Thursday, September 10, 2009

Birthstapo: the psycho Sanctimummy

A recent blog of mine, that unfortunately descended into spiteful comments (largely through my doing, I accept),, has made me think that there is a breed of people out there who are perhaps on the psycho scale of Sanctimummies.  I refer to Birthstapos, who are so obsessed with having the perfect birth that they become tyrants towards everyone else.

The comments by others to my earlier blog had been in agreement with me, except for one person, who chose to remain anonymous, who decided that because I deigned to criticise Sanctimummies, and by admitting that I had a few c-sections, I was leading my children on the road to damnation and autism.

Her comments became increasingly psychotic, and I decided to delete her final comment to me.  I don't usually approve of censorship, and I'm not proud of my actions now, but I felt such rage that I didn't think first.  I've now had second thoughts and decided that there’s a whole blog in what she had to say.  Thankfully, I saved her comments elsewhere - lucky you - and the following is exactly as her comment appeared, along with attached picture:
You sound bitter about your birth experience. Many women, on telling stories of how they felt abused or traumatized during birth — or some other negative feeling, like having failed as a woman after having a C-section, or something — have their feelings dismissed with, "at least you have a healthy baby." While there is certainly a place for looking for the "silver lining" in the midst of any cloud, no matter how dark, there is also a place for just putting your arm around somebody’s shoulders and "weep with those that weep, and mourn with those that mourn." Dismissing a woman’s feelings does not help her — if anything, it only makes her feel worse, because then she has the added guilt of not being able to "just be happy" that her baby is healthy. Certainly she is happy that her baby is healthy… but can she not also be sad that it came at the cost of severe bodily trauma? — Especially if she is fairly certain that the C-section or whatever else that she endured during birth, was in fact not necessary for her baby to have been born healthy and well.
the next time you hear someone process her negative birth experience, and you’re tempted to say, "At least you have a healthy baby," just think of a picture of a mutilated apple, bite your tongue, and if you can’t think of anything else, just say, "I’m so sorry.
 healthy baby apple
I see you aren't going to give me your contact details. I would really like to hear your birth stories. Clearly you have some friends here who can support you through this difficult process.
Does that scare you? It scared the bejaysus out of me. As did her persistence. So I trust you will excuse me if this blog disintegrates into a bitch session.  I'm trying to be a pro here, but it's been a stretch.

Anonymous Birthstapo chose to completely, and presumably deliberately, miss the point of my blog. But what scares me the most is that her thoughts are not isolated.

Is a healthy baby merely a "silver lining" after a c-section? Perhaps we should do a little thought experiment and consider the converse situation. Imagine a courtroom during a malpractice trial, a trial that alleges that an obstetrician did not perform a C-section in time to save a baby's life. The mother is on the stand and is being questioned by the doctor's lawyer:
Yes, Mrs. Birthstapo, your baby is dead, but at least you had a great birth experience. You didn't have surgery, you didn't have an epidural, the baby was born vaginally and put immediately on your chest for bonding. Sure, the baby was dead, but consider the experience. And look at the picture of this mutilated apple. Is this what you would have preferred? Dr. Orchardist has saved you from a psychic wound that would never have healed. You ought to be grateful.
People would be horrified with the lawyer's complete lack of perspective. So why do Birthstapo-types think they should get away with such rhetoric? The health of the baby and the quality of the "experience" are not remotely comparable, and it is absurd, even cruel, to suggest they are.

Similarly, the idea that a healthy baby is merely a "silver lining" after C-section is indicative of a Birthstapo’s complete loss of perspective. The picture of a mutilated apple is particularly telling. The implication is that physical perfection is critical, and a surgical incision leaves a woman mutilated and incapable of healing.

There is another, deeper implication that is both unexamined and unjustified. The implication of the mutilated apple picture is that the removal of the seeds could have and should have occurred without changing the apple. The reality in nature is far worse that the mutilation of the apple. In nature, the apple must desiccate and die in order for the seeds to live.

The reality of childbirth in nature is far more brutal than a routine c-section. In nature, the mother often dies while the baby lives. Or the baby must die in order for the mother to expel it and live. Thousands of women and millions of babies around the world die each year for lack of c-sections.

A live baby is not the "silver lining" of a c-section. It is the entire purpose of pregnancy and childbirth.

And to suggest otherwise is an arrogant disregard for the intelligence of some human beings who were able to take science to such a level that lives can, and are, saved.

There's an argument to be made that Birthstapos justify their hypersensitivity, obsessive need for control, and rudeness to everyone else with the all purpose excuse: "It's my special day."

1. Obsessive need for control
No detail is too small for consideration, planning, and decrees.   It's difficult to imagine anything more obsessive than birth plans.  Birth plans, in addition to being useless for their stated purpose of improving the birth, are attempts to plan the unplannable.   You might as well have a "weather plan" for the day of birth for all the good it's going to do you.  Birth plans have the added drawback of irritating everyone around you.   The need to ruminate on every aspect of the day, and share those ruminations with everyone else is boring at best and narcissistic at worst.

2. Hypersensitivity
If the comments on my previous blog, and the quote provided by the psycho above, can be generalised, Birthstapos spend a lot of time being angry.  It's all about Birthstapo.  The birth is not going according to plan.  The hospital staff are not taking their desires as seriously as they take them.  The hospital staff are not behaving as instructed.  Everything is a slight.  Offered an epidural? Have a fit!  Labour support not exactly as desired?  Accuse the nurses of evil intentions - medicalising!!!  Baby needs something different from the preapproved birth plan?  Who does that baby think he is?   After all, birth is not about the baby. It's all about, exclusively concerned with, revolving only around Birthstapo.

3. Outsize feelings of disappointment
Birthstapos are psychologically very fragile and make no apologies for their fragility.  Baby need resuscitation before being placed skin to skin with Birthstapo?  The birth is ruined.  C-section needed to deliver a healthy baby?   That no longer qualifies as a birth at all!

4. Using others as characters in performance art
This is perhaps the worst of the many unattractive traits of Birthstapo.   Everyone, medical personnel, her partner, even the baby, are nothing more than bit players in Birthstapo's ultimate piece of performance art, "her" birth.  Birthstapo feels free to dictate what everyone involve is allowed to do or say.  What if her requests compromise the obligation of medical personnel to provide safe care?  Birthstapo doesn't care.  It's her day and that means she's entitled to use people any way she wants.

5. Birthstapos are narcissists
They have an outsize view of their own importance, a hypersensitivity to slights, a feeling of being persecuted when the birth does not go as planned, and an imperiousness and insensitivity to others who work with or for them.  Ultimately, Birthstapos are psychologically fragile.   Instead of integrating the inevitable disappointments associated with a birth, they are psychologically "stuck.”  They experience their disappointments as narcissistic injuries and respond with rage and accusations of persecution.   They have no time for and no interest in the feelings of others, and feel entitled to use other people for their own ends.

Ironically, the behaviour of Birthstapos often fails to produce the perfect birth.   Because of their psychological neediness and fragility, they are unable to appreciate that every change in plan is not the "fault" of someone, unable to accept that unwillingness of providers to follow commands is not a sign of persecution and, worst of all, unable to enjoy what they have.

Anonymous Birthstapo - I don't really care about you, but I worry about the mental health of your children, and the burden that you are now and they will be on taxpayers in years to come as infant and maternal mortality rates increase.


Oswald Bastable said...

Don't be worried about deleting these bozos- cut off what they want most- attention.

It's YOUR soapbox!

(and a damned good one too!)

Opinionated Mummy said...


And thanks for the support and the plugs. Tried to thank you the other day, but somehow I had an illiterate moment and called myself that dreaded "Anonymous" word. Anyway, I'm grateful!

homepaddock said...

"A live baby . . . is the entire purpose of pregnancy and childbirth."

Exactly. People who politicise birth as Anonymous does forget the whole point of being pregnant is to have a healthy baby and that the birth is the means not the end.

My skin crawled when I read her comments. Either it's someone (not necessarily a woman) with a very weird sense of humour or a woman with big problems.

My daughter would have been dead and I probably would have too had she been born "naturally".

My sons had brain disorders and died -the result of medical conditions unrelated to their births. Life with profoundly disabled chidlren and after their deaths is hard. Anyone who thinks it's acceptable to risk that outcome rather than opt for medical help should never get pregnant.

Opinionated Mummy said...

Thanks, homepaddock. And no one would be reading my blog if I had followed the birthstapo line. Sure I wanted something perfect, but things do go wrong, and it's *bloody* scary when they do. So what's wrong with deferring to the experts?!?

So you can understand why it got me worked up!

It's the blinkers that get me. Birth is the most dangerous event a woman goes through. Just because some women managed to squeeze out a healthy baby with no damage to either party does not mean everyone else can too.

OMG I'm becoming a Sanctimummy :-(

Charmaine said...

I could not agree more with you. When I had my daughter my midwife (a normally sensible woman)asked me for my birth plan. I was a bit taken aback so said "Go to hospital and have the baby.

I had no idea what to expect was going to happen and sure enough something went wrong and my daughter ended up in the neo natal unit at Wellington hospital. Like that was in my plans.

I have experienced the birthstapo at times with their pity that I had pain relief and that things were not "perfect" well they were for me 4 years on I have a beautiful intelegent child and I can't remember the birth experience at all.

Yes you are right the child is the focus of pregnancy not the birth process. I linkn these wimmin to the bridezilla where it is all about the wedding day and bugger the groom (with whom you have to make a life after the day) and anyone else.

Rant over and thank you for the forum, you have become a daily read.

Opinionated Mummy said...

Thanks Charmaine - and rant away! I like ranters! We're a rare breed.