Monday, April 18, 2011

The Last Rite of Passage

Pregnant thoughts.....

The certainty of birth - I am here. The certainty of death - I won’t be here. Now I see this amazing loop the loop in the middle of our lives - giving birth. In being born and dying you usually have a small part to play and little conscious or physical participation. But in giving life, free will rises like a phoenix from the ashes. You have awareness and choices, while simultaneously you have to give yourself up to the unknown - to nature, to fate, or whatever deity takes your fancy.

Death is often seen as tragic, we live the selfishness of those left behind. Birth is rarely tragic - every creature stands as testament to the miracle it is. So why is giving birth feared as a tragedy waiting to happen? Another symptom of our industrialised separation: where the natural, mammalian, human nature of giving birth has been cut out of our culture and dissected? This rite of passage - which really is the ultimate journey of transition, seems to have been mostly lost to our society. Giving birth has been hijacked by science - crushing and controlling the mystery which it doesn’t yet have the answers for - the mystery of life.

In our culture sex is put on a pedestal, but the results retain their aura of taboo. Where sex is everywhere, but commonly experienced privately; birth is nowhere, but usually experienced in a public building, in an institution occupied and controlled by complete strangers. Where sex can be at anytime, anyplace, anyhow and for however long, birth must keep to the schedules and timings deemed functionally, statistically and financially appropriate.

I don't have a problem with hospitals, they have their place when we are unwell and cannot help ourselves. Doctors and nurses are people and they generally try to do the best their skills and knowledge allow them. However, I believe that in the vast majority of cases pregnancy and giving birth is not a pathological phenomenon (that there is something physically wrong with this process), although this is how it is projected through the lens of science and the media and beamed directly into our culture. In developing this thought I have tried comparing birth to similar physical processes that we all experience:

Could you imagine being told that when you have your next shit you have to go somewhere else (another part of a building or even city) mid-movement and do it in a position which allows for easy observation. Where professionals check to see if you are doing it ‘correctly’, in the right amount of time and to assess whether it is the right colour, form and consistency. Intervening immediately if it’s too big, too liquid, the wrong colour - how would you feel? Performance angst? Discomfort? Embarrassment? Insecurity? Vulnerability? Tension? Fear?

Or imagine that you should be briefed, watched and instructed by a group of strangers when you lose your virginity. With a ‘crash’ team of medical experts on call to supply viagra, fix hymens, to coach you on positions, movements and thrusts and then to separate, sterilise and perform tests on you the moment they deem it to have been concluded?

Some things in life can be taught, but the most natural ones are simply learnt along the way. Nothing and nobody can prepare you for the experience of living the moment as and when you feel it happening.

Although we can't choose the moment of birth, I think we should be able to do everything we can to prepare for it in a way that accommodates our feelings and beliefs. For many, doctors, nurses, medicines and technology offer the feeling of safety and security they need and I respect that. My peace of mind comes from knowing that if something should go wrong science is there to help me, however, it isn't watching, looking and waiting for an anomaly in order to spring into action!

I'd like to be given the chance to fulfill my own prophecy and not somebody else's!

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