Author: has written 5277 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

170 Responses

  1. Lastest Organic Kid Foods News - 宝宝-叭

    [...] contribution is from LaShaun Williams, who appears to be competing for the … Read more on Feministe (blog) Posted in Organic Kid FoodsTags: Foods, Lastest, News, Organic Leave [...]

  2. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    I’m a mother; I’m a feminist; I have a paying job; I’m married to a man; we practiced “whatever works best” parenting for two children (nothing in particular for #1, attachment parenting for #2); none of these things are mutually-contradictory; and I am so.tired. of this whole ginned-up discussion.

    (Ginned-up by the New York Times, in this case, not by Jill. I read Jill’s post because it’s Jill’s post. Life is too short to read the New York Times thing.)

  3. The Mommy Psychologist
    The Mommy Psychologist May 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    I read the articles in the NYT. As a child psychologist myself and a mom, one of the things that is so misleading about attachment parenting is the name. It is only called attachment parenting because of the theory it was based upon. It is not called this because it is the only form of parenting which allows parents to develop a secure attachment relationship with their children. There are numerous ways to develop a secure attachment relationship with our kids. I explore more of this myth here for anyone who is interested:
    http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/15/what-does-the-mommy-psychologist-have-to-say-about-attachment-parenting/

  4. Roisin
    Roisin May 1, 2012 at 11:58 am |

    I actually disagree with you on this one, which is rare! I consider myself a pretty AP parent, co-sleep, baby wear, breast feed, baby led wean etc etc. I’m also a feminist. I don’t have very much money but we make it work. I also still sleep with my partner and we are closer than ever. He too is AP. I don’t think it’s fair to say only privileged women who can stay home can parent this way.

    There does seem to be a lack in understanding of the principles of AP too. The point isn’t to give up your life to mothering, but to include your child in the other aspects so they see you grow up as the multi faceted being that you are.

  5. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

    There’s a whole lot going on with this post, and the diversion into french parenting really muddies the waters. I was raised by a french mother, and not surprisingly there is a lot of cultural stuff behind why at least part of their approach is different than here in the U.S. French mothers especially have a lot of pressure put on them to appear cool, calm and attractive at all times, and when that doesn’t mesh with their kids needs/wants the kids are generally expected to be on the losing end. Parenting is also far more authoritarian in nature in France, with a good deal of old fashioned fear-based punitive consequences for kids when they engage in bad behavior.

    It’s also important to not forget that in France mothers get a great deal more support in maintaining their careers in the form of government enforced and subsidized maternity leave and government funded creches. All of that make it a whole lot easier for french families and mothers especially to balance parenting and careers.

  6. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

    None of these mothers seem to struggle for money or free time, which says more to me about this debate than any of their essays.

  7. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

    Okay, I lied. Several mention lack of free time due to career (devils!) or justify the amount of time spent on attachment parenting as “worth it” by contrast (martyrs!).

  8. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    I started reading the pieces on the Times’ site and then decided I didn’t have the energy. I was right.

  9. Katya
    Katya May 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    Parenthood is humbling beyond measure. Let us be kind to one another.

    This. There are lots of approaches to parenting, there are lots of different circumstances that parents find themselves in. Most people just try to do their best with what they have. Our focus should be on creating policies and communities that offer parents the broadest number of real choices, and that support families of all shapes and sizes. The problem isn’t the approach that one person picks, the problem is the pressure and the judgment and the insane focus on mothers and the lack of support for parents.

    Besides, being kind to each other is good advice generally,

  10. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    The fact that attachment parenting comes along with opposition to other tools women use to control their lives and reduce their suffering—pain relief during labor and female-controlled contraception—doesn’t do much for the case. It seems that there’s a crunchy aesthetic that wants to be called “feminism”, but given the choice between making women’s lives easier or harder, they pick the latter every time. I suppose we’re just not meant to notice.

  11. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm |

    (OK, so obviously I do still have some energy for this discussion.)

    Amanda, I wonder if you have talked to many real actual women, and men too, who have done stuff that fits into the attachment parenting scheme?

    Because even right here in the first less-than-10 responses to Jill’s post, there are two people who say that they are feminists and have done attachment-parenting stuff. And, speaking only for myself, I find it frustrating to have this lived experience dismissed as “a crunchy aesthetic that wants to be called ‘feminism’.”

  12. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    That’s not really the point, though, is it? Attachment parenting is being presented as part of a larger package that rejects female-controlled contraception and pain relief during labor. I’m not interested in cherry-picking the evidence so as to avoid having to have my critical faculties provoked.

  13. archie
    archie May 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    Call it feminist or not, AP is just plain hard work. It is physically and psychologically draining no matter how great the reward. An attached parent can also be an overbearing parent. A “helicopter,” always hovering, planning, and controlling the next move. I’m sorry to say that 6 years of co-sleeping with a couple of kids does a lot of damage to the physical relationship between two people (we kicked ‘em out of bed when they were 3 and should have done it sooner.) I’m not condemning anyone who wants to try this method of parenting, but as one who has lived it and is currently trying to mitigate the ill effects (both on marriage and on the kids’ state of mind), I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  14. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |

    I suppose it’s not the point if the discussion is about the larger political agenda of some of the advocates of attachment parenting. But I didn’t think that was what this discussion is about. I thought this discussion was about whether somebody can do attachment parenting stuff and be a feminist.

  15. Ellen
    Ellen May 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

    Telling women that epidurals are dangerous or wimpy is NOT FEMINIST. If you have ever advocated against pain management during one of life’s most painful events or dismissed that pain as fear or misunderstanding or exaggeration, you have contributed to one of the oldest forms of misogyny. If you have ever, ever made a mother feel inadequate for bottle feeding, or for using a stroller or putting her baby down in another room, you have made a mother’s life harder for absolutely no reason. Practice AP, I don’t care. ALL parents do the best they can. But ask yourself why so many so called natural pregnancy and childbirth and child raising practices that keep sprouting dovetail so well with age old practices that make women’s lives needlessly painful, difficult and inconvenient.

  16. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

    Because even right here in the first less-than-10 responses to Jill’s post, there are two people who say that they are feminists and have done attachment-parenting stuff.

    I’m a feminist mother of two that wants absolutely nothing to do with it. This is a movement by and for people privileged enough to have the choice between good and perfect parenting. That’s not an option for most of the parents I know.

    And, speaking only for myself, I find it frustrating to have this lived experience dismissed as “a crunchy aesthetic that wants to be called ‘feminism’.”

    I don’t find it that crunchy. I think it’s about consumer anxiety and female perfectionism. That’s it’s greenwashed is a red herring.

  17. Jane
    Jane May 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

    I find it frustrated being dismissed that way too. I’m a single, working-outside-the-home, feminist mother (currently on hormonal birth control) who practices attachment parenting. A lot of the AP-style things I did when my kid was a baby (co-sleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding, baby led solids) helped me recover from a difficult c-section birth, helped me easily participate in life in the public sphere, helped keep me functional with a baby who wouldn’t sleep, and helped me and my baby adjust to me going back to work after parental leave. Although I agree that an insistence that attachment parenting is The Best Way is alienating and shaming, I have found the “feminists vs. attachment-parenting-crunchy-fake feminists” arguments more alienating than anything I’ve come across in AP-land (and I have left parenting groups over their weird attitudes about mothers who work outside the home).

  18. Becky
    Becky May 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm |

    The frustrating thing is that a lot of these “Attachment parenting” practices have nothing to do with attachment. Cloth diapering and organic baby food are about sustainability, not attachment. Using fertility awareness as birth control and having a home birth without pain relief are about naturalism, not attachment. And even the things that have to do with attachment are just tools, not necessities – you can bottle feed on demand with skin to skin contact instead of breastfeeding and that will still aid in attachment. You can have your baby in a bassinet beside your bed instead of in it and they will still be comforted by your closeness and you can still reach in and comfort them with your touch if necessary. The problem isn’t with individual attachment parenting practices, the problem is lumping them all together into one “good mother”* package, instead of letting families choose the practices that work for them and discarding the rest.

    *Annie Urban can talk about fathers, but it’s primarily mothers who are pressured into being the perfect parent and shamed for not being one. And exclusive, on demand breastfeeding can put a huge burden solely on the mother, especially in the first couple months when baby is eating around the clock, and especially if you throw in the AP practice of offering mom’s nipple for comfort sucking instead of a pacifier. Annie also talks about a village which I agree is ideal, but a lot of mom’s don’t have a village – family often lives out of town, or family and friends work full time and have limited time to help.

  19. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

    The thing is, the way attachment parenting has been wielded as a cudgel causing women to feel bad about themselves is nothing new and nothing unique to attachment parenting. Every single philosophy of mothering has been used that way–don’t kiss and cuddle your sons, they’ll develop mother fixations; don’t pick up the baby just because it wants to be held; blah blah blah.

    What that says to me is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual content of the parenting philosophy, so there’s no reason to blame it on a crunchy aesthetic or whatever. What it has to do with the shaming of women to keep them in line and feeling unworthy.

  20. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    Like so much with parenting, AP doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Many APish parents like myself take what works from the general philosophy, apply it in our daily lives, and leave the rest aside. I breastfeed and co-sleep because I personally find it works with my kid and our life. I baby wear sometimes when I need to be hands free to do other stuff but have a crabby baby on my hands, but I don’t do it fulltime like lots of other AP parents. We try to be gentler in our discipline approach then my aforementioned french mom, but we aren’t averse to stuff like time-outs and taking away privileges, etc.

    As Ms. Blois discussed in her NYT piece, plenty the AP parenting ideology can be used as part of a parents’ toolkit without it being some sort of tool to shame or judge other parents and I really object to the notion that AP makes its practitioners anachronistic, other mommy shaming, anti-feminist scolds.

    And I really object to the notion that eschewing over-medicalization of the childbirth process is anti-feminist in any way. I’ve actually experienced it personally, 3 times, and like plenty of other women I found that the whole inducement and epidural approach incredibly restricting and violative of my bodily autonomy. Choosing whether or not to forego an epidural is and should remain a personal choice, and it says absolutely zero about a woman’s feminist street cred which choice she makes.

  21. j.
    j. May 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

    Becky:

    Using fertility awareness as birth control and having a home birth without pain relief are about naturalism Luddism and the naturalistic fallacy, not attachment.

    Anyone ever notice that men’s healthcare choices are never subjected to scrutiny over whether they’re violating Nayyyychuurr?

  22. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    It has nothing to do with “violating nature.” Home birth–or birthing center birth–without medical pain relief has to do with reappropriating birth as a positive and healthy experience controlled by the mother and her support system. It’s not for everybody for a variety of reasons, but calling it Luddism is simplistic, obnoxious, and reductive. For the women who do want to do it that way, it is an extremely powerful and even feminist experience and choice.

  23. Roisin
    Roisin May 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm |

    Wow, AP parents are judgmental huh? I’m sure some are, as some non-AP parents and child-free folk are (see above). I don’t care what other people do – use as many drugs as you like in labour, whatever nappies you want, feed your child whichever way works for you. I’ll do the same. I didn’t intentionally parent this way, I’m doing it because it’s easiest for us. A lot of it makes sense to me. Co-sleeping isn’t impacting us negatively at all, if it does do that to you, don’t do it. Your business. I’m in no way a helicopter parent, in fact that goes against everything I’m trying to do. Also, birth control has squat to do with AP. I’m pro-medicine, vacs, birth control etc. definitely pro choice. Also, enough of the privilege digs, I’m actually pretty poor and all of these choices are free for me.

    http://kellymom.com/parenting/ap-frame-of-mind/ I think this describes it for me.

  24. j.
    j. May 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    For the women who do want to do it that way, it is an extremely powerful and even feminist experience and choice.

    Right, rejecting pain relief that was denied to women for nearly 2 millennia because of “gawd’s curse on Eve” is “feminist,” and so is foregoing modern medicine.

  25. AMM
    AMM May 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    The whole thing sounds too much like the “mommy wars” I’ve been reading on the Internet for decades, not to mention all the “advice” I’ve gotten in the two decades since my kids were born — you know, the “just do this and your kid will stop being a handful” stuff — for me to have any interest in digging into the details of what these people are saying.

    The only useful parenting advice I’ve ever gotten is to get to know your kid(s), try various things, keep what works, and throw away what doesn’t. And to throw away any preconceived ideas as to how your kid is going to be.

    My own bit of advice: get used to having people tell you you’re a Bad Mommy or Bad Daddy and “You’re doing it Wrong,” because you’ll get that no matter what you do.

  26. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

    It has nothing to do with “violating nature.” Home birth–or birthing center birth–without medical pain relief has to do with reappropriating birth as a positive and healthy experience controlled by the mother and her support system. It’s not for everybody for a variety of reasons, but calling it Luddism is simplistic, obnoxious, and reductive. For the women who do want to do it that way, it is an extremely powerful and even feminist experience and choice.

    Amen to this.

    Like everything else with medical care, there are pluses and minuses to all of it. When I had my epidural I was completely unable to move around at all, which meant the placement of a urinary catheter and also made it virtually impossible to try alternative pushing methods (other than the lithotomy position) for my malpositioned baby. It also left me at the total mercy of the medical staffers around me for several hours after the birth because of the lingering effects of the epidural.

    My second and third labors I went without the epidural, and I was so much more in control of myself and my body during the process as a result. I wouldn’t change those experiences for anything in the world, and I call bullshit on the notion that I’m a Luddite buying into some naturalist fallacy for feeling that way.

  27. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

    Who’s forgoing modern medicine?

    You’re right, having all control of which position you give birth in, what you have around you when you give birth taken from you and given to a male-run institution is totally feminist. Why don’t you google “birth rape”?

    Epidurals have not been around for 2 millennia–even twilight sleep was developed only a couple hundred years ago–and natural childbirth makes full use of the pain management methods that have been. It also uses the pain as a way of understanding what’s going on and which position would be most productive for a woman to be in.

    Nothing is feminist if it’s forced on you and makes you miserable. In this case, plenty of women find that a situation in which they remain in control of the experience and are allowed to move around as they wish and not medicalized to be far preferable to a hospital birth. Why is this so hard for you to accept?

  28. j.
    j. May 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

    Hahahaha, “birth rape.”

    No, really. Stop comparing unpleasant birthing experiences to rape. It’s offensive to many rape survivors, no matter how many “hip mamas” declare that it’s not offensive to *them* as rape survivors.

    Do what you want. Just don’t yell “I CHOOSE MY CHOICE AND THAT MAKES IT TOTES FEMINIST!!” and expect me to validate it.

  29. Attachment Parenting vs. Feminism

    [...] more at Feministe (blog). Share this news: Filed Under: [...]

  30. j.
    j. May 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

    I love this comment from the Bialik thread:

    @ “We object to routine inductions with pitocin and interventions during labor because of the risks to the mother and the baby.”

    Translation: We pressure pregnant women to endure excruciating pain during labor for days on end, because we feel pitocin is “unnatural” and epidurals are both “unnatural” and for the “weak.” We’ve tried mightily, but without success, to prove that epidurals harm the baby. When pressed, we claim to focus on “routine” inductions and epidurals but we’re loath to recognize any given situation as being non-routine and the truth is we object to them in principle.

    @ “We believe that breast milk is biologically and nutritionally superior to anything formula manufacturers tell you is equal to it …”

    Translation: We pressure all new mothers to breastfeed, and judge and look down on any who don’t. We don’t care whether some women will have to lose their jobs in order to breasfeed, and we don’t believe that breastfeeding ever really fails, as opposed to the mother being lazy slattern who didn’t try hard enough.

    @ “We have empowered ourselves and refuse to endure a male-centered obstetric history that has taken women’s bodies and molded them to their preferences for their convenience, their comfort and for their world view.”

    Translation: We’ve traded in a male-centered model for a female-centered model that’s even more oppressive to women, and which reduces women to their bodies and tries to mold them to *their* preferences and world view.

  31. Revolver
    Revolver May 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

    I understand where j. is coming from. Using language like “birth rape” and “extremely powerful experience” sure seems like shaming the women who opt to have medications during their experiences, or at least insinuating that they’re missing out on something Important. Kind of how some women (me) feel judged for not having kids. Yeah, it may be transformative and powerful for you, but that doesn’t mean my way leaves me with gaping holes in my life.

  32. Becky
    Becky May 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm |

    For the women who do want to do it that way, it is an extremely powerful and even feminist experience and choice.

    Sure, and I totally support that. The problem is when women who want pain relief and a hospital birth are shamed for doing it unnaturally or providing the wrong kind of experience for their babies. (I am aware though that the shaming goes both ways – there’s no way to win as a mother. Or as a woman, since childfree women are shamed for that too.)

  33. j.
    j. May 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

    Revolver and Becky: Thanks.

    Not all APers are judgmental, but the loudest voices are, and the language they use is incredibly loaded.

  34. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

    The whole thing sounds too much like the “mommy wars” I’ve been reading on the Internet for decades, not to mention all the “advice” I’ve gotten in the two decades since my kids were born — you know, the “just do this and your kid will stop being a handful” stuff — for me to have any interest in digging into the details of what these people are saying.

    The only useful parenting advice I’ve ever gotten is to get to know your kid(s), try various things, keep what works, and throw away what doesn’t. And to throw away any preconceived ideas as to how your kid is going to be.

    My own bit of advice: get used to having people tell you you’re a Bad Mommy or Bad Daddy and “You’re doing it Wrong,” because you’ll get that no matter what you do.

    Absolutely true on all counts. I’m less irritated by the details than I am irritated over One True Wayers and other true believers.

    One thing that was really impressed on me as a kid in a family of bossy, DIY women is that you really didn’t want to plan your life in a way that made you financially dependent on a husband. So when I see so many young women my age becoming mothers and choosing to stay at home and be naturalist, urban homestead, “attachment” parents — because the only way to do attachment parenting 100% is for the breastfeeding parent to stay at home — and forego the safety net of having their own resume, a 401K, and/or a steady income, pinning all that on the goodwill of a husband, it makes me cringe. It’s idealistic and hopeful and green, and that’s really nice, and I’m sure it’s nice for the kids (most of the time), but it’s a real risk for moms, especially those in single-income families, who may or may not have meaningful access to education or the workforce otherwise.

  35. er
    er May 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

    I find the whole idea of framing a discussion as attachment parenting versus feminism deeply troubling. As Maria Blois noted, AP is a philosophy – it has central principles, yes, and advocates a range of practices, but the fact of the matter is that all of those can be applied in a range of ways – as individual/family choices or oppressive ideology. Moreover, most people pick and choose. Very few follow a philosophy to the letter, and to imagine AP as some kind of monolith is as absurd as imaging feminism as a monolith. Thus, characterizing AP as a movement that attempts to prevent women from accessing birth control or pain relief is a fairly substantial misrepresentation. It’s true that many in AP don’t like/ use hormonal birth control and search for alternatives, which they in turn recommend to others. (Sidebar: Condoms are hormone-free and require no effort on a woman’s part.) They also advocate unmedicated birth, also for a variety of reasons (though paramount among them is that is statistically the safest for mother and baby). I think feminists absolutely need to look critically at anything that puts forward any model of parenting as the “right” path to “good” mothering. But AP folks are not in charge of the discourse on parenting in this country, let alone birth. Despite the huge space they take up in the NYT, etc, and the growth in the movement, parents who follow any aspects of AP for AP reasons are pretty small, taken the country as a whole. The CDC statistics on exclusive breastfeeding at pretty clear – fewer than 10% of women are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. So, breastfeeding advocates are hardly controling the discourse on infant feeding, and bottle feeders are not a persecuted minority (although I imagine it feels different in Park Slope or Berkeley). In fact, women involved in birth and breastfeeding advocacy are at the vanguard of feminist activism for control of women’s bodily autonomy – they fight for women’s right to informed consent and refusal in hospitals (the stories of violations of women’s bodies and dignity in OB wards are hair-raising and should terrify all feminists, not just those who become or might want to become parents), they fight for paid family leave, affordable day care, flexible work schedules, and women’s rights for her body to be more than sexual & to breastfeed publicly. The issues surrounding birth and breastfeeding strike right at the heart of the feminist movement, which has been so concerned with women’s reproductive rights (access to affordable/free birth control and abortion most prominently). The recent pushes we’ve seen towards fetal personhood, policing pregnant women’s bodies, and criminalization of miscarriage are intertwined with the abuses committed against birthing women in hospitals, which are always done in the name of fetal well-being/safety. We need to understand the ways that these are connected. Whatever reason a woman does wish to have a medicated birth, her decision to refuse pain relief is actually counter-hegemonic and is one that leads to a great deal of push back. Like the BF stats, somewhere in the range of 80% of women have epidurals. It’s not like you just wander into a hospital and say – no thank you! to monitors, IVs, pitocin, and epidurals and everyone is full of respect for your beautiful performance of natural motherhood. In fact, you’re subject to ridicule, humiliation, even threats and abuse. Try being a woman of size and wanting those things!

    It’s absolutely true that there are discourses within AP that are troubling and need to be examined critically. It’s true that those voices (mostly on the internet) can be vitriolic, judgmental, and problematic (I find the entire notion of “natural” childbirth problematic, personally). But none of that has anything to do with the specific practice of breastfeeding or co-sleeping or unmedicated births or cloth diapering or babywearing or whatever. Or the structural oppressions women, including mothers, face.

  36. Andie
    Andie May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

    there’s no way to win as a mother. Or as a woman

    This is basically what it comes down to.

    Also the term “Birth rape” describes a very real trauma that *some* women experience. It’s true that hospital births offer very little in the way of control over a woman’s birthing experience and that lack of control can be overwhelming and terrifying especially if you are triggered by having a bunch of doctors and nurses up in your…. ahem.. business.

    I can, even as a woman who thinks pain is over-rated and was totally open to drugs and yelled “BRING IT ON” when my OB said I needed a C-Section, TOTALLY get why some people would want to experience birth outside of a sterile institution like a hospital and would want the full-on no-holds-barred intense birth experience.

    But I think it comes down to what Becky said.. you can’t win either way. Practice AP and you are painted as either a controlling helicopter parent or as completely spoiling children by giving into their whim.. if you are more of a ‘Free-Range’ kid type, then you’re painted as being detached and even neglectful if you expect your kids to A) learn to do things on their own and B) entertain themselves occasionally and not spend every living second stimulating their little minds.

    and yeah.. God Forbid you choose “NO PARENTING” and just not breed. Can’t have that.

  37. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    (I am aware though that the shaming goes both ways – there’s no way to win as a mother. Or as a woman, since childfree women are shamed for that too.).

    This.

  38. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    and forego the safety net of having their own resume, a 401K, and/or a steady income,

    And social security, and possibly insurance, etc. I just have to look sideways at any movement that discourages women from seeking validation outside of the maternal sphere, and to focus the majority of their time and attention on staying home with babies, and that the only implied safety net of this arrangement is the goodwill of a man. It’s an extremely heteronormative movement as a whole, and it reinforces anti-feminist notions about a woman’s place, whether it means to or not. In pieces, I’m totally down with it. I agree that people need to do what works for them. This phase of parenting is miniscule in a child’s life. Once the diapers and formula/milk phases are over, they’re over. But for a mom who is “taking time off to stay home” it’s a lifetime risk against your earning power, and with the workforce and the job market fucking people over in the US the way it is now, this is worrisome.

  39. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    And, Lauren, although I hesitate to do anything to encourage the “Can being a stay-at-home mother be feminist?” business again — my husband is the stay-at-home father to our two daughters. No resume, no 401(k), no steady income, pinning all that on the goodwill of a wife (namely me). Does that also make you cringe?

    It is directly thanks to feminism (and personal good fortune) that this was an option for us — LaShaun Williams and her “feminism devalued marriage and the familial and societal benefits of homemaking” notwithstanding.

  40. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm |

    Well, my last comment is stuck in moderation for some reason, but the point I’ve been trying to make is that there isn’t (or shouldn’t be) one true, best way to give birth from a feminist perspective. A lot of the pushback against unmedicated childbirth in this discussion and elsewhere seems to be predicated upon the idea that the more technology present during the experience the better it is for women. Women here and elsewhere who disagree with this are told that they aren’t feminists.

    Do what you want. Just don’t yell “I CHOOSE MY CHOICE AND THAT MAKES IT TOTES FEMINIST!!” and expect me to validate it.

    No, actually, getting to choose your choice as a woman as to what will or will not be done to your body without some doctor (or some stranger on the internet) forcing you or otherwise shaming you into doing otherwise is, in fact, the soul of feminism.

  41. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm |

    No resume, no 401(k), no steady income, pinning all that on the goodwill of a wife (namely me). Does that also make you cringe?

    I’m sorry, it does. I’m coming at this as the primary breadwinner in my marriage, too (and former single/teen parent). It’s just that it’s particularly insidious for women, who are screwed if the marriage splits because they are often saddled with the majority of custody, the expense of raising children, and the burden of a full-time job.

    I don’t want to shit on SAHMs at all, it’s a valid choice, that’s ground well-trod. But I do think we need to be conscious about the risks that are involved for SAHMs as a block, and I think it’s wise to be suspicious of any movement that encourages women to remove themselves from positions of social power for motherhood exclusively.

  42. Beauzeaux
    Beauzeaux May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

    Thank goodness my only child was born more than 50 years ago and “attachment parenting” wasn’t around. I had to look it up and still haven’t found a remotely objective definition. Everyone seems to hate it or love it whatever “it” is.

    Grantly Dick-Read was just gaining a foothold in the US when my daughter was born. I read the book and other books and decided I wasn’t up for such a “powerful” experience.
    If your labor and birth experience was a “powerful and even feminist experience” — good for you. If you want to spread the gospel, be so kind as to not knock on peoples’ doors uninvited. If you’re viewed as a “successful” mother, other women will actually ASK you for advice. It’s the unsolicited shaming that is objected to.

    I tend to be sceptical because I don’t believe parenthood (or even Motherhood) is some sort of calling — like the priesthood. It’s just one thing you do in a long life of doing all sorts of things. I’m a little nervous around women who are focussed mainly on their kids. It doesn’t seem to do the kids any good either.
    As my own mother used to say “Go outside and play so mom can have a moment’s rest and a martini.”

  43. Becky
    Becky May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

    natural childbirth makes full use of the pain management methods that have been. It also uses the pain as a way of understanding what’s going on and which position would be most productive for a woman to be in.

    Yeah… that’s what my childbirth class taught too. And for the first 2cm of dilation, yeah, it helped to stand up and sway a little (which I was able and allowed to do in the hospital setting where I gave birth). But after that, all the pain said to me was: “Curl up into the fetal position, squeeze your eyes shut, and pray for the pain to be over.” Moving around to find a better position was so far beyond me (except for the very necessary sitting up to vomit). It was only after the epidural that I was able to focus on anything other than the pain and actually move around into different positions. Maybe it was the pitocin. But maybe it wasn’t. I definitely think all women should have the freedom to move around during labour and use non-medical pain techniques, at a hospital or elsewhere. But the “natural birth” narrative is that these things will work for everyone, and they don’t. The whole “natural birth” thing was pushed on me so hard in my childbirth class – and this wasn’t a specifically natural birthing class, it was the regular one through the provincial health service – we don’t all live in the US and Park Slope is not the only place in the world where this kind of thing is pushed. I ended up feeling terrified of interventions and like a failure when I ended up with a C-section, and there was nothing empowering about that.

    If this comment seems hostile, the hostility is not directed toward you, EG. Standing up for women who choose natural birth is important. I’m just bitter and frustrated that it was pushed on me when it wasn’t what I wanted in the first place and ended up being impossible for me anyway.

  44. Beauzeaux
    Beauzeaux May 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

    my husband is the stay-at-home father to our two daughters. No resume, no 401(k), no steady income, pinning all that on the goodwill of a wife (namely me). Does that also make you cringe?

    I’m not Lauren but Yes. Yes, it does. Though men have a much better chance of picking a career back up after staying at home than women do.

  45. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

    I’m staying out of the main points of discussion here (don’t have a uterus, removed myself from the gene pool, not a subject to which I can make useful contributions). I am, however, annoyed that a PhD in neuroscience is willing to toss out statements of belief that make apparently-unverified claims about biology intended to be taken as factual. My eyebrows raised, in particular, at the claim of “positive hormones” being released by co-sleeping; that’s something testable, and Bialik better have citations to reproducable research for that one. I also have difficulty determining what the effects of hormonal birth control methods have to do with parenting, per se.

    It would be so nice if people concerned with improving parenting methods were more interested in facts and verifiable research than ideology and untested beliefs, more interested in providing accurate information about the available choices than trying to shame other parents who don’t carry out the One True Set of Practices (and this goes for any set of purists on this subject, from the naturalistic-fallacy fanatics to the drug-em-and-cut-em crowd; if I failed to offend anyone with that line, I apologize and will try to tick you off as well next time I inappropriately wade into this subject despite my own stated effort to stay the hell out in the first bloody sentence – I never claimed to be consistent).

    I’m going to fall into the “my definition of feminism” pit here, but I would think the truly feminist position would be to trust each individual woman to choose what methods will likely work best for her circumstances, and provide appropriate social and individual support and information to make those choices practicable and safe, instead of shaming her for one choice or another – oh, and if a partner is involved, for that partner to receive complementary support and advice to be able to fully participate in parenting. Having to wade through the morass of propaganda and proselytizing surrounding birth and parenting is panic-inducing to little ol’ me who will never even go through it. I suppose I should ask my friend how she manages to withstand any messaging that attempts to shame people like her…

  46. Andie
    Andie May 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    I ended up feeling terrified of interventions and like a failure when I ended up with a C-section, and there was nothing empowering about that.

    I got so many pitying looks from other mothers when I mentioned having to have a C-Section with my girls.. I was all “What’s the problem? It was great! Went to sleep and when I woke up.. Boom! Baby.”

  47. amy
    amy May 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |

    Working outside the home doesn’t guarantee you a 401(k) either. Or “validation”. I personally love the freedom of staying home nursing babies as compared with the exhausting demoralizing struggle of trying to please bosses. I know I’ll have to submit to worker-dronehood again eventually for many more tedious and resentful years but right now I’m the queen of my little hive and I love it. I only wish more people trapped in workplace drudgery got to have the same privilege to opt out for awhile, whether they chose to spend it on parenting or any other non-economic pursuit.

  48. Lauren
    Lauren May 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

    Working outside the home doesn’t guarantee you a 401(k) either. Or “validation”… I only wish more people trapped in workplace drudgery got to have the same privilege to opt out for awhile…

    No argument here. But this argument glosses over a very real history where (some) women were culturally pressured to stay at home with their children and find all validation there or pay serious social consequences. When the parenting trend of the day pressures women to stay at home or face serious social consequences, we have a problem.

    That said, the other emphasis here is on privilege, as in, only a very, very small population of women have the option to achieve perfect motherhood vis a vis whatever the parenting trend of the day is. Today it’s natural attachment parenting. Tomorrow, detached free range parenting. Dr. Sears, Dr. Spock. Whatever. Parenting trends change so often it’s worthwhile to ignore the details and look at the macro trends they’re pushing. This trend mimics a white, middle-class, American mid-century ideal, but with more tattoos, natural food stores, and eco-fashion. What’s up with that?

    My other emphasis is risk, as in, if things didn’t work out the way one had hoped, could one take care of herself and her children? For many partnered families, the choice to stay home and forego a second income is an actual financial risk. If your particular situation is special and different, that’s awesome for you. But as a block, this puts women (and families) in danger, especially with bad job markets, especially without social safety nets, especially after the welfare reform of the 1990s. The fact is, unless you’re a member of the elite, the resources aren’t out there if the bottom falls out of this kind of short-term parenting plan.

  49. Jess
    Jess May 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

    I feel like I am caught in the hinge of these debates. I am right smack dab in the middle of can’t freaking win. There is a lot that I agree with on both sides. I worked in L&D for years, so I have seen pitocin and epidurals cause tons of trouble, and work like a miracle from heaven. I was lucky; my labors have all gone so easily and so quickly that I was able to avoid interventions, but I would never expect anyone else to do it that way. I have had trouble with most birth control pills; they cause my anxiety to go off the charts. But you will get my IUD when you pry it out by force.

    I am sacrificing myself on the alter of motherhood because I am a stay at home mom…except for the times when I am abandoning my children for my military career in the National Guard. I am an uppity elitist who eats organic produce…except that I am job-shadowing a farmer (which is how I get cheap organic produce. Soon I will get cheap organic produce because that will be how I make my living…growing it).

    I have friends who support my military career…and hate my support of gay rights. I have friends who love my “hippie credentials”, and try to ignore the cammoflauge I put on every month. I have friends who can’t believe I put those “poisonous” vaccines into my children’s bodies, while I marvel that they are willing to take what I consider to be irresponsible risks with the health of theirs.

    Breast is best…but, OMG can you do that in the bathroom? And, isn’t it creepy that you are still doing that and he has *teeth*?! Make time for your husband…but you never can tell if the babysitter you hire is going to molest your kids (even if they are a family member)! Thank you for your service. I could never do what you do because I just love my kids too much. Not that you don’t love yours. Teach your kids to be independent, but a good mother always makes sure they have what they need, without fail. Let them cry, but not so long that they lose faith in you. Respond to them, but make sure you get enough sleep.

    No matter what I do, somebody will disapprove. Too AP for the mainstream. Too mainstream for the hippies. Nobody accepts who I am and how I parent without reservations (except my husband). Everyone else pats me on the back about one thing, while holding their nose about something else. Luckily, my oldest is 16, my youngest is 7 months. The biggest lesson I have learned in all this time is to do what works for me and my kids. Everyone else can take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.

  50. Katya
    Katya May 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm |

    @ Jess — while not everyone shares your exact circumstances, I think your feeling that no matter what you do, someone will disapprove, is pretty common. Mothers especially get judged on all sorts of things–how many children they have, how they deliver and feed and play with and clothe and educate those children, whether they work or don’t, etc. It never stops. For some people, it’s just so much easier to judge than to be kind.

  51. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    AP sounds a little bit like an effort to keep women functionally pregnant for as long as possible. Oh, are your 9 months of literally sacrificing your body for someone else up already? How about you literally reattach that person to yourself at every opportunity, just in case you were hoping to get some free time!

  52. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm |

    Not to mention that all these parenting trends are just nails-dug-in attempts to not freak out at the fact that your baby could keel over from something and die and OMG I MUST CONTROL ALL THE THINGS. Would a nipple reduce the keel-over chances by 0.0001%? Then give it ALL THE NIPPLES. It’s mass hysteria, and even non-parents participate in it.

  53. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    I am, however, annoyed that a PhD in neuroscience is willing to toss out statements of belief that make apparently-unverified claims about biology intended to be taken as factual. My eyebrows raised, in particular, at the claim of “positive hormones” being released by co-sleeping; that’s something testable, and Bialik better have citations to reproducable research for that one. I also have difficulty determining what the effects of hormonal birth control methods have to do with parenting, per se.

    Magical thinking, slut pills, etc. …Hell if I know where these people get dug up from but they reeeally shouldn’t have skipped their mandatory ethics classes in grad school; making totally unverified statements and cloaking yourself in a veneer of professional cred is an asshole move. But hey, I guess hormones are airborne now.

  54. gratuitous_violet
    gratuitous_violet May 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    But I do think we need to be conscious about the risks that are involved for SAHMs as a block, and I think it’s wise to be suspicious of any movement that encourages women to remove themselves from positions of social power for motherhood exclusively.

    Absolutely 100% correct. Especially in a country with employer-linked healthcare and a pitiful safety net.

  55. Ellen
    Ellen May 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

    AP isn’t judgmental, except when it’s disciples are telling women WITH NO EVIDENCE that managing pain during labor is worse for mother and child, and that a c-section is disempowering and that there is such a thing as birth rape. If that means traumatic loss of control during childbirth, than ALL childbirth is potentially rape, because pregnancy and childbirth represent a profound loss of corporal control for all mothers. It’s a high stakes endeavor that has inherent amounts of risk of pain, death and injury. Modern obstetrics (most OBGYNs are women!!!), like immunizations, has lulled a few people into taking unacceptable risks and ahistorical beliefs about how in “simpler” times every thing was natural and worked better. If we could read the minds of our pregnant foremothers, my guess is they would be fearful of death and injury and that fear would have been appropriate.

  56. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

    Call it feminist or not, AP is just plain hard work. It is physically and psychologically draining no matter how great the reward. An attached parent can also be an overbearing parent. A “helicopter,” always hovering, planning, and controlling the next move. I’m sorry to say that 6 years of co-sleeping with a couple of kids does a lot of damage to the physical relationship between two people (we kicked ‘em out of bed when they were 3 and should have done it sooner.) I’m not condemning anyone who wants to try this method of parenting, but as one who has lived it and is currently trying to mitigate the ill effects (both on marriage and on the kids’ state of mind), I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    I’m averse to the idea of co-sleeping with older children, but I don’t think that an AP parent is necessarily overbearing.

  57. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

    I take that back; I must have gotten the wrong impression of AP. Having read more about it, I think it’s a lot more demanding than I thought.

    I agree with things like breastfeeding being healthier than any other alternative, but I don’t like seeing that idea being pushed onto mothers.

  58. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

    But the “natural birth” narrative is that these things will work for everyone, and they don’t.

    I get that, which is why I specifically said that it’s not for everybody for a variety of reasons, and was specifically responding to j’s obnoxious dismissal and belittling of women for whom it does work and do want it. I have no idea whether or not it will be for me, for instance, if my circumstances are such that it is a reasonable option. But to dismiss the move to natural childbirth as anti-feminist I-choose-my-choice luddism, as j does is so fucked up, so willfully blind to the circumstances under which it was developed and the very feminist reasons some women go with it, so gratuitously obnoxious (and this is me talking), that I felt that some explanation was in order.

    Using language like “birth rape” and “extremely powerful experience” sure seems like shaming the women who opt to have medications during their experiences, or at least insinuating that they’re missing out on something Important. Kind of how some women (me) feel judged for not having kids. Yeah, it may be transformative and powerful for you, but that doesn’t mean my way leaves me with gaping holes in my life.

    I don’t know what to tell you, then, if you feel shamed by the prospect of other women finding experiences that you wouldn’t choose powerful. Guess what? There’s a whole world of women out there who aren’t you who sometimes do things that you wouldn’t and find experiences. powerful that you wouldn’t. There are some women out there who find mountain-climbing and marathon-running transformative and powerful. Personally, I can’t imagine why. I am thrilled to bits that I live in a society that has eliminated any need I might have to run long distances or climb mountains, but apparently these other women get something out of it. Somehow, I manage to hear them talk about it without feeling like they are accusing me of having a gaping hole in my life.

    Although that is an interesting side issue: all kinds of utterly pointless extreme sports and physical endeavours are lauded–why is it so bizarre to have a similar appreciation of natural childbirth?

    If a woman chooses medical intervention, it’s obviously not birth rape, now, is it? It doesn’t refer to having medical intervention. It refers to being restrained while medical personnel perform unwanted procedures on you against your will. Look it up.

  59. Azalea
    Azalea May 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm |

    24
    j. 5.1.2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    For the women who do want to do it that way, it is an extremely powerful and even feminist experience and choice.

    Right, rejecting pain relief that was denied to women for nearly 2 millennia because of “gawd’s curse on Eve” is “feminist,” and so is foregoing modern medicine.

    So, women can no longer choose to forgo modern medicine without your permission least she be a misogynist bitch?

  60. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 8:37 pm |

    Ok, this is a side issue that I brought up in a comment that is in mod, but it really bugs me:

    We live in a society in which all kinds of drug-free, pain-inducing physical exertion is lauded and made much of. Marathon-running. Mountain-climbing. Channel-swimming. Why, when the physical exertion is something that is mostly done by women, is choosing to do it without pain meds just crazy luddism to some people? Nobody has to run marathons in the first world. We have developed a whole range of devices to enable us to get from point A to point B more quickly than running ever could, but marathon runners are showered with encouragement and praise. Nobody has to climb mountains–I mean, really, what’s the point? Who cares how far somebody can throw a javelin? Or how fast somebody can do the butterfly stroke? But the Olympics has people glued to their TV sets–that kind of physical activity is worthwhile, apparently.

    I cannot help but hear some misogyny in the idea that physical endeavour and exertion–and the pain it involves–is a worthwhile achievement when it involves something men can do, even if there’s no earthly reason to do it in the first place, but if it involves women using their uteruses and vaginas, well, that’s just crunchy-aesthetic crazy luddism.

  61. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 8:37 pm |

    Argh. Now I have two comments in mod. And I didn’t swear or anything. Did I? Oh, I swore in one. But only once.

  62. Dani
    Dani May 1, 2012 at 8:58 pm |

    How is birth rape not a real thing? “Birth rape” often refers to doctors/nurses putting their hands or instruments into a laboring woman’s vagina against her consent, sometimes while she is held down and pleading for them to stop. What do you want to call that? Do you really not think that that is a traumatic, violating, disempowering thing to experience? There are people who use “birth rape” in ways that are, in my opinion, too broad and vague and realistically have little to nothing to do with rape. But the very real issue of women being vaginally violated in the course of labor and having no legal recourse because “the doctor knows best” is horrifying and definitely something worth talking about.

    I don’t even want to get into the AP arguments (for the record, I AP parent as a single, low-income, work-outside-the-home mother and it is working awesome for me, thanks) but seeing people deny the existence of birth rape as a concept was too troubling for me not to weigh in on.

  63. EG
    EG May 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm |

    It’s true that many in AP don’t like/ use hormonal birth control and search for alternatives, which they in turn recommend to others. (Sidebar: Condoms are hormone-free and require no effort on a woman’s part.)

    For serious. I don’t like or use hormonal birth control, so I use condoms instead. I’ve tried diaphragms and if I found myself in a serious relationship again, I’d go for an IUD. I didn’t realize that made me a crunchy-aesthetic luddite who tries to make women’s lives harder. I thought that I just didn’t like systemic medications to address a localized issue.

  64. monkeypedia
    monkeypedia May 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm |

    It seems like there are a whole set of debates that boil down to a distinction between the choices that are officially deemed “appropriate” or “better” for women in our USian cultural narrative, and whether those choices are actually given concrete structural support in the real world. It seems like they are all really “heads I win, tails you lose” situations. So, there is a lot of cultural pressure for women to have children, and cultural validation of motherhood as an appropriate role for (white, able-bodied, married) leaving child-free women feeling judged and erased, but simultaneously almost no support for women who have children (lack of child care, lack of social support such as health care for children, lack of or insufficient maternity leave, view of child care as low or no value work, lack of accommodation for women with children in the public sphere in general).

    Similarly, while a lot of lip service is paid to breastfeeding, leaving women who either do not want to breastfeed or cannot breastfeed feeling shamed and judged, the actual act of breastfeeding is very often seen as something provocative, or disgusting, that should be (again) kept out of sight in the private sphere, effectively meaning that women who do want to breastfeed, and especially to breastfeed and work, also feel shamed and judged, and have to jump through many (often functionally impossible) hoops, like pumping several times a day in bathroom stalls, rather than having accommodations like longer (or any) maternity leave, or flexible schedules or accessible neighborhood day cares. Not to mention that even the theoretical support for breastfeeding often disappears once an infant is older than 3 months or so. There is a strong expectation that an older baby never be seen in public nursing (therefore much further limiting the mother’s ability to combine breastfeeding with work or other out of the home activities), and out right horror at babies and toddlers over 12 months nursing at all.

    The point being, I think the damned if you do damned if you don’t nature of these issues can leave women on both sides feeling that their life choices are in fact feminist acts (there are of course also people who are simply advocating anti-feminist agendas and using anti-feminist rhetoric about women’s place in the idyllic earth mother home, but that’s beside the point I’m trying to make). If you choose not to breastfeed (or not to have children), you’re acting against a very strong cultural narrative about women’s roles as self-sacrificing mothers. If you choose to breastfeed, then every time you do it in public, you are asserting your right to still act as a fully fleshed out person who travels in the public sphere even though you are now a mother. I swear I am not an “I choose my choice!” feminist, but both of those feel like acts that defy and challenge anti-feminist cultural narratives and expectations in different ways.

  65. Suzanne
    Suzanne May 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

    I’m about as far away from the stay-at-home mom type of my parent’s day as one could be. My husband and I share in parenting. We share in household chores. I nurse my 27 mo old twins. Nursed my two other kids as well. I work. I baby wear. I don’t co-sleep. So what am I???

    Why all the labels. This is my way on the path of motherhood. It works for me and my family in this moment. It is not a right way or a wrong way. It simply is. And it stands in contrast to the false assumptions made above.

    Being an AP parent AND valuing female freedoms/rights are not mutually exclusive.

    There is no one right answer to the working mom/SAHM battle or the which way is the best way to parent one either. Why do we insist on thinking this is a black and white issue? Hardly anything in this world truly is.

    http://mymommymanual.com/attachment-parenting-feminist-crutch/

  66. Kate
    Kate May 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm |

    I’m a feminist.
    I’m a working mama.
    I’m a single mama.
    And I’m an AP mama.

    So there are ideologues out there, and they’re getting extra press lately. I don’t know them.

    I know parents like me, who through trial and error and our own research figured out what works best for our children and our families. And when I took a step back and looked at what works for me, I found that, more often than not, it falls under the umbrella of AP.

  67. chava
    chava May 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

    I find the idea that co-sleeping and breastfeeding are teh EVIL because they somehow damage your marriage (“instead I slept with their father, and am happily married…”) both ridiculous and one of the more anti-feminist things about mainstream parenting. Besides, I can tell you they’re the only reason I’ve gotten any sleep, or sex, in the months since my son was born.

    Look, if co-sleeping/babywearing/bfeeding doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. My only parenting “theory” is that children and families are individual entities and that subjecting anyone to a grand Theory of Babies is crap.

    RE: Badinter…look, there are some legit critiques of AP. But the oh-so-French “ew, Americans” and “but what about your husband?” isn’t one of them. French public health websites list a reason to discontinue breastfeeding as, roughly translated, “your husband might object to seeing your breasts as non-sexual objects.” Tell me how this is feminist….

  68. robotile
    robotile May 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm |

    I am 38 weeks pregnant and I gotta say, I haven’t seen hospitals or doctors pushing for medicalized birth or making it hard to breastfeed, etc. The biggest shaming I got re: my decision to not breastfeed was from my doctor, not all the crunchy granola types here in SF. And as for natural birth–same thing. I’d prefer to have a c-section since my mom says she couldn’t think of birth pain without bursting into tears for 5 years!! But it’s very clear that the doctor is gung-ho for avoiding c-sections, even though differences in outcome are pretty marginal except on a population level, and that some outcomes are worse for c-section but a few are better. The hospital I go to has low c-section rates (<10%), birthing balls, baths, and all that stuff for people who are into the no epidural route, and they also provide nitrous oxide so people can take the edge off their pain without committing to an epidural till they want one. So I am skeptical of the AP rhetoric which claims hospitals/medical providers are anti-natural childbirth Nazis all about taking control away from ladies. As for AP as a whole, it just seems hard enough without trying to adhere to a specific philosophy, whether it's ferberizing or AP or whatever. I don't have a job with insurance or one that even qualifies for FMLA. I can't afford to take off more than 4 to 6 weeks, and to stay sane I need the flexibility to just say "you know, what? whatever makes me happy enough to live life is going to be better for my baby." If that means not breast feeding so that I can split feeding with my partner, or simply so that I can get my body back after 9 months without being able to knock back a few glasses of wine, that's just going to have to be fine.

    Individual approaches from AP may work for a family and actually be time savers for lots of people depending on their circumstances (like baby wearing or breast feeding & co-sleeping, or even elimination communication ), but as a package and on average, AP does seem to imply a level of time commitment that is inconsistent with women working outside the home–and a lot of AP rhetoric shames and scares women about the dire consequences if they can't to adhere to certain standards. A lot is pretty dismissive of the father's potential role. So taken as a whole, it seems pretty sexist and essentialist to me. And I do think it's dangerous to promote a child-rearing philosophy that, on average, will make it harder for women to earn an independent income.

  69. CDawg
    CDawg May 2, 2012 at 12:01 am |

    I work as a birth and postpartum doula. I’ve witnessed birth rape.

    My laboring client was given a cervical check. Two minutes later a second nurse entered the room – the nurse who had performed the check was standing beside the bed, charting. The second nurse said, “It’s time to check your cervix.”

    “Oh, Nurse #2, I just checked her, she’s at [dilation/station/etc],” said Nurse #1.

    “I don’t want another cervical check, that one was extremely uncomfortable, I want to rest,” said my client.

    “This will be quick,” said Nurse #2, and she quickly and roughly jammed her entire hand into my client’s vagina. She was gloved but not lubed, and was inside my client past her wrist. My client screamed and writhed on the bed, begging that the nurse stop.

    “Yep, you’re at [what Nurse #1 reported].”

  70. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 12:03 am |

    Oh, and about work…have we completely given up on the idea of radical change in the workplace? For “work” to be de-conceptualized as masculine, childfree space and instead somewhere where (gasp) one might bring a nursing infant?

    Insisting that formula and childcare are the only options for working women is understandable, given the current American work environment, but also gives up on any radical re-conception of paid work as inherently distinct from the family realm….

  71. monkeypedia
    monkeypedia May 2, 2012 at 12:20 am |

    The hospital I go to has low c-section rates (<10%), birthing balls, baths, and all that stuff for people who are into the no epidural route, and they also provide nitrous oxide so people can take the edge off their pain without committing to an epidural till they want one. So I am skeptical of the AP rhetoric which claims hospitals/medical providers are anti-natural childbirth Nazis all about taking control away from ladies.

    Robotile, I now know exactly where you are giving birth, because I looked into nitrous oxide, and there is exactly one hospital in the United States that offers that option. Your experience with your very pro-natural birth hospital is not only not the norm for the US, it’s not even the norm for the crunchy Bay area.

  72. monkeypedia
    monkeypedia May 2, 2012 at 12:21 am |

    The hospital I go to has low c-section rates (<10%), birthing balls, baths, and all that stuff for people who are into the no epidural route, and they also provide nitrous oxide so people can take the edge off their pain without committing to an epidural till they want one. So I am skeptical of the AP rhetoric which claims hospitals/medical providers are anti-natural childbirth Nazis all about taking control away from ladies.

    Robotile, I looked into nitrous oxide, and there is exactly one hospital in the United States that offers that option. Your experience with your very pro-natural birth hospital is not only not the norm for the US, it’s not even the norm for the crunchy Bay area.

  73. robotile
    robotile May 2, 2012 at 12:26 am |

    chava, the idea of a workplace where children are welcome to just hang and breastfeed while working nice, but it’s not going to happen for the vast majority of women giving birth in the next N years. I’d much rather focus on changes that I think are more realizable.

  74. monkeypedia
    monkeypedia May 2, 2012 at 12:27 am |

    (ugh. sorry for the double post!)

  75. robotile
    robotile May 2, 2012 at 12:31 am |

    Also, it’s also not clear to me that being exclusively around a parent or breastfeeding is automatically better than having others care for you during the day or having formula–seems like all that depends on the person, the kid, etc.. Women are bombarded with messages about the right way to parent, but what’s really lacking is the same message you get for putting on air masks on planes: make sure you are okay first, because your child is totally helpless and dependent on you. IF you’re not okay/happy/functional, your kid won’t be either. Most of the messages women get are about how they should start sacrificing their needs for their baby before the baby is even born (and even pre-conception), but that seems to make for exhaustion/guilt/depression, a no-win for both parties. Also, I wish more parenting advice emphasized that your kid is a crap shoot and will likely turn out however s/he will turn out regardless of your attempts to optimize/nurture/etc. him/her. Also, that unless you abuse/neglect your kid, they’ll probably turn out just fine.

  76. robotile
    robotile May 2, 2012 at 12:44 am |

    monkeypedia, I think there are actually a few hospitals in the US that give NO (Seattle, Nashville, Dartmouth). But perhaps you are right that the hospital is anomalous in its approach. I didn’t pick it for its crunchy cred; it’s just the closest one to me and where my primary care doc was.

  77. Alphabet
    Alphabet May 2, 2012 at 1:11 am |

    I don’t understand why AP is treated like it is the dominant parenting ideology. I am in a liberal area and I know of very few people who practice it (I do, ftr). In the real world, traditional parenting styles are dominant. People who co-sleep keep it to themselves because they get critical comments. And like religion and politics, most people don’t strictly adhere to all the tenets. The only place this “debate” seems to be happening is on the Internet. That’s not the real world. And Park Slope is not the real world, either. AP has become a feminist boogeyman that is not a real monster.

  78. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 2, 2012 at 1:24 am |

    Oh, and about work…have we completely given up on the idea of radical change in the workplace? For “work” to be de-conceptualized as masculine, childfree space and instead somewhere where (gasp) one might bring a nursing infant?

    Amen.

  79. Momma M.
    Momma M. May 2, 2012 at 1:35 am |

    600,000 women died in the past year during or directly after childbirth. I wonder how many of them would have wanted access to the obstetric care that Mayim “apparently I learned no statistics during my PhD years” Bialik dismisses as so “anti-feminist.”

    There are more women obstetricians than men right now and modern obstetrics has been one of the most successful achievements ever in medicine to combat childbirth-related morbidity and mortality. To deny that doesn’t make you a feminist, it makes you a fucking idiot.

  80. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 2, 2012 at 7:38 am |

    Your experience with your very pro-natural birth hospital is not only not the norm for the US, it’s not even the norm for the crunchy Bay area.

    No joke.

    I experienced some pretty hair raising bullying and judgment from medical staffers/physicians both during and immediately the chidlbirth process. It was horrible and traumatizing. It’s great for the few women commenters here who were able to find hospitals and care providers who aren’t like that, but please don’t work from the assumption that your experience has been the norm.

    Ditto with the assumption that the AP type parenting is in any way the mainstream, commonly applied parenting philosophy these days. It isn’t. I regularly get dirty looks and judgmental comments from my neighbors/friends/MIL/random guy in the Starbucks regarding our vaguely AP parenting. You know, because everyone always assumes it’s the woman who is to blame and that the male counterpart in the relationship is just along for the ride.

  81. Motherhood vs. Feminism (Round 326?) « The Mamafesto

    [...] the Times accomplished whatever it set out to do). Some of which I agree with, and others…not so much (I also feel the need to rectify a very glaring misconception made in the comments of the [...]

  82. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 8:14 am |

    I don’t have a job with insurance or one that even qualifies for FMLA. I can’t afford to take off more than 4 to 6 weeks, and to stay sane I need the flexibility to just say “you know, what? whatever makes me happy enough to live life is going to be better for my baby.” If that means not breast feeding so that I can split feeding with my partner, or simply so that I can get my body back after 9 months without being able to knock back a few glasses of wine, that’s just going to have to be fine.

    Which makes total sense. But maybe your ire should be directed less at AP and more at a country which (unlike France) doesn’t provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, healthcare, and excellent childcare beginning at 12 weeks. Oh, and large tax subsidies for each child.

  83. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 8:21 am |

    Which makes total sense. But maybe your ire should be directed less at AP and more at a country which (unlike France) doesn’t provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, healthcare, and excellent childcare beginning at 12 weeks. Oh, and large tax subsidies for each child.

    I agree that the anger needs to be spread around. And also that the workplace needs to be revolutionized.

    I think the anger directed at AP is about AP being promoted as the one right way to raise a child, and all other ways being less-than. It’s not only not true, but it does a lot to raise the anxiety levels of new parents who don’t have access to the time and privilege needed to follow AP by the books.

  84. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date May 2, 2012 at 8:32 am |

    I think the anger directed at AP is about AP being promoted as the one right way to raise a child, and all other ways being less-than.

    Though I don’t think that this is unique to AP. For example, the sleep books that say that if you don’t do x, y, and z, then your child will NEVER EVER LEARN TO GO TO SLEEP AND ITS LIFE WILL BE INSOMNIACALLY RUINED FOREVER (and it’s all your fault).

    And, also, what Alphabet said.

  85. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 8:51 am |

    Though I don’t think that this is unique to AP. For example, the sleep books that say that if you don’t do x, y, and z, then your child will NEVER EVER LEARN TO GO TO SLEEP AND ITS LIFE WILL BE INSOMNIACALLY RUINED FOREVER (and it’s all your fault).

    Heh. So true. I hate all parenting advice that isn’t do your best, have a big heart, and pick your battles. I think any dominant parenting method(TM) is going to have to contend with this. Once it becomes the dominant method, people adhere to it out of fear that they’ll otherwise shortchange their children, and any method that has individuals operating from a place of fear is bad news. This isn’t intrinsic to the AP movement by any means, but it’s part of the dynamic.

    I don’t think AP and feminism are at odds, per se. I think AP parenting advice is great in pieces. Putting it into practice is trickier, because, I maintain, it’s a method that is only available as a whole to the elite, and at great risk to the middle class. The methods that AP promotes as a whole have economic and power status implications for women and families overall that are not innocuous and deserve examination.

  86. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 8:53 am |

    Putting it into practice is trickier, because, I maintain, it’s a method that is only available as a whole to the elite, and at great risk to the middle class.

    And not at all to the lower classes. And I get the willies when it’s implied by omission that only people who can parent their children “correctly” are the upper crust.

  87. Alphabet
    Alphabet May 2, 2012 at 9:36 am |

    Why do we assume poorer families don’t practice AP? Those billboards with babies sleeping next to butcher knives are aimed at lower income and non-English speakers who are new to the country.

  88. Natalia
    Natalia May 2, 2012 at 9:41 am |

    I understand where j. is coming from. Using language like “birth rape” and “extremely powerful experience” sure seems like shaming the women who opt to have medications during their experiences, or at least insinuating that they’re missing out on something Important. Kind of how some women (me) feel judged for not having kids. Yeah, it may be transformative and powerful for you, but that doesn’t mean my way leaves me with gaping holes in my life.

    I think we all go through life missing out on Big Important Things and Extremely Powerful Experiences.

    I wish people, women especially, were just given room to deal with that – and to figure out which Powerful Experiences don’t interest them after all without annoying interjections from the peanut gallery. I suppose one reason that they do not has to do with how the whole notion of “I must not miss out” drives our consumer-oriented culture, if you pardon the cliche.

    For example, I accept that I may have Missed Out on something when I opted for an epidural. What I don’t accept is being told how I ought to feel about it – or being told that I was a wuss, or whatever. Where you there? No? Then shut the fuck up! – Is how I feel about anyone who tries to pass judgment on my experience. The pain, I think, I could have managed – but I was too exhausted and needed rest so that I could deliver with less risk for me and the baby. I’d like to try a drug-free birth if I ever have a second child, if only because I’m curious as to whether or not I can handle it. At the same time, I liked the relatively calm experience of giving birth with an epidural (and please note that I’m using the word “calm” very loosely!!!) – and since a recording of this birth may eventually make it into a documentary, I’m glad I got the chance to do it this way. So you Miss Out, but at the same time, if you don’t get an epidural, you’re Missing Out too. That’s just life.

    I feel that way about having children too. It both limits you and sets you free.

    Ultimately, I think that if people were only left alone to figure out what it is they want in life, we wouldn’t need these artificial debates such as the one going on in NYT. Maybe.

  89. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 2, 2012 at 10:00 am |

    Y’all realize that “AP” things like carrying your kid, co-sleeping, BF past the first year are the NORM for women outside of the US/EU, and what un-wealthy women (who, FTR, make up the MAJORITY of women) do the world over, right?

    Y’all realize that it’s BC, hospitals, mass-produced baby formula, disposable diapers, homes large enough for seperate bedrooms for the kids & etc that are the privileges of the elite, right?

    FFS.

  90. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 2, 2012 at 10:03 am |

    ” So you Miss Out, but at the same time, if you don’t get an epidural, you’re Missing Out too. That’s just life.

    I feel that way about having children too. It both limits you and sets you free.

    Ultimately, I think that if people were only left alone to figure out what it is they want in life, we wouldn’t need these artificial debates such as the one going on in NYT. Maybe.”

    QFT.

  91. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 10:10 am |

    Why do we assume poorer families don’t practice AP? Those billboards with babies sleeping next to butcher knives are aimed at lower income and non-English speakers who are new to the country.

    AP as a whole, again, including “natural” childbirth and home birth, stay-at-home parenting, green living, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, homeschooling, un-schooling, natural health, and organic and local foods, is really not accessible or sold (and it is “sold” — check out the number of businesses cropping up to sell natural lifestyle practices to new parents) as a lifestyle to low income folks except in exceptional circumstances. The billboards you mention are not aimed at families practicing co-sleeping as imagined by AP, they are government billboards aimed at families who are assumed to be too irresponsible and dumb and poor to be decent parents. Sure, there is overlap, but it’s apples and oranges. I don’t think it’s conscionable for the overwhelmingly white, wealthy AP movement to co-opt this struggle.

  92. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 10:29 am |

    I wish people, women especially, were just given room to deal with that – and to figure out which Powerful Experiences don’t interest them after all without annoying interjections from the peanut gallery.

    This.

  93. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 10:53 am |

    Y’all realize that “AP” things like carrying your kid, co-sleeping, BF past the first year are the NORM for women outside of the US/EU, and what un-wealthy women (who, FTR, make up the MAJORITY of women) do the world over, right?

    Yes, but these bonds are what middle- and lower-class women have had to sacrifice in order to adapt to the changes in *this* society. Which is what we’re talking about. Judging mothers for it as a whole and implying these women are bad parents for being unable or unwilling to adhere to this ideology is awfully harsh, no?

  94. samanthab
    samanthab May 2, 2012 at 10:53 am |

    I believe the recent book by a French author was the instigating point of this discussion: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/019_01/9171
    I would guess that’s why France was brought into the discussion.

    I don’t really want to give more attention to her would be-“provocative” book, but I’d be closer to team Heather here- provided that Heather was Heather Havrilesky, whose analysis is a lot closer to what’s being said in this thread. Namely, when do we start to understand that parenting includes dads?

  95. angry2headedmaggot
    angry2headedmaggot May 2, 2012 at 11:01 am |

    Oh, and about work…have we completely given up on the idea of radical change in the workplace? For “work” to be de-conceptualized as masculine, childfree space and instead somewhere where (gasp) one might bring a nursing infant?

    Insisting that formula and childcare are the only options for working women is understandable, given the current American work environment, but also gives up on any radical re-conception of paid work as inherently distinct from the family realm….

    I was super-lucky in that I found a job where I could bring my firstborn. just tied him on and went about my business. good thing too because I was the sole breadwinner. that’s how privileged we were, on state assistance and limping from pitiful paycheck to pitiful paycheck. with daycare being so expensive, I couldn’t afford it because the kind of jobs I can get (as a non-college graduate) are fairly marginal at best. so I was PRIVILEGED to be able to find a job that allowed me to have a sane and more-or-less productive life.

    and every time I bring up the subject of the baby-friendly workplace people look at me like I’m talking about energy beings from outer space. but I did it. it worked for me. why can’t it work for others, if they want it to?

    I went full-on hospital with drugs for the first, and hospital with minimal intervention with the second. not for nothing, but I was much happier with the minimal intervention way. I felt more in control of the experience, less bossed around and helpless.

    the co sleeping thing – that’s not going to work if the non-lactating/ non-participating-in-nighttime-parenting partner feels at all entitled to Mom’s body. we struggled with that, it tore us apart, but beds are not the only place to fuck, night is not the only time to fuck, and since when do I function as an on-call fuck doll anyhow?

  96. Athenia
    Athenia May 2, 2012 at 11:14 am |

    Why do we assume poorer families don’t practice AP? Those billboards with babies sleeping next to butcher knives are aimed at lower income and non-English speakers who are new to the country.

    Yeah, my first thought was what about families around the world who live in such cramped spaces? Must take their babies everywhere and nurse?

    Not that I’m an expert at parenting around the world, but it seems weird to me to call this “attached parenting” or “only for the rich” or “incompatible with feminism” or “this is better than X parenting” when it’s just one strategy that parents use depending on their situation.

  97. I call Shenanigans | The Stay-at-Home Feminist Mom

    [...] from Feministe, a site I am very supportive of, also quoted this as a an example of why motherhood and feminism [...]

  98. Miss S
    Miss S May 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

    But I do think we need to be conscious about the risks that are involved for SAHMs as a block, and I think it’s wise to be suspicious of any movement that encourages women to remove themselves from positions of social power for motherhood exclusively

    I would much rather critique the institution that says that ‘only work outside the home for money is productive.’ The institution that denies citizens health care, and denies new mothers paid leave. I realize this is a liberal feminist blog, but is capitalism (and all of its patriarchal elements) off the table for criticism?

    Moms (and dads) in France have paid leave, paid vacations, universal health care, government subsidies, and childcare subsisidies. Obviously not everywhere in the world believes you need to work 50 to 60 hours a week just to get by. Obviously it is possible for governments to value the contributions of child rearing, and still make it easier for women to integrate into the workplace.

    I’m not sure what you mean by social power, unless you mean money. Not all women are in jobs where they have great social power and influence.

  99. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

    Miss S, on the idea of “productiveness,” I think it’s about what we want rather than what is. Both are useful. But we’ve got to be able to address the immediate conflicts in addition to the overarching ideals and definitions of what we’re aiming for. Yes, it would be fucking awesome if the US would get it’s shit together and value motherhood instead of throwing a lot of platitudes at us like we can feed children by patting moms on the head. Until then…?

    By “social power” I mean the ability to pull together a network of resources that are independent of your partnered status, a paycheck being only one of those resources. The SAHMs I know talk about this fear, including the AP moms. Like I said above, I think the AP movement is nice, it’s hopeful and idealistic, but it depends an awful lot on women’s unpaid labor and the economic graces of men. This is a risky arrangement. We only have to look back a couple of decades to see how that worked out. Marriages and partnerships fail a lot of the time, especially under the weight of early child-rearing, especially when there is an imbalance of this labor, and it’s worth taking that into consideration that it’s the women who are typically fucked if it all falls apart.

  100. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

    I did not mean to belittle or deny the concept of birth rape. I apologize for coming across that way; I wanted to point out the loaded language that is being used.

    EG, what got my hackles raised was language like this:

    Home birth–or birthing center birth–without medical pain relief has to do with reappropriating birth as a positive and healthy experience controlled by the mother and her support system.

    This sounded to me like you give home or natural birthing a lot more credence than you do medication-assisted birthing. Maybe that’s not what you intended. But it is *one way* to reappropriate birth as a positive experience, but not the only way. My mom had three kids naturally before she had me (including one breech – ouch!). She has said multiple times that she felt like she was much more part of the birth with me since she had an epidural, and she was able to enjoy the experience so much more.

    That is one woman’s experience, and I certainly don’t mean to put it forward as the Right Way. I had the pleasure of listening to Drs. Groopman and Hartzband talk about different “medical minds,” and how these affect your view and experience of healthcare; whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, and technology enthusiast or naturalist. Your medical mind is going to frame what you find acceptable, transformative, powerful, etc. So using natural methods of pain-reduction may be reappropriating birth for one woman, and opting for an epidural reappropriating birth for another.

    Also, childbirth and mountain-climbing are not equatable in this situation. I have *never* felt the societal pressure to go run a marathon or climb a mountain, but I constantly feel the pressure to have a baby, have it the Right Way, and parent it the Right Way. I have *never* been shamed about missing out on the experience of mountain-climbing the way I am shamed about not having the experience of being a parent. Yes, I am missing out on some people’s powerful and transformative experiences while mountain-climbing, but the mainstream narrative is not “YOU MUST CLIMB A MOUNTAIN,” unlike the “YOU MUST HAVE A BABY” narrative that is undeniably in mainstream culture.

  101. karak
    karak May 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    Attachment parenting, at it’s best practiced and most-understood, strikes me as a little obsessive and a bit demanding on the people around them. Americans do not like to be involved in other’s parenting; a caveat to that is that we largely allow parents to do whatever they want with their kids (including allowing abuse).

    Attachment parenting, when misunderstood and misused (like unschooling) is almost a weird form of abusive to parents and children, where they become codependent two-headed beasts.

    Demanding everyone do attachment parenting ignores realities about poverty, family support, and pre-existing cultural assumptions. It also ignores the child and parent. Some kids thrive. Some kids do not. Some parents are bad people and shouldn’t have any influence over their kids. Some kids are awful people and their parents can’t do anything about it, no matter how they parent.

    In general, I feel something is not incompatible with feminism until it becomes “the only way” and becomes based in shaming/harming women.

  102. Betty Fokker
    Betty Fokker May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm |

    I see that you think attachment parenting can be “incredibly alienating and shaming”. Odd, then, that you are on “Team Heather McDonald” since she, among other things, implies women who are attachment parents don’t have career aspirations, and put their marriages at risk because of their foolishness. How is that not “incredibly alienating and shaming”? Moreover, should repeated and profound evidence that breastfeeding and baby-wearing have concrete health benefits be kept hidden, lest those facts be construed as “incredibly alienating and shaming”? Dr. Bialik rejects the ideology that there are only two distinct “camps” of motherhood, and points out that “By definition, [attachment parenting] eschews notions of perfection but instead seeks to educate women and families about the natural, organic and normal ways our bodies were made and how to best maximize the potential for securely attached children who live in harmony with parents who are not afraid to be imperfect.” I fail to see the “shaming” in the acknowledgement there is no ‘perfect’ parenting style. The only reason facts are being reinterpreted as “shaming” is because of the patriarchal construction of only one “right” way to be a woman/mother/wife and the pushing of “female competitiveness”. (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/04/18/women-as-catty/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving+%28Sociological+Images%3A+Seeing+Is+Believing%29&utm_content=Google+Reader) That, in my opinion is the real feminist dilemma here.

  103. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

    I cannot help but hear some misogyny in the idea that physical endeavour and exertion–and the pain it involves–is a worthwhile achievement when it involves something men can do, even if there’s no earthly reason to do it in the first place, but if it involves women using their uteruses and vaginas, well, that’s just crunchy-aesthetic crazy luddism.

    I agree with EG that this is one ways in which the underlying misogyny of our US culture rears its head. Once again, that which is traditionally associated with men and masculinity is desirable and rewarded and that which is traditionally associated with women and femininity is less than, undesirable and a sign of weakness. Finish that marathon in less than 4 hours, you’re a hero! Push out a baby, or heaven forbid breastfeed them, that’s disgusting and a stupid waste of time!

    I’m not sure what you mean by social power, unless you mean money. Not all women are in jobs where they have great social power and influence.

    Yet another impossible double bind for women, who still so often earn far less for their labor then men do for the same job. If they can even get a job in what is considered a more esteemed profession in the first place. More likely than not, we get stuck in pink collar jobs that will never earn similar prestige or money to our male counterparts. But let’s keep buying into the patriarchal notions that tie all of our worth as people to our capacity to earn an income, because that way we insure that we women will never get to catch up to the men.

    Note that I am not saying that women shouldn’t work or anthing of the sort, I’m just insisting that we not forget that this debate often falls back onto the more privileged notions of post-college careers that fulfill us as bring us financial stability and freedom. For many women that is not their reality, and they get left out of these debates far too often. And plenty of those poorer women also practice AP to some degree or another, so please stop insisting that poor and uneducated women (and their spouses/partners!) can’t or don’t utilize it to some degree or another as well.

  104. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm |

    This sounded to me like you give home or natural birthing a lot more credence than you do medication-assisted birthing. Maybe that’s not what you intended. But it is *one way* to reappropriate birth as a positive experience, but not the only way.

    You’re misreading. The statement “X has to do with Y” has no implications about whether or not anything else has to do with Y or whether or not X has to do with anything else. A could have to do with Y, and X could have to do with Z, and not only are neither of those statements precluded by the statement “X has to do with Y,” they have nothing to do with it. I’m not going to apologize for your misreading.

    Substitute “perform unnecessary physical activity,” i.e. exercise, for mountain-climbing then. In my experience, there is indeed a whole lot of social pressure on women to do that. I, personally, don’t see the point and have no interest in it. And the answer to social pressure on you to have children is not to devalue the importance of the childbirth experience for women who find it important.

    There are more women obstetricians than men right now and modern obstetrics has been one of the most successful achievements ever in medicine to combat childbirth-related morbidity and mortality. To deny that doesn’t make you a feminist, it makes you a fucking idiot.

    Good thing nobody’s denied that, then. Has anybody here denied it? Can you find a quotation? No? That’s because it hasn’t been said. I assumed that it went without saying that if you have any reason to believe that you are or any anxiety about being anything but low-risk, obviously natural childbirth is not the way you want to go, but obviously I was giving you too much credit. Fortunately, however, midwives are medical professionals who bring to your home or have in their birthing centers exactly the same kind of medical equipment a doctor in a hospital would have to stabilize a mother and her baby in an emergency. So what, precisely, is your point?

  105. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

    You’re misreading. The statement “X has to do with Y” has no implications about whether or not anything else has to do with Y or whether or not X has to do with anything else. A could have to do with Y, and X could have to do with Z, and not only are neither of those statements precluded by the statement “X has to do with Y,” they have nothing to do with it. I’m not going to apologize for your misreading.

    Oh right, I forgot that communication is a one-way street. How silly of me to assume that statements shouldn’t be examined for unspoken meanings; it’s just simple math involving X and Y, right?

  106. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

    *should. Snark fail.

  107. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 1:28 pm |

    Well, silly me for assuming you were competent in basic logic, then, because it does help you make and understand arguments.

    Communication can be a two-way street, but that doesn’t make every reading correct. Correct readings have to be supported by textual evidence. I use words and phrases carefully. If I had wanted to say that natural childbirth and natural childbirth only had to do with reappropriating the experience of birth, believe me, I would have said so.

  108. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm |

    Substitute “perform unnecessary physical activity,” i.e. exercise, for mountain-climbing then. In my experience, there is indeed a whole lot of social pressure on women to do that. I, personally, don’t see the point and have no interest in it.

    Thinking about this further, this dynamic is part of not only an overall gendered pattern, but also a class pattern, in which physical activity that is completely unnecessary and useless is lauded while physical activity that is generative and productive–i.e. physical labor in all senses–is derided and devalued. Perhaps the problem with childbirth is not only that it involves women, but also that it actually accomplishes something.

    In any case, I don’t see anybody attacking exercisers of any sort–marathon runners or gym attendees–for not taking demerol at the first sign of pain.

  109. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

    Yes, but what are you reappropriating childbirth from? The terrible medical institutions and unnatural drugs? That is what comes across. Call it illogical if you will.

  110. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    Thinking about this further, this dynamic is part of not only an overall gendered pattern, but also a class pattern, in which physical activity that is completely unnecessary and useless is lauded while physical activity that is generative and productive–i.e. physical labor in all senses–is derided and devalued. Perhaps the problem with childbirth is not only that it involves women, but also that it actually accomplishes something.

    There’s also a lot of our culture that fetishizes the pain of childbirth and the suffering of women.

  111. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    109
    Revolver 5.2.2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but what are you reappropriating childbirth from? The terrible medical institutions and unnatural drugs? That is what comes across. Call it illogical if you will.

    The lack of logic comes in your reading of “X has to do with Y” as “Only X has to do with Y.”

    Reappropriating the experience from unnecessary (for these women) interventions, regulations, and conventions developed by a male-run medical establishment with a masculine culture that make many women feel objectified and powerless during an incredibly difficult experience. If you really are interested in knowing what, precisely, the issues are, I can recommend books.

  112. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    There’s also a lot of our culture that fetishizes the pain of childbirth and the suffering of women.

    Indeed. It’s an internal cultural conflict, which is why there’s no one correct answer as to how to manage the competing pressures.

  113. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

    Lauren, my apologies. My comment was meant to be aimed at the conflation, in this mess of a thread, of parenting practices that humans do because that’s what’s available, with Attachment Parenting(TM) – the latest Thing With Which to Beat Mommies Up, with attachment parenting theory that is meant to be a rebuttal of the Industrialized Parenting practices foisted on USians since the 1920s.

    The thing is, lots of parents are doing all kinds of things you don’t see on TV or hear about from Dr. Spock or Dr. Sears or Dr Phil. Most ‘rents I know who don’t follow the USian Parent Script – for *whatever* reason – keep it on the DL. Most ‘rents I know ARE winging it on one axis or another.

    Also, which action is a (privileged) choice and which is your only viable option is hugely contextual. And that’s a nuance getting lost in some of these sweeping statements. As a for instance, *I* used cloth diapers because I couldn’t afford ~$30/wk for disposables – unless I wanted to eschew groceries. But I DID have a washing machine available. Lucky enough to live in the US with water and a working machine, and to have friends give me cloth diapers at the shower, but not enough spare cash for the Pampers. Similarly, I carried wee & brought him to work for the first 6 or 8mo b/c I could not afford either longer leave from work OR childcare at that point. Lucky enough to have a US job situation where this was possible for sure, but no other viable options right then.

  114. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm |

    I never said I didn’t understand the issues, and I understand why women choose natural births at home or at birthing centers. I can certainly always use more education, so please recommend away. As a community health educator, I am in the business of focusing the medical experience back to the patient and their family, rather than the male-centered “doctor is right” system the US has employed.

    That said, just because you said “X has to do with Y” doesn’t mean it follows that your audience takes your statement at face value. You can dismiss my competence again if you’d like. But I wasn’t the only one on this discussion thread to take the language used by you and others as shaming. At least I have company in my incompetence.

  115. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm |

    That said, just because you said “X has to do with Y” doesn’t mean it follows that your audience takes your statement at face value. You can dismiss my competence again if you’d like. But I wasn’t the only one on this discussion thread to take the language used by you and others as shaming. At least I have company in my incompetence.

    I’m not accountable for the language of others, and I’m certainly not accountable for things I neither said nor implied. Have as much company as you like, but don’t mistake your anxieties for my statements. Are there any other arguments I didn’t make that you’d like me to disavow? That the moon is made of green cheese, perhaps? That all women should have children? That women have no business working outside the home? I mean, I didn’t actually say any of those things, but why would that have anything to do with it?

    I never said I didn’t understand the issues, and I understand why women choose natural births at home or at birthing centers.

    Then why on earth did you ask?

  116. Becky
    Becky May 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |

    I cannot help but hear some misogyny in the idea that physical endeavour and exertion–and the pain it involves–is a worthwhile achievement when it involves something men can do, even if there’s no earthly reason to do it in the first place, but if it involves women using their uteruses and vaginas, well, that’s just crunchy-aesthetic crazy luddism.

    Ok, but I think this is another way in which women can’t win. Because yeah, birthing a baby (with or without pain medication!) is really hard work and it isn’t generally recognised or respected as such. And that’s total bullshit. But on the other hand… if I was going through anything else that was even as close to as painful as labour I would absolutely be taking pain medication. And I think I would have a lot fewer people telling me I should be forgo the medication and experience the pain or whatever. And to me, the analogy with physical activity doesn’t fit, because it wasn’t the exertion of pushing that was the issue. It was the pain of contractions, which were something my body was doing of its own accord, and which I had no control over.

  117. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    But isn’t a lot of the pain of exercise something you have no control over, too? Your muscles cramp, things get sore, etc. Regardless, I don’t have an investment in whether or not any given woman goes with painkillers or not. I do have an investment in not attacking women for the ways they choose to navigate the labyrinth of childbirth, and in understanding why the endurance and strength necessary to do so has been so devalued by our culture even while physical prowess in almost every other field is held up as some kind of huge achievement.

    I don’t think it’s a question of women “winning”–if by that we mean finding a solution that undoes patriarchal constraints. Obviously we can’t, that’s what patriarchy is all about.

  118. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    That said, just because you said “X has to do with Y” doesn’t mean it follows that your audience takes your statement at face value. You can dismiss my competence again if you’d like. But I wasn’t the only one on this discussion thread to take the language used by you and others as shaming. At least I have company in my incompetence.

    It’s all good. She’s not talking to other smart, engaged people, she’s setting up strawmen and knocking them down.

  119. Bridget
    Bridget May 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

    I think some parents’ personalities are more attuned to AP than others. Personally, I don’t like snuggling with *anyone* all day. I love my baby, and I hold him and hug him a lot, but sometimes I’d rather just have my body to myself for a while and watch him play independently.

    Just as some people are perfectly happy in romantic relationships where they spend TONS of time together, but others (myself included) find that a bit stifling.

    The trouble I’ve run into is that AP enthusiasts seem to think your kid will suffer psychologically if you don’t follow AP methods (which, lets remember, are mainly endorsed by ONE pediatrician, there are certainly other opinions out there). One thing I read in a lot of AP-centered articles is a disdain for anything that’s “convenient for the parents.” And I get that there are some bad, selfish parents out there, but I don’t agree that it’s wrong to do some things because it’s convenient. I believe every member of the family is important, parents included!

    Other than that part, I’m on board with a lot of things that are apparently AP…I breastfeed, use cloth diapers, etc (though my mom did those things too and it wasn’t called AP back then).

  120. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    But I also think you’re right, Becky, that the fact that a lot of the labor process is not under conscious control has a lot to do with why it is a devalued experience (I don’t mean devalued by women who use painkillers; I mean devalued by a patriarchal culture). I think this is also why pregnancy is devalued–why, the woman isn’t doing anything, she’s just sitting there looking tired, pregnancy is no big deal. I suspect this has something to do with a culture that accepts a sharp division between mind and body and elevates the mind at the expense of the body.

  121. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm |

    She’s not talking to other smart, engaged people, she’s setting up strawmen and knocking them down.

    She takes me to task for something I didn’t say and I’m setting up straw men? How does that work?

  122. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

    Having climbed mountains, run marathons, and done unmedicated childbirth…yeah, I found them all pretty similar, mentally. The marathon is both easiest and hardest, because you can choose NOT to run the damn thing at any point, whereas you’re having that baby and coming down that mountain, one way or another.

    Personally, I did them for similar reasons (interesting/worthwhile experience to me, wanted to see what it was like, “because it was there,”)–AND, yes, I’ve been judged about equally much for choosing to run the marathon and climb the mountains as well. Generally the comment is “Why would you DO that??” for the sports and “Are you crazy?” or “Are you a masochist?” for the childbirth.

  123. Norma
    Norma May 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    I don’t find it that crunchy. I think it’s about consumer anxiety and female perfectionism.

    Yep.

  124. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

    EG, my goal was never to “take you to task.” Sorry if you took it that way, but I’m not responsible for you misreading my comments. I was trying to be involved in the discussion and voice my concerns. I pointed out language I thought was problematic without saying you were incompetent or teh devil.

    I thought you had offered book recommendations in good faith. My bad.

  125. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    Fortunately, however, midwives are medical professionals who bring to your home or have in their birthing centers exactly the same kind of medical equipment a doctor in a hospital would have to stabilize a mother and her baby in an emergency.

    Quoted for wrong. Midwives often have to get the person in labor to a hospital if the shit hits the fan. Most homes don’t have an operating room, yanno.

  126. EG
    EG May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    It was in good faith. It’s just that if you’re already familiar with childbirth stuff, they’re unlikely to be new to you, because the ones I was thinking of were the sort of big deal ones about midwifery etc., many of which were crunchy, but not only crunchy.

    You responded directly to my comment by quoting it and critiquing it–how is that not taking me to task? Textual support and all that, you know.

  127. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

    Quoted for wrong. Midwives often have to get the person in labor to a hospital if the shit hits the fan. Most homes don’t have an operating room, yanno.

    Hence her use of the word “stabilize,” Bagelsan. A midwife should have enough equipment and know-how to stabilize a woman and get her to said OR. No, this isn’t possible 100% of the time–but with a good CNM, a homebirth with a low-risk woman is quite safe.

  128. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    Reappropriating the experience from unnecessary (for these women) interventions, regulations, and conventions developed by a male-run medical establishment with a masculine culture that make many women feel objectified and powerless during an incredibly difficult experience. If you really are interested in knowing what, precisely, the issues are, I can recommend books.

    Yes, men invented all of medicine! Fucking handwashing, amiright? What kind of dickhe– oh, that was not a dude idea? Women have invented medical interventions? Really? Huh. It’s almost enough to make you think that women participate in the medical community!

    And so far the only example given of medical rape was by a woman, as I recall. And the pain and danger is mostly evolution giving women the finger. And home births sometimes are horrible and deadly. So it’s aaaalmost like the entirety of hospital childbirth isn’t just an excuse for men to abuse women! Fancy that. Easy to forget that little fact, considering the rhetoric we get sometimes.

    But sure, I’d love to read a book that convinced me that a death toll around 50% is better than often-nasty-but-lifesaving hospitals. :p

  129. Revolver
    Revolver May 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

    I quoted you because I wanted to respond to you. That doesn’t mean I was “taking you to task,” it means I wanted to address specific things you said in the hopes of a productive discourse. I tried to explain why my initial post was defensive, what exactly raised my hackles, and why.

    Just because I understand why some women choose natural births doesn’t mean I’m an expert. I asked because the thing is, I’m here to participate and learn. I’m not just going to state my opinion and walk away, or like Brandon in another thread, assume no responsibility for others’ feelings (aka, reactions to my words). If I can state something differently I will. I realized I came across as dismissing birth rape when I didn’t intend to, and I clarified.

  130. Lauren
    Lauren May 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm |

    Having climbed mountains, run marathons, and done unmedicated childbirth…yeah, I found them all pretty similar, mentally. The marathon is both easiest and hardest, because you can choose NOT to run the damn thing at any point, whereas you’re having that baby and coming down that mountain, one way or another.

    This is really fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

    This is kind of OT, but this comment make me go off on a tangent. I really hesitate to jump into these conversations because women have a lot of shit choices either way, and all of our choices are examined and picked apart. I feel like conversations on motherhood are heavy on judgement and light on insight and empowerment. One thing I will say about AP culture, especially when it comes to birthing, is that it’s heavy on personal empowerment and can make us feel really good and hopeful about our bodies.

    The drawback is that this can lead to false expectations for new mothers. I remember several mothers in my birthing class expressing that they felt they failed for not getting through labor without asking for pain meds, or for labor ending in a c-section.

    Labor and childbirth are hard. Caring for a baby is hard. Parenthood is hard. Being a mother is hard. We lack resources and structural support for most of our choices. It’s worth it to consciously seek authentic joy and accomplishment in parenting because so much of it is thankless and the praise is fleeting. AP has that part right.

  131. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm |

    Hence her use of the word “stabilize,” Bagelsan.

    Okay, I have enough equipment to “stabilize” most medical emergencies as well. As do EMTs. As do veterinarians. But somehow pregnant people aren’t lining up to be, at best, “stabilized” — they want access to medicine beyond “good enough to get you to the real professional medical help.” And that latter “good enough” should not be equated to a hospital’s resources.

  132. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    Okay, I have enough equipment to “stabilize” most medical emergencies as well. As do EMTs. As do veterinarians. But somehow pregnant people aren’t lining up to be, at best, “stabilized” — they want access to medicine beyond “good enough to get you to the real professional medical help.” And that latter “good enough” should not be equated to a hospital’s resources.

    Really? You have pit, an IV kit, a bag of Ringer’s, and sterile clamps/needles/sutures lying around?

    Besides, no one said pregnant women were lining up in droves. I delivered in a hospital, because I wanted some of those resources you’re talking about in the event of something like catastrophic hemorrage, etc. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily an unrealistic or unsafe choice to deliver at home with a CNM.

  133. matlun
    matlun May 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    Bagelsan:

    Yes, men invented all of medicine! Fucking handwashing, amiright? What kind of dickhe– oh, that was not a dude idea?

    OT, but: That wasn’t Semmelweis?
    My google skills seems insufficient to figure out what you were referring to here, and I am curious.

  134. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

    “Unsafe” or not, it was being equated to the safety and resources of a hospital, which is just plain incorrect. Sure, some women could (and do) squat in a field and catch the baby themselves no problem, but that doesn’t mean a field has the same equipment as a hospital either.

  135. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

    Discussions like the current one are so defensive– everybody’s defending their choice or their right not to be shamed, but let’s face it, it’s very hard to sell “your choice” without impliciting shaming someone else, even if that wasn’t your intent (that’s how I read the whole EG/Revolver discussion here anyway). That’s not unique to Attachment Parenting, it applies to any parenting method that has a cohort of followers that try to sell its advantages. The net effect of someone who chose something else can be (through no fault of your own) “should I have done that? Did I screw up?” Pretty much every generalized statement that places one choice over another– even ones that are statements of accurate fact– can cause damage IMO because how the facts apply in each person’s case differ. The net effect is, it’s very difficult to talk about parenting in general terms period, without making undue value judgements. The plethora of knowledge or claimed knowledge that is out there, and the accessibility of a large volume of ‘advice’ is both a privilege and a curse– and socially, I would argue a new one that did not exist in previous generations. I offer no solutions to this dilemma but I think it is there.

    Noteable also in this discussion is that there seems to be broad agreement that society should both value womens’ work, including mothering work more and provide mothers with more resources, but simultaneous hopelessness that demanding those outcomes is actually possible. So it seems that we (or you’re, with me speaking as an outsider) are being pushed onto a mine-filled discussion of questionable productivity because we feel that demands for things that would unambiguously benefit women [ like paid time for childcare for working mothers, affordable daycare, workplaces with spaces for children and work environments that tastefully accomodate attachment parenting practices, public acceptance that practices like breastfeeding are not gross, and the like ] are a bridge too far?

  136. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

    Chava:

    For “work” to be de-conceptualized as masculine, childfree space and instead somewhere where (gasp) one might bring a nursing infant?

    I don’t want “nursing infants” in my office, thank you very much. And I resent the fuck out of the implication that if I can’t concentrate with squalling children around me, I’m somehow “masculine.”

    Betty Fokker: Right, women are all perfect angels who never police each other patriarchally.

    Bagelsan, how dare you throw some basic scientific facts into this hipmama coo-fest?

  137. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |

    Ironically, a nursing infant was brought into my office today. For me, it was refreshing. The office is often an inhuman sort of place where you forget that the people around you also have other roles. To be reminded that we are not just the Project Manager, the Database Administrator, the Documentation Expert, and the like, but actually also human beings, and to have it right in the office itself, was a positive experience.

    Why would a separate nursery in a workplace environment necessarily be disruptive? If it was walled off and relatively sound-secure?

  138. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    So, Tony, we’re not human beings unless we reproduce? Also, shall I bring in my fuckbuddy and copulate on the office floor, to demonstrate that I have a life outside the office?

    I go to work to earn a paycheck. I don’t particularly care about the personal lives of my co-irkers, because by and large I don’t choose to spend time with them outside of work.

    I have no problems with a separate, walled-off nursery in the workplace, but I really don’t want to be trying to write or code and have to try to think through not only children’s noise, but the annoying cooing and gushing of adults.

    Cue much whining about how “hateful” and “sterile” my life view is. Boo hoo hoo.

  139. Tony
    Tony May 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

    But isn’t work a nicer place when it can be humanized in some way? I assume that’s why there are office Christmas parties and staff meetings where people are called out for awards and talk about personal things, birthday emails are sent out, friendly banter occurs around the water cooler, and the like. I’m not saying children or babies *have* to be a part of that… but it’s not totally illogical either. If I care about my coworkers in a more than utilitarian way, I’ll feel better about contributing to the team, more comfortable speaking frankly, and generally happier going into work in general. Even if I never speak to these people outside of work, or don’t keep in touch with them after switching jobs. It has nothing to do with money being the primary motivation for going to work. But I just don’t think that anybody’s humanity shuts off when they walk through that office door. Anyway– I don’t want to derail thread too much with this tangent.

  140. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

    Tony, some of us aren’t very sociable, but thank you for ASS-uming that we’re all extroverts who LURVE to socialize with everybody and anybody.

    Oh, and like office Christmas parties aren’t a big honking assumption that we all celebrate the birth of jeebus. Or that we celebrate anything in December at all, which not everybody does. Personally, I’d rather be home with a good book than feel coerced to pay for an expensive restaurant meal (yep, some employers make you pay to attend) and make conversation with people I have nothing in common with.

  141. j.
    j. May 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

    Also, lol “doulas.” Whenever I see the word, I presume a scientific illiterate whose only “qualifications” are AP militancy and “ZOMG I LOVEZ DA BAYBEES.” The same way I presume scientific illiteracy when I hear about “the dangers of vaccination” or “the dangers of GM.”

  142. monkeypedia
    monkeypedia May 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

    First I agree with chava on many things – radical restructuring of the workplace for one, and experiencing childbirth as a physical endurance event like a marathon, which is definitely how I thought of it.

    Also, in reponse to j., actual newborns often do not match the collective mental image of a squalling baby. I live in shared housing with a 5 month old. I was very, very concerned ahead of time about how to keep the baby from bothering or waking up my housemates, and whether it would work at all, because obviously living with a newborn is terrible and only the parents would be willing to endure it. This ties in a bit to the article Jill linked to a week or two ago about a baby turning out to be more fun and less soulless toil than expected. For us (in large part because of co-sleeping and breastfeeding actually) it’s turned out to be a non-issue. The baby starts waking up, I roll over and plop a boob in his mouth, we both go back to sleep, and no one else ever knows. So far, my pre-baby late night common space usage was way more of a disruption to other people than the baby.

    I have brought a nursing baby to work multiple times (with permission), and had the baby be so silent that people have been repeatedly shocked that he’s there when they happen to see him. Obviously, not every baby will do well, or do well every time at work, but that’s different than the default assumption that it would be impossibly disruptive to have a baby in any workplace ever, or that the person nursing or otherwise caring for the baby could never get anything else done.

    Also j., your desire to not be interrupted in your work by a baby crying is one thing, but I don’t see how overhearing your co-workers cooing over a baby is any different than overhearing them laughing in an annoying way, or cooing over cute cat pictures on the internet for that matter. The fact that co-workers can act in ways that personally annoy us is just a hazard of working (or at least of having co-workers). I also think that a desire to never be aware of or impacted by non-work aspects of a co-worker’s life is unreasonable, and frequently does end up being functionally sexist, since all sorts of caregiving tasks (not just child care but also elder care for instance), fall more heavily on women and are more likely to impact their day to day responsibilities and schedules, though that’s getting away from the main points of this discussion.

    In any case, it might be that integrating work and child care would not work in your office or your line of work even if circumstances were changed (for instance on site but separate day care), but there are real-world cases, including mine and other people’s in this thread, where it demonstrably does work, and the point is that even so, creatively combining outside work and child care almost never happens or is allowed or even considered.

  143. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

    I don’t want “nursing infants” in my office, thank you very much. And I resent the fuck out of the implication that if I can’t concentrate with squalling children around me, I’m somehow “masculine.”

    Individual experience/preference != larger societal, patriarchal structuring. Do we really have to rehash the feminist 101 of how public (incl) space has been historically claimed as masculine? Of how “professional” behavior is often coded around masculine tropes?

  144. Luna
    Luna May 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

    To the person who scoffed at “birth rape”. GO. TO. HELL. When you’re incapacitated from an epidural and an on-call doctor walks in and shoves his hand up your vagina without even introducing himself, it’s rape. And when nurses walk in and say, “I’m gonna check you” and I say, “NO!” and they laugh and do it anyway? Rape. And when I said, “Please don’t. That hurts!” and they laugh and say, “I’m almost done. And if this hurts, just wait!” Also rape. Just because I was in a hospital, in labour, doesn’t mean I forego consent.

    I’m *shaking* with rage right now, that even on a feminist site, my rape experience* is mocked. I’m triggered worse than I thought possible, 17 years later.

    *One of them. Another was the more traditionally defined rape. And honestly, the birth rape was more traumatizing for me. So seriously, STFU.

  145. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm |

    sorry, that should be “(incl office) space” above.

    re: work. The majority of women will have children. As long as we continue to insist that the proper place for children is the home/private space, we’re perpetuating the idea that women with children belong there as well. Unless they’re poor women or WOC, in which case they just should never have had babies, and go back to work ASAP.

    FTR–I have no issue with separate spaces/daycare for children at work as a solution. But when there are workplaces where you can bring your dog, but not your baby? Makes a person tetchy.

  146. Miss S
    Miss S May 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

    I think J is trolling, based on this thread and the thread about luck and parenting.

  147. chava
    chava May 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

    “Unsafe” or not, it was being equated to the safety and resources of a hospital, which is just plain incorrect. Sure, some women could (and do) squat in a field and catch the baby themselves no problem, but that doesn’t mean a field has the same equipment as a hospital either.

    Mmm, fair enough (re-read original comment). In turn, though, your equation of an attended homebirth to squatting in a field is also a bit disingenuous.

    J:

    how dare you throw some basic scientific facts into this hipmama coo-fest?

    Seriously? Fuck off.

    Lauren:

    The drawback is that this can lead to false expectations for new mothers. I remember several mothers in my birthing class expressing that they felt they failed for not getting through labor without asking for pain meds, or for labor ending in a c-section.

    QFT. In my mind, at least, childbirth and climbing both have that element of “HAH, human, nature does not give a flying &*^% about you.” You can prepare, you can train, but sometimes shit just happens. It’s kind of like flying–any landing where you walk away alive counts as a success. The fact that I enjoy that sort of thing is a…personal quirk.

    RE: comments from ppl on all three endeavors–I get MANY more bizarro approbations for the childbirth thing. No one except fellow runner or climbers tend to backslap me for the marathon-type stuff. I distinctly remember the attending OB cooing about how I was “such a good mother already” for enduring the pain, etc, etc, and not having the internal resources to voice the comeback I wanted to snap at her. And then there were 8 million times I obnoxiously corrected anyone who said “natural birth” at me with “unmedicated, thanks. I don’t like to call it “natural” because of X.”

  148. CDawg
    CDawg May 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm |

    Also, lol “doulas.” Whenever I see the word, I presume a scientific illiterate whose only “qualifications” are AP militancy and “ZOMG I LOVEZ DA BAYBEES.” The same way I presume scientific illiteracy when I hear about “the dangers of vaccination” or “the dangers of GM.”

    Well, I mostly work with survivors of sexual abuse and violence, and with high risk pregnancies or planned c-sections. My job, as I see it, isn’t to promote an agenda of any sort, but to comfort the birthing mother and help her and her partner through it.

    These mothers and their partners often benefit from having someone there who’s going to be with them the whole time, who’s helped women recover from a section and knows some tricks, who’s worked with survivors before.

    I’m also an LPN, in nursing school to get my RN.

  149. robotile
    robotile May 2, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

    FTR–I have no issue with separate spaces/daycare for children at work as a solution. But when there are workplaces where you can bring your dog, but not your baby? Makes a person tetchy.

    As a cat owner, this dog in the workplace trend makes me feel left out! My cat is awesome and would be way less disruptive in a work place than some of the dogs I’ve seen.
    I agree that babies are often less disruptive than douchie co-workers, for instance. Toddlers could be tough to keep out of trouble and are also more distractingly cute, but I remember sitting under my mom’s and dad’s desk around 4 or 5 years old, happily playing with my Hello Kitty coloring book or my dad’s engineering stencils and not bothering people. Then again, my parents both had offices/cubicles. For those without any private work space (like me :(), it would be more difficult.

  150. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 3, 2012 at 12:22 am |

    happily playing with my Hello Kitty coloring book

    Ah, the cats got to you early! No wonder you’ve been indoctrinated into not loving dogs best! ;D

  151. Alphabet
    Alphabet May 3, 2012 at 12:26 am |

    Out of curiousity, I looked up the rank on Amazon of Dr. Sears Baby Book. It is #310 overall.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Baby-Book-Everything-Revised/dp/0316778001/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336022175&sr=1-1

    Then I looked up On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo, which is the absolute and utter opposite of AP philosophy. It is #330 overall.
    http://www.amazon.com/On-Becoming-Baby-Wise-Nighttime/dp/1932740082/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336022069&sr=8-1

    That is shockingly equal.

    On the list of top parenting books, I scanned to see which books could be characterized as AP or NOT AP. There are lots of books that are neither, like Go the Fuck to Sleep. I was just looking at ones that are explicitly expressing a philosophy.

    Books that could be characterized as AP or not AP on the list:

    #7 What to Expect When You’re Expecting (not AP)
    #9 The Happiest Baby on the Block (AP)
    #11 Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (Not AP)
    #29 Dr. Sears The Baby Book (AP)
    #30 No Cry Sleep Solution (AP)
    #33 On Becoming Baby Wise (Not AP)
    #34 Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Not AP)

    This is just to give people something to reference when they are deciding whether AP is the dominant parenting philosophy out there.

  152. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 3, 2012 at 12:34 am |

    Mmm, fair enough (re-read original comment). In turn, though, your equation of an attended homebirth to squatting in a field is also a bit disingenuous.

    Maybe it’s exaggerated, sure, but the point I’m making is that “X is survivable” and “Y is survivable” doesn’t mean X=Y. And people poo-pooing the existence of things like hospitals and medicine just gets my back right up. It’s part of the — I hate to say “slippery slope” — trendy game of pretending that medicine and science and life were so much better 200 years ago, and I hate that dumbass reactionary myth just as much from feminists as from conservatives. Hence my tetchiness whenever anti-science woo pops up in the middle of otherwise level-headed debate.

  153. Jackie
    Jackie May 3, 2012 at 7:13 am |

    SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY AT…oh wait, this isn’t about monster trucks? Wrestling? Oh, nevermind..

  154. angry2headedmaggot
    angry2headedmaggot May 3, 2012 at 9:14 am |

    back to attachment parenting (so called) vs feminism —

    I have a friend, she has two small children that she stays home with to save on day care costs. (I think she has a small job she does from home as an online exam monitor.) she had a medically-invasive birth and a minimally-intervened birth, she is a careful organic eater, she cloth diapers (and makes cloth diapers), she nursed two kids past their second birthday, I think she co-slept – and somehow through all that, she makes time to do clinic defense for the local women’s health clinic.

    which of these activities should she give up so that she better fits into someone else’s definition of “feminist”? is she a screaming hypocrite because she does all of these things? which action conflicts with her true principles?

    when you hear that a woman stays home with the kids, you think you know all about her. you think you know her political opinions, the structure of her marriage and how it goes from day to day, what she eats, how she spends her time. which, no. all you know is that she stays at home with the kid(s) while her partner, if she has one, works.

  155. Mxe354
    Mxe354 May 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    @j.

    Betty Fokker: Right, women are all perfect angels who never police each other patriarchally.

    What she said:

    The only reason facts are being reinterpreted as “shaming” is because of the patriarchal construction of only one “right” way to be a woman/mother/wife and the pushing of “female competitiveness”.

    She didn’t deny that women can police each other patriarchally. I have no idea why you keep misinterpreting people’s comments, not to mention blog posts.

  156. Donna L
    Donna L May 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    For reasons that may be obvious, I try to stay away from this kind of discussion (especially when, as it often does, it focuses on issues of preganancy and breastfeeding); it’s too emotionally fraught for me.

    But I did want to common that the heterocentricity permeating this thread is truly astounding. Although it’s common enough here. There must be more than 50 references to “the mother” to mean the birth mother. As if the two are synonymous, and as if there being one mother is the default assumption. With nobody even giving a token nod to the possibility that there might be more than one. Not to mention, in the “attachment parenting” context, that there is such a thing as co-nursing of a baby by two moms — including at least one case I know of where one of the moms (technically the biological father, but a mother in every other way) is a trans woman who was able to breastfeed successfully.

    The world isn’t always about “the mother,” with or without “the father.” Not that that isn’t the case the majority of the time, but I’m not sure why the language used has to reflect and reinforce the status quo, and why it’s so difficult for people to remember to use inclusive language. I’ve completely given up suggesting that people try to use trans-inclusive language; it’s a waste of time. But this is a different issue.

  157. j.
    j. May 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

    Hey, Luna, your being triggered isn’t a fucking argument. Stop appropriating the trauma of ACTUAL rape victims.

    Rape and the promiscuous use of language.

    Childbirth activists use the term “birth rape” for the same reason anyone promiscuously uses language: to garner attention. They don’t like certain practices in modern obstetrics; they’ve whined and complained and tried to pretend that they represent the majority of women, but no one is paying much attention to them.

    They’ve figured out that “I didn’t like the way the obstetrician treated me when he was trying to save my baby’s life” is not particularly compelling, since anyone who has ever suffered a serious medical problem knows that doctors give priority to saving lives in life threatening situations, rather than respecting emotional sensitivities. Let me be very clear about this point: I’m not saying that doctors are right. Often more compassion could be shown without compromising life saving efforts in the least. I’m merely pointing out that this is nothing more than a commonplace occurrence in our society.

    Birth activists are dismayed that no one is particularly moved by their complaints. So they’ve decided to ratchet up the stakes by promiscuously using the word rape.

    Right on.

    Chava:

    Seriously? Fuck off.

    Yah. Seriously.

  158. Shoshie
    Shoshie May 3, 2012 at 4:02 pm |

    Hey, Luna, your being triggered isn’t a fucking argument. Stop appropriating the trauma of ACTUAL rape victims.

    Holy fuck, I think this is the most offensive thing you’ve said so far. For the record? Someone penetrating your genitals without your consent is actual rape, even if they claim that there’s a medical reason for it.

    Luna- That sounds completely horrifying. I am so, so sorry you went through that.

  159. Donna L
    Donna L May 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

    J., you’re almost as much of an ignoramus about what qualifies as “rape” as the idiot doctor who wrote that column you link. The state of mind of the victim doesn’t matter? (God forbid consent should be important!) It’s all about whether the perpetrator has sexual intent, and as long as they don’t it’s just assault, not rape? The fact that the “assault” is on someone’s genitals rather than, say, punching them in the stomach, makes no difference? Somebody needs to learn not to practice law without a license!

    Yes, there are a few states that still define “rape” to require PIV penetration, and make a distinction on that basis between rape and sexual assault. But there are plenty of jurisdictions where rape and sexual assault are synonymous; for example the statutory definition in New Jersey, where the law defines sexual assault as “the [non-consensual] penetration, no matter how slight, in which physical force or coercion is used or in which the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated”. Penetration is defined as “vaginal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio or anal intercourse between persons or the insertion of a hand, finger or other object into the anus or vagina by either the actor or upon the actor’s instruction” (NJSA 2C:14-1)

    If I’m not mistaken, the FBI recently adopted this definition, or something very similar, for purposes of collecting statistics about rape/sexual assault.

    What people have described here unquestionably fits that definition. So, j., you’re as offbase here as everywhere else. Referring to “birth rape,” when it is in fact rape, is nothing at all like the obviously inappropriate uses of the word (as when people talk about being raped by an exam and similarly repulsive usages). This is real, unless you think all these women are just lying about what they experienced.

  160. tmc
    tmc May 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm |

    At this point I think the troll needs the banhammer. Dividing rape survivors into “real rape survivors” and “attention grabbing whiners” is basic 101 bullshit. Telling a woman that her experience of being forcibly penetrated against her will doesn’t count as rape is way over the line.

  161. Caperton
    Caperton May 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm | *

    Gone.

  162. Lolagirl
    Lolagirl May 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    I was wondering when Dr. Amy and her special brand of offensiveness was going to get brought into this discussion. It’s like fodder for a bad drinking game, when will she or one of her followers show up and dump all over discussions in any way related to the childbirthing?

  163. tmc
    tmc May 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm |

    Thanks Caperton. That shit was just awful.

  164. Luna
    Luna May 4, 2012 at 12:25 am |

    Thanks. I appreciate it.

  165. Lu
    Lu May 4, 2012 at 8:06 am |

    Regarding the natural vs hospital birth, I had my baby in an Australian hospital which was somewhere in between. They offered a program in which you default to an un medicated birth with midwives (pain relief only provided when it is asked for). They educate you about the various interventions which may be required, so that you can make an informed decision. It is somewhat like a home birth, except you still have all the medical facilities and doctors available if you need them.

    They took the approach that medical intervention and pain relief are both very useful tools, but shouldn’t be the default assumption. They regularly emphasised that there is no shame in needing pain relief or medical intervention. It was about giving the mother more information and choice.

    I’m grateful to have had that facility available. It doesn’t have to be all one way or the other.

  166. Lyanna
    Lyanna May 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm |

    Seconding Donna L.’s comment.

    A word about the SkepticalOB post that the troll linked to:

    It’s not using the term rape “promiscuously” to use it in the literal, legal sense of the term.

  167. Donna L
    Donna L May 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

    Even her use of the word “promiscuous” to describe what she saw as inappropriate usage of the word “rape” bothered me a lot. Of all the words she could have chosen, she picked that one? I’m sure it wasn’t a coincidence.

  168. Rachele
    Rachele May 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm |

    I’ve been thinking over the contents of this debate over the last few days. I haven’t gotten involved because I refuse to add to all this hard sell bs about there being one right way to be a parent. All this delicious, delicious anger being volleyed about between AP and more career/medical birth/conventional childrearing oriented parents (with both sides exhibiting ignorance of any paradigm outside the heteronormative, cis-gendered variety or the realities of limited choice inflicted by class or economy) exists because of the fact that they are both under fire, not only from each other but from everyone, all the freakin time, as some others have noted. But I find it insufficient to simply acknowledge that we are all being judged of our worthiness as women and mothers, especially if we don’t fit into any of the predefined constructs of what a mother is or should be. Obviously it doesn’t soothe the savage burn that some mothers feel about having their choices criticized or their experience or contribution undervalued.

    Let’s get clear here. 1.There is not a parenting style that hurts or hinders feminism. 2.There is not a parenting style or ethos that is the best way to raise every child. 3. Everybody thinks their way is the best way for one reason or another, or they wouldn’t be doing it that way. Humans are diverse individuals. We all have different needs and priorities.

    I think women on both sides of this argument are actually doing quite a lot for feminism. Obstetrics often operates as an abusive, silencing, patriarchal machine in which a woman is just a cog. Evidence-based medicine is forgone for the sake of doctor convenience or control. Fighting for freedom of choice and true informed consent seems worthwhile to me. Working parents, some of which are also attachment parents, although it should be acknowledged that is much harder to balance, are reshaping the workplace to be accommodating to the needs of mothers who want to work and fighting for better child care and education.

    What isn’t doing feminism any favors, is the argument itself about which type of parent is doing more or better. I thought feminism was supposed to be about freedom of choice and respect and human dignity for all women, regardless of financial or familial status. Withholding respect or support or belittling women who don’t fit your model of a “good feminist” (whether you think that means challenging the medical model of birth or building a career and striving for financial success) is just as bad as the way the system of patriarchy withholds respect and support and belittles women who don’t fit their mold of a “good girl.”

    It feels profoundly ridiculous to me to be dividing mothers into these weird little categories and talking about them as if they are mutually exclusive, anyway. Aren’t we just reinforcing tropes and stereotypes of women, pigeon-holing ourselves unnecessarily, and playing straight into the hand of a patriarchal society? If I go back to work after having a child, that doesn’t mean I’m not attached or I’m not raising my children. I haven’t abandoned them to be raised by wolves; I haven’t sold them to the gypsies. If I choose to stay home with my kids, I can still work from home or work on my education or start a small business. My only option isn’t letting my resume gather dust and praying that my husband will always be there to support me. Even if I don’t earn or make any attempt to keep up with the career women of the world now, that doesn’t mean I won’t be able to in the future should the want or need arise.

  169. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 13, 2012 at 7:30 am |

    people poo-pooing the existence of things like hospitals and medicine just gets my back right up. It’s part of the — I hate to say “slippery slope” — trendy game of pretending that medicine and science and life were so much better 200 years ago

    If you’re endorsing CNM-assisted delivery, which is what many natural childbirth advocates do, you’re not rejecting “things like hospitals and medicine,” you’re engaging in a debate about the proper use of hospitals in a debate that’s largely taking place in the context of an endorsement of (much of) modern medicine.

    Much of the criticism of modern American childbirth practice comes from within science-based medical research, not outside of it. Our c-section rates are unjustifiably high, and many other common practices in delivery rooms are unjustifiable as evidence-based medicine. The medical evidence against CNM-assisted homebirth for low-risk deliveries boils down to a not-particularly-high statistical difference on average — it’s absolutely clear that some midwives have far better outcomes than some hospitals, precisely because they’re providing better medical care.

    Being pro-science doesn’t mean genuflecting to anyone in a white coat who has a machine that goes ping.

  170. Feminists, a little perspective, please « blue milk

    [...] if Salon and CNN and The New York Times can do this then why not a big feminist site like Feministe? How did Feministe watch this debate being cooked up in mainstrea media and not get how anti-women [...]

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.