#6: More on “Natural” Childbirth

30 Mar

     Better late than never, but I wanted to reflect a little bit about our joint discussion with the Gender and Health class last week. Our two readings, the Margaret Atwood piece and the article on unnatural Cesarean births, were both very provocative texts. “Unnatural Births: Cesarean Sections in the Discourse of the ‘Natural Childbirth Movement’” reminded me very much of my Human Ethology course in the Anthropology arena. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we watched a couple documentaries which espoused the idea of “natural” childbirth, using midwifery. These films also viewed C-sections as unnatural and highly problematic, a rising phenomenon which needed to be stopped. In the article we read for class, the authors presented these views of Cesareans; however, they also took it to new psychological levels. I found some of the essay to be a bit offensive: “Cesarean mother, then like cesarean birth, collapses into an oxymoron; the cesarean mother is not, in some sense, a mother at all” (48). Likening a C-section to a “failed sexual experience” (52), seemed a bit ludicrous to me. Perhaps the best point the article made was that in America we tend to “’romanticize’ childbirth in other cultures” (49).

     I also was intrigued by the Margaret Atwood essay, “Giving Birth.” In a class last semester, I read Atwood’s The Edible Woman, and really enjoyed it. I wrote my term paper on the body images Atwood presents, with one of my focuses on the pregnant Clara. Atwood portrays Clara’s pregnant form as problematic, relying on a lot of disturbing imagery. I noticed some of this rather violent language in “Giving Birth,” as Atwood describes “the belly like a knotted fist, squeezing…every muscle in the body tight and moving” (Atwood 134). Even the language at the end recalls this style of writing: the baby is described as “solid, substantial, packed together like an apple” (Atwood 149). The essay was quite provocative, giving women permission to look at childbirth in another way.

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One Response to “#6: More on “Natural” Childbirth”

  1. Abby April 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for this analysis of the rhetoric, Mary — you’re right (esp. regarding the anthro articles) that the language used to describe c-sections is very problematic/

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