Thank you, universe. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Or, rather, THANK YOU, Jennifer Block. Too bad we can't mandate that everyone on the planet read the book. ;-)
I can't tell you how many times I read a sentence, statistic, or statement from a doctor or midwife and wanted to write a blogpost about what I'd learned. I think I was stunned, thrilled, appalled, and/or enchanted by something on every single page. I can't wait to read it again. Definitely buying my own copy for future reference and lending purposes!
Alright, enough gushing...
There's no question I loved reading this book, but it certainly wasn't an easy read. There were many times I felt sad enough that I wondered if I could keep reading it. The book also raised some important questions for me... questions I hadn't ever really considered before. And they are tough questions. I don't have time to address all of them here, but I do want to touch upon one or two.
Jennifer Block spent a chapter discussing doulas and childbirth educators. I've dreamed for several years about becoming a doula. I've been trained, I've read the books, and I've felt certain I wanted to pursue this path. Until now. Yup... thanks to Jennifer Block, now I'm just not so sure it's for me. Reading the experiences of the doulas she interviewed, I had to ask myself... can I really do this?! Here's an excerpt that hit me hard:
"Many doulas are emotionally devastated by the treatment they're privy to. 'If you care about birth, doing hospital births is very hard on your psyche,' says Barbara Stratton. 'It's hard to watch what they do to women.' And yet part of the doula's mandate is to make the woman regard her experience as a positive one. The doula ultimately can't throw herself in front of the scalpel, but she can figuritively throw herself in front of the woman's psyche. . . .This section caused me some serious self-reflection. Am I capable of throwing myself in front of the psyches of my clients? Could I really stay positive in the face of abuse? Can I allow myself to be an enabler of this horribly broken system? Can my own psyche handle the emotionally challenging task of witnessing "medical rape" on a regular basis? I really just don't know if I could do it... Maybe I'm better suited to prenatal education? I just don't know if I can handle working in the trenches.
"As doulas 'reframe' the birth experience for their clients, they are also shielding the hospital and its care providers from criticism and complaint. . . .
"'The unanswered, fundamental question is whether [doulas] are making birth better for women, or just making women feel better about their births,' write sociologists Bari Meltzer Norman and Barbara Katz Rothman. They raise a fair critique of the doula as an enabler. By supplementing the handholding and informed consent conversations that nurses and doctors should be doing, and by buffering the level of intervention, they are perpetuating the very system that they are in the business of changing. . . .
"'This is is the hidden story of what goes on in birth. We've got folks talking about it as medical rape. Doulas are witnessing these things, and it's eating them up inside'" (p. 160-161).
But then I think of the enormous impact doulas have. I think of the women who desperately need a supportive presence as they give birth. Can I leave these women alone?
So many questions... and I'm still not really sure what the answers are.