Thursday, October 29, 2009


Naomi Wolf wrote this book, Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood. It's an expose of "how the experience of becoming a mother, as miraculous and fulfilling as it is, is also undersupported, sentimentalized, and even manipulated at women's expense" (2). For someone trying to get pregnant, even it's Introduction and first two chapters are pretty damn scary. And enraging--TOTALLY enraging! I couldn't go to sleep last night thinking about how the risks of amniocentesis are systematically hidden from women ("the risk of miscarriage related to amnio is one in two hundred; the risk of infecting the amniotic sac is one in a thousand and the risk of fluid leakage in a hundred" (39)). I mean, I'm only almost pregnant--nothing bad has happened to me yet--and I'm already pissed off that doctors are colluding to hide this kind of information from women. We deserve all the information we need to make informed choices!

And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Check out her description of the infertility clinic: the men's "jerk-off room" is plush, comfy, fully appointed with videos and magazines, as well as an attendant to come take the sample...but the hopeful mothers sit in paper gowns on metal tables in sterile, overcrowded, freezing-cold rooms and are, in many cases, mocked by the very doctors they've come to for help (44-45). Even when they're paying $20,000 for the treatments, women are treated like second-class citizens by the medical establishment; and don't even get me started on the insurance agency and its sexist rules!

Probably many of you are not surprised. I suspect that lots of people have grown up having impersonal medical care and imagining nothing better. But somehow, maybe because my father was a doctor in a small town, I've always had incredible, personable, compassionate medical practicianers. One doctor even came to my house when I was too sick to come in to the clinic. I saw these same doctors and nurses from ages 11-28; they knew my health history, they remembered my hobbies, and they called to check up on me after office visits. They weren't "alternative" and their office wasn't touchy-feely, but it was always a humane place in which I felt seen, heard and warmly cared for. That was my experience of medicine, before moving to L.A.

But wow, have I met some asshole doctors here. So many assholes, in fact, that I continued seeing my old doctors every summer when I went home to meet my parents, until one year they suggested that I find someone in CA to prescribe my antibiotics. So I have to say, I'm scared to know that I don't have this team of people "on my side" going into pregnancy. As much as I want to do things non-medically and to have a home birth, if anything prevents that, I know I will not tolerate being treated like what I'm reading about in Misconceptions. But to whom will I turn?

It's terrifying to feel unknown, especially when you are vulnerable due to illness, etc. Maybe that's why Klein starts her book with this African proverb: "Being pregnant and giving birth are like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge. They can greet you on the other side. But you walk that bridge alone."

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