Sunday, July 7, 2013

Author intent

The problem with Facebook is that it prolongs acquaintanceship longer than is strictly necessary or desirable. In that vein, an acquaintance of mine recently posted a link to her birth story (which I will not link to, but let's just say she uses a blogspot domain to write about My Birth Choice) and it left me in such a wordless, stuttering rage that I've got to complain about it.

I knew she wanted to do it "natural," which already has my hackles up. I'm really fussy about word choice in things like this, because when she says "natural," she actually means "unmedicated." Unless you are sneezing that baby out your nose, all childbirth is natural, and to equate natural with unmedicated then implies that medicated is unnatural. Is it not a difficult enough time without the emotional baggage of wanting an "unnatural" birth?

Don't get me wrong, I'm preparing for an unmedicated birth myself. My reasons are many, but they are my own and not really worth pushing onto everyone else. You have that baby whatever way feels right to you.

What really made me spitting mad, though, is when she defined a natural birth as "the way God intended." SAY WHAT?

Here again is my English degree manifesting, since I learned early and often to avoid assigning author intent. "What Shakespeare means" is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Unless you happen to be friends with the author and can ask them about it, you don't get to say what they meant. (Fun tangential sidenote: the pop culture podcast I listen to recently had an episode where they talked about unreliable narrators, and one person referenced "The Old Apartment," a Barenaked Ladies song which apparently someone in the band had said on record wasn't about a crazy exboyfriend, but totally is. So sometimes the author's intent still isn't what ends up being communicated.)

So the bottom line is who gets to decide how God intends things to be? Should I suffer through a UTI because our bodies are designed to fight infection, so I don't need antibiotics (or that special painkiller stuff that turns your pee orange)? Should we all just get polio and whooping cough because God intended us to be susceptible to the diseases? Where do we draw the line on "this is what God intends" and "this is a miraculous medical advance that God gave to us"? How dare someone imply that using pain killers or having a baby in a hospital or--gasp, even seeing an obstetrician!--is contrary to what God intends? This is where the sputtering rage comes in. Make whatever choices you want, but don't you dare even hint at judging the decisions another woman makes with her birthing. This shiz is hard enough without being judged for having your baby in a hospital bed.

She also basically says that obstetricians make their decisions out of their own legal interests, which I think is pretty small minded and ungenerous. I had no idea they invested so much time and money to get into the business of not getting sued. I'm not pretending that there's no legal concerns, but let's not forget that doctors became doctors because they wanted to help people. It is too dang much work to do it for any other reason. (Many of them don't actually make that much money. In my experience of reviewing paystubs, the real money is in self-employment or Wall Street. Note for the future.)

There you have it, my angry screed against self-righteousness and judging other mothers. I'm sure eventually she'll post something about how terrible it is to use formula...they all do.


  1. Amen!
    That is exactly what I think too.
    That's why when/if the miracle ever happens to me, I will not tell anyone anything until the kid is 2 years old. Or maybe 18.

  2. Yeah...birthing, then feeding, then vaccinations, then schooling, then I don't know what comes next but I'm sure it's something. I read something a few weeks ago about why mothers judge other mothers - I can't remember where it was, or even exactly what it said, but in my mind the idea was that it's similar to how we decide that our religious beliefs are right, and if we're right other people must be wrong.

  3. Okay, I read the post. The last line really bugged me.

    I do like the name Violet, though.

    1. Yeah, Violet is one of my more favorite names. I agree that the last line is just dripping with terribleness.

  4. YES. ALL THE YES. And your line about the UTI was perfect. DRUGS, PLEASE. Don't get me started about formula. Without it, Solei would be an only child and I'd be in a loony bin.

  5. There are so many things I would like to comment on. But instead of writing a novella, I will say you are right. To each his (or her) own. Every birth and baby is different. And unless we are the one specifically in the situation, who are we to judge?

    Ps. I don't really enjoy hearing all the details of a birth anyway. Even family members. Logan's birth was awful enough I remember wondering if I really wanted more than one kid. But some people like to share... which is again their choice!


Be nice.