The Business of Being Indoctrinated

As part of training for eventual “Father of the Year” status and in preparation for the storming of my wife’s inner thighs, I have begun watching a few DVDs about the intricacies of childbirth.

Not all of the DVDs are tutorials, though the very first one we watched was, and featured an obnoxious woman who fancied herself a comedienne. With every nugget of information she parceled out about the shape of the inside of my wife’s vagina, she performed an excruciating little skit that was – and I don’t speak from experience – more painful than labor. I don’t want to speak for my wife, but can we please keep any and all attempts at laughter away from her genitals?

Last night we took a breather from Gilda Radner’s Guide to Reproduction and moved on to The Business of Being Born, a documentary exploring the world of midwifery and why if you deliver your baby in the hospital you’re a slave to the system and the reason for global warming.

Produced by Ricki Lake – and featuring a whole lot more of her naked body than I wanted to see  –  the documentary is an enlightening piece of propaganda.  It’s designed to frighten prospective mothers away from the racket that is the hospital system of pre-natal care, nudging their dollars away from the “business” of hospitals towards the “what’s another word for business that means the same thing since midwives aren’t free either” of home-birth.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m being plenty snarky, but the film wasn’t all bad. There was a lot of information about the ways the conventions of childbirth have evolved over the past 100 years, and there was tons sexy footage of slimy babies emerging from vaginas and sliding into inflatable swimming pools.

Honestly, while I don’t begrudge anyone their right to give birth with a midwife while in the comfort of their home, the thought of installing a portable plastic pool in the middle of my living room and then spending the next 4-24 hours comforting my wife as she howls and screams and begs me to take her to the hospital because she’s changed her mind does not appeal to me. Obviously, a birthing mother will be in pain wherever she goes through labor, but I’m not super keen on the idea of my home becoming a repository for all the memories of the experience, good and bad. Sure, sure it’s natural and primal and amazing and ecstatic and I get that. But let’s keep the placenta off my kitchen floor, okay?

One of the featured couples even allows their toddler to hang around and witness the whole thing; the kid is totally oblivious – I mean, he’s not so oblivious that he won’t be scarred for life by witnessing his mother writhing in pain before depositing a living creature into their swimming pool – but oblivious enough that he’s tapping his mom on the arm and probably demanding a juice box, just as his little sibling is sliding out of her uterus into the refreshing pool of water that’s sitting in from of their television.

Despite all the joking, my problem is not with home birth itself. If you’re down with the doula and the drug-free and the pure, natural experience, pain and all, more power to you. I’m impressed. And if my wife were interested, I’d support her every step of the way (thankfully, she is more interested in not having a stroke from the pain than in communing with Gaia the earth goddess while she births our son). My problem is with the style of the documentary itself. It is incredibly, almost offensively one-sided. It essentially condemns anyone who would choose a hospital over their home, and seems to want to force an apology out of anyone who’s ever had a C-section. Every hospital scene is bathed in dark tones and sound-tracked with foreboding music; every statistic is skewed towards promoting the safety of home birth (of course they do things differently overseas, their healthcare systems are entirely different from ours!) and degrading the hospital experience; and every doctor who recommends a C-section is depicted as an impatient, uncaring cog in heartless machine bent on nothing more than turning over beds and upping their delivery rate.

Yes, there are women out there who ape celebrities with their designer births, opting for elective C-sections at their own schedules and treating childbirth as little more than plastic surgery. Yes, there are surely doctors out there who push pregnant mothers away from their initial birth-plans and use their chilly expertise to pressure women into using more drugs than they wish, and yes, sometimes C-sections are made necessary not by the health of the baby or the mother but by the very machinations doctors use to prevent any such issues.

But just because a woman doesn’t deliver vaginally, or chooses to receive an epidural, does not mean that she will not bond with her child, or is a callow, materialistic wench disinterested in the natural joys of the birth experience. And let’s be honest – elective C-sections are for rich celebrities; they’re not exactly an epidemic in the fly-over states.

Many of the talking heads in the film are bullies, much of the footage of early-20th century procedures is irrelevant and included only to promote fear and anxiety, and there is little, if any, indication of the benefits – or even the potential for any positives – that can come with delivering in a hospital.

I was never bored by the film, and was happy to learn more about the world of midwifery and home births. But the subject demands a more even-handed approach. There are doctors out there who actually care about their patients and aren’t interested in railroading them into a more convenient birth plan. There are women out there who’ve had wonderful experiences giving birth in a delivery room, and women who’ve had C-sections who didn’t immediately grow disinterested in their child due to a lack of endorphins during the birthing process.

I mean, come on. It takes years for that disinterest to materialize.

Just ask my mom.

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4 thoughts on “The Business of Being Indoctrinated

  1. I couldn’t even get through your whole post. Its sweet that you are a man & interested in your wifes birth. In this country we have many options for childbirth and the fact that your wife has opted for a medicated, hospital birth is her perogative. Unless you have studied husband-coached childbirth and read some books, not just watched a few videos. (Try Ina May Gaskin or Dr.Bradley) You should probably keep your opinion to yourself. The only indoctrination going on is the medical establishment telling women they need drugs to birth their children. For hundreds of thousands of years women have birthed all of their babies without NARCOTICS. In California elective cesearean is the main contributing factor to mother and infant mortality rates increasing by 30% in the last 10 years, where globally that same rate has decreased by as much due to cleaner conditions in third world countries and LESS intervention stateside.but THE most important thing in any woman’s individual delivery is her comfort! With atmosphere, attendants, doctors/midwife, and her own mind. Know your doctor & your birth plan and all should go well.
    Let us just be clear though…the only indoctrination going on when it comes to childbirth is that drug induced deliveries that have been going on for the last 80 years are normal and that a woman does not have the ability to birth her child on her own. That is indeed what we, as women, were built for.
    Also drug-free births help with breastfeeding & weightloss postpartum. & makes for a healthier baby. I was pretty freightened of that long needle coming at my spine and possibly crippling me. And then the thought of putting narcotics into the bloodstream of my not even born child, that seems pretty messed up to me.BTW had all my chilren naturally, 3 in a birthing center & the last at home in our tub. Best experiences of our lives! Good luck to you & your wife and congrats on your new family!!

    1. This is an extremely close minded comment. As a mother of one, who had a pretty rough labor experience, I’d say I am extremely grateful for all things that you are apparently against. I have a lot of friends who chose to make their birth plans based on their distaste for western medicines and or hospitals, even when both of those things have been necessary entities in their lives at some point. But that is their choice.

      Good on you for being able to live through that kind of pain three times. And sticking to your perfect birth plan. I had a birth plan too – it was to remain flexible, mentally – and allowing for what will happen, to happen. I did not feel any pressure by the hospital/my doctor to get an unnecessary epidural – but boy was I glad after 12 hours of extreme pain, throwing up, and crying.

      When my daughter ultimately made her arrival, she had a rough one, too – breathing in some meconium into her little lungs and needing urgent care so she would make it through the night. Thank god I had access to that kind of knowledge, expertise, and support on the spot.

      So, more power to those who choose to follow their heart – but don’t look down upon others for taking up valuable resources that can ultimately save a precious life, or encounter circumstances that don’t allow for flexibility and “all going well.”

  2. I realize that this is an older post, but I am glad to hear someone fully supportive of a woman’s right to delegate how they give birth. When I was pregnant with my son, I had a college professor who had views similar to those expressed in the film. I really wanted an epidural, and while I decided I was going got make the right decision for myself, I couldn’t help but feel guilty choosing such an “unnatural” route. When the time came, I was in labor for 36 hours and heavily medicated for the last 12, although my epidural only took effect in half of my body. We had to do a c-section in the end; my son was stuck and if we hadn’t done so, we could have lost him. I was so tired and stressed from the entire event that my doctor actually put me under for the procedure; I didn’t see my son for the first time until almost 3 hours after he was born. The point of this long, TMI story is that I still fell in love with my son just if I had been conscious and physically present the entire time. To love him more than I do is impossible, and to say that I couldn’t or wouldn’t because of how he was born is cruel and ignorant.

    Thanks for being so honest in your blog – it gives me piece of mind to know I’m not just going insane from parenthood. 🙂

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