Voiceless Women

Human Rights in Childbirth

Excerpts from a discussion on the Facebook page “Human Rights in Childbirth”

Ric Jones

“I still prefer the foolish free choices than the wise things women are obliged to do for their own safe”.

Plus, are we really thinking on women and baby’s safety when we demand them to be in a hospital instead of remaining at home? Are we “pure scientists” offering pregnant couples the best our knowledge is able to give? Or, in fact, are the decisions that we – doctors and midwives – make based in other interests, like money, time, convenience, power, political and moral pressures? The differences we see today concerning the violent practices from the past happened because the medical staff became more “human” and “respectful” or because now women can make choices and (also) complaints?

For a humanistic obstetrician it’s a pain on the heart to witness a woman choosing an unnecessary abdominal surgery without using her perfect and ancient own equipment. But, for me, that’s the price to pay for free choice. That’s the same feeling I have when I meet my daughter’s boyfriends. I guess I could find a better guy for her, but I still prefer that she chooses that, even if she makes terrible mistakes…

A clear example for what I call “ideological violence” is when a woman makes a “free choice” for a c-section based in the fear that her baby will get “stuck” in the birth canal or the cord wrapped around the neck will sufocate the newborn. Or even based in the notion that c-sections are cleaner, safer and more “humane” than the “animalistic births” she sees on TV. So, my question is: How free are her choices? How deep is the misunderstanding of birth she carries thru her entire life, based on media and doctor’s wrong informations? How can she receive TRUE and unbiased (as far as it is possible) information about risks, but also about pleasure and empowerment during the transcedental experience of birth?

The problem is not just “rational information”, the ones we can find in pamphlets or books, but the entire society that percieves birth as an emergency and a terrible threat to babies. So, along with the information we need “education”, and that begins in early stages of life, like in the kindergarten. Besides that, I totally agree with Robbie’s famous quote: “We shall not become the Gestapo of normal birth”. That’s it.

One of the problems I see a lot in the birth movement is the widespread notion that “she decided for a c-section because she is….. (stupid, weak, bad informed, decieved by doctors, etc…)” and in these situations women are ALWAYS victims of someone else. But, in fact, many of these decisions were done AGAINST doctor’s best advices, done by well informed women !!! They did it by themselves, and they had their reasons (what Penny Simkin once stressed on her book “When survivors give birth”). So, we need to respect these choices and stop saying that women make them for “silly” reasons. Good practices, good births, natural births, orgasmic births can’t become a “dogma” or, again, something that we must submit women to do, “on their best interest”.

“Many of the things you can count, don’t count. Many of the things you can’t count really count.” Albert Einstein (and that has to do with birth, as far as we cannot – yet – measure love, empowerment, affection, and faith)

I can describe technically – based in hormonal, physiological, mechanical and behavioral measurements – a sexual relationship, that even results in a healthy baby as a very successful one. But, at the same time, I may listen to that specific mother’s description of the sex, pregnancy and birth as the most horrifying experiences she has ever experienced in her life. So, what counts here (the biological parameters) are meaningless in a world ruled by language and symbolic values.

Why is it SO difficult to talk about “free informed choices” for women?

See… I can decide to climb the Everest, even thou the risks I am running by doing such a “foolish choice” (concerning the fact that I can get to the top without my toes or my own life) are “evidence based”. No one discuss that playing chess at home is safer than mountaineering. But no one dares to question me!! Men’s choices are sacred !

Ok, there’s a baby in a woman’s womb, and I respect that difference. But even when the woman is not pregnant we see that they don’t have the same spectrum of choices that a man has. And, when we discuss that issue (and that’s the point of view that I totally agree) we always put somebody else to decide for her, as the best person to make “good” decisions. The mother is always seen as unreliable.

There’s no humanization of childbirth with voiceless women…

 

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