Monday, October 19, 2009

The R word

Well, I had no intention of posting so soon on the same topic again, but YET ANOTHER feminist website has weighed in on the Joy Szabo case, and once again, the comments have had me yelling at the computer screen like a crazed soccer hooligan. I was going to leave my comment there and just walk away, but the comment system at Jezebel is either on the fritz or they're moderating the comments and leaving some out, since I wrote this almost 7 hours ago, posted it, and it hasn't shown up yet. Fortunately for thee, gentle readers, I had the foresight to paste it into WordPad, so what the heck, I'll just share it with you here. The topic this time was specifically the issue of whether or not it is fair to compare a forced c-section with rape.

As I was alerted to this by our Mother Superior (Jill at Unnecesarean), the first paragraph is a paraphrase of her own reaction on Facebook, for which I asked permission to yoink. The rest is my own, including reactions to other commenters, quoted within (and do see the comments thread for yourself, for sure).

And yet another comment section veers off into cesarean vs. epidural vs. unmedicated birth and the point is completely missed. If you walk into a hospital to give birth and you do not consent to a procedure and it is performed on you anyway, THAT. is. the. problem. And that is assault.

If you think using the word "rape" is inappropriate, you're entitled to your opinion. All I will say is that I have read firsthand stories about incredibly brutal treatment of laboring women in hospitals (including some, but not limited to, c-sections), which were every bit as heartbreaking as some personal accounts of rape.

No one is saying that c-sections are not sometimes necessary and life-saving and wonderful. They absolutely are, when needed. And that is completely, categorically beside the point. No one is saying "OMG C-SECTIONS = ALWAYS BAD", as one commenter actually characterized birth advocates. (If that's honestly what you took away from a site that promotes choices in childbirth, and helps women who desire a natural birth to achieve one, no wonder we have a failure to communicate.)

"But don't tell me I was violated when I wasn't. C-sections are not rapes, or even inferior births." First, if you consented to the procedure, of course you weren't violated. That's the entire point. And I'm sorry, but again, no one, NO ONE, is saying that all c-sections are rape.

I also just want to point out that the hospital refusing to support a VBAC for Joy Szabo was the very hospital that provided her the prior c-section in the first place, in case anyone missed that point; obviously, they are capable of providing emergency c-sections! If a facility is not able to provide an emergency c-section, they have no business handling labor and delivery in the first place, period.

Anyway. It's about women having control of decisions made about their own bodies. It's about reproductive rights in every sense of the term.
I know not all fellow feminists turn a blind eye to the maternity care crisis, but conversations sparked like these make it crystal clear that some definitely do, and I think it is a crying shame. I want to point something out from one of the more well-known forced c-section cases (and I do not mean coaxed or coerced, I mean literally forced - if you haven't read Laura Pemberton's story in "Pushed" or online, it's a must). After being brought to the hospital by the sheriff:

Once at the hospital, she was allowed a “hearing” in her hospital room, with an armed sheriff, the State Attorney, and obstetricians crowding her room. Although a lawyer was appointed to represent the fetus, no lawyer was appointed for her. She spoke between contractions, without the benefit of counsel, telling the judge about the extensive research that she had done to support her decisions. Despite the fact that she could already feel her baby’s head in the birth canal and neither she nor the baby showed any signs of danger, the obstetricians were convinced that she exposed her fetus to too much risk by continuing to deliver vaginally: the judge agreed. Laura Pemberton was sedated, and her baby removed via caesarean section.
Let me repeat. "Although a lawyer was appointed to represent the fetus, no lawyer was appointed for her." Take a moment to let that sink in.

I don't know what they're teaching in women's studies these days, but that's enough to make me want to take to the streets.

*****

Not to be the blogger who's always blogging about how they haven't had time to blog, but it's been a rather exciting week with my first official client! I still have much left to say from my training, and thoughts on all the things I've already learned, but then online scuffles and kerfuffles keep dragging me away from my own posts. More to come, I promise - again.

8 comments:

  1. I really, honestly, give up on women after those comments. HOW women can tolerate other women being brutally violated (in their genitals no less!) and NOT call it rape is totally and completely beyond me.

    But women have always been this way. And that will be my post tomorrow.

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  2. I just cracked up at "Mother Superior." You are such a goober! Who's the pope, then? Lynn Paltrow? :)

    I'm glad you commented. I've reached the point of being just too exhausted by all of the red herrings and straw man arguments on childbirth comment threads to even jump in. I do sometimes but it's getting old.

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  3. It seems like so much birth guilt/trauma/processing comes up in those discussions by women who had c-sections. I feel like I see a lot of "My c-section was NECESSARY and I have decided to STOP FEELING GUILTY about it." Hooray! What does that have to do with this case? "My c-section was NOT A BIG DEAL so stop equating it with RAPE!" So glad to hear you were happy with it! And yet your consented c-section has nothing to do with this other woman's situation. So why are we talking about it?

    I browsed by (as I occasionally do when I forget my better judgment) Dr. Amy's site and she had reposted from a piece about breastfeeding written by a mother who had supply issues and decided that mean people were making mothers feel guilty about not breastfeeding. Cue dozens of comments like "Thank you, I had to feed my baby formula and then I felt guilty! Shut up, breastfeeding promotion!"

    I feel like our culture gets women juuuust far enough ("vaginal birth good", "breastfeeding good") and then dumps them at the gate. "Good luck with your vaginal birth in a country of 30% c-sections and breastfeeding in a country with low breastfeeding rates and no paid maternity leave!" No further education, no support, nothing. And then when those things don't happen, they feel guilty and like failures (because why we encourage women to blame the system when they could blame themselves/each other?) And then to feel like less of a failure, they have to hate on the things that make them feel guilty (see above re: blaming each other). And they process all those feelings in the comments sections of these posts.

    If I had a c-section and couldn't breastfeed for some reason, I'd be upset and pissed. But I accept that c-sections and formula feeding (OK, I would probably search out all the donor milk I could, so mixed feeding) are reasonably safe things, and were the best options available to me. That doesn't mean they are a universal good and it doesn't mean they're equal to the alternatives. Nor does it mean that other people need to STFU and do what I did without complaint so that I can feel better.

    Rar. I would say now you've got me wanting to post but this was kind of a post in itself I guess!

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  4. "6p00e54ed890f88833", I feel ya. You know I do.

    Jill, I think the Pope would have to be Rixa, though Lynn Paltrow would at least be an archbishop. (Note to self: Where is this bit going? No idea.)

    PhD, all I can say is hell to the yeah. "Hooray! What does that have to do with this case?" EXACTLY! Gah! *facepalmheaddesk* And especially this part:


    "I feel like our culture gets women juuuust far enough ("vaginal birth good", "breastfeeding good") and then dumps them at the gate. "Good luck with your vaginal birth in a country of 30% c-sections and breastfeeding in a country with low breastfeeding rates and no paid maternity leave!" No further education, no support, nothing. And then when those things don't happen, they feel guilty and like failures (because why we encourage women to blame the system when they could blame themselves/each other?) And then to feel like less of a failure, they have to hate on the things that make them feel guilty (see above re: blaming each other). And they process all those feelings in the comments sections of these posts."

    Please DO make this your own post. As many people as possible need to read that. So very true.

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  5. I'm with Jill (and not just in name although I am far from anything Mother Superiorly!). Every time I get into this topic it just leaves me feeling anguished and bruised to my very core. No matter how we try to explain, people are NOT GOING TO GET IT. And on something as personally traumatic as this, that is not something I am willing to "agree to disagree" about.

    Want to call me a boob nazi because I breastfeed, fine. Want to call me a crazy hippie because I homebirth, fine. Want to call me a pedophile because I cosleep, fine. WHATEVER. That's just silly and I can let it roll off like water on a duck's back. But DO NOT tell me that because my Cesarean was traumatic, and that I felt violated and victimized, that I am selfish/a whore/overreacting/insert demeaning dismissal here. EAT SHIT.

    -Jill of Keyboard Revolutionary(what the F, it's not letting me sign in??)

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  6. I tend to skip out on those kinds of posts when I'm not pregnant...now that I am I definitely steer clear. I have such a hard time understanding why talking about your own experience/feelings/perceptions is always seen as "judging" another person.

    Oh...and I really like Navelgazing Midwife's discussion of this topic.

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  7. Oh boy. As someone who certainly DID experience birth rape at the hands of an OB (all the sudden, "his english not so good" when he heard "NO! STOP! PLEASE DON'T! and had two nurses hold me down so that he could have his way with me without all of that pesky squirming and kicking)I can tell you that the result was NOT a healthy baby, but indeed one who suffered from birth damage (broken sholder, massive cranial/face trauma/bruising) so no one can even hand me the "well, you had a healthy baby" card. Even worse for me was the four months of uterine bleeding after the birth from his aggresive tugging on my placenta (the placenta was already in a bowl by the time the baby landed on my chest!) Sir Hubby carried around a feeling of helpless guilt for almost a year and we just barely avoided a divorce. He wanted to punch people, but instead held my hand and told me it was "okay". Watching me being forci bly restrained while people assult my genitals while I screamed for them to STOP was absolutley horrifing for him. Through counseling, we have come to terms with it and went on to have a healing homebirth 5 years later. But that was almost 5 years of trauma we lived thru bc an OB decided that his comfort, his time, his preferences trumped mine. Not to be too snarky...but he did die 6 months after he did this to me...kinda makes you wonder about karma. I swear I did not make a voodoo doll or anything!

    This is an important feminist topic and needs to be seriously addressed.

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  8. Justine, thank you so much for sharing that. I was absolutely floored by that birth story. It just defies belief - I'm so sorry you went through that!

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