Now that I'm on my birth obsession, I found myself falling the usual Foucaultian trails. I picked up "The Birth of the Clinic" for a reread, and am already onto a path of thought that is going to take a few days to settle. But on another side, I also began to thumb through books on home births and those who give a kind of history of birth in the U.S. A lot of new reading for the fall.
But one of the books, one by Ida May (perhaps one of the most famous midwives in the US), lead me onto a whole other trail (there seem to be many tributaries in this thought craze I'm embarking on). She begins the book with personal tales about births on the Farm (where Ida May practices). As I read through the stories, the same therm kept reoccurring. Natural. This way of birth was natural. It felt right. This is what nature intended for birthing, etc. And as always when the term "nature" gets thrown around, I start feeling a tad uncomfortable.
What is natural? And can we really do something naturally? I mean as humans is it possible for us to even be "natural"? Is there anything natural about home birth? I'd argue no. One doesn't give birth in some kind of vacuum. Instead we give birth with all the cultural baggage we've inherited. Any woman who gives birth goes into that experience with some kind of idea about what giving birth means. This means that for woman who think that birth involves a pain that is unnecessary and that a woman would only go through this with help, than it's "natural" for that woman to ask for help. Whereas a woman who believes that childbirth should be done without drugs, etc, her choice is going to seem natural. Judging one as natural because it doesn't involve drugs, is still not a case for the natural argument. One could argue that having a midwife there involves a certain artificalness.
So another personal anecdote to tie this together. I was utterly unprepared for birth with Umberto. I was clueless really. I didn't really read any books on birthing. I stumbled onto the message boards via the Internet fairly late into my pregnancy. I remember being utterly stunned and confused by the debates on the board. Epidural? What was that? When I asked my Dr. she just gave me a disgusted look and said "We don't have that here in Farmington." All I knew about birth was what I had learned from my cousins which meant you got drugs. Thus when I went into labor with Umberto, I assumed that drugs were going to be the norm. When I asked them for them, the nurse was rude to me and suggested that I was being rather wimpy (I know an utterly different attitude than found in my other births). She hooked me up to an IV and then checked me. She ran to get the Dr. who came rushing in. I was ready to push. I remember thinking that if it was this painful with drugs I'd hate to do without them. And after I finally pushed him out, the nurse cried out "You did it without drugs!!!" It was only then that I realized that birth could be and was done without drugs. It was like a whole new world opened up to me. But it was never natural.