Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finding My Inner Feminist, Part 3

Kasie and Nikolai by Kate Hansen

Feminist and Mother

It could be seen as ironic that that role which is seen as most traditional--mother--is a large part of what has awakened the feminist within me. It isn’t just my religion that has caused me to ponder my role as Woman.

Becoming a mother has changed me more than anything. It is the most profound and transcendent experience of my life. Creating a human being and birthing that human being and feeding that human being from my own body--if that isn’t divine, then I don’t know what is. It is truly filling the measure of my creation.

My passion for birth and breastfeeding has given me a whole new perspective on women’s issues. It is every woman’s right to birth how, where, and with whom she chooses. It is every woman’s (and baby’s) right to breastfeed where and when she chooses. Unfortunately, not all women get this right. And many don’t even realize they should demand it.

Feminists have long fought for a woman’s right to choose. Well, if we have the right to choose whether or not we carry a baby, we sure as hell better have the right to choose how we birth our babies. We most certainly should be able to feed our babies when and how we please.

Women have been conditioned to hand over their power and their bodies to doctors/midwives/nurses during labor and birth. We often passively lie there as we are told what to do and how we will have our baby. We allow medical personnel to touch us in ways that could be considered assault. In fact, some women even experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after giving birth because of the way they were treated.  This kind of treatment of women who are in a very vulnerable position is abhorrent. We must demand better.

These rights regarding birth and breastfeeding are issues that all feminists should care about, all women should care about. These issues are at the heart of womanhood. Whether a woman chooses to have children or not, she should still care how other women are treated and the choices they are given when birthing and feeding their children.

As anyone who knows me or who reads this blog knows, I feel very passionate about these issues. I hope more and more women, feminist or not, stand up together and claim these rights.


  1. I really loved this post, and I think it resonates with me on several levels.

    Recently, I mentioned to a friend that when the blessed day arrives that I found myself pregnant, I wanted to look into hypno-birthing classes, and try for a natural birth.

    She was immediately dismissive- "You're crazy, why would you want to go through all that pain. Don't you know that there are no awards for going natural, stop trying to make everyone else feel bad for getting an epidural."

    The thing is, I don't want to have (or consider having,) a natural birth to make other people feel bad, or to prove a point, or make life difficult for the nurses and doctors.

    I want to have a natural birth because it feels innately right to me, for me, in my situation.

    I think you very beautifully articulated the idea that women should have a choice in what happens to their bodies in regards to becoming a mother. I think that is a part of feminism that gets overlooked a lot.

  2. Thanks for the comment on this post. Everyone's still been all fired up about the Mormon one, so this one has been overlooked.

    I actually feel more anger about this topic than the Church most of the time. There are SO SO SO many horror stories out there of autonomy being taken (or given) away during birth. It is outrageous. Some women have gone so far has to label it "birth rape".

    And even when its not that extreme, women could have much more wonderful and pleasant birth experiences if they just educated themselves. I don't think everyone has to go drug free, but PLEASE understand what drugs you are signing up for! And know the possible ramifications of those drugs to you and your baby.

    And back to the topic of choice, what frightens me the most is how in so many states women don't have the option of out of hospital births. They are forced to birth in the hospital, find an underground homebirth midwife, or go it alone. Forcing choices such as that is, in my opinion, an utter disregard for women's reproductive rights.

  3. Katrina,
    I found your comment on Mormon stories and then read your post here. I think these issues are very important.

    In Salt Lake we have a Birth Center that does much to keep this a safe and viable option for women who qualify and want to go this direction. This Center works hard to maintain a close relationship with hospitals and doctors in the mainstream. They work hard to understand the current laws. They are certified midwives. IMO they have come up with a very workable relationship and have jumped through very difficult hoops to keep this an option in Utah.

    I had five children at home, all in different situations. Luckily, 3 of these births were simple and had no complications. Prenatal visits had assured me that their were no pre-birth complications and even though the prenatal doctors expressed concern about my choice to have a home birth, I went ahead with it.

    I was in my 40's when I had the last two children. I went with an ND in having both pre-natal work and a homebirth. I had no pre-birth compications, but at the birth, baby's cord was abnormally short and it caused her to lose some oxygen as she was trying to birth. Her cord broke when she was finally born. The ND and her midwifes assistant had emergency equipment and were able to clamp her cord and administer oxygen. Our little girl came around just fine within a few minutes. I have still been very thankful that we chose to have her at home.

    Then came the last birth and we decided to go with The Family and Birth Center. We had prenatal work done with the certified midwife at the birthing center. I had no pre-birth complications so we were expecting all to go well. The only problem became that I was going over 40 weeks and the midwife was under an agreement with the state of Utah that I would go to a hospital if that were the case. We took measures to see if we could encourage the baby to come on time. I took castor oil in a wendy's milkshake and it worked a little too well. We ended up having the baby at home in the bathtub instead of being able to make it to the birthing center. Everything turned out wonderfully. My husband got this incredible experience of delivering his last child. After the birth we decided to go to the birthing center for the night anyway since we had already paid for it.

    Now, I am a grandma and I got to be at the birth of my first grandchild. My daughter and son-in-law chose a hospital birth. She had a doula (personal assistant to attend during labor)and she chose not to have an epidural. I was shocked at how many people were allowed to be in the room (up to 15 medical personnel at one time) and how many people it took to do all of the vitals let alone attend the birth. She had a nurse midwife during labor. 5 minutes before the birth, they changed shifts so she got a new nurse. Then, the doctor (she had chosen to go with a general practitioner instead of an obstetrician) came in and didn't know why the baby wasn't birthing. He had to call for the obstetrician, who came in and turned the baby so baby could birth.

    Since she was doing it without an epidural it interested several of the medical underlings to come in the room and observe (even though my daughter had asked that only doctors nurses, doula, myself and her husband be allowed to watch.)

    My daughter is now expecting her 2nd child and she is planning a homebirth with a certified midwife who is also doing all of her pre-natal work. I'm nervous, but very excited to see how they will compare this to their first birth.

    Sorry for the book. I am all for women exploring their options and for encouraging women like Stephanie who just have this feeling that a home birth would be a good experience for them. I want them to know that there are happy, safe, and sensible options.

  4. I wish I had more time to comment and read all of these links you've posted in the last post. I will definitely come back to this and spend some time after I've birthed my own little one here in the next week or two when he decides to arrive. For now I just want to say thanks for taking the time to post about these thoughts and that I am so glad we are friends!

  5. Ditto to Danielle's comment--glad we're friends. (And this is another area in which you'd like Valerie's views.)

    I so value the experience of birthing my two children unmedicated. I love that the intensity of their births matched the intensity of emotion I felt from the second they were born.

    I feel about birth like you were saying you feel about feminism (in part 1): the way you birth should be a choice. And it's only really a choice if you counter the overwhelming cultural "knowledge" of unmedicated birth being horrible, crazy, excruciating, etc. with actual knowledge about the physical and emotional benefits of such a birth.

    It's funny. The thing that ultimately pushed me to plan for an unmedicated birth with Zoe were the medical/physical--I wanted to avoid all of the interventions that an epidural can set off. But after the fact, the emotional aspect of the way I birthed her was the most important to me in some ways.

  6. This is a very interesting discussion, just having read your 3 blog posts. I honestly don't really think about feminism that much. I've never in any way felt oppressed. Maybe it's because the things I've always wanted are what the church encourages, for the most part. Maybe it would be different if that weren't the case. I've always known that God loves me just as much as the priesthood holders. I loved the spirituality of birth posts you linked me to months ago. I don't even know where I'm going with my thoughts.

    I just think it is wonderful that women have fought for our rights as women today. I can pretty much do what I want and don't have to do that. That was definitely necessary. I don't, however, feel like I need to prove myself to anyone, or that people have to accept my choices, as some feminists do (okay, sometimes I do feel that way, but I think it's the natural-(wo)man in me). I think that comes from the reassurance of God's love. Most importantly, as far as understanding the what's and why's of Heavenly Mother, it's just so important to recognize what is exactly from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is so vital to everything in this life. If the Holy Ghost manifests truth, then it is truth. There have been many things in my scripture study that have dawned my awareness, just because of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost, things I never explicitly heard taught before. I haven't read many feminist blogs, but I did happen upon one after Sister Beck's "alarming" talk a couple years ago (I'm sure we all remember that one), and they were really disagreeing with her. I don't think that's okay. Not that they shouldn't ever question anything, but they should have faith that what is spoken in General Conference is, in fact doctrine. And if they have a hard time with it, they should pray to know for themselves the truth of what she spoke. But by posting on the internet hard feelings, I think that's definitely crossing the line.

    I do think women, even in the church, are missing out on a lot of awesome womanly experiences, just because society has a different way of saying they should be done (birthing and child rearing). So a good fight for feminism now is not demanding that we are as good as men, but just sharing the things with those women around us that we've loved, that they may not even have realized they were missing out on. And if they CHOOSE to explore the option, great. That's our part. I feel like that, because I felt pretty in the dark about a lot of the things I'm now doing, and love.

  7. Katrina, I have really enjoyed reading all of your feminist posts. I connected with a lot of what you have said. This post in particular really struck a chord with me. My mother had me and my sister via c-section, and so she doesn't have any wonderful birth stories to share. But for some reason, I have always believed that for myself, I need to be able to explore options, to do things my own way. I hope that I can keep a conversation going with you on this matter. As it is, I haven't been able to find one friend who hasn't chosen to use an epidural, or who hasn't let their doctors or nurses make all the decisions. So many friends have said to me, "When its your turn, choose the drugs." That is not how I want to go through a birth experience, however, and that is not how I want my child to come into the world. So thank you for having strong beliefs on these kinds of issues, and thank you for being open in talking about them. I haven't been able to find any one else who I can openly talk to about these kinds of things, so its refreshing to see someone that isn't afraid to blog about it. Thank you.