"Of Myth and Dreams" by L. Folk

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts on Impending Labor: the Balance between Science and Nature


I wake up on my back, the weight of the twins pressing into my organs. I can't breathe. I swing my legs over the side of the bed, attempt to push myself up. It takes all my strength and I feel the exertion in every ligament and bone. Sometimes I writhe back and forth, moaning from the pain, from that clutch of fear grabbing at me and I wake Richard up. He knows to give me a push, to help me out of the bed so I can go pee or pace the house, place myself in various positions to get the babies to drop away from my diaphragm.
A few months ago I met a woman who had just given birth and she strongly advised me to do perinatal massage. So I set myself up with a pamphlet from the childbirth class and tried it. I felt around inside the petals of the flower down there and tried to pull them apart. The petals resisted and a stinging pain ricocheted down my legs. I consulted the pamphlet and it emphasized how it was imperative I relax (it's always imperative I relax); there were pictures of women resting with their eyes closed, enveloped in an aura of calm, one in a tub of bubbles, the other in a bed. I tried again, feeling the flesh resist, the stinging pain. I panicked, struggled with the belief my body would open up on its own and told myself I have to make a regimen of this to avoid tearing, pull these petals apart until they loosen up enough to make room for their heads. I looked at the diagrams of circles, 1 cm, 6 cm, 10 cm; I could not, cannot fathom passing a head, shoulders, hands, knees, feet through this gate and then repeating the process again.
When my friend Susan was dying of pancreatic cancer in her hospice bed, I peeked at the journal she had left for visitors to read. In it, she wrote about having faith in her body, in its healing processes. And yet, ultimately, these were defunct. At the end, she wrote, I want to forgive my body.
I too seek that same faith, but I am skeptical.
There are women out there who are not skeptical. They write books, have websites, shunning the use of science in the birthing and postnatal processes (breastfeeding, etc.) and champion the natural way. They believe that “progress” has eclipsed the feminine power and spirituality that comes with labor; we are allegedly robbing ourselves of a transcendental experience, becoming soft. They cite the ancients, midwife/herbalists who practiced mysticism and herbal alchemy; they cite statistics on C-section babies, how they are more likely to become obese, and have other ramifications.
So there is that lingering guilt; you are not a whole woman if you opt out of a strictly natural birth and perhaps you are putting your baby at risk, as well. While I do wonder about these, I know first and foremost I want my babies and myself to be safe. Let's not forget that years ago, that transcendental experience was often death for mother or child or both. Also, the ethos of the herbalist, the midwife/healer is over; our world has changed. Those ancient women lived in a period when nature was less harnessed by mankind and there were less distractions. It was easier to get close to it and its rhythms, its elixirs for this and that. Nowadays, if you want to become a Thoreau-type and live in the bosom of nature, you'll need to develop an extremist attitude and extricate yourself from society; that's nearly impossible for most of us. We tend to take the easy road, embrace this hybrid of science and nature, often happily.
But that's the point, to figure out what's right for the time period you live in. Science/ technology has already infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Personally, I embraced it to get pregnant in the first place through IVF. The issue is not to eradicate science or nature, but find a harmonious balance between the two. This is the ethos we live in.
So I intend to initiate my own balance, opt for a vaginal birth for the twins if the opportunity presents itself, but I won't forgo the epidural.
I may give a nod nature's way, but I'm not stupid.

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