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!

1 comment:

Rachel DiPaolo said...

Well said! I totally agree - the church and society have poured so many lies into our heads about us, women, and our role. It is nice to see someone. like yourself, who is seeking for the truth from the word of God and not the lips of men. I too have that passion.

Rachel