Fantastic work by Davis-Floyd for her extensive research and meticulous documentation of such an important topic! She has done an amazing job analyzing the current state of hospital birthing rituals in America. She leads the reader to the true messages and underlying values that the current medical establishment brings forth and serves to perpetuate. As society has moved from honoring nature to technology, she addresses how this has occurred throughout American history but I believe she fails to dig one additional layer further to expose the wizard behind the curtain.
Davis-Floyd lays a certain part of the responsibility of the inhumane practices in the current technocratic birth practices on women selecting this option. I disagree. Options were systematically taken away from women either directly through prohibition of midwifery or indirectly by making only hospital birth socially acceptable. Women who chose something other than the hospital were either labeled radicals, actually forced to birth in hospitals, or risked being socially shunned. Sure, in modern day society you do not see many women fighting for alternatives; however, the psychological battle was lost a generation or two ago with our great grandmothers. Today’s mainstream woman is not even awake to the idea that there are other more humane ways. Even though it appears that they have a choice the reality is the choice has been made for them.
We actually see this spirit in many areas of modern day society as most people blindly leave all the important decisions to the so called experts. Just as women have started to actually believe that they had better seek the support of an expert to birth their baby; people continually ignore their intuition and turn to the experts for everything. One example of this is the millions of parents that send their children off to public schools and into the care of strangers for the majority of their waking lives because they have somehow believed that these “experts” know how to better provide an education and teach them important life skills. Even in the face of statistics showing the far superior results of home education people face the same sort of social pressure to send them off to the experts. Most people do not even question the decision.
The current state of affairs in our society is that every major decision about the way in which we live our life has been made for us and it starts with birth as Davis-Floyd so clearly illustrates in her book. It appears that we have choices but when you start noticing that the same small group of elites have their hands in making policies for the medical establishment, own the media, have important connections in the legal system, provides public school funding that comes along with curriculum suggestions it is clear that the battle is a psychological one and most people don’t even know that they are on the battlefield. We did not choose this; we’ve been tricked and forced into accepting the current state of affairs by those who have the most to gain from it.
Where do we go from here? Since the programming of these technocratic messages starts at birth, let’s start with revolution of the mindset surrounding birth. Davis-Floyd paints her vision of what she hopes the future will look like for childbirth and I must admit that I envision something very different. I envision a society that is awake and aware to the beauty and perfectness of the natural world. Women would be honored as the creative powerful keepers of childbirth and the sacredness of the family would be maintained as a perfect balance between maternal and paternal energy. I see women having an unwavering knowledge that everything they need is inherent within and trust in the mysteries in which they cannot explain. What would this look like when it comes to childbirth?
Women would be empowered by the experience of birth and feel the sacredness of the creative process within them and be ready to fully step into their role as mother and nurturer. Women would know how to support themselves and their family. Without giving up responsibility over to an expert they would fully accept the responsibility of caring for themselves during pregnancy and birth. The society would rise to meet them with this responsibility and community support and knowledge would be provided and once again we’d reawaken our sleeping intuition.
As a result women and families would be far healthier and would experience far fewer real birth complications. Complications that do occur will be treated with humane technological procedures if necessary. Technology would NOT be used to manipulate the body to carry a baby to term for a woman who cannot conceive naturally because people would trust that the mysteries of nature have a higher knowing. Only couples that can conceive and carry a baby to term will have access to birth and raise children because this would honor the natural process and further promote a balanced and healthy society. Perhaps even a society in which the time of pre-conception and pregnancy are actually honored and prepared for as they once were to promote healthy conception and pregnancy.
This book is an excellent starting point to understanding how our society has come to the state of affairs. The medical establishment instills mothers with the message that the newborn child is a product of society and as Davis-Floyd puts it, “working to ensure that she will be willing to give her baby over to society’s institutions (hospitals for its medical care, schools for its socialization) for the rest if its life”. With these messages beginning at birth it is clear that childbirth is not only “women’s battleground” as Hemmingway put it but humanities battleground.