Week 6: Is bravery naive or wise?

My maternity clothes are artifacts from a different self. Taking them out today made me remember in a way I haven’t for a long time who I was before the birth. My first pregnancy was delightful and I enjoyed every minute of it; I showed off my belly and my feminine body and I was afraid of nothing. The education I had received from my amazing family and upbringing had created a strong and self-assured woman – intelligent, eccentric, full of the glory of self-realization.

None of this was false and I’m not poking fun at my old self or at anyone who may be in that stage of life. It’s gorgeous to think you know what it is to move through the world as just yourself, to be an amazing woman that others admire, to throw yourself fully into everything you do and believe that nothing can stop you except the limits of your own ability.

She’s still here somewhere, and outsiders often can’t even tell she’s changed. “You live so fully,” they say. “You seem to have made a perfect recovery,” say the ones that know me a little better.  I am creating for myself the good life that I’ve always wanted; I’m vibrant and loud and eccentric; and I’m still among the strongest and bravest folk I know, physically and mentally.

But the woman who wore those bright summery maternity clothes did not realize the limitations placed on her by a society that doesn’t always see women as humans. She didn’t realize that not only could she be brutalized at any time, but that this brutality is an integral part of her culture. She did not know that simply because she is a woman, being held down and physically violated is something she could expect to happen at some point in her life.

The thing is – I still believe I can somehow protect myself. I don’t know if this is naive or wise. I do believe that I will find a provider to be the guardian of my choices and my agency no matter what happens. I believe I can hire a doula to be the gatekeeper of my home or the bodyguard of my body in a hospital. I believe talking to an attorney and fully understanding how the law does and does not protect me will help.

I can’t decide if this is contradictory to the sweeping exuberance of the woman who wore those maternity clothes. She planned her birth, she understood the dangers of nature and of man, she had some idea of how to fight. And she, she’s the one who opened fully to the monkey-mind and the raw adventure of pain, she’s the one who embraced the change of plans, she’s the one who welcomed the endorphins in to change her consciousness into something she did not previously know, for all her high school experimentation with psychedelics. She’s the one that proudly walked into the hospital building as if she was worth more than the entire city. She’s the one I want to know again before I do this second labor, she’s the one I am trying to protect with all these guardians.

When I put on her clothes in a few weeks, I hope to begin to channel something of her innocence and toughness and confidence. I’ll never be her again, but she was the one who believed you could be a different kind of goddess every day of your life. And I still believe her.

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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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One Response to Week 6: Is bravery naive or wise?

  1. Sending love your way. And congratulations?

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