i got kicked out of my homebirth class

November 13, 2006 at 1:25 pm (anti-oppression, Motherhood)

so we, my partner and i, had decided to take a homebirth childbirth class–well, at the second class, the midwife/educator said that she thought that my anger and cultural issues couldnt be fixed by the class and she thought it would be best if i leave.

i will be honest i have a lot of issues around the whole natural childbirth attachment parenting mothering magazine cult.  the first issue being that it is a cult.  or at least cultish.  it is the cult of ‘natural’.  and when i asked her to define ‘natural’ she couldnt do so, or she refused to do so, and then became hostile — literally in my face — explaining to me that i have anger issues.  it is not ironic that my ‘anger’ or at least discomfort in the class began when she was talking about how — women who swear or express anger during labor have longer and more difficult labors.

and this cult of the undefinable ‘natural’ is akin to the cult of ‘normal birth’.  what is ‘normal birth’.  well, it is not a typical birth or a common birth.  normal birth is actually a western concept of gender, womanhood, motherhood, patriarchy, pain, medicine, and a host of other issues.  and the way that we know it is a western concept is that the advocates of ‘normal birth’ refer alot to non-european cultures birth practices to justify their own theories around normalcy.  and that reference to non-european cultures is often grounded in the racist discourse of … exoticism.

so when i asked her for the definition of natural of course she became blubbering and incoherent.  and i my foolish self started to apologize to her because obviously the three word question:  what is natural…was unclear.  i need to stop apologizing for speaking.

the cult of ‘natural’ and ‘normal’:  both of these words are problematic.  both have been used as the ideology of genocide.  they are loaded.

what is an unnatural birth?  what is an abnormal birth?
i envision a series of work, art, pieces, performances, classes etc in which we value all of women’s choices…those who choose to birth at home and those who choose elective cesarean.  those who drink herbal pregnancy tea and those who down mylanta…and those who do both and more and less.

in which we create anti-oppressive models for pregnancy and birth.  in which we deconstruct the social concepts we are spoon fed about patriarchy and feminity and strength and marriage and heterosexuality and masculinity and race and money and body image and beauty.

i cant tell you what is good for your body.  but perhaps i can co-create the space that allows you to know that for yourself.  and i would love for you to share as much as you like with me.  and i shall offer you the same gift.

so i got kicked out of my homebirth class.  which i guess at least proves that i am not a hippie.



  1. unmartyredmom said,

    Hey, I really appreciate this post–it’s time to out the oppressiveness of this organic culture. I invite you to read my post “Organic America” and my soon-to-post commentary about the Association for Research on Mothering, a feminist organization grappling with issues like breastfeeding and exclusivity, etc.

    by the way, I am as organic as they come. I just object to the morality of it.

  2. amani said,

    I feel that a natural birth is one that includes as few medical interventions as neccesary. I suppose that there is no one “natural birth” definition that will please every woman. However, I don’t think having an elective cesearean ( for no medical reason) fits into any definition. Well, that’s just my humble opinion. Have you read anything by Ina May Garten. I find her attitudes on Natural birth to be very refreshing.

  3. revolutionofthelilies said,

    dear amani,
    my question is: what is natural? no one seems willing to answer this question. instead people insist upon telling me what is ‘natural birth’. and while they can define what a ‘birth’ is…they cannot tell me what ‘natural’ per se is. if you cannot define ‘natural’ why use it to describe birth? why use it to describe anything?
    i am also relatively tired of being referred to ina may. yes, i have read everything by ina may. several times. over the past 4 years. especially when i was studying lay midwifery. and now as i am pregnant with my first child. i have read most books on ‘natural birth’. which is why i feel that the question what is ‘natural’ is essential.
    we need to start talking about the social constructions of natural and nature and normal. let us remember that nature is a western construction in response to capitalism, rapid industrialization, and colonialization, including slavery and genocide.
    i found alot of ina may’s work helpful. and practical. i realize that it is a book that has changed the lives of many women. and i full respect for the work she has done. but but ina may states very clearly on her farm website that she does not want to deal or engage in issues about race, class, sexuality, etc. and thus while she works to empower women she does so by supporting a heterosexist, racist, oppressive system. and if concepts and discourse around ‘natural’ supports the oppressive domination system… then i have an obligation to deconstruct and resist those concepts, discourses, systems…and so does anyone who claims to be ’empowering women’.

  4. revolutionofthelilies said,

    dear unmartyred mom,

    i enjoy your blog/website. i too am struggling to conceive of myself as an unmartyred mom. struggling against the society’s demand that with motherhood comes the loss of my own will or intellect, the loss of my ability to decide. i am grateful that my mother (single working suburban black mom) who made it clear to my brother and i that she loved us dearly. and that she had to have a life. that at times she needed to rest, sleep in, go out with friends, etc and that we could stay with babysitters, friends, family members. what she gave me/modeled for me was a strong sense of independence, self-confidence that i could speak and act for myself, and a community of adults that loved me and took care of me.
    she also modeled for me eating lots of fruits and vegetables and staying physically active throughout life.
    from a young age i understood that living in this world means that i am not the center of the world. that just as others had a responsibility to care for me. i had a responsibility to care for others. i interpreted that as giving my mother space when she asked for it, respecting the boundaries that she and others set, and that i had the right to ask for the space and boundaries that i needed.
    please continue with the work of redefining motherhood. if your daughter decides to be a mother, she will be grateful for all that you gave her by modeling a motherhood that supports personhood.

  5. shannon said,

    Being a nonmother I am confused about having a class about natural birth.

  6. unmartyredmom said,

    Dear Revolution,

    I only now read your lovely response to my comment. May I quote from it on my blog? And I would like to support you in your elegant deconstruction, in your naming of the quiet yet lethal oppressions that we engage in without even realizing it.

    I love your poetry as well, and love that you are finding it, even with a young babe in the house.
    Keep up the important work, and treat yourself well.
    Elena TaJo (UnMartyred Mom)

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