So grateful for this beautiful and understanding post from one of our Mama Birth mothers. I love how she is able to better understand other mothers from this interaction. We all come from so many different places with our birth experiences. Undoubtedly, no matter our age, birth changes us. Finding understanding and love for each other is so much more useful than anger and offense. Enjoy!
By Bethany Learn, Fit2B Studio
A while back, many mothers posted photos of their births as protest against facebook's unexplainable removal of breastfeeding and birth pictures that were often more tasteful than much of the other objectifying garbage we see on there. I'm not usually the protesting type, but I am passionate about birth and LOVE talking about my own two natural vaginal hospital births. So I changed my profile picture to this ...
"This is disgusting." That was the very first comment to roll in under my precious picture of me standing through a difficult contraction while dilated to 6cm. Disgusting? Perhaps this respectable church woman who was practically my god-mother meant it was disgusting that facebook was removing pictures like it, but I dared to ask her to clarify. "The photo is disgusting. Nobody wants to see this." For some reason, I had a very physical reaction to her words. My fingers began to tremble, and I just sat there, staring at her unbelievable comment! This woman had given birth to several babies. She was an amazing grandmother. Why did she describe my rather modest birth photo as disgusting?
I was hurt and shocked ... so I did what any self-respecting facebook addict does: I enlisted help from my 582 friends to refute and counteract her statement by posting a status that said something along the lines of, "I just changed my profile picture to one of my labor with my son, and one of my 'friends' just called it disgusting. Please go respond to her comment. Is she right?" Almost a hundred responses and various viewpoints poured into the resulting thread.
"She is wrong"
"This is a gorgeous pic"
"What is so ugly about it ... birth is beautiful"
"She's just a #&*%@ don't listen to her!"
These were just some of the responses. But this woman isn't a bleepity-bleep. She is someone I have looked up to. She has been on mission trips to Africa, for crying out loud. And now my friends were calling her names. Oops. Did I mention she's also a shoestring relative? Double oops. There goes next summer's family reunion. What else could I do but call my mom.
"Mama, why is she angry? Why does she birth as disgusting?" I felt like a child again with a million questions, just wanting to understand something that surely made sense on another level, but not on mine. "Mom, when Iook at that picture, I see the shape of my son within me. I see my sister supporting me as she puts counter pressure on my back. I see the smile of the nurse who has finally given in to my request to NOT belt the monitor onto me! But what does she see that is so disgusting, Mom?" My mother then told me something that resonated with me and helped me to understand this old, angry woman who saw birth and swollen bellies and disgusting.
"Bethany, I've told you about my births, all four of them. When I had your brother 45 years ago, birth was not like it is now. You had so many choices! I was amazed at how powerful you were throughout your pregnancies and births, at how you were able to insist on what you wanted. With Bryan, they left me alone in a dark room. When I felt him coming, I had to scream for help. Your father wasn't allowed to be with me. I had to crawl into the hallway, vomiting and crying..."
I asked my mother to please post her thoughts into the comment stream, and suddenly the attitude of everyone shifted. The younger women, including me, stopped being defensive, and a few more older women chimed in, sharing their tear-jerking stories. It's not that birth is disgusting to them; it's that some of our photos bring back nightmares of mistreatment and messages of Eve's sin.
My heart now breaks for the older women among us who were refused the empowering experience that many of us now take for granted. They do not see the beauty of birth's blood, but we can show them. We can keep showing them they brought us into the world to bring change out of old systems. We can show them how we've found joy in the process, power in the pain, laughter in labor.
Bethany Learn is the founder of Fit2B Studio, an online fitness studio that features wholesome home workouts for the whole family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Her hobbies include crocheting rugs out of old shirts, editing for indie authors, and working on "The Shabin," an off-grid shed/cabin on family land in Montana.