I stumbled into a world where almost all women have abnormal wombs. And no, it wasn’t another one of my dreams. I found it while doing research on the net, searching for more info about the surgical procedure to combine my two uteri into one.
What I discovered is a Yahoo group for women with uterine abnormalities-- and its active enough to generate over 500 messages a week. Rich with information, emotions, and stories, not that unlike mine.
I joined the group just in time to witness a profound discussion between some of these women and a midwife-in-training who hoped to learn from their—our-- experiences.
If I had to guess, I’d say this midwife-to-be was a young woman, in her early twenties, eager to prove what she knew about the benefits of natural childbirth and the evils of the patriarchal western medicine model. I say early twenties, when she could have just as easily been in her fifties and going through a mid-life career change, because her spirited definitive views reminded me of a younger Christy who swore she’d never give birth in a hospital and give her power away to the men in white gowns. She’d claim her natural maternal rights and birth her baby as her ancestors did, at home, with a midwife, while howling in a language only mothers know.
Well, that’s what I thought.
So this midwife-in-training believed that many of the women in the group had fallen sway to the politics of fear, and given their power over to surgeons as they cut their bellies instead of pushing harder for vaginal births. She spoke in the way I might have once, as a young woman with strong beliefs but not enough experience to know that every choice comes with far more gray than black or white.
Her words opened a crevasse of feelings stuffed beneath the glacial terrain of conception, pregnancy and childbirth--and my fellow group members wrote and wrote and wrote about our realities as women whose dreams for natural childbirth were shattered by the inability to conceive, multiple miscarriages, months in the NICU, and the burial of babies, as the rest of the world goes on as if it wasn’t just turned upside down. As if our hearts weren’t ripped from our chests. As if anything is still natural.
Why are women so quick to judge other women when it comes to conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting? Why do we fall into different camps, pointing fingers, shoving statistics at each other, when it’s obvious there is no right way for a baby to arrive.
I would never wish my birth experience on another woman, an emergency c-section a few days shy of 25 weeks, knocked out so the medical staff could rescue my son. And yet I want this option available, without judgment, to every woman that hopes to save her tiny child. Elias needed western medicine to live. He needed me to open my belly, to put my trust in a surgeon’s hand--to give up my dream of screaming at the moon as I pushed him out myself, without the aid of drugs or doctors, to hold him to my full breasts in my own bedroom. No, Elias needed resuscitation. He needed steroids. Heart and brain surgery, before he weighed two pounds. He needed me to embrace the medical model, to scrub my hands for two minutes before touching him and to pump, pump, pump, pump.
This is my story, along with a miscarriage, and I’m learning, through this blog and now this group, that I’m not alone.
I want to thank the women of the Mullerian Anomalies Yahoo support group for speaking their truths despite the rocking chair judges with their impeccable wombs who cluck their tongues, despite the social stigma that comes with being abnormal. And I say this as one of the tribe, a woman with Uterus Didelphys, which literally means two wombs. Two cervixes, two uteri, and originally, before a surgery at age 18 to remove the septum, two vaginas.
Double the trouble.
And to the midwife-in-training, I hope you learn to embrace the many shades of gray that enrich our lives with uncertainty, ambivalence, chaos, and change. And that you hold onto your beliefs about women’s power, while realizing that sometimes the most powerful choice is to let go of our own dreams, and to carve out space for a child to breathe.
--Excerpted from Following Elias, originally published on Parents.com. Copyright 2009 by Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.