Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Birth as a Sexual Event

Taken from "The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth" By Laurie Morgan
"Privacy Matters"
John's loving presence was important to my opening up for the baby because by then we were both aware of the sensuality surrounding birth. Creating this child was an intimate act of love between the two of us, and birthing in a loving way simply and naturally completed that act. As a result of healing from past sexual abuse achieved through faith, I was much more able to open up during this labor than I had been during my first. I had become able to make my vagina wet and open by fantasizing about making love to my husband -- something I hadn't been able to do before -- so I found visualizing having sex during labor naturally helpful.
John and I both welcomed the idea of actually having sex during labor, but I happened to be focused elsewhere at the time. We knew that besides relaxing and bonding the couple, the man's semen naturally ripens the cervix in the same way that the "gel" (which a good friend of mine researched and found out is actually made from PIG sperm!) inserted unceremoniously into the vagina by obstetricians does. In any case, I had enjoyed masturbating frequently in the days preceding this one and found even solo orgasm to be a safe, appropriate, and pleasurable way to encourage strong, productive contractions. Laboring in the environment of my own home was absolutely crucial to accepting and expressing these beneficial feelings.
When contractions got really strong, I made myself a little nest of pillows to lean on at the end of our spare bed, and told John that I wanted him to call my friend to come. When she arrived about an hour later, I was still in the living room, concentrating on opening up and relaxing my pelvic muscles. I had an overwhelming feeling that if I relaxed enough, the baby would come out too fast. That feeling was affirmed every time I stood up, when gravity would cause the downward pressure to increase unbearably.
When my friend arrived she set to preparing homemade chicken soup in the kitchen, so I went to my bedroom to spend some time alone. For some reason it felt incredibly appropriate to crawl the whole way to the bedroom on my hands and knees, and so, as ridiculous as it may seem I did. In the meantime, Christiana entertained herself and visited the bedroom off and on, tenderly lavishing hugs and kisses on me. Despite dire warnings that labor would frighten her from people who didn't understand that she was like a soul mate to me, I actually delighted in cuddling and playing with her.
It�s important to clarify here, that inviting a close friend to my birth was just what I needed to do at the time. It was one last vestige of my previous dependency on outsiders for my birthing strength, in a sense. But I have learned a lot the hard way from the experience that I want to pass on. Many people have remarked after reading this birth story in its original form, that having a friend's reassuring presence during labor and birth appears to be a "happy medium" between more interventive midwifery or obstetrical care and the full responsibility of couples birth, but I can't disagree more. Yes, this birth turned out beautifully at the time, but there were a number of significant drawbacks to this one compromise that aren't obvious on the surface. They all surround the fact that birth is a profoundly private, sexual event. Period.
I believe that God made birth and sex amazing and powerful, and usually our bodies overcome the breaches in privacy that are so common today; sometimes gracefully, sometimes not. But just as the physical act of having sex can be done publicly, but truly making love cannot, in order to have a truly uncomplicated, unhindered, pleasurable birth, spectators cannot be involved. Don't get me wrong, at the time my friend was respectful and did her best to blend in with the furniture, but looking back, I can see how even this small intrusion left me feeling like an stranger in my own home.
People today pay a lot of lip service to the idea that women should birth and labor where they are most comfortable. This is good in and of itself, but what most people tend to ignore is the fact that we are never truly comfortable with anyone besides our mates staring at our most private parts and witnessing our bodily functions! All this is to say that I don't plan on ever inviting friends to attend me in labor again in the future, and I highly recommend against it to others. It's pointless to second guess my past now, but next time I will definitely feel free to labor in whatever part of my home I'm truly most comfortable in, and my husband and I will be as intimate as the mood truly strikes us.

A woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest... By Laurie Morgan
A woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest... or so "they" say. But are they right? An increasing number of well informed mothers-to-be don't think so. Why? Because slowly the fact is being exposed that women and their families are routinely misinformed, or not informed at all, of the hazards of popular childbirth practices. Doctors, midwives, media, literature, friends, and family of expectant parents consistently send the same firm message: pregnancy and childbirth require and benefit from expert supervision and assistance.
What a small but growing group of lay women are realizing and beginning to publicize is that "assisting" birth itself -- whether medically or in a more "alternative" fashion - is usually far from beneficial, and hardly ever necessary. The thrust of this emerging movement should not be confused with such so-called "natural" childbirth trends as Lamaze, or the recent call for a reduction in cesarean rates, both of which ignore the root problem of institutionalized birth and rob individuals of choices through forced conformity to artificial standards. Instead, this far more respectful, more empowering movement's primary goal is to help women to liberate themselves to give birth to their children in safety and pleasure. Through the sharing of unrestricted information between peers, more and more families are finding out about, and choosing one simple option that can render all others obsolete: unassisted childbirth.
Unfortunately, because of the widespread fear of childbirth that has become entrenched in our society, it is necessary at this point for me to beg some readers to suppress their initial objections to this uncommon idea for just one moment. The fact is, millions of women across the world are giving birth unassisted already; most of them just don't know it. Until very recently, childbirth was always an involuntary process that the healthy female body performed automatically. Even today, there is no way to truly facilitate the process of birth itself without the overt use of instruments and drugs. Surgeons can cut babies out of wombs, and midwives can even rob women of the glory of catching their own babies themselves, but just as the miraculous force that forms an infant within the womb does its job perfectly without help, so does that same force faithfully push the baby out at just the right time when it is allowed to do so.
Before you begin to compose a fiery editorial to rescue me from my apparent naivete', allow me to share with you, one simple but profound revelation that two glorious unassisted births brought to me: childbirth is not dangerous. Life itself is dangerous it's true, and sometimes unfortunate things happen to perfectly good people. But just as healthy people would not take up residence in a hospital for fear of dying, it is insane to approach childbirth - a normal, healthy function of the female anatomy - with the focus on pre-empting disaster.
Our normal bodily functions are absolutely not made safer by monitoring and interference. Even the mere observation, or subtlest alterations, of childbirth processes have the potential to adversely affect the intricate organic symphony that plays out best in privacy and security. But childbirth itself - when it is naturally free from obstruction -- is as trustworthy as breathing. Eventually we all must come to terms with our human frailty, but the fact that tragedies exist must not be accepted as an excuse for the blind application of unnecessary "safety measures" that actually cause harm. Giving birth unassisted is a responsible, safe thing to do for all but the microscopic percentage of women that have such serious medical conditions as to make even everyday activities a challenge.
How safe would it be to breathe -- one of our most basic bodily functions -- with fingers or tubes and wires stuck down our throats? Emergency "medicine" has proven that it is possible to do this clearly undesirable thing. Likewise, childbirth is so reliable that it often proceeds very well despite serious insults and hindrances. But who in their right mind would freely choose artificial breathing over the real thing? If one were falsely convinced that "assisted breathing" were the most reliable way to ensure survival, one might be afraid to live without breathing tubes and monitoring wires, just as many women are afraid to give birth in the comfort and sanctity of their own homes today. But being convinced of a lie does not mean that breathing that way would actually be safer for healthy people. Attended childbirth is not safer for the majority of families either.
So what is wrong with attended birth "just to be safe?" If you've participated in any discussion of different childbirth practices recently you have probably heard or spouted some version of the slogan many times, "What matters in childbirth is the outcome of a healthy mom and baby." The implication being that any route to that outcome is acceptable or even good. This idea that "healthy" physical bodies is rightly of primary concern to birth attendants and their clients is almost universally accepted in mainstream circles. Surprisingly, the same assumption even goes largely unchallenged in the so-called "alternative" world of midwife attended homebirth.
What fails to be addressed often enough by anyone -- if ever -- is the inseparable connection between the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensual, sexual, and social components of childbirth. The solitary element of truth in that popular mantra "a woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest" is being ignored: If a woman is not comfortable, her birth is not safe, and no sane person is comfortable having an intimate and profoundly life-altering bodily function occur with spectators and interference.
Most people honestly seem to think that providing the appearance of respect for women's choices -- however hazardous -- is more important than the impact of the actual choices themselves. No sane person would agree that all that matters in sex is that a penis enters a vagina, for instance. Giving birth is a fundamental element of a woman's sexuality too. So, it is clear that such goal-oriented attitudes are just as inappropriate when applied to the complexity of the human spirit, emotions, mind, and body that are all deeply affected by childbirth. But our collective histories of more than 20 years of mothers subjugating their birth instincts to medical rape has made it very difficult for many women to question status quo.
For anyone to really understand the potential harm in modern childbirth practices and make positive changes, we each have to move beyond knee-jerk defensive feelings brought up by such an appropriately emotional topic. To effectively encourage the necessary change, birth attendants, educators, and peers must neither be coddling nor condescending to childbearing women. We "mere mothers" are smart. Not only that, but by sheer virtue of our anatomies, women are the preeminent experts of our own bodily functions. Having previously been discouraged from taking up that role does not change the facts: women are created able to give birth without any assistance at all. We mustn't be afraid to shout this truth from the mountain tops. If women can be trusted to care for their bodies during pregnancy and then to nurture their offspring until maturity, women can surely be trusted to make the right choices in childbirth, even if that means choosing to give birth unsupervised.
It's simply logical that when pregnant women and the people they choose to have support them through childbirth are not fully informed, many women will feel safe where they are not actually safe. So, as it turns out, the over-used euphemism in question here is worse than false, it is out-right dangerous. Thousands of women, babies, and their families are literally robbed of safe, pleasurable childbirth experiences every day by modern pregnancy and childbirth practices -- both medical and alternative in nature. And more than that, thousands of women are placing their own lives, and the lives of their infants, into something far more risky than their own loving hands: they are resting their futures in the hands of well meaning professionals who know no more about childbirth as nature created it than a rock.
Probably these words are highly offensive to both professional birth attendants and almost anyone that has ever hired one, and that's fine by me. In my opinion, outrage is a healthy and necessary reaction to a problem that has harmed too many women, babies, and their families for far too long. Birth attendants and childbearing women alike would do well to take a critical look at what I, and many similarly empowered and inspired mothers have to say.

Taken from "The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth'' By Laurie Morgan
Sex and Birth, Pain and Complications
The inherent sexual nature of birth quite clearly makes birthing with attendants undesirable. Imagine how a woman feels when she is really turned on and open to being sexually "penetrated". That same feeling of total relaxation and lubrication of the vaginal walls experienced in healthy sex is the absolute most conducive environment to allowing any baby to slide gently and easily into the world. It is quite possible that no woman who actually desires an attended birth can fully fathom the truth of my example, however. I believe this is due, at least in large part, to the widespread sexual abuse endured, especially here in America. Women who have been sexually trespassed once, usually find themselves also raped of the ability to experience total relaxation and pleasure in any sexual act. Consequently, I believe that the sensuality and sexuality of birth has been robbed from almost all women who have not yet healed emotionally from past sexual abuse.
This serves as an explanation for the over-acceptance of medical management of birth as well. Many American women are simply continuing a long cycle of abuse, as is common of many victims. The widely recognized psychological pattern of the abused daughter who grows up and marries a wife beater is a clear example. Many of us do something comparably bizarre by inviting people to violate us in the birth process: the birth attendant. Once a woman is victimized it takes a great revelation or move of God for a woman to take back her own power and not place herself in the victim role again. An interesting example of this phenomena is the fact, as reported in the book Silent Knife by Nancy Wainer Cohen, that twenty-five percent of women who undergo cesarean section will be sterilized within two months of the birth. This is a shocking statistic, especially when you consider that it neglects to include all the vasectomies that are also performed after a surgical birth.
The trouble is, I don't think I've met a woman yet who hasn't been molested in some way, somehow by the time she reaches her twenties. The fact that we are taught to believe that much of it is all normal and necessary victimizes us even more. When I mention sexual molestation, most people imagine the kind that occurs in many children's homes, but in truth, many of us allow perfect strangers to violate us and our children under the guise of modern medicine every day.
The pattern begins at birth. Americans as a society regularly accept genital mutilation of baby boys in the form of circumcision, or at least forceful retraction of the foreskins of those who remain intact. Both of the sexes are also subjected to anal penetration with thermometers as a routine, and many milder forms of non-consensual manipulation of the infant�s body. For many women, molestation moves again into the professional realm around puberty when we are instructed by our own parents to submit to doctors and gynecologists under the guise of "check ups". They scrape around inside our private parts for pap smears, poke around our vaginas and anuses and touch girls' bare chests, all for various �preventative� reasons.
Later in life we surrender dutifully to fittings for birth control devices, and big machines squashing and irradiating our breasts to monitor their health, because so many of us have been discouraged to protect our own breasts and our daughters� through ecological breastfeeding. When viewed with a keen eye, it's all very obviously perverted. There is simply a natural progression from the acceptance of these procedures to the medicalization of the ultimate expression of our sexual selves; conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth.
Regardless of whether a woman experiences her labor as sexual, it is simply inherently so. Nature necessitates that we create children through sex, and babies are birthed through our sex organs. Disassociating one's spirit from the sex act itself, while possible, is not healthy. In fact, denial of the sexual side of birth can very easily cause some women to experience the intense sensations of birth as pain, all by itself. Before the birth of my first daughter, I had rarely been able to experience painless intercourse. My vaginal muscles were just too tight. I was able to orgasm alone, but not with a partner. I knew that my inability to relax was "all in my head" as they say, but was at a loss as to how to change. This was another reason my first birth was so terrifyingly painful and my perineum tore.


marybeth said...

hi, i found your blog doing some research and love what you have explored so far! i hope you continue. I am a writer, brith worker and a personal homebirther, though by goal to to help all women feel safe wherever they choose to birth.

Would you mind if I linked you from my blog?

Anonymous said...

Yes marybeth you can link my blog to yours. Can you please give me your address.