Are we One or Two?

The readings this week addressed human pregnancy — Isn’t that sort of an objective way to put it? But having experienced pregnancies and childbirths, I cannot separate the objective in my mind from the subjective. Marion Iris Young points out that much of the literature about pregnancy emphasizes the object, the woman as container, rather than the Kristeva’s view of the mother as subject, the location of pregnancy. Bothe Young and Lyerly consider the alienating effects of technology, medicine, and the delivery room. Bartky’s concept of female shame enters into this discussion as shame has the power to overshadow or undermine what could be considered as a good delivery. Further undermining positive perceptions of conception, pregnancy and birth. Lyerly refers to Duden’s suggestion that in viewing the ultrasound of the fetus, the woman actually helps to skin herself because she is exposing the internal to the outside, erasing the boundary between the two. Duden’s discussion of the 18th century precarious pregnancies emphasizes the idea that something evil could be growing inside. Bloody flows, stoppages of menses, and evacuation of clots and growths exemplify the danger associated with impurity. Her writing, I suspect, is influenced by Mary Douglass’s book, Purity and Danger. Keeping various implicit and explicit implications of these readings in mind, I will reminisce about my experiences.

I have a hard time identifying with the idea of the mind-body dichotomy. It seems to me that until the body is lives, there is no real separation of body and mind regardless of how lucid an individual is.  Body and mind are ways of talking about characteristics a human in objectifying terms. Objectification turns the body as well as the mind into entities that can be separated, dissected, and studies piece by piece. An EEG looks at what my brain is doing, aka, it is looking at the physical representation of my mind. The CT scan does a wonderful job at making images of my body so that the physician can look at my physical body and see where the organism — the living machine– has flaws or needs repair work done to it.

As I read the articles today, especially Young, I started playing with the ideas. It went sort of like this. I feel believe, perceive my mind and body to be a contiguous whole, therefore when I was pregnant, my wholeness was expanded to include a future person. However, troubling this concept are lots of questions: Am I merely a container, a wrapper, a residence for another being? Are the baby and I really one because of our connectedness via the placenta and umbilical cord? Are we one because of an intertwining of spirits? Are we two in one? are we separate entities that just happen to be placed in a rather unique relationship to each other? Is my baby essentially me or am I also my baby? And —– when I know my baby is there because of a pregnancy test, or even better, because I can feel movement, do I want to share that experience or knowledge with everyone? My perception is that my baby and I can be one together while being located in a particular proximity and relationship as individuals. Therefore, I can feel wholeness and unity while recognizing the potential for a unique person who will be independent, and talk to that potential person, sing to that developing fetus, and share my dreams with another person.

And I digress. I intended to talk about technology and delivery, hospitals, staff, and instruments. Bartky’s concept of shame entered occasionally into the experience, usually aroused by comments of an attending staff member, not the obstetrician. My first son was born in a small hospital that was dedicated to making the birthing experience holistic and comfortable. Babies stayed with their mothers. Fathers were part of everything. My next two babies were born at a large hospital. Because the second, a son, required induced labor. He was obviously quite large. I was not large myself and had gained only 17 pounds, but was fully dilated at 10 cm. about 6 weeks before his due date. I had a Thursday appointment with the obstetrician who thought I might be in early labor, but had me make an appointment for Monday just in case. When I went back on Monday, he told me with tears in his eyes, to meet him at the hospital bright and early the next morning. Induction took quite effectively, but he was a big baby, 10 lbs. 13 Oz. and not flabby or anything — very solid –and rolled over in the delivery room. The problem with the deliver from my point of view was that while he was stuck during the expulsion stage, I wanted to go home and take a nap but that was not the accepted procedure. Because I had lost the urge to push and he was definitely en route to the external world And he was so large, staff members from all over the hospital kept showing up to cheer me on. It was sort of like being a whole football team all by myself with a nice crowd of noisy supporters and cheer leaders. He was finally out and lived up to the crowds expectations when he rolled over. There were 23 babies i the nursery, a nursery where they made you stand on the other side of the glass . . . Whew— whose delivery was this anyway? Was it that intimate experience between mom and dad and new baby facilitated by my  caring obstetrician? Or was it a spectacle, the circus of the hospital? My third baby, a daughter was born in the same hospital with  the same obstetrician. Induction did not take easily this time, so after most of the day with nothing really progressing, the doctor left for a short dinner break. He had just gotten his car on the street — ironically just outside the delivery room area — when they called him to let him know I was in expulsion stage, on my way to delivery, and he ought to be there instantly. It was like a Hollywood movie, I hear. A friend who was in the waiting room said he came running down the hallway throwing open the doors as he went — being assisted with scrubbing, and gowning as he ran to arrive in the proper position in the delivery room to catch my daughter as she squirted into this world. Since I had had a severe case of scarlet fever early in the first trimester and medicine was not as advanced in predicting the condition of the fetus as it is now, the availability of the hospital and the technology of the time was greatly appreciated and did not detract from the experience.

I could probably write a book about pregnancy, labor, delivery, nursing, and becomeing a mother based on my experience and the experience of becoming a grandmother and being in the position to welcome my grandson as he entered this world. Many of the concerns and concepts discussed in our readings would be address, including the effect of technology, environment, and attitudes.

Room for embodied care in the medical profession

When we read Hamington’s “A Father’s Touch” weeks ago, I dismissed his argument that the morality of care could improve our society. Although I liked the concept of embodied care, I doubted its actual salience and transformative ability. Reading Iris Marion Young’s essay on pregnancy caused me to take a second look at the possibilities of embodied care, especially as it relates to the medical profession.

Iris Marion Young argues that the medical profession’s emphasis on curing patients leads to the labeling of various conditions as diseases, leaving pregnant women, aging women, children, persons with disabilities, and anyone outside of the norm feeling alienated from their own bodies. In her conclusion, she advocates that doctors should place a greater emphasis upon caring for patients, rather than curing them. This, she advances, would improve pregnant women’s experiences and decrease the alienation from their bodies that the medical profession creates.

Iris Marion Young notes that women already provide some of these caring roles in the medical profession, but are largely underappreciated, underpaid, and left to subordinate roles. Midwifery, as discussed last class, is an example of this. Midwifery places a greater emphasis on caring for than on curing a patient. However, it is still on the fringes of modern medicine. To be truthful, I hadn’t heard of or considered midwifery as a normal practice until our classroom discussion.

However, there are large obstacles to changing medicine to a care-based system that Iris Marion Young does not address. Practitioners would be averse to a care-based system because it would lessen the prestige of the profession. First, care would take away the current doctor/patient relationship, which has an a-symmetrical knowledge distribution and leaves the patient dependent on the doctor. I do not forsee doctors agreeing to concede power in their relationships with patients any time soon. Secondly, the principle of care itself is connected with womanhood and femininity. I cannot envision male doctors agreeing that they need to be more caring to patients, for fear of threat to their masculinity. Perhaps this is why female nurses are more often in caring capacities. Furthermore, We have learned in class that female-inundated fields tend to see salary decreases. Therefore, I assume that even if the medical field is not female-dominated, if it is dominated by a trait associated with femininity, it will see a decrease in prestige and compensation.

I feel that if care was associated with masculinity, it would have a greater chance of being included in the medical profession. However, as long care is associated with femininity and the feminine is looked down upon, I unfortunately do not see room for change.

“The Talk”

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine how difficult it might be to broach the topic of sex with your child. Should you prevent it clinically, this is how babies are made? Should you go the route of the sex books and make sex something that only happens between happy, desire less, married couples, as Moore points out? Or depending on the age of the child, discuss how sex is something that should happen in a safe loving environment, with the proper protection?

Despite all these options, always presenting sex as something that happens between a man and a woman in a marriage with the ultimate goal of having children is not helpful, or realistic. Although this is what most children are taught, it’s not something that’s foolproof. There’s a reason why the states that only preach abstinence only education don’t see a reduction in teenage pregnancies or abortions. Because kids are going to have sex anyways, whether you teach it to them or not.

I went to a private Catholic school in high school, and in a public middle school before that. As far as health class goes, I remember discussing sex briefly, but it never being a huge topic of discussion. And when I was younger I had small talks on and off with my mom about sex, but there was never a big, embarrassing moment, where she told me the mechanics of the situation.

I’m hesitant to declare one great method for teaching kids about sex, because by talking to my friends and listening to others each person will form their own opinions from sex by all the resources available to them. Be it school, television, friends, family, or the Internet. It’s more important that we develop a dialogue with kids about what is and is not okay with sex, about respecting your partner’s boundaries, and always being safe.

The birds and the bees

Recently, I remember my little cousin playing the game “pregnancy.” It was a new game she developed after she discovered she was going to have a baby sibling.  At the time, my family thought it was incredibly cute as she mimicked her mother’s every move.  She couldn’t contain her excitement for the new addition to her family.  One summer evening, my family was cooking out when my little cousin asked me to play with her.  A typical pregnancy game ensued (the game never resulted in birth – just a lot of house cleaning and storytelling).  The game continued until she blind sighted me with this comment.  “I can’t wait to have my own baby.” “And why’s that,” I said.  “Because I’ll get to wrestle with boys and have my own baby” (maybe not verbatim but very close).  I quickly ended the game and told my mother what just happened.  Clearly, my aunt and uncle had not explained how exactly this whole pregnancy game works.

My parents never gave me the “talk.”  They relied on our school system to provide that information.  I had some form of sex education from fourth grade until tenth grade.  But each year, as I remember, taught the same lesson.  After the abstinence first lecture, I learned that men get women pregnant.  Maybe it was due to my all male class (all six years) taught be a male teacher, but women were never given too much agency in the lesson.  Why weren’t women allowed to get themselves pregnant?  It is the same narrative that Lisa Jean Moore paints in her essay “My Sperm in Shining Armor.”  Men are active agents while women are passive.  Echoing the capitalist narrative she finds in a lot of children’s literature, my sex education classes taught that men are producers.  Women’s bodies, on the other hand, are wasteful as their period is a monthly reminder of a failed conception.  Usually, a science/health teacher taught these classes.  Aren’t the sciences supposed to be objective?  In creating a scientific discourse to describe pregnancy, misinformation and skewed narratives become “fact.”  Not only does this affect the relationship people have with their sexual bodies, but also the relationship medical professionals have with their patients.

I’m not exactly sure how to go about changing the narrative of “how are babies made.”  I still have no idea how I would explain this to my hypothetical child.  It might be beneficial to change the language that is used when describing how a baby is “made.”  I think that the term making reinforces the capitalistic mindset that is currently controlling the reproductive narrative.  Instead, we should use the term “become.”  How did I become?  This could allow for a more diverse story line behind reproduction that focuses on the child itself rather than the process that “made” the child.  In focusing on diversity, there is less of a chance of ostracizing children who are not born into a hetero-normative family as well as giving all parties involved agency.

Keep your hands to yourself, please

At one point in her discussion of the doubling of the pregnant self, the unique split subjectivity of pregnancy, Iris Marion Young notes that pregnancy may be a time when women are able to escape the objectifying gaze. “The leer of sexual objectification regards the woman in pieces, as the possible object of a man’s desire and touch. In pregnancy the woman may experience some release from this alienating gaze. The look focusing on her belly is one not of desire, but of recognition.” (54) In this view, the woman has finally achieved the biological mandate for which she supposedly exists. Her accomplishment of visually discernible fertility allows others to view her in a positive light for no other reason than her clear contribution to the human race.

While I think there is some merit in this discussion of the change in the gaze, I think there is a much bigger issue to address in terms of objectification and pregnancy that Young does not discuss. While a woman may not be viewed as a sexual object once she is noticeably pregnant, I would argue that she is just as much an object as the sexualized woman, if not more so.

The women in our class who have experienced pregnancy will likely attest to the fact that people seem to feel a strange right to access a pregnant woman’s body that does not have parallels in regular embodied experience. How often do complete strangers walk up to a pregnant woman and touch her, rub her belly, and request information on her unborn child? I have not yet experienced pregnancy, but I have witnessed this behavior in random public locations (as well as with my sister-in-law’s two pregnancies), and it has boggled my mind why people think this is OK. I have a hard time believing that an average (sane) person would ever think they have the right to walk up to me on the street and fondle my hair or rub my breasts, but this personal invasion is apparently completely acceptable once a woman is sporting a noticeable bump.

I have always said that the person who touches my belly during pregnancy without my consent will pull back a stump. However, this seems to be an overarching issue that may be difficult to overcome through my own harsh response (although I’m sure I’ll get some inappropriate pleasure out of shaming people who make this mistake). What are the foundations to this idea that the public at large has such access to the pregnant woman? At what point does Young’s recognition turn into entitlement? Along the same lines, is my pregnant experience in some ways not my own but rather society’s at large?

While I think these views on the availability of the pregnant woman’s body (whether she wants to be available or not) come from a kind-hearted place, the implications on the politics of the female body could be pretty intense. Maybe I’ll feel OK with softening my approach once I am actually pregnant, but maybe my intense response could also make people aware of the absurdity of their actions. I guess I’ll see….

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…

My husband and I got married in 2007 which was a big step for me since I argued against the institution of marriage and told everyone I would be a spinster for life. Shortly thereafter, I took a different position in another profession in order to gain more experience prior to returning to school. While I was working at this new position, I met several people from many walks of life. In my mind, I had our future plans devised. I use the word “our” to include both self and other as my husband and I serve as a witness to each other’s lived experience (yes, my worldview as changed quite a bit from my spinster years). These plans consisted of me eventually returning to school, receiving my degree, and then giving birth to a child. The plan seemed reasonably feasible to me at the time. I lingered on the idea that several women over 30 today are giving birth to healthy children all over the world. In fact, someone shared with me not too long ago a story of a woman in her 50’s who just gave birth. I felt confident about our plan until the day I met a member who I worked with and highly respected in this new position who share with me her thoughts about my husband and I’s current situation. She said, “You and your husband had better settle down and start making babies. You are not getting any younger and if you don’t try soon your eggs will get old.” My immediate reaction was to tell her to ***. After some time to cool off, I could not help but wonder if there was any merit to her argument. I think in a lot of ways bell hooks is right, “words impose themselves; they take root in memory against our will.” I remember talking to my mother about this conversation. She rattled off some statistics about women, age, and birth—basically telling me to not concern myself with what this woman has said to me. I like to feel that I am strong about these issues most of the time; however, I still cannot help but feel ambivalence about this comment I endured. 

Young comments again on the issue of the split subjectivity—but during pregnancy. The story I had just shared was a phase in my life where I felt disembodied without even being pregnant. On one hand, I felt empowered for embracing a destiny that I could call my own. On the other hand, I felt shame for not fitting into the mold of normativity or as Moore discussed god’s plan for reproduction. The “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…” seems to be engrained within our society that fails to provide a space for alternative ways of being. I often feel ambivalent even about the pictures of children that women from my high school post on Facebook. I am a liberated deviant. This is a tension that I attempt to reclaim because deviant in the way that I have come to address my own sense of being is confirming even if it starts out in a disconfirming position. Being deviant by redescribing what that means to me can be liberating.

To some extent, I expect pregnancy to be a similar experience. I am sure I will experience some of the issues that Young discusses; however, I hope to have the opportunity to redescribe this experience on my own terms. Young discusses this “doubling of the pregnant subject” as entrapment yet potential to experience the world differently. One of the examples she uses is the lack of “a firm sense of where my body ends and the world begins” (p. 50). This is the type of tension that can ultimately lead to different ways of embodying being in the world today.

Maternal Wisdom

The readings and discussions this week have made me realize how little I know about my own mother’s childbearing. Fortunately for me, she is only a phone call away. I explained to her that we have been discussing pregnancy and childbirth in this class and I ask her what it was like to be pregnant with me and my siblings. She begins by saying that every pregnancy was different, but that her pregnancy with me was the most different. She was sicker than she had ever been, carried me straight out in front of her while my siblings settled lower in her womb to give her the appearance of having a spare tire of sorts.

She spoke nonchalantly about the delivery, as though it were hardly worth mentioning. They were all pretty similar– no worse than a really bad cramp, but once each baby was in the birth canal the pressure from the baby’s head numbs you. She attributed these smooth deliveries to a high pain tolerance and great Lamaze and meditation training.

When I tell her about our readings, about how the preganant woman’s body is sometimes described as being a container of some alien being or an alienated being split from the fetus (Young, 2005), she pushed those suggestions aside, rehearsing instead a description more aligned with Lyerly’s (2006) explanation of the mind/body and maternal/fetal connection in pregnancy.

She says that the most nerve-wracking time is during Month 9 when we would settle in and get comfortable. During that time, she might not feel us move for a few days at a time. In thinking about those fearful moments, memories of her only miscarriage rush forward.

She was 12 weeks along but something didn’t feel right. She had already had three children and so she knew what her pregnant body felt like. She predicted that she was going to miscarry and then, when the blood came, she was angry with herself for being right.

“It was like a death,” she says. “Every time you’re pregnant you have a dream for that child. You imagine what kind of a relationship you will have with each other. And so when it’s just gone… it’s like a death.”

My mom went into mourning for some time after the miscarriage. As she talks about her emotional suffering afterwards, I think of the precariousness of pregnancy. I think about the unique connection a woman has with the growing child in her womb.

She says, “Your dad didn’t lose the baby. I lost the baby.”

I think of the shame that women often feel in their bodies. The responsibility, the fear of failure.

“Your dad felt that his role was to be strong for me. He wasn’t mourning. He didn’t have a relationship with the baby. I had been in physical contact with it.”

She talked about how, with the other pregnancies, whenever we moved, she put my father’s hand on her stomach, so he could experience that movement also. I think of Young: “She and only she has a privileged relation of feeling with the developing fetus. The pregnant woman feels the weight, position, and motion of the fetus as part of herself yet not herself. Others have access to feeling this developing life only by contact with and through her” (p. 61). My mother mourned the loss of my unborn sibling because she lost a part of herself. My father– a compassionate, outwardly-loving, kind man– could not relate.  

Her stories are powerful and I hear the strength in her voice as she narrates. My mother is such a strong woman, and I hang up the phone with the realization that there are a million questions I have never asked her. Yet. I can only hope I have a million more opportunities to tap her maternal wisdom. I am grateful.

Unimaginable Transformations!

Many women have noted the biases in medical practice; the objectifying mission to cure whatever is deviant begs the question of what is normal to begin with. The answer to this question is, naturally, 25 year old heterosexual white guy. Who would have thought.

I hadn’t really thought about this aspect of medicine until a few years ago. I had ventured off to Wisconsin to live close to the land and participate in a women’s herbalism apprenticeship. My teacher practiced under a framework called the Wise Woman Tradition. This philosophy was introduced in the context of two other traditions, the Heroic and the Scientific. The Scientific tradition was about linearity, mind-body, mechanization, and objectification. The Heroic was about asceticism, the masculine, and a representation of health that was based on young, white, unchanging men (a perspective that informs much of the alternative healing movement). In stark constrast, the Wise Woman Tradition was about spirals, unimaginable transformation, intuition, sacred blood, sisterhood, and the divine feminine. In this perspective nourishment was privileged over curing. Young speaks to the devaluation and unexpectedness of such an approach; it is not a surprise that the masculinist Heroic healing tradition would assume battle with the body and set itself up for triumph.

        I wonder if the labeling of a woman’s body as deviant is not related to a certain jealousy of its capabilities. What comes to mind is our discussion about sperm as being the seed of life – a seed that women merely gestate. Conscious or unconscious, this is an appropriation of pregnancy. The technologies discussed in this week’s readings also prompt a sort of suspicion; Young notes that things like the sonogram create visuals (which she relates to masculinity) which equalize the experience and knowledge of pregnancy between the pregnant and the on lookers. This is not to say that men cannot have experiences of pregnancy, but that they cannot serve to devalue a woman’s subjective experience.

I Think I will Try Yoga Next Time…

I was young when I gave birth. I tried to do research and approach pregnancy and childbirth with an open mind. I tried the breathing and the ball. I experienced a good portion of labor without an epidural (that was enough). But, my experience was limited to what my doctor or the hospital’s lamaze class told me. I did not know that midwifery was an option. I never imagined giving birth anywhere but in a hospital with my feet in cozy metal stirrups, and I looked forward to ultrasounds and dopplers. I have been trying to imagine whether or not I would have done things differently if I had known, if next time, I would make different choices. I think the experience in general went smoothly enough that the ends justified any areas where the means were lacking. I have never considered it a bad experience, but looking at Anne Drapkin Lyerly’s definition of a “good birth” as allowing for agency, connectedness, and dignity, I do see areas where it could have been better for me.

As cheesy as it might sound, the morning after finding out I was pregnant the world looked different. I bought into the hype of giving up yourself for the new being inside of you. I think partly because of my age, my naivety and determination to prove my worth as an unmarried mother-to-be, I tried to do everything everyone else expected of a good pregnant woman. I went to Lamaze because the doctor recommended it. I walked until my hands and feet resembled balloon animals. I ate all day long because they said I was not gaining enough weight. I showed them in the end by gaining 45 pounds. Call me an overachiever. I was going to have a happy, healthy baby damnit! Who cares if six weeks after giving birth my OB would tell me he was concerned about my weight. Some extra baby weight does not a bad mother make!

My body was a machine, but this is not to say that I felt separate from the experience. I certainly felt both a mind and body connection to the experience and to my daughter. I think it would be difficult for Dopplers or ultrasounds, or any other technological approach to pregnancy and childbirth to negate or devalue spending day and night with a poking and hiccuping reminder of a mothers bodily connection to her child. As Lyerly says, these things may “have the effect of reinforcing the connection of a woman and fetus, body and mind” (106). A mother’s relationship with the child in her belly is unique. No one else can share the experience to the same extent or in the same ways. These forms of technology can certainly reinforce the mother’s connection to her baby, but they can also promote bonding between parents as well as between father and child. My daughter’s father cried when ultrasounds produced a picture that looked like her waving at us, also when they told us we were having a girl. Having him there, experiencing some of the same emotions led to him emotionally supporting me. It helped him appreciate what was happening inside of my mind and my body.

Like many women I am sure, my doctor arrived at the last minute. I may not have known the nurses in the hospital, but I had loved ones there. He was there. My mother was there. They, like me did what we were expected to do. They held my hand and told me how to breath. I cursed at them. I only pushed for twenty minutes. I later attributed this to what dancing and gymnastics had done for my body. That may have been the case, or it may have been me trying to prove my superwoman/supermom abilities. I don’t know. I feel that I did have agency, connection, and dignity, but I also see where they were limited. The birth of my daughter is an experience I will always cherish, but I realize that with knowledge I could have a different kind of agency, dignity, and connection that could make things better the next time around–for me.

Whose delivery is it, anyway?

I can’t say for sure what I expect the experience of pregnancy and childbirth to be like, but Iris Marion Young provided a compelling description in Pregnant Embodiment.  Young writes that “the pregnant woman experiences herself as a source and participant in a creative process… she is this process, this change. … Each day, each week, she looks at herself for signs for transformation.”  Young uses words of empowerment in this description, and this is what I hope to experience in pregnancy.

So what makes a good birth?  Anne Drapkin Lyerly argues in “Shame, Gender, and Birth” that a good birth has elements of agency, dignity, and connectedness.  While I agree with her analysis, I would add one more element that must be elevated when considering a good birth – a healthy baby and a healing, if not healthy, mother.  Ultimately, I believe that this trumps the other elements.  Of course, I hope to have agency in my birthing experience, but would I be willing to give up that agency in an emergency situation?  Yes.  However, I’m also very leery of fixating too much on the possibility of an emergency situation occurring.  The mind and body are connected, maybe even more so in pregnancy.  I believe in the power of the mind.  Although I’m sure I’ll have fears about pregnancy, I do not want those fears to overcome my experience.

I expressed my interest in a natural birth with a midwife in class on Monday and it got me thinking about why I distrust the medical model so much.  First of all, I think it could be related to my own birth on Dec. 30, 1986.  I was an unplanned pregnancy, the fourth child to my schoolteacher parents, and doctors told them that my mother probably would not get pregnancy after their second child.  I was in my mother’s womb for the 1986 Hands Across America project, in which both of my parents participated.  What exactly took place at the hospital during my birth, I do not know, but I do know this – the doctor used a vacuum to suck my little body out of my mother, a procedure that my mother didn’t want.  I always joke that the doctor did that because he didn’t want to work on the New Year’s holiday, but I say it with some suspicion that that might have been the case.  And if there’s one thing I don’t want to experience during childbirth, it is the doctor deeming something “medically necessary” for his own convenience.

Yes, I said “his” convenience.  Here is another big reason I am distrustful of obstetricians.  My first OB was a nice enough older man.  He did my first pap smears and my first colposcopy when one of my pap smears came back with abnormal cells.  But I was never really comfortable with him.  He’d ask me about college, trying to make small talk while he felt my breasts for lumps.  That’s the only thing I remember ever talking to him about.  I never asked questions then because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be asking.  That doctor eventually closed his office and moved out of state, leaving me to find another OB.  (And unaware of a condition that I should have known about.)  But by that point, I had different insurance benefits, so I made my way to Planned Parenthood and fell into my next OB, another middle aged man.  This time, I knew what questions to ask.  I asked about all birth control methods.  I asked about my abnormal pap and the steps I needed to take to avoid one in the future.  But was I comfortable with my new doctor?  Not especially.

After Planned Parenthood sent me to another doctor to have a colposcopy done, my insurance company informed me that none of it would be covered because I didn’t have permission from Ohio University to go to that doctor.  I learned to pay more attention to my insurance plan, and last year, I went to Hudson Health Care for my annual exam, this time following the insurance company’s orders.  Here, I had a female doctor for the first time, but she didn’t seem very interested in my medical history or in talking about what I wanted to talk about.  She did the exam, wrote me a prescription for a birth control pill that she knew was being discontinued, and sent me on my way.  I later went back to Planned Parenthood to get the birth control.  I can’t say I ever intentionally chose my doctor myself.  I went to the first doctor because my mother went there, but I always thought that having a female doctor would be a better fit for me.  Now, I know it’s not just any female doctor.  It’s the right doctor for me, someone I will have to find after my insurance company stops telling me who to see and when to see them.  If I have a lack of agency when choosing my doctor, what would make me think that I would have agency in childbirth with that doctor (if that doctor was even on duty when I went into labor)?

I began researching midwifery last year and I think that’s the route for me.  The midwifery model is based in part on connectedness.  Midwives are expected to truly get to know the families they are working with.  I want to spend time with the person who will help me delivery my baby.  I want to get to know that person and be comfortable with her.  My older sister recently decided that after she gets a two-year nursing degree, she wants to study midwifery.  I was in the room when she had two out of three of her children.  I didn’t see that experience as gross or scary, like our society wants us to see it.  I saw it as a miracle, one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  My sister didn’t have the “perfect” birthing experience, but it helped me understand what can happen during labor and after delivery, how doctors can take advantage of the mother instead of listening to her desires.  At the very least, I will have a birth plan and contingency plans so I can remind my doctor who exactly is doing this delivery – not him/her, not technology, but me and my baby.