As seemingly kooky as Dr. Storch’s methods appear to be now, I was struck by the visible connection his women had with the outside world. Most of the causal elements associated with the miscarriages or lack of menstruation in his notes, are nowadays widely bracketed under superstitions and just plain old silly fallacies. But yet I am afraid that medical science has conditioned us to not trust anything that is not scientific. In doing so, I believe that pregnant women become more isolated and closed off to the outside world and are encouraged to think of their pregnant bodies as just a series of organs functioning within them.
In Pregnant Embodiment, Young highlights what takes places in pregnancy causing alienation in women. The medicalization and intervention orientation of Western obstetrics are argued to further add to a pregnant woman’s alienation. Indeed it is hard to feel connected with what is growing inside you when every step of your pregnancy seems to be so instrument and technology oriented.
But I would like to add another important factor that seems to be absent from her analysis, and that is the role that a presence or lack of a support system can have on further adding to or alleviating this feeling of detachment. Young perhaps alludes to the role of the outside world when she speaks of the main attending physician usually being a man and having a socially superior role to the patient. For me, it sure did not help to constantly feel rushed by my OB-GYN, a woman I might add, who clearly sent out the message that she had no time for complaints or whining.
The day after she delivered my daughter via section, she came to check on my stitches and again rushed through the whole process. I was in the room alone with her and remember saying that my daughter was doing a lot of crying. She never looked up to acknowledge what I was saying… and I KNOW she heard me. Her demeanor clearly conveyed the message that she was only there to attend to my stitches and to teach me breathing exercises that would speed up the recovery process. What was going on with the baby was none her concerns. I never forgave her for that.
Thus the attending physician does play a role in the feeling of alienation a woman might feel. However Young does not mention how that can be made even more salient if the pregnant woman is without a partner or a family support system. After being a parent, I have often said that single parents, who do so with the best of their abilities, are my heroes. Similarly, going through pregnancy alone with everything that it entails must be emotionally tough on those women who tackle it by themselves and could add to the sense of disconnect with their bodies.
While pregnant women cannot hide their impending motherhood and are forced to carry it very will publicly, men who choose to not be involved in the process can just go on with their lives. Thus, these women are forced to go to monthly, later weekly appointments alone, without the support of a partner with whom they can share feelings of fear, angst or even joy. In my case, having a partner stroke my hands gently, during my exam helped me connect with what was going on inside my body. I appreciated his presence and the way he seemed to be the bridge between my body and myself. This is my wish for all pregnant women…well at least one of my wishes.