A conversation with a friend who is 12-13 weeks pregnant and a thread I got involved in at Mad Melancholic Feminista make me feel as though I should write my Manifesto of Pregnancy and Childbirth.
1. It is better to avoid too many tests and ultrasounds during pregnancy. A lot of them are unnecessary and just create undue anxiety.
2. Many of the foods that women are encouraged to avoid ingesting are really harmless in moderation. I include in this list: deli meats, caffeine, aspartame, alcohol, cheeses, etc.,
3. Taking antidepressants during pregnancy is probably safe and is a good idea if you're suffering from depression. I wish I had taken anti-depressants during my pregnancy with my son. Unfortunately, I had enough issues taking them in the first place, much less taking them while pregnant.
4. Women should try to have a childbirth without interventions if possible. I think women giving birth are afraid of the pain because we're trained to see it as a signal that something is wrong. But the pain of childbirth is not a bad pain. It's a pain telling us that something is happening. If a woman can't handle the pain, she should take advantage of her options. But I think it doesn't hurt to remind people that there are consequences to the use of epidurals and other drugs.
5. The c-section rate is too high. I hate it when people say "I had a c-section because the doctor said the baby was too big." I wish they would just be honest and say "I had a c-section because I was afraid it would hurt" or "I had a c-section because the doctor told me to." This is similar to the excuses of women who "tried" breastfeeding. I hate it when women say "I tried to breastfeed, but I didn't have enough milk." I wish they would just say "I didn't want to breastfeed." Why? Because what they are doing is spreading falsehoods about childbirth and breastfeeding. In very few cases are babies "too big" to deliver vaginally, and in very few cases do women have insufficient milk. But by lying about their own reasons, they propagate fictions about childbirth and breastfeeding and make it harder for women to make informed decisions.
6. (This is the most controversial): abortion for the reason of fetal birth defects is wrong (though I think it should still be legal). My feeling is that I would love any child who was disabled after birth, and so I would love any child who was disabled at birth. Strangely, I tend not to mourn miscarriages in the first trimester* because I feel they are often non-viable embryos that the woman's body is rejecting.
*I've never had a miscarriage; I don't mourn miscarriages in and of themselves, but I do mourn for the woman if she is saddened by the miscarriage.
7. My position on abortion is this: legally, it should be a matter of a woman's choice. That is not to say I agree with all the choices. However, I believe that women have the right/authority to make those choices no matter how much I disagree with them. I do reserve the right, however, to express my disagreement.
If I think of any other manifesto-ish positions on pregnancy or childbirth, I will edit this post.