Monday, February 29, 2016

Birth Isn't for Everyone

Birth workers love birth, and we are passionate about advocating for people who give birth.

When you're advocating for people to be respected and given choices backed up by evidence when giving birth, you're not thinking much about all the people out there who don't want to give birth.

I've seen plenty of blogposts about being sensitive to people who may want to have children, but are struggling with illness, infertility, or financial issues that make pregnancy impossible, or not a good choice.

I see lovely, thoughtful articles about doulas who haven't had children, pointing out that the doula without children is not lacking in warmth, empathy, and presence, and in fact has a few advantages: if you don't have your own birth story, you can't project your birth story onto someone else's. You enter that space baggage-free. On a purely practical level, you also don't have to worry about finding last-minute childcare.

But what I'm not seeing is...an acknowledgement of all the people, both birth workers and not, who don't have children by choice. Who...(better whisper it)...don't want children

It's kind of a scary thing to admit. It's one thing to hire a doula who hasn't had children YET...but a doula who doesn't want children? Isn't that weird?? Why is she even a doula???

Well, lots of nannies, day care workers, preschool teachers, therapists, etc. etc. etc. who have a passion for working with children are really happy about going home at the end of the day and having a break from that intense energy, and they want to keep it that way.

And lets be real, if we're talking birth doulas, we don't spend a ton of time with babies. Our client is the birthing person, and once the baby has arrived, our time with them is nearing its end. That's just the nature of our role in birth work. I think its safe to say that all doulas are moved by the miracle of bringing a new baby into the world, the honor of being a part of welcoming the youngest human on the planet into life on earth. I certainly am...but that's a very different thing from wanting to raise a baby of your own.

Many doulas came into doula work because of their own birth experience, but personal experience is not the only reason to care deeply about an issue. For me, doula work is an integral part of my feminism: birthing people are disrespected and not provided with the resources and care they need because of systemic misogyny. Because not only women give birth, that systemic misogyny affects more people than just women, but the roots are still a distinctly feminist issue.

The way that people who aren't women who give birth are routinely erased from the conversation is an LGBTQ issue, and one I also care deeply about. And the fact that women who don't choose to give birth are also routinely erased from the conversation is another issue I care deeply about. I don't think the two are really comparable, though. After all, if the conversation is about people who give birth, then people who don't want to give birth aren't going to be a large part of that conversation.

The solution is simple: if you're talking about people who give birth, refer to them that way. Referring to them with the simultaneously too generic (lots of women never give birth), and too specific (lots of people who aren't women do give birth) term 'women' is just universally unhelpful. You can read my last blogpost to clear all that up, though.

Any birthing person is free to choose their birth team according to their own needs, and proclivities. There are certainly people out there who wouldn't hire a doula without children, and there are bound to be others who would hire a doula who didn't have children, but not one who doesn't want children...but if you feel like you fall into that category, it's worth considering if you've been influenced by a society that tells cis-women that their worth stems solely from their role as mothers. Things are more complicated for trans-women since their identity as women in is so often questioned, but that only makes matters more difficult for them.

There's nothing wrong with a woman not wanting children. There's nothing wrong with any person not wanting children. And, supporting people in this decision, instead of trying to talk them out of it, or treating them like there's something wrong with them could potentially lower the rate of child abuse and neglect. Pressuring people into parenthood serves nobody. The more we can all love and support each other, even, or especially when, we make very different choices, the closer we'll move to a just, and peaceful world. And using our words to reflect that understanding matters.

Live, and Birth Omily,
~Emily

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