Thursday, June 04, 2009

On all your uterus (still belong to us)

Okay, so not that I've ever been there (thank God), but I'd imagine that being obliged to push a small watermelon out of your girlyparts is a very personal experience such that addressing your personal comfort as your prefer should be a priority. And as fruity as things like water birth and standing birth and, I don't know, kickboxing birth may sound, they're generally time-honored approaches that date back to before medical intervention was the norm for childbirth, and in many cases they add a sense of control over the experience and bonding with the baby that a hospital birth doesn't necessarily provide. That's why the popularity of midwives has been growing in recent years.

But oh, wait.

Forget I said all that, Alabama. You're going to be having your baby in a hospital where you bloody well belong. If you choose to sprog at home, having your friendly neighborhood certified professional midwife by your side will be enough to charge her with a misdemeanor. But I've been working with her throughout my pregnancy! you say. She knows everything about me! I was counting on her assistance! And you're welcome to it - as a certified nurse midwife, assisted by an obstetrician, in the intimate comfort of a hospital delivery room.

Again, I know nothing from personal experience on the subject of giving birth, but having worked extensively with various women's services here - and having known plenty of people who've been, y'know, pregnant - I gather that a quieter, less clinical environment for childbirth is ideal. As I pimp our new women and infants center, the selling point that keeps popping up is that the birthing rooms are comfortable and quiet and dimly lit and blah-blah-blah to make it a more homelike atmosphere. If most medical professionals recognize that that is the ideal, why not work to make it easier for women to give birth in an atmosphere that is homelike by virtue of being an actual home?

I recognize that there are a lot of complications that a woman can encounter throughout her pregnancy and especially during delivery itself. And of course women are encouraged to seek regular medical care throughout their pregnancy, and if things start looking complicated, they may have to compromise their home-birth fantasy in favor of one that has a few more crucial medical resources lying around. But the majority of pregnancies aren't that way. For millennia, women have been squatting in the corners of caves and teepees and thatched huts to give birth, and certainly enough mothers and babies have survived the experience to tell the tale and propogate the species.

It seems that when a woman is pregnant, she's the only person who doesn't know what's best for her. Everyone wants to protect her unborn child, and she is suddenly reduced to an inanimate object, a two-legged incubator incapable of making her own decisions about her own body.

A woman from Cameroon is landing in a federal prison after a judge in the U.S. sentenced her to 238 days for having fake documents - because she's pregnant and she has HIV, and apparently giving birth with the stellar health care of a prison infirmary is the best way to keep her baby from contracting the virus. A woman who can't kick her drug habit (which is, admittedly, a really bad thing) before she gets pregnant could be charged with child endangerment or even murder. The number of C-sections is on the rise, whether the woman wants (or sometimes even needs) one or not. Caffeine is bad, sushi is bad, some other stuff is bad (lunch meat? Peanut butter, or something?), and a woman is as likely as not to get chewed out by random strangers for introducing such poisons into her bloodstream. Hell, unpreggos like myself are already being told to treat ourselves as "pre-pregnant" on the off chance that a birth-control slip will get us knocked up without our uteri being appropriately prepared.

As always, there are limits. There are things that you should do. Get plenty of sleep, get plenty of prenatal care (heck, get health care throughout your life; it's just a good idea). Don't put stuff in your body that you don't intend to go into the baby's body. Wear your seatbelt. But there are plenty of things that we should do in life that they don't put us in jail for not doing. The fact that our uterus is now flashing a "no vacancy" sign doesn't mean that everyone is suddenly the boss of us. Hell, we have enough impositions on our bodily autonomy as it is. At least let us push out a baby in our fucking living room.

It's increasingly becoming a rallying cry. Stay. Out. Of my. Uterus. It's mine. If it's empty, I don't want you poking around, and if it's full, there's no room for you.

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