Pregnancy, childbirth, post partum and child rearing are some of the most highly contested topics we encounter, with most opinions, statements and practices hardly coming from evidence based information, though long steeped in good intentions.
One of the most irritating clichés I hear when interacting with the general public and even in birth work circles is the loud, resonating "you were made for this, your body knows what to do!"
As I'm bottle feeding breastmilk to my three week old and typing this on my phone in the middle of the night, I want to cry when I remember this exact statement being told to me in a discussion among other doulas about why doctors like to deliver twins at 38 weeks.
ONE of my analyses out of many was that our bodies just aren't totally aware of the physiological burden of carrying multiples - it perceives the uterus as carrying one large baby, not two smaller babies, and isn't going to automatically tailor its developmental process to accommodate the difference. This can increase some of the complications we have historically seen when twins are carried to 40 or more weeks. This information is, in fact, evidence based. My explanation was probably not very scientific, but I think the intention was there.
And I received that same old sentiment back - "that's not true, our bodies wouldn't allow us to carry twins if it wasn't capable of doing so..."
The feeling I get when I hear this and similar statements is the same feeling I got in high school when I started to catch on to the subtle cruelty of my peers who had perfected the art of bullying via fake friendship - betrayal, isolation, gas lighting...
If our bodies evolved so perfectly to welcome any kind of pregnancy, and bestowed upon us the infinite and universal knowledge of how to carry and birth our babies, then why was I earlier this year(2020), at 22 weeks with twins, being fitted with a prosthetic support to keep my cervix from prematurely opening? Why was the word "vaginal suppository" suddenly a part of my regular vocabulary? Why was my partner and I discussing the pros and cons of extreme preterm birth and the level of medical intervention we desired?
Why was everyone else's body created to sustain life just perfectly, but I still cannot nurse my 3 week old babies, and only produce enough breastmilk to feed one hypothetical baby?
Before you reach to send me a message of positive support, that last part was rhetorical.
Why is an entire industry centered around the prevention of negative birth outcomes using technology, science and medicine if it's something so natural we don't need any help at all in doing it?
I'm not here to change your mind, because you're right - part of being alive as a species is being able to reproduce. Part of being alive is also succumbing to disease, death, cancer, accidents, trauma... And all of those things permeate every single part of our existence, including reproduction. Our bodies and our babies are not protected from the things we otherwise experience. I think the sooner we allow these incredible life events to be permeated by day to day normalcy, the easier it will be for our culture to make, and hold space for these things when they do happen.
And part of what makes humans, human, is our ability to use tools, and our brains, to protect ourselves.
These tools look like hammers. Or maybe therapy. Or a doula. Our tools look like weekly progesterone injections, or maybe it's IVF. Maybe it's choosing cesarean over vaginal birth. Maybe it's not choosing a cesarean birth, but needing one anyway.
In other words, when someone is brave enough to share with you their fears and feelings around their pregnancy or birth, telling them they possess the biological capacity to handle it is like telling someone to mold an invisible bowl out of clay no one can ever see or touch. I have the biological capacity to learn Japanese, but boy was Google translate handy when I was navigating the trains in Japan.
You have value and worth as a parent no matter how you've entered in to that role. You didn't need to be pregnant, you don't need to identify as a mother, you don't have to possess all of the biological parts to fulfill this role, and many, many people don't.
Parenthood doesn't need to come easy for you for you to succeed at it. You aren't obligated to feel innate love for your children, ever. Your body may not be able to give everything your children need in order for them to thrive, but our society does need to step up and fill in those gaps. The resources can, and do, exist. I'm sorry the burden has fallen upon us for so many decades with little improvement.
You, in whatever form you're in, are made for this, if you want it.