Monday, June 30, 2008

A rant about submission and birth

I got involved in a lengthy discussion a while back about submission in marriage with regards to birthing choices. It's something that I've given a lot of thought to and I find myself repeatedly frustrated with the common views on this subject among believing women. As someone who doesn't attend a shul and who is not part of any specific believing community, I forget sometimes that not everyone sees things the way I do!

I cannot speak for the non-judeo-christian faiths that espouse submission in marriage (woman to man, of course) as I have no experience within that framework. I can, however, speak from a judeo-christian backround so that's the perspective I'll be working from.

It seems to be the common teaching, subconscious or no, that submission in marriage means that the husband has the final say-so in everything. I've met many upon many women that carry this right into the birthing room and into other areas related to it. I have met several women that chose not to breastfeed because their husband thought it was gross. I have met women that have allowed their husbands to choose FOR them, against their better judgement, where and how they will birth. Upon speaking out against this mindset, I usually get lambasted by someone that feels it's unchristian or that if "as long as he isn't leading you into sin, you must do what he says".

Well, obviously, I take issue with this sentiment. It may come as a surprise to some, but so does my husband. I prefer to take a different look at things. I look through the scriptures and I see no basis for this belief. The husband is the "head" of the wife in the same token as our literal heads sit on top of our bodies. But that head is nothing without the heart and the heart is nothing without the head. There is no actual difference in their significance or importance; they are part of ONE body. I think the goal of a marriage is to learn how to be ONE body.

It truly disturbs me how many women just blindly perpetuate this idea! I look at it this way: How on earth can I expect my husband to BE head of my "body" if I expect him to *also* be the heart? Brains do not have muscles in them for pumping blood. If my heart suddenly decided to stop working and expected the brain to do the pumping, I'd be dead in a matter of seconds. The brain, in the same token, cannot shut down and expect the heart to take over; what would occur would be absolutely disastrous on the body.

I don't think most women look at it this way but I do think this attitude stems from the pervasive idea that women are the cause of the fallen nature as a whole. This is an idea that has been perpetuated by the church and it truly sickens me. Culturally this is just pounded into our heads from the time that we are small. Eve is the one that ate the apple first. It was her fault. Because of that, giving birth is supposed to be painful so that we can all be punnished for ever after because of that woman's sin. Girls are born dirty and they make the mother dirty. It goes on and on and on and on and there is NO scriptural basis for this at all.

Eve certainly fell into temptation first but when Adam tried to blame it on her, what happened? Where in scripture do we see his blame-game being rewarded with anything but further judgment? And yet, the same people that taught me that insisted that Eve must suffer because man's fall was her fault! That doesn't work!

And what about this suffering that Eve and the rest of us were supposedly cursed with? In the Hebrew, the word that is used to describe her travail in labor is the SAME word that is used to describe Adam's hardships in the field, growing food. Stange how in the English, it's not translated that way. Adam works hard but the WOMAN suffers excrutiating pain. Hmmmmm. Something is not adding up here. I know, I know, questioning the King James translation is a sure-fire way to make me unpopular. Unfortunately, my quest is for truth, not acceptance. The hard reality is that the scripture speaks of hard work, effort, sweat, blood, things that require endurance and perseverance. But our "curse" as women was not for birth to be something horrific or terrifying. It was the same curse given to men, it just applied to our personal area of autonomy. Giving birth is not a curse. Rather, it is an unbelievable gift. God did not give us something that sacred and precious only to turn it sour. No, instead, He designed it to take effort. It must be something that required soul-searching and trust in ourselves, Him and our mates. It is NOT something that is to be subjugated by our husbands.

The truth as I see it is that it is seemingly heretical to recognize the power that lies within each woman. I have met more women offended by this idea of empowerment than I have men. Many women seem to have this idea that if you allow yourself to become empowered, it means that you are a man-hating, rebellious Jezebel. It doesn't have to be that way.

As a wife that believes in (biblically) submitting to her husband, I say NO. There are some things that I am not required to "submit" about because they are things that should never, EVER be an issue. Only in a twisted society would the question of "how to submit to my husband about birth" ever be an issue.

I'm not suggesting that women should just shut their husbands out of the birth entirely or that women should just ignore their husand's imput. That would not be fostering trust or acting as one body. But just as the head trusts the feet implicitly to get it from point a to point b, a husband needs to trust his wife in the things she was meant to shine in. It's ridiculous for a Christian woman to expect her husband to make choices like wether or not to breastfeed FOR her. Last time I checked, women had breasts and men did not. It is ludicrous for a man to make any kind of *demand* on his wife with regards to birth and expect her obedience!

I think what bothers me the most is this idea that women are children. I dont' think most of us, men or women, realize that really, that's what has been being taught to us. The scripture's Hebraic depictions of submission are filled with images of positive opposition. This means a woman who is confident in herself and leans into her husband in a complimentary fashion, while he leans into her, and in so doing, support each other! If a man is expected to make his wife's God-given choices FOR her, that's tipping the balance.

As women we must look at birthing as our responsibility. Our husbands/mates/partners bear a heavy burden of their own and it is completely unfair to just hand over our power, too. Yes, I said power. Women absolutely have power. Women are amazing creatures and it's ok to accept that and be proud of it. There is nothing wrong with a strong, confident woman. Strength is not synonomous to rebellion. Strength and confidence are not pride and haughtiness, either. They are good things! The incredible gift of bringing forth life was given to us women. There is absolutely no shame in grabbing that with both hands and making it ours.

My husband's description of our first birth was that it was "cool". He just didn't have much to say about it until much later, when we were planning a uc with our second child. He then confided to me that it was really stressful because he was basically, lovingly, shoved into a corner and was utterly helpless to be involved in any real way until our daughter plunked out and he could finally hold her, hours later (this was a midwife assisted hospital birth). After our uc, however, he told me that birth was like a drug. It was an utterly mystical, amazing, fantastic experience and he really looks forward to doing it again. His willingness to step back and let me be WOMAN when it came to birthing allowed us both to revel in the glory that is birth. He trusted me and I trusted him and it turned into an incredible dance that we just got lost in together. It's amazing what having free reign to BE a woman has done for our relationship!

Ladies, embrace your unique power as a woman. That is not sin, it's not prideful. It's a precious gift and we need to share it!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

This man deserves an applause

As many of you have heard, ACOG and the AMA have really stepped in it, both writing reccomendations to introduce legislation making out of hospital birth illegal. (For more information, try here,
cations/press_releases/nr02-06-08-2.cfm , and here , .

Rixa's blog is a very good place to get a good overview of what is going on :

Anyway, this was written by an OB/GYN (Dr. Fischbein) who is also a member of ACOG, regarding their recent statement. I seriously want to kiss this man. Please read this!

Douglas H. Kirkpatrick, MD
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
PO Box 96920
Washington, DC 20090-2188

Dear Sir:
I am a practicing OB/ GYN in southern California and Fellow of ACOG and recently was informed by midwife colleagues of your recommendation and encouragement for the AMA to lobby Congress for a law banning out of hospital birth. Funny that I had to hear of this decision from outside sources and was never approached by my college to see how I or my local colleagues felt about it. I have grave concerns regarding my organization taking such a stand. I think we are all agreed that ACOG has a statement regarding patients' rights to informed consent and informed refusal. Yet, it seems with every decision our organization moves further away from that basic tenet. ACOG's little "guideline" paper on VBAC in 2004 where the word readily was changed to immediately has had the chilling effect of doing away with VBAC options at hundreds if not more hospitals. Not due to patient safety, or the ideal of giving true informed consent but really, let's be honest, to fear of litigation. I have seen how patients have become counseled by obstetricians at facilities where VBAC has been banned. They are clearly given a skewed view of the risks of VBAC but rarely told of the risks of multiple surgeries. If you think this is untrue you are, sadly, out of touch with real clinical medicine.

As to out of hospital birthing, please give me the courtesy of an explanation as to the data you used and the process by which an organization which is supposed to represent me came to this conclusion. Any statement saying that it is as simple as patient safety and that one-size fits all hospital birth under the "obstetric model" of practice should be applied to all patients is, putting it nicely, not really in line with what best serves all our patients. In many instances, hospitals are not safe, certainly not nurturing and have a far worse track record for disasters than home birth. Even when emergency help is nearby this is true. The focus of all of us in medicine should be on reigning in trial lawyers and tort reform and lobbying Congress for that. The best interest of the college members and the patients we serve would be for my organization to spend its time and energy on something that has true benefit. Removing choices from well-informed patients and caring doctors and midwives is wholly un-American.

So please send me detailed information on how ACOG decided outlawing home birth was a wise thing to do. You must have scientific data to take such a drastic stand. Please make it available to me so that I may share it with like-minded colleagues. I would also like to know the process by which this came to pass. Who first raised this issue and why? What committee reviewed all the data and did its due diligence in interviewing those of us with long-standing experience in backing midwives who perform out of hospital births. There must be a fine, non-confidential paper trail you can share with your members. Specific names of committee member who voted for this would be enlightening and I am requesting this information. I would like to know the background and expertise regarding out of hospital birth for each member who had a hand in the decision to go to the AMA.

We live in an odd era where once something is said or recommended by a legitimate organization such as ACOG it has deep ramifications never intended such as becoming fodder for trial lawyers trying to squeeze the lifeblood and dignity out of your members. Or forcing women to travel hundreds of miles in labor to find a supportive facility. Or even worse, to have them arrive in a VBAC banned hospital and refuse surgery. Can this be the best we can do for our patients? Remember, your VBAC statement was meant to be only a recommendation but quickly became the rule by which hospital administrators, risk managers and anesthesia departments of smaller hospital banned this option for thousands of women. An option, that in proper hands, was the safe and accepted standard of care for 30 years. In fact, you still have an ACOG VBAC brochure that recommends this option! For those of us working at smaller hospitals where VBAC was banned due to lack of emergency help (anesthesia, OR crews, etc.) there is a big question that has perplexed us that no administrator seems to be willing or able to answer. That question is: "If a hospital cannot handle an emergency c/section for VBACs, and most emergency are for fetal bradycardia, hemorrhage (ie. abruption) or shoulder dystocia not for ruptured uteri, then how can they do obstetrics at all?" For they seem to still be able to have a maternity ward without in house anesthesia. Will someday ACOG, in their great wisdom but seeming disconnect from reality, make a "recommendation" that little hospitals stop providing obstetric services? Will this better serve women and their communities throughout America?

I am frightened and angered by what you have done in my name. Now I ask you to defend your position in encouraging the AMA to lobby Congress for another restriction on the freedom of choice that belongs to women and their families. Those choices include midwifery and the right to have the most beautiful and life changing event occur wherever best fits their desire. Midwives are well trained and required to have obstetrical backup. They have very special relationships with their patients and want the very best outcomes for them. They do not need me or you to police them. We have a habit inour country over the past 40 years of thinking we can legislate out stupidity. All that has done is erode the individual freedoms that belong, by birthright, to each of us. I would hope you trust your Fellows to know their specialty, their colleagues, and what is best for the patient as an individual. These decisions do not belong to politicians or faceless committees. You should have more faith in your members to give balanced informed consent. Again, my recommendation to you is to put all your considerable energy into changing our legal malpractice system. Those of us actually practicing medicine and caring for patients know this to be the greatest threat to the mission and responsibility we have chosen to undertake.

I look forward to your response and possibly the beginning of a meaningful dialogue.

Stuart J. Fischbein, MD FACOG
Medical Advisor, Birth Action Coalition

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A first post

I have wanted a blog for more focused writing that I don't mind having public for a while. I just haven't gotten around to committing myself to it. Well, here I am. What will the subjects of my writing be? Oh, I'm sure it will vary greatly! I'm not sure what my primary focus will be, yet. Definitely you will hear discussions of birth, breastfeeding, loving and all around living. Likely you'll hear about cows and baby-butts, too.