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.