It would seem that the past few months of chaos and preparation for my yearly work tour de force have caught up with me. I am currently laid out in bed with the aches. From head to throat to muscle, I’m creaky and weak and only capable of writhing around horizontal. And that’s about it. Our bodies have a way of forcing us to take a pause if we don’t do so on our own volition. So, you win, BIOLOGY.
But a day in bed has granted me permission to indulge in activities that are rarely a part of my daily routine. I just finished rereading Pride & Prejudice for this week’s book club, and I am going to take a moment and say that I had positively no business reading that delicious piece of literature as a sixteen year old. I clearly did not pick up on all the wit and humor and delight that is so at the heart of that novel. What a joy it’s been to revisit. And I fully intend on finally viewing the Keira Knightley movie remake from 2005 later today. After yet another nap, of course. We’re reading Death Comes to Pemberley as our next book (which was just published this January), so we thought it wise to reread the classic before diving into this new extension on the original. Anyone read it? Any suggestions for our next book? We’re always looking for ideas.
I also wanted to take this time to transcribe something I’d written back in the spring of 2005 during my Women and Gender Studies senior seminar titled The Politics of the Family. When our basement flooded a few weeks back, James unearthed a series of crates filled with notebooks from our college days, and while flipping through their contents I came across the journal I kept during that semester’s course. A place where I filed my reflections on whatever topic we had covered in class that week. It was wonderful to read the entry I’d written in reaction to our section On Childbirth. It was proof that indeed my thoughts and personal experiences and approach to childbirth began taking shape during that course. If only I could tell Ashley at twenty-two that she would live out much of these thoughts and perspectives only a few years later. It was really so affirming to have that thought process so tangibly revealed and reminded me of why this blog in many respects has been an extension of that journal and that class, lived out “in real life.” Thank you, Prof. Kent, for opening my eyes and teaching me how to put language to the often privatized experiences of womanhood.
I am not at my most eloquent in this entry, but I am sharing regardless:
Oh my – childbirth sounds so painful and, well, scary. Hearing so many stories about how childbirth can go wrong, it makes me understand where this medicalized birthing originated – this great fear due to the rare cases when things don’t go as planned. Reading home birth stories, however, really made me want to experience childbirth in the privacy and comfort of my own home. Clearly, the birthing experience is extremely personal and individual for each woman – some, I’m sure, are not interested in the birthing process whatsoever while others place a very great emphasis on the actually act of birth. I guess I don’t know where I stand just yet – I tend to fluctuate between wanting a midwife at home who has a trusted relationship with me and my partner – who can support me through that process but allow me to take ownership of my experience – to wanting the other extreme – “Drug me up and C-section this baby out! I can’t handle the pain!” I’m sure if/when I’m pregnant, I will educate myself more intensely and figure out where I stand more clearly. I like the idea of having a midwife whether I chose home birth or hospital birth – in either case working with someone who has developed an understanding of my values in regard to pregnancy.
I’ve never thought of birth in a romantic or spiritual sense – but the entire thing seems pretty damn amazing. Just the thought of producing another human being blows my mind. Talking to my mom about her birth story with me, I had this moment when I thought, “OH MY GOD, I WAS INSIDE MY MOM!” It really is mind blowing. It is an outrageously awe-some ability to bear children, but I realize that every woman is going to respond to it differently. Ultimately, I see the most important thing (after ensuring the health of mom and baby) as the woman’s personal needs/wants. I understand that in some circumstances this will need to be compromised when things “go wrong,” but as a general rule, it’s clear that trying to have the experience as close to how the woman wishes it is SO important!
I know that the medical insurance system limits a doctor’s ability to do this – and that midwifery is carefully monitored and easily susceptible to lawsuits – so women really need to take it upon themselves to educate themselves about pregnancy, childbirth and their own bodies. Women must be empowered to educate themselves about their bodies – to know and understand our bodies so that there is less fear when we are pregnant. I would love to be in a place where I trusted my body to handle childbirth naturally and without intervention. Of course, that’s assuming that all goes well, but I would like to at least go into the birth process assuming it will because I have a strong and empowered understanding of my body and what women’s bodies are thus capable of.