Anyone who has had a child in the last quarter century likely has a strong opinion about the state of the modern birthing industry (full disclosure: as a man, I am unable to get pregnant and give birth, but I will say with confidence that I was an instrumental/essential part of the birth of my own child, I know my way around a birth plan, and have been known to pal around with doulas and midwives). Some people look at the western world’s low infant mortality rate and see the unequivocal progress of a time-tested, well-oiled medical machine, whereas others see the birthing industry as an oppressive, sometimes dangerous, harsh deviation from the natural order of the birthing process.
Author and mother, Shonagh Strachan, in writing Industrial Childbirth for the culture-jamming magazine Adbusters, takes personal issue with her particular harrowing birthing experience in a Dublin hospital, as well as the “systematic violence” that has become the dominant birthing experience in the western world. Strachan’s birthing experience, however unsettling and personally distressing, is regrettably not at all unique in the current mechanized system of birth and neonatal care. With a cesarean section rate hovering at about 30 percent in the United States, the incidence of medical intervention utilizing drugs and evasive measures being standard practice in many hospital births, and the general birth experience becoming a largely medical procedure (rather than a natural and empowering event), it is no wonder that many men and women alike have become disenchanted, troubled, and outraged by the current state of being.
To be fair (which I always attempt to be), many doctors, nurses and obstetricians are responsible for some truly amazing work in both delivery and saving lives. In numerous cases, medical intervention is essential for the well-being of both mother and child. However, it goes without saying that on far too many occasions, we have fallen into the cycle of rendering the birthing process to be a clinical occurrence rather than an instinctive one. Many women wind up feeling ripped off, or even abused by their hospital birthing experience, and continue to wrestle with the sense of powerlessness that came from the experience, by finding solace in the wisdom of others, or sharing their own experience, like the author mentioned above.
In this limited space, I will not even attempt to cover a fraction of the concerns associated with this hornet’s nest of an issue, but it is safe to say that the modern birthing industry is, without a doubt, a formidable topic that needs more dialogue, more understanding and empathy, as well as solutions that we could all live with (babies, mothers, doctors, etc.).
I invite you all to read the article by Shonagh Strachan, and voice your concerns and create a conversation about what is wrong, right, or in desperate need of review on this topic.
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.