If you ever watch the Discovery Health Channel, you are as aware as I am of the fact that they play a lot of baby shows. Many of these baby shows involve scenes of live birth. There is always a disclaimer before the show, much like South Park, saying that if you have a problem with what is about to take place live on your television screen, you might not want to watch the particular program. You know, you might want to put down you sandwich or your Girl Scout cookie if you don’t plan on changing channels for the next half hour or so. So, when I was watching Birth Day Live this afternoon, I was fully aware of the fact that I was going to see birth. And I was okay with this.
Maybe I’m a masochist, maybe I’m just curious, maybe I want to convince myself that this experience can’t possibly be as dramatic and awful as they make it out to be in sitcoms and drama shows. Regardless of why I watch, I do watch these shows on occasion, and I have to say that earlier today, as I sat watching Birth Day Live, I was simultaneously composing a letter to the Discovery Health Channel in my head.
This is why: over half the births that were shown were cesarean births. Now, I’ll save my opinion about excessive medical interventions and unnecessary overuse of the cesarean surgery for another time. What bothered me about the show was that I watched cutting and tearing and general rough treatment of women’s uteruses by doctors over and over again, and I saw every slice. The camera was focused on that incision until the baby with all its amniotic fluids emerged, sometimes violently yanked by the head and neck. But when there was a regular, vaginal birth taking place, the camera never focused anywhere below the woman’s waist. Not once. This disturbed me on so many levels.
Birth is a natural, beautiful thing. Yes, it’s painful and gory, but it is also an action worthy of reverence and respect. And a baby is meant to come into this life through its mother’s birth canal. This is what women’s bodies are made for. So when a show presents me with a disclaimer that it’s going to include images of live birth, I mostly expect to see vaginal deliveries, perhaps with the area around the baby part blurred out to comply with FCC regulations, but a baby coming into the world via its mother’s cervix, nonetheless. I don’t mind sitting through a cesarean or two, but that should be the last resort as a birth choice, available in case of an emergency. And in my opinion, seeing a woman so brutally torn open like that, when there is probably very little reason for it, is far worse than seeing a little pubic hair or stretched perineum. Maybe that’s just me.
From the births that I have seen on Discovery Health shows and elsewhere, the vaginal delivery is far less gory than the cesarean. But even watching Birth Day Live this afternoon made me quite wary of hospital birth in general. They made such a big deal about the mother who chose to have her baby without any anesthesia, when women have been giving birth naturally for as long as the human race has existed. Sometimes without even a midwife present, even today. I don’t understand how it can be that taboo to not want medical interference in this natural process. I respect the choice of the individual, I truly do, but why should it make such a difference to the commentator whether you want drugs or not during labor? They never once mentioned that a woman had been given an epidural, pitocin, or other drug. They only seemed to care when the intervention was refused.
Another thing that upset me was the look on some of these mothers’ faces as the cameras came in for a close-up. I felt like if that was me, I would be telling everyone to calm the fuck down, get the hell out of my face, stop talking around me and let me do what I came there to do. Because it seemed like that was exactly what some of these women might have wanted to say, but never did. A woman in labor is a very powerful force, and I was surprised that none of these woman demanded their children before letting them get carried off by a team of whitecoats for cleaning, measuring, vaccinating, etc. before they even got the chance to see their children’s little faces. I would want to hold my baby in my arms the very second that the work was through, in a quiet moment of affirmation. That all that pain and pushing actually meant something. Something real and tangible. But most of the women on this show were either too drugged up or too fatigued to even reach out their arms as their babies were taken off to other rooms for various procedures. In my opinion, all that stuff can wait, what really matters at that moment is that a brand new person has entered the world, and the mother deserves that first touch more than any doctor, nurse, or technician. Unless something is really, terrifyingly wrong. Then they must do what they must.
I guess what I’m really rambling on about tonight relates to my own fears about motherhood. I wonder how long I would hold out before resigning myself to a c-section. I wonder how much pain I could take before asking for an epidural or some other form of medicinal pain relief. I do know this: when the time comes, I want to feel safe, to be in a comforting and quiet environment, free to move as I please, with as little intervention as possible. I know that I have a certain strength inside, and I think that I would be disappointed if I were to allow anyone else to control a process designed for my body and all its strengths alone.