The art of loving, and birth attendants

How can I know whom to trust? How can I trust anyone? How can I plan so that I don’t have to trust anyone? How can I relearn trust? How could I ever trust an institution?

These are not the right questions. Trust isn’t something you “fall” into; like Fromm’s definition of love, it is something you develop and practice in constant relationship.

Trust isn’t something you seek out or do because it feels good. You can think you trust someone, but it doesn’t get called until something happens. You trust because you HAVE to.

I had to trust my birth attendants. I had to trust the hospital. I didn’t have the knowledge or preparation to be self-sufficient. We were operating in a relationship of objectification because that was all we knew, that was all the institutions had taught us from the earliest age.

Maybe these are better questions: How can I plan for the greatest amount of self-reliance, and how will I recognize when I have reached its limit? How will I know if I reach the point where I must trust someone?

Like Fromm’s love, the key is not to find the perfect “trust object” with whom I will then be in a static relationship. The key is to find someone willing to take the time and spend the energy to develop a trusting relationship. Much like a loving relationship, it requires respect, faith and abandoning narcissism:

“Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” – The Art of Loving

By contrast, Fromm also describes the institutionalized mode of relating:

“Modern man has transformed himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as an investment with which he should make the highest profit, considering his position and the situation on the personality market. He is alienated from himself, from his fellow men and from nature. His main aim is profitable exchange of his skills, knowledge, and of himself, his ‘personality package’ with others who are equally intent on a fair and profitable exchange.” – The Art of Loving

In the institution both the caregiver and the pregnant person assume competitive and consumerist positions, and are shut out of the possibility of loving/trusting. It must be a huge leap for those caregivers who do swim upstream, day after day, against the commodifying influences in order to truly hold the space for that trust.


About investigatingbirth

My investigations of birth began in 2009 when I was trained as a doula. I helped women consider the evidence on common interventions, and helped them prepare for the physical and emotional challenge of giving birth. After some time it became clear to me that there was another type of challenge that I was unable to adequately prepare them for, the challenge of the maternity system. But it was only after my own traumatic birth in 2013 that I realized how little I had understood. I began to ask questions that few around me - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors - were comfortable hearing. Questions like: Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, do doctors not practice informed consent? How do hospitals deal with other patient populations vulnerable to abuse? How does loss of professional autonomy, for obstetricians, and professional authority, for midwives, impact the quality of care they are capable of providing - regardless of their training? This blog will collect noteworthy information that attempts to answer these and other questions. Most of what you see here will be aggregated from other sources and analyzed. You will also see original interviews, and the occasional opinion piece or personal story, as I try to piece together a clear picture of the system in which American women give birth.
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