As anyone who has given birth and joined the mommy wars over the last decade will tell you, the politics of birth are fraught. There’s the crowd in favor of natural birth and the crowd that isn’t—and, as with any of the high-profile skirmishes of the mommy wars, the battle can get tense. I am a somewhat reluctant member of the natural-birth camp. I never expected, in fact, to be as gung-ho as I’ve turned out to be.
What drew me to a natural birth? I ended up, by chance, in a Bradley method childbirth class, due to the ringing endorsements of other moms in my New York City neighborhood. I was assured there was plenty of information applicable for those who wanted to be medicated, and medicated was what I wanted to be. Yet the process of actually getting that medication—a needle into my spinal column—sent me into full-blown anxiety attacks whenever I thought about it.
The people I spoke to about natural birth (many of whom were incredibly hostile to the idea) assured me that I would change my mind in labor. I can report after the fact that in the worst of labor, paranoia set in, as sometimes happens, and I was sure an epidural had been ordered against my wishes. I started swatting everyone in arm’s length away, yelling at anyone who dared come near my back ,“No drugs! I said no drugs!”
Conservative Feminism: Celebrating Women
What drew me most to natural birth, though, was my personal brand of feminism. What is feminism, in my eyes? A celebration of what is feminine. What is more womanly than giving birth and breastfeeding one’s child? This “crunchy” outlook on motherhood speaks to me as a conservative woman. In my childbirth classes, we were told over and over again, “Your body is made to do this!” And it’s true. When it’s over, your body also rewards your pain with a flood of hormones to keep you high enough to care for your offspring for days while running an extreme sleep deficit.
Another recurring theme in these classes was a celebration of women as mothers. Pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood are not a disease. They are each a beautiful stage of our lives, and medical caretakers should have the mentality that they are not treating me. I am not sick; I am undergoing a monumental life change, one that I do not need to be medicated for or saved from.
The image of childbirth perpetuated in American pop culture is one of panic and emergency. A woman, screaming in pain, is saved from the pain or danger by, more often than not, a male doctor. My birth, attended by a midwife in a hospital, was calm and at the end stage, while I was pushing, I will even dare to say it was fun.
With all of this in mind, what I find most perplexing and, honestly, quite infuriating about the natural-birth community is that it is incredibly difficult to find birth professionals (midwives and doulas) and organizations who celebrate this wonder-filled stage of life for women and babies—including those unplanned for and unwanted.
Aren’t Midwives Supposed to Celebrate Pregnancy?
With my first pregnancy, while searching for a doula (a childbirth attendant), I was stymied by how many were vocally pro-abortion. They posted in support of Wendy Davis, her pink sneakers, and her desire to make it legal to kill a baby of the exact same gestational age as the one I was carrying. I like to think of myself as fairly open-minded politically, a necessary evil considering my geography, but if I paid someone to be present at the birth of my child, I wanted her to be in awe of the miracle she was witnessing. I wanted her to respect that this life and all others are things to be cherished, regardless of the circumstances.
I also refused to consider any doula who listed “abortion support” as one of her services. If a woman is going to be present for the birth of my child, I don’t want to know that she has been present at the murders of countless others, supporting this atrocity because to her freedom from inconvenience trumps the freedom for life itself for the defenseless. As with doulas, it was equally frustrating finding a midwife who celebrated my pregnancy, even in its early stages. Since I live on the East Coast, for both a midwife and a doula I settled on women who were at least silent about their opinion of current U.S. law that allows the death and dismemberment of unborn children.
Somehow modern feminism has, over time, come to mean the desire for men and women to be alike in all areas, even when, biologically, this so-called ideal is impossible. For conservative women, it’s time we embrace, and more importantly promote, our own brand of feminism, where we unabashedly celebrate what makes us unique from men. I do not want to be like my husband because my body, through the miracle of fate, has the ability to do so much more. I can create and sustain a young life.
Just as conservative women should embrace the feminine, those in the natural-birth community need to recognize the illogical double standard some apply to babies who are wanted and unwanted, planned and unplanned. The natural-birth community rightfully recognizes and celebrates the God-given power and wisdom the female body possesses. This incredible gift was not bestowed upon us to squander. The natural-birth community has a logical place in the pro-life advocacy world. It’s time to take it.