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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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You Are Not a Lemon

This post is a slight departure from our typical cloth diapering topics, but relates to a subject which all of us have personal experience with in some form - becoming a mother when our babies were born. My friends and I are almost all in the family-building stage of life, with small children and more on the way; it's an exciting life stage and so interesting to talk about! We all have some sort of "war story" about how our children came into our families, whether it was by natural birth, c-section or adoption. As I've shared many conversations with many other women about birth, I've started to see some common threads emerge that reveal a lot about the messages our culture feeds us about the birth experience.

We are overall pretty tuned into and aware of the messages rampant in our culture about womanhood in general. We fight these tooth and nail every day, both when we see them in the media and when we hear them in our own heads. Messages like: You have to weigh this little to look beautiful. You will decrease in value as you age. You must own these things to have status. These are lies! And we recognize them as such and reject them! But I want to know why no one is blowing the whistle on THESE lies: Your body doesn't know how to give birth. Your pelvis is the wrong size. Your cervix is "incompetent." Your mother couldn't do it and neither can you.

I want to know why the women's rights movement isn't having a fit about the insults of women's bodies that happens every day in ob/gyn offices and hospitals across our country. Have we been told so often and for so long that some of us just can't do it, that we have begun to believe it?

I'm not talking about cases where medical interventions truly save lives; that's indisputably necessary. I'm not even attacking our rising c-section rates or highly medicated births. Those aren't the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is that women have been fed the lie that their bodies are defective. And I want to know why this isn't in our general awareness, right up there with other body image issues. The message is essentially the same: You don't measure up and you don't have what it takes to make it.

"The Business of Being Born" is a very interesting documentary about birth in our country, and in it one of the interviewees made a very interesting point about how birth and women's rights intersect. Her point (paraphrased very loosely by me) is that women experience this huge rush of adrenaline and empowerment and fulfillment after giving birth to their babies. It's a moment of wonder and a realization of just how miraculous our physical abilities really are. (I remember thinking, "I just did THAT??") This interviewee's point was that when we take that moment away from women, we are taking away a very important part of the empowerment of women.

Has the women's rights movement become so fixated on whether or not a woman chooses to have a baby at all, that they neglect to notice that women are being undermined in a much subtler, albeit powerful way? If you have been fed the lie that it's somehow your body's fault that your baby wasn't or won't be born how you'd like, let me say to you: it is not your body's fault.

"Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon...Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body." - Ina May Gaskin

By Stephanie Gossett


Jill said...

Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed this post, right now, at this moment, today. I'm almost 38 weeks pregnant, and going in for an appt. tomorrow. I basically have 2 choices since I want a vbac after a horrible first birth experience that ended in emergency-c (duh). Either I wait it out and hope the baby doesn't get too big (drs dont think baby will fit-thus a repeat c section and banning of natural birth for rest of my reproductive years) or agree to some sort of stimulation like stripping of membranes, which could possibly break my water, and start the 24 hour clock, and if my body isn't ready, then I automatically get a c section after 24 hours of labor (or no labor as the case may be). I feel SO trapped. It feels like no matter what I do, I am going to end up with a c section.. and since *I* made the choice, it will be my fault that I can't take care of my 2.5 year old. My body betrayed me before, who is to say it won't do it again? I'm so confused and have a hard time thinking about this new life in the wake of all the struggle that's going on with 'how big' he or she will be, and so on.

Quinn said...


They can't know how large your baby is or isn't until it is born. The standard error on ultrasound weight measurement is plus or minus TWO POUNDS. That means that when they say that your baby is very big, because it measures at nine pounds, it could easily be much closer to seven pounds. Not to mention that nine pounds isn't particularly big for a full-term baby.

Also, no one knows how big a pelvis can get until it goes through childbirth. Petite women deliver relatively large babies all the time. Unless you have ever broken your pelvis, or had some sort of surgery where they've inserted pins or something similar, there is no reason to think that your pelvis cannot accommodate any baby your body gestates.

If size of the baby is the only reason to try what might end up being a failed induction, (Labor is initiated by the fetus. If the fetus isn't ready to come out, it often won't respond to induction attempts.) please know that your doctor is pressuring you into what is easier for him or her.

Whatever happens, know that it is not your fault that you are in this situation. You deserve care providers who listen to you, and who fight for your needs and desires in birth. The fact that your doctor is trying to push you into what is most convenient for him or her is not your fault.

I hope that you have a partner or a doula who is willing to stand up for you and fight for your wishes even in the hospital. I will be sending good thoughts your way. If you need to talk about this, feel free to e-mail me at

Melissa said...

What a great post, and you are so right about there being more negative messages directed at women than we usually think of.

Jill- Its not to late to find a new health care provider. Figure out what is best for YOU and make sure your health care provider will help you with that. I don't want to type a book in the comments, so I highly recommend a hiring a doula, and researching the procedures your doctor suggests so that you can be happy with your decisions, whatever YOU decide.

Laundry Lady said...

I agree that it is interesting that the feminist movement is behind making sure women maintain their reproductive rights in how and when they get pregnant, but not in how they actually carry and deliver their children. In our area you have two options, a doctor in a hospital or a home birth. There are very few midwives delivering in hospitals and no birth centers. I believe that women deserve options.
Jill, I hope that you are able to manage the VBAC you are hoping for. But even if you end up with enough c-section, that doesn't preclude the possibility of a VBAC after 2 C-sections. New ACOG guidelines state that in most cases a VBAC is no more dangerous after 2 c-sections than after one. I have a friend who recently had her third baby, via VBAC after two c-sections thanks to finding a new provider who was supportive of the new guidelines.

Ada said...

ROCK ON Momma!

Jess said...

LOVED THIS! It's very true and very frustrating!

Megan said...

I'm actually kind of offended by this article. Who is to say that a woman can't feel empowered by a c-section? I had a c-section with my first child due to complications and I certainly had a rush of adrenaline, a feeling of empowerment.

The truth is - it does not matter one bit how our babies come into this world - we have still created them inside our bodies, all on our own. THAT is the empowering fact.

I am, frankly sick of people talking about the way babies are born. All babies have a different birth story and it's time to stop making women victims and heros depending on their birth. I've had a c-section and I've had a VBAC. They were both amazing, empowering, fantastic experiences *because* they gave me my children - not because of what they could be defined as in medical terms.

And, seriously - everyone needs to stop talking about c-sections like "thank goodness for them in the situations where they are needed!" No. They are a way to birth your child. There is nothing that makes a natural, granola birth better on any level than a c-section. We may all have our personal preferences for what we'd like to have happen, but neither method is more "right" just because we were born with vaginas instead of stomach zippers. Plenty of women have died in human history trying to use the method evolution gave us, so you can't keep calling it the "right" way.

The only right way to give birth is the way that ends with a healthy, happy mama, baby, and family. Period.

This article makes every woman a victim of society and that is horrible.

Megandleila said...

Quinn - AMEN sista! My OB had me on bed rest for two months and induced me because my baby was "too small". Now, they didn't force me to do so... but I was put in a position that made me feel horrible if I went against their recommendation.

And let the record show that my baby was 7lbs 3oz. They told me that the baby was around 5lbs. TWO pounds off, just like you said.

My neighbor's baby.... Told her it was a 9lbs baby, she might have to be a C.... She was sure that he would skip newborn clothing, so she didn't take those as hand-me-downs. Her son came out at 7lbs. TWO pounds off.

Next time, I'm listening to my midwife. :)

Kimberly said...

I was told i would need to be induced 3 days after my due date with my baby (first one) because she was a big baby and the doctors "didnt know if i was capable of birthing a 9 pound baby". I was pressured into saying yes, even though i knew from the beginning i did not want to be induced. Thank God, I went into labor on my due date. However, since i took two hours to dilate(sp) 1cm, my doctor yet again tried to force me to get petocin(sp) to speed up my labor as well as break my water. I refused that drug, they broke my water and an hour later my 8 pound baby was out and healthy as can be. Yes, doctors know what they are doing but you know your body better! How will anyone be able to birth a 9 lb baby if doctors will never let them!

Kristin said...

Whenever I am feeling bad about my post baby body, and thinking about the majority of clothes of mine that no longer fit, I remember that I had my baby in my belly and gave birth to her and what a great accomplishment that was. So what if I don't fit into pre baby clothes.