Birth and Female Sexuality

December 11, 2007 at 2:37 pm Leave a comment

From Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 12: ‘Pregnancy and Birthing:’

Birth and Female Sexuality
“Upon leaving the hospital after Ann’s birth (I left about six hours after she was born), it was wonderful to get into bed beside my husband, with our new little daughter sleeping in a cradle right beside my head.  She was a gift that the two of us had created together.  I felt like making love with my husband in that moment, which we did (avoiding actual intercourse, however).
“Many women describe birth in natural settings as erotic.  Ina Mae Gaskin, in her classic, Spiritual Midwifery, writes that women need to be loved in labor, to be treated like Goddesses.  Another provocative piece of writing I once read said that the birth of a baby is the completion of the act of intercourse, conception, gestation, and now delivery.  With the birth of a baby, the circle is complete.  This book suggested the birth take place between the mother and her mate, with her presenting this baby back to him.  One woman told me that after her baby was born she said to her doctor, ‘If I’d known it was going to feel this good, I’d have planned for ten babies!’
“Hospital surroundings, in which complete strangers wander in and out, are not very conducive to a woman being in touch with her deepest self.  Nor do they support spontaneous acts of affection between the woman and her mate.  Such acts make the staff very uncomfortable because they then become potential voyeurs.  A husband holding his wife from behind with his hands under her breasts while she is squatting is a problem for some.  Also, many hospital staff and patients are taught to be very concerned about keeping a woman’s body covered at all times – despite the fact that in the middle of pushing out a baby, most women could not care less!

Bethany Hays writes, ‘As I began to reexplore my own births, I realized that I too had made an attempt to go inside to deal with the pain.  My own births, however, were filled with great violence.  I recently found the five-day diary I had written after the birth of my first child, a birth I have always spoken of with great pride in my accomplishment, the delivery of a nine-pound, six-ounce baby using Lamaze.
“‘The language I used in those days immediately after the birth, however, was that of physical abuse. “Just get mad and push that baby out.”  I remember thinking that the birth was a mixture of loss and accomplishment, of joy and trauma.  I remember my mourning over the loss of my normal vagina and perineum after a fourth-degree episiotomy [an episiotomy that goes right into the rectal lining.]  I remember that every inch of my body felt like it had been attacked by a tired tool.
“‘I remember wanting to be alone to find some way to reconcile these powerful, joyful, and at the same time threatening feelings.  I remember knowing innately that this was related to my sexuality, to my erotic core.  But it was many years before I realized that I had rejected my greatest innate ability to deal with the pain of my births: that very well of elemental energy that kept calling me.’
“Bethany Hays experienced labor as being split into two people: one who wanted to do Lamaze breathing and carry on a rational conversation with her birth attendants, and another who was drawing her into a ‘pit down inside’ that terrified her.  I, too, recall feeling split in two with my first birth.  Part of me was fighting the pain, and part was reading the fetal monitor with the practiced eye of a physician who knows that despite wide variable decelerations (dips in the heart rate) on the monitor strip, the beat-to-beat variability (another measure of heart rate) was excellent.  (Now I know that that monitor strip indicated that my baby was scared.)
“Bethany told me that she realized that the Lamaze method of breathing had worked for her only up to a point.  When the cervix was nearly dilated and it was time for the baby to traverse the pelvis, she was suddenly no longer able to do the ordered breathing patterns that, she thought then, had gotten her that far.  when it was time to push, she recalls being in a place she could only identify as ‘somewhere I could not stay.’  At this point she said she wanted to get rid of the baby at all costs.  (Women sometimes yell at this point, “Get it out of there!”) For Bethany, this included, during her first birth, demanding that forceps be used to accomplish the delivery.  (But in her defense, she realized that being strapped to the delivery table flat on her back to deliver a nine-and-a-half point baby after one and a half hours of pushing was not ideal.)
“In subsequent births she again found herself in that ‘terrible, unacceptable place’ in which she used all her rational powers to ‘bypass that terrible transit through the pelvis.’ ‘Just get tough.’ ‘Get mad and get him out.’ ‘Ignore the pain, just push through it.’ This resulted, she notes, in ‘considerable pain and trauma to myself.’  Both of us remember telling similar things to our patients repeatedly: ‘Just push through the pain – get him out.  Get mad!’  Labor and delivery staff are trained to do this, too.
“Later in her career, Bethany met a woman who taught her-and me-the secret of the second stage of labor, which now seems obvious: Women don’t want to push because we feel disconnected from that part of our bodies and because giving birth is a sexual experience, almost taboo with so many people looking on.  Instead of pushing through the second stage of labor as though it were an athletic event, women would do well to let their uterus do the work, while allowing their vaginas to relax into the process.
“During my residency training, I was accused of being Dr. Pain by the nurses because I didn’t insist on a spinal anesthetic for every delivery.  Even then, I knew that pushing the baby out took a relatively small amount of time, and I believed that it was far better for a woman to be alert for her new baby than to have the lower half of her body paralyzed from a spinal so that forceps had to be used to pull the baby out.  I witnessed many women who had spinal anesthesia for routine deliveries fall asleep on the delivery table.  These women were much less ‘present’ to greet their babies than those who had birthed normally.
“Back then, I didn’t appreciate the fact that birth is part of the continuum of female sexuality and that by numbing the lower half of the body to feeling anything painful, we were also numbing the possibility for feeling anything estatic or sexual.”

Related post:
Turning Labor into Personal Power

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Entry filed under: pregnancy, sexuality. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Turning Labor into Personal Power Rebecca’s Story: Reclaiming Birth Power

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