Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A facet of women's humanity

While researching midwifery and ethics, I came across a quote that attempts to situate women's desire for specific childbirth experiences within a hierarchy of values. According to Mary Nolan, writing in Clinical Risk Management in Midwifery: the right to a perfect baby?:
As western women's basic needs for safety around birth are increasingly met, their desire to achieve mental health in relation to childbearing becomes more prominent. This does not indicate ... that women in this country are so 'spoiled' that all they have left to worry about are the most trivial details of their care, but rather a natural and healthy progression in women's attempt to fulfil every aspect of their humanity.
I suspect that many homebirth advocates would agree with this explanation of their desire for a specific birth experience. Why, then, do they fail to accord the same respect for other women's choices? If they are willing to accept the additional risks to the baby posed by homebirth, why are they so dismissive of other women's willingness to accept the "risks" of pain medication in labor, or the risks of elective C-sections for no medical reason? The motivation for these widely disparate choices are fundamentally the same: the desire to create the type of birth experience that is most congruent with a woman's values and desires. A woman who values control may find the experience of an elective C-section to fulfil this aspect of her humanity, just as a woman who valorizes nature may find that a homebirth fulfils this aspect of her humanity. Why are homebirth advocacy websites dripping with contempt for women who choose medicated childbirth, when the fundamental motivation for the choice is exactly the same for women choosing homebirth?

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