Saturday, April 23, 2005

Motherhood Measured in Dols

Reading an article in Salon on women increasing choosing C-section to avoid the pain of a normal delivery reminded me of my ninety year old grandmother.

She bore nine children of which eight survived. Each birthing loosened her gums a little more until she turned completely toothless at forty. Her dozen plus grandchildren don't think she is an exemplary mother at all though we readily acknowledge pre-mature toothlessness is a sizeable sacrifice for motherhood and otherwise.

Though the article focuses on American women, much of it applies to women elsewhere in the world. For different reasons, women are finding it easier to opt out of natural childbirth and go the C-section route. It is called "Empowered Pregnancy"

I find the connotations of empowered rather confusing in this context. Motherhood desired can be deeply gratifying. It can be humbling to those who have waited long. It restores their faith in God and proves that it takes divine intervention to give birth.

Being a mother is an immense responsibility and often leaves a woman feeling overwhelmed and helpless. It is also the time when a troubled marriage or a relationship can suddenly end. Power is the last connection one would make with the high-strung, emotionally vulnerable creature the strongest women are reduced to when they are pregnant.

Women have been conditioned to believe that suffering the pain of childbirth qualifies them to become "real" mothers. Doing any less is acting out of selfishness and does not bode well for her future as a mother. She is told that her child will suffer all life because of her selfishness. She opens a Pandora’s Box full of unnamed and dangerous consequences the moment she opts out of a forty eight hour labor to have a C-section. To me that argument is fundamentally flawed.

Physical pain is temporal and on the grand scale of sacrifices that motherhood demands it scores low. When J was born, I refused to take any pain medication so I would know what it was to have a completely natural childbirth. Like most mothers, in a month I had not even the recollection of that blinding, unlike-anything-else pain.

I will remember the pain of raising her alone, of seeing her childhood slip out of reach as I earn a living for us - for an eternity. My grand children may hold the same views about me as a mother as I do of my grandmother - it is their prerogative. What I do know is dols (unit of measure for pain) of pain suffered at childbirth would not impact their verdict on me. I know we did not credit our grandmother for that or she would surely be Mother Earth personified.

1 comment:

Priyamvada_K said...

of seeing her childhood slip out of reach as I earn a living for us

Very precisely and powerfully put!

Priya.
P.S: Last week I found myself remembering the beginning of this process, as well.