I have the great privilege of living a life of leisure these days, recuperating from a minor surgery on a generous dose of Tylenol 3. As if looking and talking like a boxer who had one fight too many wasn’t annoying enough, we’ve added uselessness to nuisance by moving the TV in my bedroom where I can indulge in endless re-runs of A Baby Story on TLC . I have a love-hate relationship with A Baby Story. It portrays a very one-dimensional image of labour and delivery: Woman goes into labour, woman gets epidural, woman naps while man paces around the room, woman gets pitocin, woman turns beet red as she pushes with her face instead of her lower body (which she can no longer feel), MD thinks “baby never gonna get out” and orders life-saving c-section. The End.
Today however, I found myself watching an unusual episode of natural labour on TLC. And by “natural” I don’t mean the kind where the mother isn’t wearing any make-up. I mean the drug-free, noisy, sweaty but oh-how-elating kind of labour. I don’t know if it was the codeine or the sleep deprivation but I found myself huffing and puffing and cheering the mother on. When the baby was finally born, I started to cry. It was so intense and powerful; I could not believe I had also done it. Me? That strong? Five times??? No way!
What would happen if we started seeing childbearing and childbirth as empowering rather than debilitating? If a woman’s ability to bear and deliver children was seen as a capital instead of a liability? If childbirth was seen as an integral part of women’s dignity rather than an obstacle to the realization of their full potential?
Tanya adds: You know, I have to agree that the most powerful moment of my life was the hour’s worth of pushes it took to deliver my daughter. Despite the epidural (I opted to look up to women who delivered naturally rather than be one of them), a woman often becomes acutely aware of her reproductive power at the climax of the labour process. Women really are amazing, as cliché as that may sound.