Pick Your Issue

By Charlotte DeVries

This post was originally published on February 12, 2007.

A recent article in The Oregonian outlines a cultural phenomenon  the next new thing to feel pressured about in our modern society. Make no mistake, there will always be a next new thing related to health and choices we make about our bodies and our childrens bodies. (Theres a campaign going on in Texas right now where the governor has issued an order requiring that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. Hows that for pressure?)One pressure point for me as a young mother was ear tubes. I had a baby who got ear infections, like many children. The heat was on from lots of medical folks and from my community of young mothers to have my daughter undergo the ear tube procedure that so many of them had said yes to for their toddlers. I chose to treat my daughters infections herbally.What other pressures exist for young women these days who have decided to be mothers? Well lets see. Apart from that very loaded giving-birth thing, we have circumcision, co-sleeping, cloth-versus-paper diapers, vaccinations, enrollment in preschool and extracurricular activities, vitamins, speech therapy, orthodontics, hyperactivity, religious education  the list could go on and on.So the writer from Oregon states that heres this population thats feeling pressured into natural childbirth, and maybe that pressure to do things normally might lead to post partum depression! (Wait just a minute. In our country, surgical birth is on the rise. Post partum depression is on the rise. The rates of natural, normal birth arent.) As in so much birth drama, its difficult to sort out who is putting the pressure on whom. I like what Zenana Rose, a former labor and delivery nurse, says about her experiences helping women: There was a lot of pressure to do what the caregiver wanted. Its not up to me to judge a womans choices about an epidural or natural delivery. But so often, other people were making decisions for women.There will always be folks who want things done the way they believe to be the right way. There will always be overly zealous, insensitive people who can mean well when they level pressure in circumstances where they shouldnt. There will always be birth plans that get put aside, but also choices made that are grounded in something beyond a plan written on paper. And there will always be human nature. We are creatures who cant resist putting undo pressure on ourselves over the small as well as the big stuff.Meanwhile, back at the birth corral, evidence repeatedly points to the problems with epidural, with surgical birth, with unnecessary medicalization  problems that can profoundly affect a baby and mother who may have fared better had good intentions and protocol not jumped the gun on nature. Its a tough call, isnt it  when to speak up and how to do it in a culture that so often hands over decisions about their bodies to someone else.

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