I don’t see anything in the news I want to bitch about this morning.

So let’s pick on someone.

I can’t remember offhand what got me going again, but sometime yesterday I was reminded how much I dislike a certain brand of natural birth promoter.  Note: if you’ve never tried to make someone feel like shit for scheduling a C-Section, or for having one in general, this post is not about you and you can go take your defensiveness out somewhere else.

The thing that bothers me so much is the same thing that bothers me about a lot of other people right now.  We’ve replaced organized religion with nasty superstition, and a lot of people spend a lot of time blaming people with imperfect lives for those lives in some sort of twisted belief that they, too, can live forever if they just spin three times before they go to bed every night and orient themselves precisely on a north-south axis.  No rolling over allowed.

There are many, many examples floating around popular culture at the moment, and nowhere are they thicker than they are surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.

Think it’s hard to figure out what to eat now?  Try getting pregnant.  So far as I can tell, there are no foods considered safe in pregnancy.  Every meal is supposed to be a careful balancing of risks.  Take that attitude and project it onto birth, and what you wind up with is a horror show.  And the “natural” folks are every bit as bad as the “medical” folks, but they’re a very special brand of obnoxious because they consider themselves countercultural, as though one could figure how correct one’s views are by their distance from the mainstream.

I have no doubt that people give ‘em crap for skipping the drugs and sometimes the doctor.  Because they certainly shovel it out, and we all know that human nature being what it is, these things always go both ways.  It’s just that I’m on the receiving end of the “why didn’t you VBAC?” crap, so that’s what gets under my skin particularly.

Also, I happen to believe modern medicine is a good thing.  A very good thing.  A very, very good thing.

That it can cause more problems than it solves is not exactly a secret (and someday maybe I’ll tell you about what’s happened with this pregnancy to earn me double the monitoring for being absolutely normal...and maybe the minute this baby gets here I’ll forget that I was ever pregnant and ride off peacefully into the reproductive sunset, because I’m really, really bad at the pregnancy and birth thing, but afterward? I rock, and I can’t wait to forget about the parts I’m not so good at).  The point is not that they don’t have a point at all.  The point is that whatever its failings, modern medicine is very good at keeping people from, you know, dying in childbirth, so forgive my not giving a shit.

Of course, I’m biased, because so far as I can piece together what happened, I was one of the people so rescued at one point.  So, yeah, happy not to be dead?  Totally coloring my views here.

I’m rambling, and I haven’t gotten to the point yet because I could easily write about this for oh, say, a week and never get to the bottom of what I want to say about it.  Especially in light of the growing drive to try to codify and standardize motherfucking everything.  I don’t give a damn where you have that baby, just like I don’t give a damn if you have a plastic flamingo on your lawn.  I’m a big fan of everybody leaving everybody else the hell alone.

But the magical thinking bothers me.

We’ve fallen under some kind of grand societal delusion that all human disease is preventable.  We discover penicillin, conquer the plague, and almost immediately set to berating people for not managing their “risk factors” properly.  Eat eggs?  You deserve to die!  Ooops, not this week.  This week it’s margarine.  No, wait!  Transfats!  Aaaaaargh!

This is terrifying enough.  But applied to pregnancy and childbirth, it’s downright tragic.

A woman has a difficult birth, and the first thing some people do is blame her for it.  Because if they can figure out some way to make it her fault, then they themselves are safe.

So a woman venturing onto the internet looking for support after a C Section is likely to hear--even in the middle of a support group, as they are frequently invaded--that it’s her fault for: birthing in a hospital.  Not being in the proper postures during labor.  Having an epidural.  Having the baby continuously monitored.  Seeing an OB.  Seeing a hospital-based midwife.  Allowing glucose tolerance testing.  Allowing vaginal exams during labor.  Allowing an induction.  The list is lengthy and varied.

If she offers up a specific medical reason for the surgery, she hears: there’s no such thing as CPD.  Your body won’t grow a baby bigger than it can birth.  The medical definition of *insert complication here* is wrong, it really isn’t dangerous until *insert level that makes the critic right here*.  Fetal distress is a myth.  Monitoring is unreliable.  Monitoring makes no difference statistically.  Doctors say things are wrong so they can go home at 5.  Did your section happen during the day?  See?  There’s no such thing as failure to progress.  You probably didn’t have *insert complication here*.

If the birth was complicated by preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, she’ll likely be treated to a discourse on one nutritional fad or another.  Generally at some point this degenerates to the point where the woman is accused of not eating enough eggs.  Because a certain person whose last name refers to the making of beer, or if you prefer, a midwestern baseball franchise in the singular, actually discovered a way to prevent preeclampsia, but the medical establishment would go broke if it stopped trying to kill mothers and babies so they won’t tell you about it.

Riiiiiiiiiiight.

And if all of this depresses her, she’s again at fault for allowing all of this to happen to her, and encouraged to plan the “right” kind of birth next time.  And (surprise!) told what to eat.  Because depression?  Totally fixable by nutrition, just like everything else.

Because otherwise it could happen to the women giving this “advice,” and the idea that the universe could throw them a random medical curveball?  Totally intolerable.  Because they did everything right, and the universe is obligated to reward them for it.  Dammit.

The thing is that the universe is a pretty random place.  Non-smokers get lung cancer, skinny people have strokes, fat people live to be 95, and people who eat eggs?  Their fate is up in the air.  LOL.  Seriously, though, we’ve managed to learn a bit about what puts you at risk for what, but none of it is a guarantee, and not much of it is a strong enough association to base your life around.  And no matter how “perfect” you are, you’re going to die someday anyway.  That’s just the way it is.  And when it comes to making more people, no matter what we do babies are still going to die sometimes, and mothers are still going to die sometimes, and modern medicine is the best we can do to prevent that from happening.  And it’s nothing more than a sign of how very effective it’s been at that task that there are people who think that *it* is more dangerous than birth is.  The same feeling drives the anti-vaccination thing.  We’ve never seen a mother die in childbirth, and we’ve never seen a child die of measles, and therefore we can’t bring ourselves to believe that medicine, no matter its flaws, might be responsible for this state of affairs.

The way things are right now feels natural to us.  It’s the way our brains work.  And it’s a dangerous thing not to be aware of, because it leads to huge errors in thinking.

Like I said earlier, I could go on about this for weeks.  But I won’t.  I’ll just say that I’m glad this is my 3rd section, because I’m finally in the golden zone where nobody wonders why I don’t want to VBAC.  It’s peaceful here.  I just wish we could all leave each other the hell alone.  But meddling breeds meddling, especially when you’re trying to codify and standardize motherfucking everything, and the harrassment of women who just want to have babies in peace is nothing more than another manifestation of the modern need to make 1984 into a documentary.

Everything is political now.  But it shouldn’t be.  And much of what’s making it that way is this weird magical thinking.

And I don’t like it.  Not. One. Bit.

Posted by on 06/15 at 02:49 PM
  1. I hate people.  Probably about as much as you do.

    Posted by caltechgirl  on  06/15  at  05:19 PM  from 
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