The commander in the parenting wars is one big mother—Nature. Nothing synthetic is gentle enough for our precious bundles, the way our ancestors did everything is romanticized, and the earth mother reigns supreme.
“If you were on an island and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do to give your baby the best investment,” said leading attachment parenting proponent Dr. William Sears in 2012. (When it comes to the natural parenting movement, attachment parenting is king…or perhaps queen is most fitting.)
With early roots in attachment theory, initially based on primate research and observations of cultures in the developing world, those who follow natural parenting make appeals to vaguely non-western traditions, whether or not these traditions are widely-practiced or proven beneficial. Much of what people think is “natural parenting” isn’t really what nature “intended” or what indigenous people did at all, rather it’s the romanticized version of natural.
Here are three (of many) ways so-called natural parenting disproportionately burdens and dehumanizes women.
1. Didn’t have a “natural” birth? You’re weak.
In the early 20th century laboring mothers were often given a combination of drugs that provided pain relief and induced amnesia, called “Twilight Birth.” The newborn was handed over to a mother with no memory of having delivered it. This method, then heralded as ushering in a “new era” of obstetrics, is now viewed as misogynistic and paternalistic. But the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, with today’s expectations of women giving birth no less denigrating than a hundred years ago.
In nearly all cultures, a healthy baby and a healthy mom are the most important outcomes of birth. Not necessarily so in the natural parenting movement. With natural parenting, “birth experience” reigns supreme, though whether it’s really about benefit for mom and baby or bragging rights is hardly clear. The rules of natural childbirth include avoiding induction to start contractions, but most important is forgoing epidurals for pain relief.
“Women are inherently capable of giving birth, have a deep, intuitive instinct about birth, and, when supported and free to find comfort, are able to give birth without interventions and without suffering,” writes Judith Lothian in the Journal of Perinatal Education, a publication of Lamaze International (most people don’t realize that Lamaze has communist origins, when the Soviet Union could not afford widespread use of pain medications).
That the suffering of childbirth is all in a woman’s head, not real but a consequence of conditioning against our natural instincts, is a popular meme in the natural parenting community. It has no basis in reality or in an equal society. When’s the last time we asked a man to pass a kidney stone or endure a migraine without pain relief because it’s “natural”?
Natural childbirth proponents argue that epidurals impede a mother’s ability to push and increase the risk of the dreaded C-section. Though likelihood of C-section may be linked to epidural use, there is no evidence that epidurals themselves are the cause. As Melinda Wenner Moyer explained in a comprehensive piece on epidurals in Slate:
“The studies that have suggested this effect have been observational, reporting that women who choose epidurals are more likely to have C-sections than women who don’t. But the women who requested epidurals in these studies tended to be different from the ones who had natural childbirths: For example, they were more likely to have had painful, difficult labors—on account of carrying large babies or those in abnormal positions, or because their labors were induced.”
In other words, if you have an epidural and a C-section, it may very well be that whatever caused the increased pain that led you to request relief would have necessitated a C-section anyway. And make no mistake, women who have C-sections aren’t failures.
The overarching message from the natural parenting world for anyone who “fails” to avoid medical interventions during childbirth is a dire one: You didn’t try hard enough. You weren’t strong enough. You weren’t woman enough.
Newsflash: Women are more than our bodies, our reproductive organs and our ability to tolerate unnecessary pain when modern medicine provides alternatives and most importantly, a choice. Remember, way more infants and mothers died when Mother Nature had her way before the advent of modern obstetrics, during and in the days immediately following childbirth.
More Info: www.forbes.com