I have seen too many cases of post traumatic stress and anxiety responses following childbirth to pretend it isn't a real issue. But stress surrounding childbirth isn't isolated to the outliers. At every turn we have people telling us that birth is dangerous, that hospitals are dangerous, that women who have cesareans are irresponsible and ill informed, that those who birth naturally at home are child-endangering hippies. Quite aside from the fact that we are often unable to actually choose our ideal outcome, our strong, evolutionarily-relevant response to public shaming triggers us to defend, to justify our experiences to others in a culture of "having surgery means you're broken," or, "dear god, you're fucking insane giving birth without a doctor." It's like saying, "You didn't do it my way? Fuck you and the vagina you rode in on."
This shit is crazy.
Regardless of our own birthing experiences, natural or cesarean, the element of choice in medical treatment carries physical and emotional implications for all women. And for those who believe that shame is not the issue at all, but that instead informed consent is the biggest driver here, let us acknowledge that in blaming other women for choices, whether fully informed or not, we continually reinforce this notion of "at fault" and subsequent shame, while dividing ourselves along lines of natural birthers versus surgical birthers. As if one makes us inherently better than the other. As if we are really all that different in our desire to make choices for our bodies and for our families. As if the ability to choose always exists. Not to mention that those lines of division make it less likely that the demand for more education, for more choices, for more informed consent will fall below the threshold at which hospitals, other medical bodies or governments alter policy.
But you're not here for the policy. You're here for the psychology, right? So what about the emotional implications of these choices?
When faced with shame or blaming, many women feel "less than" or "wrong" for choices they made and this loss of empowerment has wider implications than we think. For while it is about control, it is not only absolute power that matters. It is our perception of control in any given situation that leads to emotional responses. We need to understand this as well as the fact that we are eroding the mental health of other women by blaming them for their decisions simply because they are not the same as ours or for having births that they may not have even wanted to begin with.
So for the love of holy fuck, knock it off and let's talk about this, about what control really means to us, about why we make different decisions, about how these things alter our emotional state. We need to understand one another. Because we get nowhere if we don't get there together.... continue reading