“Conspiracy of silence”?

5 November 2010 at 12:38 pm 1 comment

On a local parenting list-serve/forum I’m a part of, a mom of a four-month-old recently posted a query about why there is what she termed a “conspiracy of silence” about the realities of pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood. She got a lot of vehement agreement from the (mostly women) in the group.

I didn’t weigh in on this thread, because I have very mixed feelings about thinking of this issue in those terms. I definitely think that motherhood–especially new motherhood–is not all pastels and sunshine, and although I had read about “the baby blues” (and of course of post-partum depression, etc.), nothing prepared me personally for that storm of hormones that hit, for me, on Day 3 post-partum. I agree that books like Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, among others, are powerful and important and moving precisely because they acknowledge the often conflicting emotions of motherhood. I think that these are more aspects of a reality that is unknowable, truly, though, until you actually are in it–not a conspiracy of silence so much as a wall of absolute incomprehension.

Beyond that, though, I think that while again the term “conspiracy” may be a bit overblown, its anonymous nature and connotations also deflect blame from landing at the door of the conventional medical establishment, where I believe it belongs. So many of the women in this thead said things like–I’m paraphrasing here, so as not to raise any privacy concerns–the following:

  • “My OB never told me that IV fluids could negatively impact breastfeeding.”
  • “I took a childbirth class, but no one ever mentioned how induction would affect my body and my milk supply.”
  • “I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and I still didn’t know I might have hemorrhoids from labor.”
  • “No one told me breastfeeding might be so difficult.”

In virtually all cases, these women had planned, and had, hospital births. In some cases they saw a group of nurse midwives (CNMs), but in most cases OBs. In most cases they did read that Bible, WtEWYE, and in most or all cases they took a childbirth class sponsored by–or approved by–their hospital. These women were not getting the full story on pregnancy, labor, birth, and beyond–that’s undeniably true. I would say, though, that what they were getting was sub-standard care.

Personally, I read widely before and during my pregnancy–everything these women had mentioned as a “surprise” to them was in the books I read, including thing by Henci Goer, Ina May Gaskin, Penny Simkin, Michael Odent, Marsden Wagner, Sheila Kitzinger, and Elizabeth Davis. I realize not everyone approaches birth as a new research subject, as I did, but these women put their trust in their care providers and were let down. A childbirth education/preparation class should provide this information, but since the hospitals control the content so tightly of virtually all the childbirth classes in this area, that is realistically not going to happen. All too sadly, the women on this list didn’t know what they didn’t know.



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Well, I never. . . More on the “conspiracy of silence”

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jessica G  |  5 November 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Very good points- but it is still just so hard to really be prepared for birth and motherhood- and everyone’s experience is vastly different. I find myself reluctant to share some challenges I had with breastfeeding because sometimes everyone just hears so many negative things. It is hard to know what the right balance is…
    You bring up very good points that the risks of many common interventions are completely glossed over and mothers-to-be shouldn’t have to read all these books to be informed of these things.
    Women do need to know more about what their options are, what their choices are AND to give thought to what kind of experience they really want.
    I guess the one great thing about sharing our experiences is that we have the opportunity to expose others to our wonderful experiences and maybe share some information that we missed out on– but more than that to offer support for what they are experiencing and going through.


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