Monday, September 04, 2006
A Culture of Fear
After more blog-hopping, particularly over at "Flea" and "Autonomous Birth" its nice to know I'm not alone. "Flea" says basically the same thing about the pediatric world that I'm saying about the OB world- stop treating wellness (i.e. pregnancy) like a disease! "AB" says that we anesthetize ourselves to the sensory experience of life, birth included. I see this more clearly as a nurse than most folks do, because I'm used to dealing with the "icky" stuff that most people would rather not see. Heck, when a woman gives birth, she doesn't even know she's pooping and peeing all over everything at the same time she's pushing her baby out. What philosophical figure from antiquity said, "Between shit and piss, we are born"? Well, they were right, as raw as it sounds. AB makes the point that we can't even face our own human smells. (We cover them up with soaps, perfumes, deodorants, and worst of all, fem sprays!) We definately live in a culture that can't face the nitty gritty of its own animalistic origins. I shouldn't be surprised that this spills over into how we give birth. No wonder people always ask of homebirth, "how do you deal with the mess?" What they are really asking is how can you come so close to your own humaness? At home, there's no veil of technology or "professionals" to protect you from your own animalness. No drugs to keep you quiet and dignified. No draping to protect you from seeing your insides splayed open. No polite no-nonsense nurses to quickly and discreetly clean away your poop and pee so you never even know it was there. Of course there's also no control. The price you pay for this oh so civilized service of protection, is that you place yourself squarely in the control of the medical establishment, which many women are only too happy to do. I used to wonder why I can't do that. Why can't I just roll over and tow the party line? I guess the same reason I've rejected perfumes, deodorants and fem sprays all of my adult life. I want to experience my humanness in all it gore and glory (and besides, I really LIKE the way my body smells). I don't want to be protected from my own sensory experience. There is something to be gained from it. There are lessons to be learned in it. I want to learn them. (and besides, avoidance of it just creates new problems) Its just a part of my philosophy of embracing life, the good, the bad and the ugly. I've found that I cannot dull myself to the dark side of life without becoming dull to the light. As a result, the way I deal with the pain of labor has been transformed. When I am having contractions, I don't try to hide or ignore, or dull the experience, I fall headlong into it. I ride the course of the contraction and fully experience it, and when its gone, its gone. I take my rest. I find it takes much less energy to "ride it out" than to try to escape from it. A consequence of this philosophy is that I no longer fear the pain. Without the fear attached to it, it becomes simply a temporary sensory experience, albeit an unpleasant one, but one I know and understand will eventually end. I can handle that, hence it becomes bearable. I think most women experience labor contractions as unbearable and cannot detach from the fear. I recall the many women I've seen become angry if they feel anything at all (even if its just pressure and not pain). We'll be hard pressed to change the experience of birth for women without changing the cultural context in which it occurs.