Natural childbirth and the valorization of maternal masochism

29673371 - eraser deleting the word masochism

There are many viewpoints sheltering under the umbrella of the philosophy of natural childbirth — midwife attended birth, home birth, unassisted birth, hypnobirthing and even orgasmic birth — but all share a central belief in the value of masochism.

Ashley Noel Mack writes about the supposed transformative value of maternal masochism in The Self-Made Mom: Neoliberalism and Masochistic Motherhood in Home-Birth Videos on YouTube.

The philosophy of natural childbirth isn’t transgressive; it’s a new way to oppress women by ecouraging them to oppress themselves.

I explore their role in cultivating a masochistic subjective posture that rationalizes self-governance and subordinates opportunities for feminist systemic critique in favor of celebration of individual autonomy. After detailing the functions of birth stories as self-made narratives that reinforce dominant discourses of masochistic motherhood in a neoliberalist context that conditions mothers to self- renounce, self-deny, and sacrifice in order to be “good” citizens …

While her analysis is based on homebirth, it seems to me to be generalizable to the philosophy of unmedicated childbirth in any venue: from hospital, to birth center and to the great outdoors.

Mack believes that there is more to birth videos and birth stories than their creators suppose:

While the videos likely reflect a deeply felt and real experience of self-empowerment and transformation for the maternal subjects depicted, in the present essay I build a case for complicating the videos’ claims of empowerment by asking questions about for whom and to what end these videos function.

The philosophy of natural childbirth isn’t transgressive; it’s a new way to oppress women by ecouraging them to oppress themselves.

The glorification of “the natural” is particularly problematic:

…As a plethora of feminist and gender scholars have previously noted, discourses of naturalism serve to bind women to notions of motherhood and womanness that are then taken for granted as “innate” and inescapable. Considering the fact that giving birth is a biological process of the “female body,” the naturalization of the birth process may seem like an obvious articulation. However, while birth is certainly a biological and physiological process that certain female bodies are capable of performing, its meanings are socially produced …

Women who refuse to root their value in their reproductive organs are pathologized as victims of false consciousness:

Discourses … often suggest that if only the maternal subject would “wake up” from the state of false consciousness imposed on her by the technocratic model of birth, she would become what she has always been predetermined to be. The naturalist orientation, taken to its furthest conclusion, forecloses on possibilities, alternatives, and routes to indeterminacy in birth and mothering by tethering these experiences to privileged, socially produced, and homogenized conceptions of the female body and motherhood.

But perhaps it is natural childbirth advocates themselves who have been trick into eagerly accepting a philosophy that promotes the idea that pain is good for women.

“Pain” is symbolically negotiated and depicted as a resource for self-optimization in these texts, and the masochistic impulse of the self-made narrative contributes to the reification of modern motherhood on particular terms… I chart how pain is not only framed as central to the narrative but also valorized as maternal subjects are depicted enduring, embracing, or even enjoying their encounter with pain.

Is this is a subversion to the biblical injunction that the agony that women suffer in childbirth is punishment for their intrinsic sin or this merely a way to convince women to accept the punishment? If you believe that women ought to be punished for having sex (and many people do), what better way to enforce that punishment than to have women embrace it?

The pain of childbirth is also valorized as a hardship that the subjects endure or pass through on their way to transcendence… Unsurprisingly, many of the women state that “giving birth naturally was my biggest accomplishment” or proclaim while holding their baby, sobbing and wailing shortly after birth, “I did it, oh my God, I did it,” or that “It was so worth it.”

There’s no better brainwashing than that.

Feminist scholars have written repeatedly about the ways in which women are convinced to punish themselves:

Ehrenreich and English argue that by the mid-20th century, motherhood was defined rhetorically by a dutiful self-denial and renunciation. A good mother gave up her passions and sacrificed her happiness (and often well-being) to take care of her children and her family… To be a good and healthy mother, citizen, and person, then, was to be a masochistic child bearer, mother, and wife.

Betty Friedan questioned this emphasis on self-sacrifice and the woman’s movement seemed to sound its death knell:

Of course, the voices of disenchanted mothers would prove that the experts’ “prescription” of masochism was insufficient to quell the anxieties and disaffection facing house-wives and mothers during the mid-20th century. The depression and anxiety afflicting mothers and housewives became a powerful resource for the radical and liberal feminist movements, the women’s health movement, and critics of the cult of domesticity and the institution of motherhood.

But it has been surprisingly resistant to efforts to kill it:

[I]n the 1980s, pro-family values campaigns returned to emphasize the social responsibility of the family unit, while naturalizing women’s traditional role in the family as a mother and domestic laborer through “dubious psychological theories of maternal instinct, mother–child bonding, and primary maternal preoccupation.”

In the 1990s, a “new momism” emerged that held mothers liable and accountable for “producing ever more perfect children” by exercising a great degree of self-surveillance to be ever-present, both mentally and physically. This new institution of motherhood stipulates that “mothers’ primary occupation is to predict and prevent all less-than-optimal social, emotional, cognitive, and physical outcomes.” Accordingly, an increasing amount of pressure is placed on the maternal body to self-optimize through breastfeeding, staying fit, providing financial stability, creating a stronger bond with her baby, and sacrificing herself for her children.

Although natural parenting in general and natural childbirth in particular wax rhapsodic about the value of maternal choices, but in truth there is only one acceptable choice: masochism.

Therefore, even as popularized motherhood narratives celebrate the freedom of the individual maternal subject to make choices on her own, self-empower, and self-optimize, “the guiding principle of contemporary motherhood is [still] that women who are mothers must act first as mothers and that their self-identity is dependent on optimizing their children’s lives.” Discourses of contemporary masochistic motherhood compel mothers to self-optimize in the name of efficiency and self-empowerment at the same time that they function to normalize the suffering, anguish, or anxiety that this persistent state of self-governance may produce.

In valorizing maternal masochism, the natural childbirth movement reveals itself as profoundly retrograde and deeply anti-feminist.

  • LaMont

    OT: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/womens-healthcare-star-wars
    If you despised the way Padme was treated as a pregnant character in Star Wars Episode III, this article is for you! (My scale of “How to present pregnant characters” literally goes from Lois McMaster Bujold on top to Revenge of the Sith on the bottom.)

    • AnnaPDE

      Ha! This article is very close to my theory that the Jedis’ (and generally the Star Wars galaxy) lack of proper training in critical thinking and sex ed is directly the reason how the Empire was established.
      Yes, the lack of ultrasounds is obvious – that would have stopped the references to a single child pretty much after 20min of the movie. But let’s also remember that Padme is explicitly describing plans for a water birth in some pond on the swampy gungan side of Naboo, far from any medical assistance. No wonder Anakin freaks out.
      But there, his lack of education strikes again – instead of saying, “hey, why not go to an ob/gyn to discuss this?” he is lured in by an incredibly sleazy old guy who speaks vaguely about how his teacher apparently learned to overcome death. And was *hint hint* somehow still killed by his student. Then instead of putting two and two together about who this murderous student might be, Anakin saves Palpatine from Mace Windu, only to witness him doing Force lightning, the single most dark side skill there is, and still doesn’t realise something is wrong. Then Palpatine goes “erm um, tbh, I don’t quite know this bringing back dead people trick I promised, but let’s find out together” and Anakin thinks he still has a good enough deal to kill some kindergarten kids over it. And then Force chokes his very pregnant wife when she tells him that this might not improve the overall birth outcome.
      Seriously, this movie is a great example where a stupid population can lead a place… then again, we’re currently watching the real life version with Trump.

  • MayonnaiseJane

    OT: Hello! New reader, power reading through the old articles, but refraining from dredging up old things by replying to them. 🙂 Hospital IT Technician with a ticking bio clock, but DH and I have agreed years ago to wait till late 2018 to start our family… biding the time by doing ALL THE RESEARCH about how not to die in childbirth. This blog is a breath of fresh air with all my (otherwise intelligent, rational, scientific) friends turning crunchy the moment they get pregnant/have kids. None of them to the Homebirth extreme thank goodness, but definitely of the BFI kind and that’s a bummer. Thankfully where I work is NOT a BFIH so at least I don’t have that shame. We have a well baby nursery and everything. 🙂

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Hello and good luck for when you do start trying.

      • MayonnaiseJane

        Thanx!

  • BeatriceC

    OT: I’m at my doctor’s office. At about the 11 hour mark yesterday I started having pretty frightening visual disturbances. I tried to tough it out for two hours. Then the shaking started. I caved. I need help for the nicotine withdrawal. Hopefully the doctor can prescribe something (I already take Wellbutrin), that will help. Trying again tomorrow with whatever thendictor says to do.

    • Nick Sanders

      I’m sorry it’s causing such problems, I wish you a speedy recovery and the best of luck.

    • Amazed

      Good luck, Beatrice!

    • Sean Jungian

      Really sorry this is affecting you so awfully. I hope you get relief soon and things go more smoothly.

    • BeatriceC

      Plan of attack:

      Today: Smoke on the same schedule I normally would, but only half a cigarette each time.

      Tomorrow: Smoke half a cigarette no more frequently than every 90 minutes.

      Monday: Increase time to two hours.

      Tuesday: Increase time to three hours.

      Wednesday: Increase time to four hours.

      Thursday: no smoking.

      There’s still going to be withdrawal, but the doctor is hoping that a quick step-down, while still being difficult, will ease the severe withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing and hopefully eliminate the extremely severe ones.

      • maidmarian555

        Good luck Beatrice! Sounds like a sensible plan, I very much hope it works for you.

      • Who?

        Sounds like a plan. Hope it goes well. One day, probably before too long, you will realise you’ve gone half a day and haven’t thought about it.

      • Toni35

        Sounds like a decent plan. Did you discuss NRT with your doctor? It’s the only thing that made it possible for me quit (I used the gum).

        If there is some reason this is not possible, please disregard.

        Good luck!

        • BeatriceC

          Latex and adhesive allergies keep me from using the patch and the gum pulled out a large filling in one of my teeth. I’m afraid of additional damage, as my dental insurance is horrible and I can’t even afford the amount of work that needs to be done right now, so I don’t want to add to that. There’s a similar fear, though not quite as much, with the lozenges.

          Yesterday was a good day. I have been smoking a little over a pack a day (about 25 per day). I wound up falling into a once an hour schedule for most of the day, with a few 45 minute increments around dinner time (normally a time of very heavy, almost chain smoking). I smoked ten total cigarettes, so less than half of normal, without any horrible withdrawal symptoms. There were some tough moments, but nothing like it has been.

          Today is every 90 minutes, and I was up for an hour before I went outside to smoke the first half-cigarette. I’ve NEVER gone that long in the morning. This is a success so far. I feel like if anything is going to work, this plan is what’s going to.

          • MI Dawn

            Good luck, BeatriceC. It’s very hard, I understand. We’re all rooting for you.

          • BeatriceC

            Thanks. I’m cautiously hopeful that this might actually work. Yesterday went well with only a few moments of difficulty. I think this is also addressing what Bofa mentioned a few days ago, and that’s the habit/stress coping part of the addiction. It’s a lot easier to say “Just one more hour” and find some other way to deal with whatever for that hour, than to think “never again”. This, I think, is helping me figure out how to deal with the general daily routines and coping with stress in a slightly different way, between when I would normally smoke and when the next schedule half-cigarette is. A few days of that, I think, is going to make it easier when they get dropped for good.

            So today is set for a half every 2 hours. That will be 4.5 cigarettes. I was smoking between 20-25 per day. Yesterday at a half every 90 minutes was 5.5 cigarettes. That’s a huge reduction and the withdrawals haven’t been horrible. It’s been somewhat unpleasant at times, but not horrible.

          • Mishimoo

            That’s awesome! I hope it keeps working, you’re doing so well.

          • Toni35

            Okay, I understand completely!

            Good luck to you! I smoked a pack a day for over twenty years. I won’t give you any platitudes about quitting… It just plain sucks. I’m rooting for you tho!!

  • Amazed

    OT: Around Christmas, I gave Amazing Niece a bottle. It wasn’t our first bottle but it sure as hell was the first one she emptied in a minute or two. Honestly, I was scared that I had forgotten the right way to hold her. She downright scared me. And then I realized that she had used her four teeth to cut a hole in the soft part and get the damned food out faster. Suddenly, I knew why SIL had given up on her plan to nurse her till 1 year if possible… and why the reduced number of feedings suddenly turned into, “Well, that was our last time breastfeeding, my sweet child.”

    The idea that any mother should be forced to endure such a thing done to her breasts just to keep nursing her baby who is old enough to have teeth and use them quite efficiently is downright unhuman. No wonder the benefits of nursing well into toddlerhood are exaggerated. I imagine quite a fewer mothers would take well being their child’s meat for no good reason at all.

    • Madtowngirl

      When I had originally planned to breastfeed, I had planned on stopping when my baby got teeth. I just didn’t want to deal with the biting. I never would have said that on a mommy page, though, I saw how women got torn apart for stopping before a year was up.

      • Amazed

        Yeah. First birthday is SUCH a magical number, don’t you know? If you stop in advance, you’ve doomed your kid to lifetime of health troubles, obesity and stupidity.

      • Dr Kitty

        I breastfed both of mine until they were around 14 months and was bitten probably twice by each child, total.

        Teeth doesn’t *necessarily* mean being bitten.

    • attitude devant

      I’m old enough to remember that Dr. Spock advocated for teaching your child to drink from a (sippy) cup as soon as she was able to hold it and sit upright. Made sense to me….

      • Amazed

        Sounds reasonable for me too. Why take the biting?

        Amazing Niece loves playing with her sippy cup, placing her finger in the hole and whatnot. But she certainly appreciates the faster flow of milk now – and that’s with her mom having a great supply and breastfeeding being quite easy.

      • myrewyn

        I didn’t read Dr Spock but my first weaned himself from the breast straight to a sippy cup well before a year. It makes perfect sense not to start a bottle habit if you don’t need to. He was never a good nurser, by the way. I was a veritable fountain of milk and still it didn’t come fast enough for his liking. The cup was perfect.

      • Dr Kitty

        My first went along with that advice happily and was drinking from cups from about 8 months.

        #2 has made it clear he will drink from bottles and only bottles.
        Cups are up-ended and sippy cups thrown across the room.
        He’d rather go all day without a drink than drink from anything else.
        After buying at least 4 different types of toddler cup we gave up.

        Obviously, he’s wonderful, but he is very, very stubborn.

        • Sean Jungian

          I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with a kid having a bottle. I let my son carry one until he was very nearly 4 years old. He still drank out of sippy cups and regular cups, but really loved milk (or even water) in a bottle, and didn’t chew the nipples off. I trusted my day care lady who said she really didn’t see anything wrong with him continuing with his bottle for comfort and extra fluids as long as he didn’t take it to bed with him and of course the contents were fresh.

          Its another thing, like pacifiers, that people get all judgy about that really doesn’t matter. He’s 15 now, has nice straight teeth, still drinks milk (in a glass now [and sometimes straight from the jug] lol) and is a healthy normal weight.

        • FormerPhysicist

          MD went to daycare at 8 months and would NOT take a bottle after always having breast milk straight from the source. She took a sippy cup fine, though.

    • cookiebaker

      Of the kids I breastfed, 2 were weaned because they stopped latching properly and caused cracked and bleeding nipples. One was 16 months old, the other was 21 months old. You think you’re in the clear once you get past that newborn phase, but they can change the rules on you in a heartbeat!

    • maidmarian555

      So much this ^^ Wee man got his first teeth through at 5 months. By 6 months we had moved over to formula completely. He bit me every time I tried to feed him. I did try nipple shields and fiddle beads and saying ‘no’ but he bit the shields and pulled them off with his teeth, yanked the fiddle beads whilst biting and laughed at me when I told him off. The last time I tried he drew blood and that was us done. Unfortunately he can’t read yet so I wasn’t able to show him all the lactivist stuff about him needing to breastfeed forever. A few months on and he now has 5 teeth through (6,7 and 8 are also visibly on the way) and still bites his bottles and dummies. He obviously just likes biting stuff, I have no idea what I could have done to discourage him.

      • Amazed

        Yeah, it would have been so much easier if they could read, wouldn’t it? In the hospital, Amazing Niece got a professor and a bunch of students coming to see what a kid who has eaten a poisonous plant looked like. The professor started with the symptoms: high fever, herpes around mouth and so on. SIL was like, no, no, and no. The kid didn’t even spit out the apparently horrible-tasting thing, her mum had to pull it out by force. The professor asked to see her records and his eyes went wide at the numbers, so the visit turned into a lecture of a case presenting with no visible symptoms at all. Baby girl hadn’t read the big books so she didn’t know that she should have symptom-ized (is that even a word?) I wonder what a midwife would have done in such a situation. I know what the mamas in a mama forum here advised on a similar case of a toddler eating the same poisonous thing: stay at home, mama! Kid might have a little water poop but they’ll be fine! And we’re supposed to trust mamas’ wisdom on keeping kids alive? They can’t recognize that a freaking poison is a must-see-the-doctor-now. I wouldn’t trust them on keeping a baby sated by nursing forever.

        What do NCB lovers do when a problem arises without any visible symptoms at all? I know, I know. They don’t take even the most symptomatic symptoms seriously, so if you aren’t fit enough to symptom-ize, it’s on you, Mom. Your body should have know better.

        • maidmarian555

          Well obviously if she wasn’t showing symptoms and wasn’t taken to hospital, Mum could have capitalised on the bragging rights that ‘breastmilk fixed my poisoned child’ would have given her which is, of course, waaaay more important than actually seeking medical help for an emergency.

          What really bothers me about all the NCB/Lactivist rhetoric is that the babies themselves are seen as extensions of their mother’s body and ego. There is no allowance anywhere for the child to actually be a person in their own right. Even very small babies are capable of expressing preferences and making decisions in their own (admittedly limited) way. “Nipple confusion” is a phrase that always gets my heckles up. That baby isn’t ‘confused’. That baby has sampled your feeding methods and is expressing his/her own preference. It’s just not the same as *your* preference.

          I guess that’s part of why they often don’t take symptoms of illness or potential emergencies very seriously, they don’t seem to see their kids as anything other than fodder for their own narcissism. They don’t see them as individuals or people, they’re just props.

          • Azuran

            Or how they keep telling you to breastfeed until baby self weans. Unless it wants to self wean before 5 years old. Then it’s just a breastfeeding strike.

          • maidmarian555

            And the advice on what to do in the event of such a strike? Starve that child and only offer boob until they relent and give in to what you want them to do. Screw them and their own bodily autonomy if it doesn’t fit in with your plans. Urgh.

          • yentavegan

            Please! If you had called on me ( LLLleader volunteer) we would have spoken about stuffy noses or change in schedule or ear infection. mouth sores, new perfume ? I have never advised to starve an infant into submission. Never

          • MI Dawn

            I would have loved to talk to you! The LLL leader in my town at the time was huge on “just wait, they’ll get hungry and eat eventually” (24 hours of no breast feeding? No problem. Baby obviously isn’t hungry, just screaming because he/she is mad.) And also “just adjust your diet, mama, the baby will be OK” (to my friend whose baby became so lactose intolerent that her diet was consisting of beans and rice before she said F*** this and put him on formula – I don’t recall if it was just soy or a special formula at this late date).

            I really disliked that woman….

          • maidmarian555

            We’re not really talking about infants or traditional “nursing strikes”. We’re talking about women who make every effort to prevent their toddlers from self-weaning because *they* don’t want to stop breastfeeding and to hell with what the toddler wants. I am glad you don’t advise people to starve their children into submission. Sadly, there are other (sometimes quite vocal) women that do not share that view.

        • kilda

          some kids just aren’t meant to survive eating poisonous plants.

        • Mel

          At least you knew what Amazing Niece’s poisonous plant was. Every botanist who works in a college or university near a hospital has the same nightmare story: you get a call from the local ER. One or more kids – usually toddlers – have been brought into the hospital after having consumed an outdoor plant that their parents didn’t recognize. The staff at the ER don’t recognize the plant either and need to know what it is to verify that the plant isn’t toxic – or find out how to treat the kids. (If you are the parent, please bring as much of the plant as you can; flowers and fruit often have the most information for identification, but leaves and stems can often be enough if that’s all you have available. Heck, the absence of fruit and flowers on a given date can be a nice clue to the possible plant.)

          So far, no one has had to tell the docs that the kids were poisoned but that might be because we only have living vegetation here from mid-late March through October.

          Also, botanists are by definition people who dislike high stakes situations. Heck, we study organisms that are generally sessile so we don’t even have a time-limit on identifying it! (Can’t ID it today? Well, it will still be here tomorrow or next week or whenever it flowers….)

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            The apartment complex we lived in when my kid was a toddler had oleander as a decorative planting Everywhere…the entire plant roots flowers wood etc is poisinous. I told management but they just shrugged.

          • Azuran

            It gets so ridiculous at my job. It’s incredible how people don’t know what medication they take, what plant they have, or what kind of chocolate they eat. Over half of the time we get a call about pet poisoning, they can’t tell us what it was. And they never think about bringing in the box…..

          • Amazed

            In the leaflets of all my medicine, there is this recommendation: if you overdose on it, if you get side effects, whatever, do take the box with you. The same for some of my cosmetics which comes in bright boxes and chocolate and vanilla flavours. A friend’s toddler took a hefty sip from the chocolate one as we were in the kitchen.

          • Azuran

            Yea, but people aren’t really good at following this kind of instruction.
            I even had many clients who even decided to change the bottle they keep the medication in (for some reason???) so they have those unidentified pills, in a blank plastic bottle, without the prescription script on it. They have no idea what it it or what’s the strength of the pills (and sometimes aren’t even sure why they take them…..seriously)
            Then they get mad that we can’t give them an antidote or do 1 magical ‘test all the drugs’ blood test.

          • BeatriceC

            If they could at least bring in the leftover pills you could look at the ID number stamped into the pills, but the way you describe most of your clients, that’s probably too much to ask for.

          • Azuran

            Yea, but generally they call me because the dog ate them. So they don’t have any left.
            Honestly, most people do fine, but it’s the 1-5% of idiots that you remember the most. And you learn quickly that there is absolutely no limit to the stupid things they can do. Seriously…….there is nothing anyone can come up with that I would say is impossible for a human being to do.

          • Mishimoo

            I have a good one! Trying to inject their dogs with frontline flea prevention using a blunt 18g needle, then complaining that they were nearly bitten.

          • Azuran

            We’ve had an owner who injected his vial of revolution in his dog’s lumbar muscles.
            …….I have no clue what made him believe he should do that.

          • Mishimoo

            It’s just astounding, in a horrifying kind of way.

          • Azuran

            If only it was even close to being in the worst cases.
            You wouldn’t think it’s necessary to tell someone that they have to remove the needle from the syringe before they give their pet rectal medication……………..

          • Roadstergal

            Oh, that poor dog!! 🙁

          • Amazed

            That’s the situation from the other side and it’s quite interesting! I guess Amazing Niece’s case wouldn’t be this intriguing for botanists since her mom knew from the start what she ate but the doctors were quite interested in the no-symptoms-but-just-look-at-the-numbers thing. Then again, when the Intruder was hospitalized with his second bout of acute pancreatitis at age 15, some of his numbers were so high that the doctors didn’t dare write them down in his medical records – hello, system where control is so lax! It was something like 9 000 when the max should have been 500. And still, he recovered – and he isn’t even diabetic which the doctors told my mom would be inevitable (the first time around). The second time, they knew better. (Some of them were the same people.)

            Human body is quite interesting. In a way, my brother’s case is an outlier as well. His body is just as faulty as the bodies who “couldn’t” do something. But it’s faulty in a good way. Still – faulty. I am not sure I’m expressing myself in the best way possible, especially to a biologist, but you do get my meaning, right?

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Yeah, Mom weaned us all to the bottle as soon as we started getting teeth

    • Mrs.Katt the Cat

      Babies bite the things they love! Nipples, blankets, peoples faces, hands, toys, not toys, . . . . did I mention mine is also a biter? We judge how much she likes a toy by how fast and hard she bites it’s face.

      • Mariana

        My kids were bitters too. My oldest would bite my arms and neck with such force I had multiple bruises (I also bruise easily…). I tried to predict when she would bite so I could maneuver her away from my flesh… But it didn’t always work. She sometimes bit me with no warning…Not fun…
        I remember going to the doctor once and when she saw all the bruises on my arms she kept asking me about them and I kept deflecting… She kept pushing, saying I could trust her with the truth. I was so tired of her asking I just said “the truth is that my baby bites me. ALL THE TIME!” The look of horror on her face… But I guess she couldn’t report a baby for domestic violence…

        The second child bit me too, but not as hard… And I was smarter and could turn his face away from me before he bit.

        I’m so glad they are past this biting stage!

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          I only cured the toddler of biting me when I started to bite back (Hard enough to feel and leave a mark for several minutes)

          • Dr Kitty

            #2 pulled my necklace when he nursed, and still pulls it when he snuggles. Red marks from the chain and baby scratches on my neck. Thank goodness I always have my collar bones covered at work (I have a personal modest and monochromatic dresscode for work. I feel safer and more professional if I am covered up and mostly dressed in black, white or grey. Which I get is a bit weird. )

            He also has started to bite his sister.
            My mother’s “helpful” advice was that before you can use logic and reason, the only option is spanking.
            #1 is a very well behaved child… she’s been on the naughty step fewer than 5 times in her life, deliberate misbehaviour is new for us.

            So far we’re putting him in his cot after saying “no biting”, but given the fact he literally laughs at us, I’m not sure it is working.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            mine thinks timeouts are fun

          • BeatriceC

            You have to find the kid’s “currency”. What makes him miserable enough that it’s a deterrent, but not so miserable to be abuse. I had the “time outs are fun” issue with MK. Turns out what he really didn’t like was sitting in a busy room while everybody ignored him. So I had a time out chair in the middle of the living room, and everybody knew if somebody was in that chair, don’t interact with that person. That corner was just a black hole in my living room. 🙂 Sometimes you have to get creative to figure out what will get to the kid. Trial and error at it’s best.

          • Roadstergal

            That’s so clever!

          • BeatriceC

            Umm, if parrots can be taught not to bite, not to “cage hop”, to stay in certain areas, step up on command, etc, a human toddler can most certainly learn those things. A short time out along with the short “no biting” phrase is probably your best bet. If you’re consistent with it and do it every time, he should learn within a few days to a few weeks.

            Really, I think it’s just pavlovian conditioning, but nothing wrong with that if it’s gentle but firm.

          • guest

            My second is going through the “terrible two’s” which we never had with the first. My friend’s second child is also a challenge at 3 years old. We were comparing notes this weekend. It sounds like it’s common for the second to misbehave more than the first. Probably because the first had no other little one to interact with or share toys and parents with on a regular basis.

        • Allie

          My daughter used to bite and pinch my arms so much they were covered in bruises. One of my coworkers plucked up the courage to ask (in a joking, not joking way) if I were being abused at home. I laughed, thanked her for her concern, and assured her it was not my husband, but my toddler.

        • Mrs.Katt the Cat

          Mine got me good a few times. When i yell out she cries and i feel so bad, but it hurts.
          Now she gives baby kisses, which is just open mouth face plants and drool that usually don’t turn into bites

      • Sean Jungian

        My son went through a biting phase when he was about 18 months. I am lucky in that it didn’t last long, and he only ever bit me in the shoulder – he’d lean in for (what one would think was) a kiss and then CHOMP! Oh hilarious how mom jumps!

        I would get so angry I would just quietly put him down and stalk away for a few minutes or hand him off to someone else.

        • Mrs.Katt the Cat

          Mine was a biter way before she had any teeth. And a chewer before she tried food. Thank god for bottles or there would have been a lot of yelling in my house

    • Mel

      Ok, the thought of a child happily chewing through a nipple to get food faster makes me happy!

      Spawn’s taking a paci intermittently now and I was impressed with the force he used to chomp down on the nipple and pinkie finger I was using to hold the paci in place.

      We might be EPing for the rest of his milk days….

      I think Spawn has learned through trial and error to set off his NIPPV alarm by exhaling really hard through his nasal prongs when he either hears his nurse talking to someone else OR hears another baby’s ventilator alarm go off. The correlation between those events is higher than I would expect from random chance alone 😛

      • Amazed

        Spawn sure looks like an intelligent human calf! I’m so happy that he’s a strong enough to take paci. Things seem to go just the way they should!

  • New Mom

    The link in the article won’t work for me.

  • SarahG

    My first-born is 3 weeks old and I have discovered that motherhood really does involve a lot of pain. Labour and delivery suck balls period in my limited experience. Add an hour in the OR getting more than 50 stitches post-vaginal birth (no skin to skin or immediate breastfeeding for me despite the magical “natural” entry) and nipples adjusting to being sucked on for hours at a time and being a Mum had been a great but very uncomfortable experience.

    However I haven’t felt the need to accept and embrace it like a bloody martyr. I begged for an epidural but it was too late. Took full advantage of tramadol at the hospital and paracetamol after. Nipple sheilds when I needed them. Bottles so I could get some extra sleep. Whyyyy do some people avoid pain at all costs in any other situation then suddenly love it when it comes to babies?? Such a culture of martyrdom. A lot of my friends are generally sensible people but still refuse to make their own lives easier because that’s not what they’re “supposed” to do.

    • cookiebaker

      Congratulations on your new baby! Glad you’re taking care of yourself, too, and making it easier on yourself. Parenting is so huge that I think a lot of people get caught up thinking if they follow a certain set of steps everything will work out perfect, but there’s many, many, many ways to raise good, kind, healthy children and you just need to find what works for you.

  • Roadstergal

    I’m into the kink scene, so it’s interesting to read about masochism as an integral part of meeting your newborn child!

    Two things that I think are critical to safe kink play are missing in ‘mommy kink.’

    The first is the concept of boundaries, including a safe word. The person inflicting pain has an absolute responsibility to set up boundaries around the type and degree of pain, and to always make sure the person receiving the pain is in a state to opt out of he/she has had enough. Nature has no boundaries, and women go into labor with no safe words. When they do decide they’ve had enough, and try to express that without pre-specified safe words, they’re talked out of pain relief by their providers. A dom who did that would be rightly drummed out of town.

    The second is the concept of aftercare. Once a masochist has gone through what they want to go through, they get care and cuddles and whatever they find most important in order to enjoy the experience as a whole and recover from it. Women are actively discouraged from having aftercare and rest.

    Mommy kink is the craziest shit.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “and women go into labor with no safe words.”
      Instead they sometimes even go in with the very opposite of safe words, i.e. “no matter how much I beg to go to the hospital for an epidural, don’t take me.”

    • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

      I’ve never wanted an epidural during blade play. I sure as hell did for labor!

    • Dr Kitty

      Thanks for that.
      I think NCB needs to be told this repeatedly.

      When your script on pain and pain relief is considered abusive, coercive and crazy by the people who enjoy pain, it should probably signal a re-think.

    • yay_vaccines

      I’ve given birth twice, once with an epidural and once without. I tell any friend who’s considering going to natural, to no shit have a safe word. As in, if you say this word, your support person has to get you relief. It does sound ridiculous, but when the ncb folks tell support people to deny her pain relief, because it’s just the labor brain talking, then it’s sadly necessary.

      I never had a safe word. When I told my support person to get me drugs, he was like on it. Of course, we agreed on that ahead of time. He knew if I said it, I meant it.

      • Madtowngirl

        I have always found it very bizarre that people will try to talk women out of pain relief when she asks for it. Like, what the hell, you’re not the one in pain, how do you know she doesn’t *really* want it? I hate the idea of, and term, “birth rape,” but this scenario really does parallel the idea of “when a woman says no, she doesn’t really mean it.”

    • BeatriceC

      This. All of it. MrC stops immediately as soon as my safe word is uttered or I drop the safe ball (I can’t always form words so I have a red ping pong ball I hold and if I drop it that’s the same as a safe word). I’ve only safe worded out a couple of times, but if I do everything stops instantly. The fact that some hospitals don’t respect the safe word “epidural” is horrifying.

    • CanDoc

      Wow. There aren’t many posts here any more than rock my thinking and force me to stretch my brain. Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating comparison.

    • Mrs.Katt the Cat

      I really think that many concepts in the kinkier world would be of ENORMOUS benefit if they were accepted more widely. Consent, planning, safety words, respect, etc . . . . and I’m mostly a vanilla.
      I have emotional safety words- simple phrases that let the hubs know what mood i’m in and what to do, and vice versa. With us both having depression, it has been a huge help in just communicating needs quickly around a baby.

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        We’ve slowly started to do the same. “They’re loud today” references old pre-kid conversations when I told him about the bad thoughts that intrude sometimes. Lets him know that I’m having a particularly bad mental day.

        • Mrs.Katt the Cat

          It’s so convenient, isn’t it?

      • Sean Jungian

        I agree. It seems to me that the cornerstones of kink are trust and communication, and that should really be the cornerstone of any relationship.

    • MI Dawn

      Exactly. I’ve only safeworded once. But that was respected immediately. However, I also had a great OB/GYN who also respected me. Well…to be honest, with my second delivery, I was refusing pain relief because I thought I was doing OK (in my MgSO4 hazed pre-eclamptic brain). He looked at me, told me my BP was too high, and I *was* getting some Demerol. We bargained on the dosage (I won..) and I accepted it.

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    So much of the female reproductive system seems to involve hurting. Why shouldn’t we try to ease pain as much as feasible?

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      It’s the female version of the male action hero, like Rambo or Ahnold.

      You know the ones who get the total snot kicked out of them, blood all over, generally shot in the shoulder, but still come through and save the day (usually saving the girl, of course). The whole thing of Rocky II and beyond is that he can get the shit kicked out of him for 14 rounds but then in the last round he comes through knocks out the other guy (note Rocky I didn’t do this, as he lost, and there, just surviving was considered an achievement). Shoot, it was even Karate Kid. It wasn’t enough for Ralph Maccio to win, he had to do it after having his knee crunched.

      Real manly men are tough guys who persevere despite the pain. That’s what real men do. Only women cry from pain. Real men tough it out, and refuse to let it stop them. The more pain you can endure, the more mainly you are.

      It’s total sexist nonsense.

      This is just the woman version of the same crap. Real womanly woman have to be tough, too, It’s just that instead of being action heroes, they get to be birth warriors.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Hmmm. I don’t think it’s just a the mirror image female version of what is expected of men. There’s more to it than that. If a guy doesn’t persevere despite the pain, he can be labeled a wimp and a failure to meet the masculine standard, sure. But within the NCB culture, a woman who fails at unmedicated childbirth is not only a wimp and failure to live up to the feminine standard (an “unnatural woman”), but also shows that she doesn’t love her child. It’s an added layer of failure.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          The action hero also has to save the girl, though. He can’t be manly for himself.

          • fiftyfifty1

            True. Then again, the action hero is a fictional character on the big screen. Women are expected to suffer in real life, and are judged in real life by these standards. Have you ever been asked whether you have won a karate tournament with a broken knee, or whether you have jumped off an exploding helicopter to save a girl? No? But I have been asked plenty of times “did you have an epidural?”

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            No, but I have been put upon and bullied because I am not a “tough guy.”

            Guys, in real life, do face crap from other guys because they are not manly enough. “I’ll kick your ass” is a common approach to things. Shoot, even Joe Biden went there yesterday. It’s all about being the tough guy.

          • New Mom

            That makes me think of a part of TBOBB when Ricki Lake says something about how women only care about having a healthy baby in their arms. How her home birth is everything to her. Forget about the kid, she was after a merit badge for The Marathon of Suffering.

            These people wouldn’t dream of getting dental work done without pain management, not because that would be fucking crazy, but because there’s no recognition in it.

        • Sean Jungian

          I think that the theme is more one of self-sacrifice than of toughness. A woman undergoes the pain of labor without relief as a sacrifice of her own comfort for the (supposed) health of her child.

          In the movies, a woman often sacrifices her own desires, career hopes, autonomy, rights, etc. in order to be with her man, sure, but even more especially for her children. It’s a trope that is as old as (at least) the story of King Solomon and the 2 mothers, one of whom is recognized as the “true” mother specifically because she is willing to sacrifice her own desire to have her child with her. She’s rewarded for that, and it becomes irrelevant who the biological mother is: the real mother will give up everything for her child.

          There’s also probably several lifetimes’ worth of research that could be done just on the denial and erasure of womens’ pain overall. Remember, it wasn’t a hard sell to convince women that childbirth, arguably one of the most objectively painful events a person can experience, didn’t have to be painful at all with the “correct” mindset and beliefs. We are often taught to sublimate pain and not express it and to this very day it is difficult to get a health care provider to believe you have pain if you are a woman.

          • Montserrat Blanco

            I have never thought about Solomon’s story as you have. I saw it as : I am the real mom, so I’d rather see my child alive with other mother than dead. It is an interesting reading of the story.

          • swbarnes2

            The other fun fact about the Solomon story…you can use it as a counter-example to “bedsharing is safe, people have been doing it for millennia”

        • Roadstergal

          That’s an interesting point. There have definitely been movies where the male hero fails, and the reward/woman is so sad for him – but I can’t think of one where the failure of the man to overcome meant he didn’t care enough about the reward/woman, rather than ‘he tried his utmost and failed.’ As in the aforementioned Rocky I. Also, usually the Less Great Sidekick in action movies doesn’t overcome, but is perceived as being Less Awesome Than The Hero rather than Less Kind or Less Loving or Less Motivated.

          I mean, the closest I can think of is District 9, when Wikkus gives up and runs away and just wants to be left alone, leaving Christopher and his son to their fate. Because we do see that as ‘he did that because he doesn’t care about them.’

          Interesting that an alien was seen as more on a level with the human than his wife. In action movies, woman = property.

          I’m going off on a tangent…

      • Empress of the Iguana People

        oh. i agree; it was a rhetorical question. And i tend to stoism myself!

      • MayonnaiseJane

        Some of it I think has to do with people dredging up stuff from old “warrior” cultures that they want to emulate, hence the “birth warrior” crap. For example Sparta, the only people who got headstones were men who died in battle, and women who died in childbirth. They were considered equally valorous. And people who have read more norse inspired fiction than Norse history are often under the impression that the same applied to getting into Valhalla. What these folks DON’T seem to understand is that the REASON for that (in places like Sparta where it actually HAPPENED) isn’t because of some sacred nobility of birth, it’s because childbirth is effin DANGEROUS. On par with running into infantry combat. Saying “trust birth” is like saying “trust war.”

    • Sarah

      Because of Eve.