Everything women do with their bodies is politicized, and one of the most discussed, dissected, and judged acts we may choose to participate in is that of birth. While society may pay lip service to the idea that the only important part of the birth process is ending with a happy and healthy mother and child, the reality is much different.
I am six months pregnant, and my midwife has begun discussing the actual labor and birth process with us. Because the midwifery practice is associated with a hospital, our location is limited to the hospital. Because I chose to go with a midwifery practice, my birth process is automatically limited to no elective inductions or Cesareans. We’ve started discussing options for pain management, from “no medication unless I ask” to “GIVE ME ALL THE DRUGS”. And while people will say that their main goal is just for me to end happy and healthy with a happy and healthy son, anyone who has read comments on a birth-related article online know that there’s an extreme amount of judgment attached to every move a woman makes once her labor begins. What I find striking about the people doing the judging is that many of them admit they’ve never been pregnant or given birth, so they have no personal experience with the process, yet it’s never stopped them from passing judgment on me or any other woman dealing with the process and its associated issues.
I’ve chosen to give birth in a hospital, so some may see me as complicit in the medical-industrial complex, a participant in my own oppression. My gynecologist only practices at Planned Parenthood, so I needed to find someone who could practice at the hospital I chose (which is conveniently located less than a mile from my home). I wanted my provider to be a woman, and I felt that my pregnancy would be low-risk, so I chose a midwifery practice associated with the hospital. If at any point my pregnancy became high-risk, the practice also employs an OB/GYN, so I could continue seeing them. What was most important, more than all of these things, was that they would all be covered as much as possible by my health insurance provider. As an unemployed grad student living off of her husband’s income, I don’t have the financial privilege to go to anyone that strikes my fancy, I have to make sure they’re covered by my insurance. Even as I use preferred providers for all of my prenatal care, I have still paid hundreds out-of-pocket for what isn’t completely covered, from blood tests to ultrasounds.
I’ve chosen to try to attempt to give birth vaginally, and hold off on using medication for as long as I think I can stand it. This is for a variety of reasons: I’m afraid of surgery, I’m afraid of the process of an epidural, I’m afraid of the side effects of Pitocin, I want to see if I can do this. Maybe viewing the birth process as some sort of personal challenge isn’t the healthiest way to view it, but for me, it’s a lot more relatable as a challenge than as some sort of mystic sorority initiation the way I’ve heard some talk about it. And yet again, quite frankly, I’m trying to keep the costs of the birth and hospital stay down as much as possible. I know that the moment I decide I want pain management, I then have to pay for the anesthesiologist. I know that for every step away from a very bare-bones birth process, I have to pay. Some of the mothers I know have had unplanned Cesareans, and they’ve cost literally thousands of dollars out-of-pocket. As much as I’d like to say that money isn’t a factor in my birth and pregnancy decisions, it very much is, and anyone who wants to judge me or any other woman for making decisions based on financial concerns must be very, very lucky to not have to worry like we do. Though truly, in the end, all I want is to hold my happy and healthy baby in my happy and healthy arms, surrounded by my happy and healthy family. The politicization of that moment can wait until another time.
What about you, mama commenters? What was your birth experience? What would you have changed in an ideal world?