Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meditations on Traumatic Birth, Postpartum Depression, and PTSD

I had a traumatic birth experience with my son – a label that I’m only just recently becoming comfortable with using. I didn’t experience the full effects that his birth had on my psyche until months later - an emotional aftershock, so to speak. Was my trauma a result of an incredibly painful birth experience? Not really. It was less the birth itself in any capacity – and more the aftermath of it.
David Castillo Dominici /

A diagnosis of neonatal hypoglycemia landed my Little Man in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – which meant that only a mere hour and a half after he was born, just as the dust was beginning to settle and a tired calmness had come over our new little family of three – he was separated from us. While he was only in the NICU for two and a half days, those two and a half days were some of the most volatile, challenging and life-changing I have ever had. The NICU stay was followed up with a very difficult first few months of breastfeeding as I tried desperately to catch up to the large amount of formula that my baby had so quickly grown accustomed to during his hospital stay. After that came a constant stream of ear infections, and some other major personal events – all of which piled one on top of the other, leaving me feeling almost suffocated. I was living but, looking back, I was really just going through the motions. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Politics of Choice: Autonomy and Ways of Knowing in Pregnancy and Childbirth

I recently read a really wonderful article that asked some thought-provoking questions about medically managed pregnancy and childbirth. Namely, can informed consent in truly exist in an environment where choices are actively – and subversively – shaped by “the system?” What about when “the system” uses fear to motivate and influence choice in a particular direction?

It is such a difficult thing to extract autonomy and personal choice from the context in which they are created - so many things influence our decision-making process, many of which we are not even aware of. When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, there are a lot of decisions to be made...and yet so few of those who we see as "key players" in pregnancy and childbirth are culturally perceived as capable and competent to make these decisions. The "gut instincts" of mothers and fathers are routinely seen as being unscientific and uninformed and, therefore, not worthy of consideration.