’t get fined for going without, because they know its safer. They just want the choice.

          • Staceyjw

            Mom always comes first. Period.
            If mom chooses to prioritize baby’s health, fine. If she prefers to prioritize a VB or breech VB whatever, that’s her choice because it is her body.
            We can agree that moms have the right to their bodies, no matter what, AND still criticize choices we find personally distasteful, unethical, or immoral.

          • Guest

            Yes, it’s absolutely and unquestionably better that the baby should die than the mother be reduced to the status of vessel. I’m a lawyer too, incidentally. The baby NEVER comes first if the mother has capacity and doesn’t want it to, no. Not once. This does not require one to approve of the mother’s actions, simply to defend her right to take them. I’d never choose a homebirth, that’s utterly moronic, but I’d go to the wall for the rights of other women to do that stupid thing.

          • birthbuddy

            If you are a lawyer then you will know that the “born alive rule” has been overturned by judicial discretion and legislation in certain states in the US.

          • Guest

            Unless, of course, I’m not an American lawyer. I’m conversant with abortion law in the country I live and practice in, though.

          • birthbuddy

            Of course.
            Are you in a common law country?

          • Guest

            Yes.

          • Young CC Prof

            I believe most of us are making moral arguments rather than legal ones.

            And yes, in the USA, women generally can’t get abortions past a certain stage in the pregnancy, but legally unable to terminate the pregnancy does not and SHOULD not imply legally obligated to comply with whatever course of treatment a doctor recommends.

          • birthbuddy

            Correct, these are moral arguments.

          • birthbuddy

            Very good point.

        • just me

          Accidentally reposted. Ignore

        • birthbuddy

          You don’t have total agency over your body at the moment.
          The law already recognises that abortion beyond viability is not an absolute right in most common law countries.

          • Guest

            This does not mean I am not entitled to it. There are a number of countries where I, a pregnant woman, would be unable to obtain an abortion at all. I am still morally entitled to do so.

          • birthbuddy

            The law does not claim to moral or ethical, it is just the law.

          • Guest

            That’s debatable, but even assuming it were true it would not be a counter to my point.

          • birthbuddy

            It is true and debatable.

      • Young CC Prof

        I disagree. Choosing to risk your (viable full term) baby for the right to choose your birth method is morally reprehensible, but physically or legally blocking that choice would be worse.

      • Dr Kitty

        I can’t agree. To disregard the desires of a competent pregnant woman, merely because she is pregnant treats her as an incubator, with fewer rights than any other human person, which I cannot support.

        I believe women should have the right to UC. They have the right to decline treatment.
        IF they are competent, which means they have to understand and believe the risks, which has historically been an issue with HB proponents who literally think that they are special snowflakes that bad things cannot happen to.

        They do not have a right to demand physicians provide unsafe care (I.e compelling a physician to preside at a HBAC) but can refuse intervention (I.e refuse a CS during a hospital VBAC).

        BUT I can still think their decisions are wrong, even if I support their right to make those decisions.

        If you want to exercise your right to decline interventions and opt for non standard care, you need to really understand what you are doing. Most women, if they were really aware of the risks would not opt for unsafe care models.

        The few that would, despite knowing the risks, I’m afraid that can’t be helped unless we would be willing to massively violate their human rights, which I’m not.

        • just me

          Seems like you are conflating views on abortion with birth. I’m all for pro choice but when there is a baby that but for the mothers actions would live I don’t agree that get rights to do whatever she wants trump the baby’s.

          No the baby isn’t out yet but I look at this more like the Christian scientists or whoever that refuse life saving treatment for their kids-/aren’t they usually prosecuted?

          • lawyer jane

            The difference is that the mother’s body is also involved, and that trumps the baby’s body, even the second before birth. Once the baby is out of the mother’s body, the best interests of the child take precedence over the parents’ views. So yes, the one interpretation of NCB is that it shares a philosophical position with extremely late-term abortion. Except for that its adherents have usually convinced themselves (or been convinced) that their choices actually are the safest ones for the baby.

          • MaineJen

            Oh, they count on being prosecuted. They know that doctors can get a court order to give their child a blood transfusion if it will save the child’s life, so the parents go right on refusing the transfusion to the bitter end, just so that they won’t have to go against their beliefs. It won’t be *them* that agreed to the transfusion, it will be the doctor who forced it upon them. SMH

            In contrast, a woman in labor does have a right to complete autonomy. Even when what she’s doing endangers the baby, you cannot just treat her like an incubator. A not-yet-born child is different from an already-born child. There are not many women who would knowingly endanger their children (I have to believe), rather, I think a lot of them are convinced they ARE doing what’s best by refusing a c section at all costs. In the throes of labor is not the correct time to try to educate someone about this, either.

          • Guesteleh

            The more relevant comparison is organ transplantation. A person cannot be compelled to donate an organ to another person, even if it means the potential recipient will die. This is not a hypothetical situation–20% of all people who sign up to donate through the bone marrow registry back out of the donation. This applies even if the potential donor and recipient are blood relatives–a brother can’t be compelled to donate a kidney to the sister he hates. I find that morally repugnant, especially in the case of bone marrow donation where the risk to the donor is minimal, but I don’t support a law forcing people to become donors nor do I support criminal prosecution of women who refuse standard of care in labor.

          • Dr Kitty

            To overturn the bodily autonomy of a competent person is a violation of their human rights.
            We don’t get to force people to donate blood or organs to compatible recipients against their will, even if not doing so will lead to the death of the intended recipient.. We accept that “because if we don’t perform this invasive procedure someone will die” is not a sufficient grounds to violate someone’s bodily integrity against their will in every other circumstance.
            The rules do not change and should not change for pregnant women.

            By overriding the autonomy of a competent pregnant woman, simply because she is pregnant, you are violating her human rights and treating her right to autonomy as less important than the right of any other competent person.Which reduces her to a lesser class of human.

            You’re a lawyer, this is basic medical ethics and human rights, I’m surprised you don’t see the issue with what you propose.

          • lawyer jane

            Dr Kitty, do you feel the same about post-viability abortion? (Not trying to stir anything up, really, just curious to see if you see a distinction.)

          • alannah

            If a woman doesn`t want to be pregnant anymore, it is her right to end the pregnancy. That doesn`t mean that it is a good idea or that it should be done at the drop of a hat, but she has an absolute right to do with her own body as she wants.
            I think abortion is a terrible, sad thing. But I will fight for our right to have them, because once we women no longer get to decide what goes on inside our own bodies, the law makes us less that fully human.

          • Siri

            Luckily abortion can also be a wonderful, happy thing – when a girl or woman who really, really doesn’t want to be pregnant can cease to be so. Why would that be terrible or sad? Whom would you feel sad for? The relieved woman? The fetus? Why do pro-choice people so often feel obliged to state how ‘sad’ they feel abortions are?

          • Dr Kitty

            I’m not sure what you’re asking me.
            If you’re asking whether I think that a woman should be able to end a pregnancy after 24 weeks, then yes, I do.
            The circumstances in which third trimester abortion is viewed by a woman and her doctors as a better option than delivering a live baby are usually so awful for everyone concerned that I think the decision should be left in the hands of the people directly involved in it- the woman and the doctor.
            That means that a doctor can’t be forced into performing a procedure they do not believe to be in their patient’s best interest, and a woman cannot be forced into a procedure she doesn’t want.
            I think I’m pretty consistent in my views.

          • Guest

            You are wrong to look at it this way, then, because the baby not being out yet is the entire point. You get total control over someone else’s body when it’s inside yours, then and only then. Once it’s out, you don’t.

      • Siri

        So if your child needs an organ, any organ, you don’t get to choose whether to donate one or not. Cool.

    • Are you nuts

      Yep. Immediately after I delivered her, I had an overwhelming feeling of, “I cannot believe I just did that.” But every moment leading up to that was a different story. I have never been so needy or dependent in my whole life. Which isn’t a bad thing by the way, when you’re depending on and needing your wonderful husband and fantastic L&D nurses.

  • Bugsy

    One of the main reasons why I never considered a home or birth centre birth is because the year before my son was born, three of my cousins gave birth. One was a planned repeat C-section; one lost a large amount of blood and needed an emergency transfusion, and the third’s son got stuck in the birth canal, causing seizures (I don’t remember the outcome other than that he’s now a 3-year-old meeting most milestones.). In reference to Milli’s statements above, I’d love to know how power played into these births AT ALL. As far as our family is concerned, we were fortunate that all three were aware of the very real dangers of childbirth and thus opted for hospital births. Being “empowered,” or frankly whatever Milli would like to call it, is simply irrelevant and ridiculous.

    • Young CC Prof

      Yup. In the year before I realized I was pregnant, of 5 births among people I know, without medical intervention there would have been at least four dead babies and at least two dead mothers out of the bunch. This isn’t probabilities, these were clearly fatal situations: HELLP, previa, critical heart defect, 23-week preemie.

      Creating life is an amazing thing, but it’s also a time of terrible vulnerability. I like living in a culture that values women and children enough to devote real resources to defending against the hazards of pregnancy and birth.

      • Mel

        A friend of mine just got home from the hospital with her son. I don’t know all of the medical details, but one of his lungs did not inflate or collapsed within minutes of birth. He spent a few days in the NICU with a CPAP and chest tube…and is perfectly fine.

        If he had been born at home…..well, I doubt he’d be here now.

        • Hannah

          My grandma’s oldest had that in the early 50’s… he only survived about three hours on his one good lung. You’ll never be able to convince her that homebirth is a good thing because of it. Her two youngest were born in Nicaragua, and even there they drove ages to get to a hospital rather than use a local midwife

    • MaineJen

      I would be really interested to find out if any of these NCB-pushers have actually *seen* a complicated birth that was saved due to medical intervention. These lay midwives have witnessed so few births during their training, there’s a good chance they’ve just never seen anything scary, and they assume all births just naturally go as swimmingly as theirs and their friends’ did.

      A friend of mine just recently had her second child…the first was a planned c section due to breech presentation. (We’ve all seen MANA’s mortality numbers for breech home births…they’re not pretty.) This time, her water broke at 38 weeks and she had the option of either induction or repeat c section. She chose the c section…during surgery her doctor informed her this was the best decision she could have made, as her uterine wall in one place was “thin as saran wrap”. Sounds like a uterine rupture waiting to happen. Y’all can have your natural births…I’d rather have a live friend with 2 live babies, thank you very much.

      • attitude devant

        My experience is that they get it all backwards and blame the complications on the interventions.

        • Bugsy

          Yep.

  • Cobalt

    I felt more powerless when I collapsed screaming with a strangulated hernia than I did in labor. At least in labor, I expected it to happen and knew that my odds were good that we would be fine. I still chose hospital births because it’s safer and I had confidence in my doctor to get us through. When the hernia incident happened, it came out of nowhere and was the most excruciating pain I have ever had, and no one knew what it was or why I was in pain. I was pretty sure I was going to die, at least until I got to the hospital and the doctors started doing their thing.

    Birth might be the most vulnerable experience that is exclusively available to women, but it’s not the most vulnerable a woman can be as a person.

  • Trixie

    A friend of mine who is a historian and was expecting her first child recently, said to me that she finally understood why women were seen as weak throughout most of history. If you’re constantly gestating and giving birth, it really does consume most of your time and attention and emotions, and make you feel vulnerable. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I wasn’t one of them! I had trouble concentrating and thinking rationally while heavily pregnant.

    • Therese

      Yes, I was just thinking how it’s such a good thing humans are social animals, because if pregnant women were left to care for themselves in a state of nature like many animals do, I don’t see how the human race would have ever survived.

      • Trixie

        Seriously! And I had healthy, normal pregnancies! I’d probably have a third but I’m just not willing to be pregnant again.

  • FormerPhysicist

    If pregnancy were always an affirmative choice, and there was no way for a woman to get pregnant without choosing to, then childbearing might be an expression of power. Birth, still probably not. But biology doesn’t work that way.

  • MLE

    This aspect of labor is exactly what turned me on to NCB: “A woman in labor surrenders all her power to others. A woman in labor is extraordinarily vulnerable and is at the mercy of anyone who walks by. She can’t defend herself, she can’t assert herself, she can’t express herself, she can’t care for others and she can’t care for herself if the need arises.”
    My greatest dread was being unable to be my own advocate while incapacitated by labor pain. NCB seemed to offer an alternative to that helpless feeling. Unfortunately the alternative took the form of misrepresentations and outright lying about doctors and hospitals instead of actual advice on how to feel safe during labor (having someone with you for support, discussing concerns with providers in advance, PAIN MEDS, hospital tours, etc). The number 1 thing NCB tells you to avoid during a vaginal birth (epidural) was the number 1 thing that gave me the perception of control over my experience. What a travesty.

    • Bugsy

      Me too! I had the perception of control because of my epidural, plain and simple.

    • atmtx

      Me three! I didn’t have an epidural for my first and although I have a really high pain threshold, I still felt in a daze. With number two I got an epidural and felt so comfortable and in control. It was much easier to be aware of what was going on when I wasn’t in blinding pain. Go fig.

    • MaineJen

      Add my name to the list. No epidural for me = pain, wishing to die, my body pushing beyond my control to stop it, being terrified of the next contraction, completely unable to communicate. Epidural for me = calm, collected, able to talk again, looking forward to the birth so I could meet my son. No contest here on which was more “empowering.”

    • guest

      Exactly. They use the NCB rhetoric to hide the real reason they discourage it: they lose their FEE if their patient chooses hospital birth and an epidural.

    • Maria

      Yes!!!

    • theadequatemother

      100% agree. Epidurals allow freedom from all-consuming pain which increases a woman’s ability to advocate for herself during birth. It also provides a safe means of establishing surgical anesthesia for emergent procedures that maintains a woman’s ability to communicate with her care team.

      • Leara

        So somebody tell me how I get one! Because the midwives just say no, or that I’m not dilated ‘enough” or “lets give it another hour” then they say “It is too late”.

        • Sara M.

          The only thing I could advise is to discuss your plan with the providers beforehand and ask about the policies.

        • DaisyGrrl

          Some suggestions – confirm with your support person that “I want an epidural” means “I want an epidural” and that s/he will advocate on your behalf with the midwives when the time comes. When the midwives say they’re calling the anesthesiologist, ask them to do it from your room so you can see them calling (or have your support person watch them call if they must leave the room). Make sure you see them document your pain relief requests and don’t take no for an answer. If they still refuse, ask how to spell their names so you make sure you get it right in the complaint (last resort).

          As Sara M. mentions, make sure your wishes are known ahead of time so that you can have a good idea about how it will happen before you go into labour. Check the area hospitals to see if some have better coverage than others for anesthesiology – smaller hospitals won’t always have someone on site 24/7 and it might be harder to get pain relief in those circumstances.

          Hopefully this time around you can find a provider who respects your wishes for an epidural and does what they can to provide one!

  • kt

    Amen! Couldn’t agree more -that article is making its rounds in our local Australian mum’s Facebook groups too..