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Wednesday
Oct312007

Helen Mirren & Tokophobia

Helen Mirren, in an article for the Daily Mail, talked about her disgust for childbirth and how watching a birth movie as a teen swore her off having kids for life. Here is the entire article. Below are the excerpts that pertain to the birth movie:

"And they sat us all down, boys and girls, all about 13, 14 years old in this horrible school hall.

"And then this tweed-skirted dykey sort of woman, short cropped hair, comes on and says, 'I'm Dr Joyce' or whatever, 'and what you're about to see is one of the greatest miracles.

"I've seen it many times you know because I'm a doctor and giving birth is one of the most beautiful things'."

Dame Helen recalls how the group were wondering what she was talking about and then the film began.

To this day she can remember it - the whirring of the projector and a close-up of a woman having a baby.

"And that's all you see and these are 13-year-old boys and girls who can't look at each other anyway, and it's bloody and it's disgusting.

"And then occasionally a little subtitle comes up because there's no soundtrack. It says, 'Now prepare the rubber sheet'."

She said she had put her hands up to her face, realising she could not watch it.

Within 30 seconds two boys had fainted and were carried out while the 'stupid woman' said: "Wasn't that wonderful? It's a miracle."

Dame Helen said: "I swear it traumatised me to this day. I haven't had children and now I can't look at anything to do with childbirth. It absolutely disgusts me."

Her early sexual experiences were no better. "They were crap because the men were crap. They were just nasty boys."

The interviewer asked: "And you truly think that film is the reason you didn't have kids?"

Dame Helen replied: "I think it's a lot to do with it, I think in deep proper psychological terms I was traumatised."

Those of us who live and breathe birth might be thinking thoughts like, “How horrid!” “What a disservice to women and birth!” “She sure doesn’t know what she missed.” Or “How sad.”

But, I want to share that another one of my posts, a very old one, would have those commenters saying, “Thank God! Someone famous that feels like me!” “I can’t believe someone else said what I think in a public forum.” “She feels exactly like I do!” And “I’m not alone.”

My post on Tokophobia (fear of childbirth) continues receiving comments and I have been meaning to re-write a new piece for quite some time, answering the women who have written. The truth is, I’m not sure how to answer some of them. I can’t cure their fears - can’t wave a magic wand and tell them it will all be okay. I can’t promise a perfect birth, a painless, (vagina) tear-less, hemorrhoid-less, incontinent-free birth. None of us can. The difference between those of us steeped in BirthLand and those living in Tokophobia World is the former kinda care (or don’t care) about the inconveniences that might happen to get a baby and the latter are terrified/horrified/grossed out by the same things.

Read here, some of the comments women have written me regarding their tokophobic feelings:

- So glad someone has addressed this. I realize that I am not alone in my disgust and dread of childbirth. What's weird is that I love babies and children but am paralyzed with fear when considering having a child of my own naturally. Even stranger, I am a registered nurse. I've cared for burn patients, people with their faces blown off, and people half-eaten by flesh-eating bacteria. These patients have never inspired the anxiety that I feel when I've assisted with natural childbirth. The screaming, defecation tissue tearing, placenta, and gore is nothing less than gruesome to me. I'm puzzled by other nurses' remarks of the "beautiful experience" that childbirth is when I've helped these exhausted women care for their ravaged bodies and squalling infants. I am struck by how primitive, undignified, and unevolved the experience is and have wondered how any woman goes through the experience more than once without demanding a c-section the next time around. Time is running out for me as I'm in my early 30s now. My husband has been hinting for a while that he wants to start soon. The panic has set in at times and the worry that I'll never have enough chutzpah weighs relentlessly on my mind.

- I left the love of my life rather than have a child for him--he never knew that was the reason--and I have spent a lifetime telling people I don't like children just to get them off my back. If my family knew I was tokophobic I would be run out of town on the rails--it would never have been tolerated. But there has never been anything about birth that doesn't either gross me out to the max or appear to be really horrendous for the body. I would never put myself through childbirth willingly. Gross! So, even though I always wanted a child, and a husband, and a home, etc., I found a way to hide the tokophobia and it changed my life. No amount of reading a natural birth board is going to cure tokophobia. There might be some sort of treatment for it, but women with tokophobia would be better served to be accepted as they are. There are tons of us out here, believe me.

- Phew, I am so relieved to find that i'm not the only one. I am so fed up with people saying 'its ok and its not as bad as you think'. They don’t have the same feelings as I do. I sweat and feel faint when I think of giving birth and I am avoiding it at every cost. I have felt like this since I was a child. I hate the way in which 'society' makes women feel that they must have a baby....and I too do not want to grow old and be left childless....but I just cannot bring myself to do it...it never feels right. My biggest fear is being ripped open (my hands have just gone soaking wet saying this). For years I have had problems having sex, I bleed, tear and tense up...it’s a whole horrid package. I wish either way I could just make a decision to either never have kids or to just get it out the way and do it. What on earth can I do?

- But the thought of being in tremendous pain for hours and hours and then feeling my vagina rip open. [I mean imagine horror movies when people are stabbed. I mean oh my goodness! It's like the same thing because it's skin being torn apart in some way and it's no small paper cut] And then I have white coat syndrome but if I have a homebirth I can't have an epidural. Oh dear lord Jesus it scares me to death. and then like I don't want people touching and looking at my vagina, which is already ugly and will look even more ugly as a baby human being slowly pulls it apart. And labor seems so scary. Though I love children all the time, I hate children when this thought comes about. I feel like no one cares about me, the one who is pain, worry, and terrified. Everyone just thinks of this stupid baby that doesn't care anything about what’s going on because it doesn't know anything.

And yes tokophobia is real. I have had this fear since I was about 3 years old, before I even knew that "phobia" itself was a word. But I also have a panic/anxiety disorder and that may be the base of it. But the fear I feel is real.

- Me too. I asked for a caesarean section to avoid a vaginal birth. I was abused as a child. I am a midwife and I know about birth - the wonderful peaceful ones, the empowering ones, the awful disempowering medicalised ones. I know that the hormones which I would have released in labour - those of fear and terror - would have stopped the oxytocin, stopped the labour and forced me to endure what I feared the most. I dreamed of faceless masked men examining me and cutting me and not stopping when i asked them to. I punched my swollen belly and cried at being taken over by this alien invader. I knew I was going to find it tough enough becoming a mother without haveing to endure a traumatic birth and the subsequent flashbacks. I was lucky. I had a very sympathetic consultant and a caesarean on request. My birth was controlled, quiet, non sexual and I am a proud mummy who loves my son. Thank God - it could have been so different.

- I am now hopefully a bit too old to get easily pregnant and what a relief it is. As far as I can remember, I found childbirth scary and disgusting. Even humiliating. I have read that it can be cured sometimes with counselling but my condition is gone so far that I don’t have the desire to be cured at all. I feel that my fear and my disgust are normal.

- I am so thankful for this post. This needs to be discussed more openly and honestly. So many women feel this way, but we think that something is terribly wrong with us, and we are ashamed. I have always been intensely afraid of pregnancy and childbirth. I remember when I was a very little girl, I was completely disgusted at the idea of having a child, and I wanted to adopt. I am now 23 and my feelings haven't changed. Why does this happen to us? Does therapy work? I am married now, and my husband doesn't understand my fear at all. I feel alone and frightened. Please continue to write on this, and point us in any direction that might be helpful.

- I have Tokophobia. I am also 23 weeks pregnant with my second child, I cry every night and feel physically sick at the thought of premature labour and delivery. I also have a sympathetic consultant who will give me a c/section under a GA (general anesthesia) as I had on request with my first son. I am 36, a registered nurse, have a masters in Psychology and am NEVER going to give birth the so called natural way. I am tired of being told I am a failure as a 'woman' or will not bond with my child. I have the rest of its life to bond with my child! Thank you for making me feel that my phobia is actually out there - I am not alone!

- i feel like im letting my partner down, he wants kids now and doesn't really believe me when I say im scared, everyone thinks im joking. im scared of the pain, being laughed at, being useless, a wimp, and as someone else mentioned being ripped open and having to be cut, midwives and doctors frighten me i think they wouldn’t really care about what i had to say and would make me feel small.

A midwife told my friend off once for being too loud when she was giving birth.

i love kids and so desperately want to be a mum, the in-laws and my own parents cant wait to be grand-parents but ive already decided that I CANT and will not ever give birth (deliver). I wish i was a man and had a lovely wife that was willing to give birth happily so i could have my own children.

I just feel a failure and weak.

- There's been quite a few problems in my life caused by tokophobia. I left the love of my life over it because he wanted kids and there was no way I could ever do it. I have found childbirth absolutely repulsive my entire life. It really, really makes my skin crawl. I have had to pretend that I would be afraid I would abuse a child (I have a bit of a hot temper) just so I have an excuse not to have children. I can't tell you the number of times I left a good relationship because the guy wanted to have kids. The only reason I finally found a sorta-ok relationship is that I am now over 45 and he doesn't realize I could still get pregnant. He would want me to have a kid if he thought I could still do it. (I'm convinced I could still get pregnant, my fertility happens to be legendary, what a nasty trick of nature!) Tokophobia has created huge problems with my family, too. They were very irritated that I never had a child. I just can't do it. And the sad part is that I so wanted to have a baby. I didn't want to not have a baby. It was just the terror of pregnancy and childbirth, and no amount of counseling was going to change it. So now, I am too old, and when my mother dies I am going to be in this just-ok relationship or alone. Just a cousin in another state, no other relatives. It's a nasty phobia and it has shaped my life so very negatively.

- I am 27 and nearly 5 months pregnant. I only realised my tokophobia (or at least it only developed) after I found out I was pregnant with our planned baby. I had a placenta previa - a blocked cervix so the baby could only be delivered by c section. I was thrilled that I had been given a way out...as I am only really terrified of the birth not the pregnancy. It’s the thought of tearing that just makes me burst into tears ...

However placenta previa have a tendency to move and guess what!? Mine has...

so now I am being refused a c section and told to do it naturally and it is natural to be scared! SCARED! I am not scared! I am blood curdlingly terrified! I have been having a really happy pregnancy but now feel that if I have this baby naturally I will hate it. This news has now made me resent having this baby and I just can't get anyone to take me seriously...

even though the doctors have been playing games with me and building me up and now letting me down.

So I am extremely grateful to hear of others shared fears. My husband keeps saying well I will be with you...but that is no help. What the hell is he gonna do? And I am terrified of being ruined afterwards and sex being pointless and unenjoyable for both of us, but especially him. I am scared of all the aftermath too. The incontinence, possible permanent internal damage...! How can I be expected to go through that! And drugs are not the answer ...not to my real fears. Funnily if it was just the pain I would not care!It feels like I have been given so many months to live but have to face execution at the end. I know it sounds severe but a c section was like an open door at the end of all this and now the jail gates are shut.

- I can't believe how much better I feel to read that I am not alone. I am having a very difficult time facing the idea of childbirth...actually, pregnancy too. I am almost 33 years old and married to a wonderful man who wants children. When we married 2 years ago, I told him I also wanted children. And I do, I just don't want to give birth. I mentioned adoption and he won't even listen to me about it. He says he just can't get excited about adoptin. Here's my problem: I don't want a baby wriggling around inside me, I don't want to give birth and squeeze a human being out of my body *cringe*, and most of all, I don't want it trying to cling to my breast. I always thought of myself as a warm, loving and bubbly person. So why do I feel cold, like I'm Cruella DaVille or something? If I don't have a baby, it's just me, the hubby, a dog and no real family (no siblings, parents are deceased). That's no life either. So I guess I gotta pick my poison, huh?

- I don’t fear pregnancy much although I hope I don’t get morning sickness, hemorrhoids, droopy and flat boobs (I have small breasts) or varicose veins. I do totally understand the fear of tearing, of not looking or feeling the same sexually to myself or a partner, of incontinence. I was raised to think of my body as a sexual thing (tho not explicitly most of the time) so the idea of birth as a sexual event and babies attached to the actual breast seem gross, almost incestual. Even tho I know that biologically they have a dual purpose, I just seems wrong somehow. Maybe too much emphasis was placed on sexuality? I figure maybe I can navigate some of it by waterbirth. Keep the lights low and my partner can’t see the baby emerge. The buoyancy of the water is also supposed to help alleviate pressure and reduce the likelihood of tearing (I hope this helps those of you with that specific fear!) I find myself most confused by the simultaneous fear of birth, yet the curiosity to experience it. As for it being a miracle, the baby is great. I'd love empowerment, but I'm afraid all I'll get is an anxiety attack during labor from pain and fear of judgment for that pain or for making noise or whatever. In some ways, I think I'd rather labor alone than have a partner with me. I'm not sure I want him to see me so exposed, emotionally and physically. I heard of one woman who had her husband catch the baby and said how special it was to have *rough quote* "the baby was touched on the outside for the first time by the man who created it with love"-it sounds nice, but I can't for the life of me understand women who want their husbands to catch the baby. I don’t want him down there. They are fleeting and I know they are irrational, but I also sometimes hope for there to be a need for a c-section, even tho recovery is physically more difficult. I fear that I will have flashbacks or phantom labor pain, like soldiers do who lose limbs. I worry that I won't be able to look at the world the same way afterward or that my partner will no longer desire me or will love the baby more. I have seen women write that they love the kids more than their husbands. I understand loving them differently, but one more than the other is sick. Why did they get married, just to have babies? It makes me worry that I will resent my kids.

- Sometimes I think I am the only rational woman in the world - why wouldn't such a disgusting, terrifying, bloody, screaming process inspire fear and avoidance? I sweat and feel faint at the thought; I freak out even just trying to talk about it with my husband or therapist.Someone else already wrote: "being in tremendous pain for hours and hours and then feeling my vagina rip open. [I mean imagine horror movies when people are stabbed. I mean oh my goodness! It's like the same thing because its skin being torn apart in some way and it's no small paper cut] and then I have white coat syndrome but if I have a homebirth I can't have an epidural. Oh dear lord Jesus it scares me to death. and then like i don't want people touching and looking at my vagina, which is already ugly and will look even more ugly as a baby human being slowly pulls it apart. And labor seems so scary. Though I love children all the time, I hate children when this thought comes about. I feel like no one cares about me, the one who is pain , worry , and terrified. Everyone just thinks of this stupid baby that doesn't care anything about what’s going on because it doesn't know anything." This is EXACTLY how I feel. What are we going to do? I am so depressed at the thought of never being able to have children; but even more depressed and fearful of having to dread this for 9 months, then actually go through this, and then live with the memories of it. I feel as though i owe it to my husband to leave him so he can find someone willing to do this for him.

- I am too old to have a child now--over 45, and in perimenopause and single as well--but just yesterday my 80 year old mother threw a fit because I never managed to have a child and she now has no grandchildren. I have several friends with the same phobia--several had terminations rather than deal with childbirth. This is a massive problem that's been under the carpet for too long. We need to get back to the point where women have more options in childbirth, including general anesthesia and no memory of the birth experience.
A very wealthy friend of mine, who could afford in-home care for the child, arranged to have her baby that way, and she was thrilled with it. No memory of it at all. No labor, no nothing. Just woke up to excellent nursing care in the hospital, care for her and the baby at home, no breastfeeding, no shredded crotch, no lochia, nothing. Very peaceful, no dramatics, no crises, adequate pain meds for the recovery, no labor pain at all. If I could have had a birth like that--essentially not being conscious of it but still getting the baby as a result--I could have given my mother a grandchild and I wouldn't be completely alone when she dies. But no, childbirth is the only medical procedure (and it frequently deteriorates to that, no matter what the crunchies say) where you have to suffer endless torture that wouldn't even be legal at Guantanamo Bay, and be conscious of it to boot. I deserve better than that, and all women deserve better than that. We need more options and less sass from the natural childbirth crowd.

The last commentator sent me to this recently written article about tokophobia "Are you a tokophobic? The women who are terrified to give birth". A portion says:

“’I strongly feel that the only way I'd be able to do that, if at all, would be to have a Caesarean - which would be less gory because I could be sedated - and probably some therapy during pregnancy, because I find the thought of having my stomach cut open pretty horrifying.

‘The truth is that the very thought of having something almost alien-like growing inside me is disgusting.’

Of course, for most women, the anticipation of labour comes with a degree of anxiety. But as many as one in seven women are thought to suffer from tokophobia (a word which derives from the Greek ‘tokos’ meaning childbirth).

Dealing with the condition is often difficult because it remains one of society's taboo subjects.

Despite her desire to find a way to have children, Rachel has been labelled ‘cold-hearted’ and a ‘babyhater’ by some friends she has discussed her fears with.”

The article goes on to say how misunderstood tokophobes are, how natural birthing women can go to extremes in not accepting how horrified some women are at the seemingly typical experiences of pregnancy, labor and birth.

In reading the comments all these months and in writing this, my heart breaks for most of the women because they haven’t been able to resolve their dilemmas. I’ve wanted to wrap my arms around them to make it all better, but know I can’t… nothing I do or say will make it miraculously better. But, I think together, all of us might be able to do something. What can we do? What can we say? I hope you all will comment. I hope you will work hard not to say trite comments that say things like, “It’ll be fine. Just do it!” because you won’t be there with them as they work through 9 months of terror. I’m hoping that others will have insightful things to share that will be understanding and as accepting as possible given the really foreign topic we are discussing.

Let’s see what I would say if any of them were sitting with me as pre-conception counseling clients.

- I remember how terrified I was when I was pregnant the first time… even the second time! I felt faint thinking of what labor was going to feel like. I kept imagining this unbearable, other-worldly alien-being taking over my body and causing me such agony I would surely die from the pain. And I was a baby! I screamed for hours when I stepped on a dead bee once. My family laughed at me for years about that, reminding me, over and over, that I would never cut it as a natural birth candidate once I got pregnant. I remember crying for hours, worried about labor and birth. Even the second time, I remember being scared and, once labor kicked in, thinking, “this fucking sucks!” and asking for drugs even though I was having a home birth. I was told I could have drugs if I went to the hospital and I cried, begging someone to go buy some drugs somewhere, didn’t someone have an old joint in a coat or something? When it was made clear the choice was the hospital and drugs or home and no drugs, I chose to stay home and birth – and I made it… I walked through the pain and when it came to the third child, I wasn’t afraid AT ALL that time.

BUT, I will say, what I learned from it, especially as a midwife, is to share with women that labor isn’t some “other-worldly” experience. Well, until I’d done birth work for many, many years and heard women speak romantically about birth, I was able to tell women it wasn’t an other-worldly experience. What I mean by that is that there isn’t this imaginary line between “Normal You” and “Labor You.” Labor slips quietly like period cramps… like “Period Cramp You” isn’t unlike “Normal You”, it’s just Normal You with period cramps. And period cramps are a lot less regular than contractions! There is rarely any rhyme or reason to period cramping, whereas labor cramps/contractions are clockwork rhyming.

Let me try again.

Walking into the ocean. At first, when you go in, the water is nippy and you might think, “Eek!” but within a few moments, it’s okay and you can go further in. With each forward movement into the water, it seems like you can’t possibly go further because it is so cold, yet acclimation occurs and you are able to move forward further still. Contractions are funky, you get used to them, they get funky again, you get used to them again... like that.

You’re doing your thing and the tightenings that have been happening your entire mature woman-life (your uterus contracts every single day of your life – more so during menstruation, orgasm, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum), just get regular and because your uterus is so big with a naked human being inside it, you feel it more, but you are still you. You don’t transform into some weird freaky Be-ing. In fact, for most women, they are perfectly sane and able to carry on normal conversations inbetween contractions. It is only during the contraction that the woman needs to concentrate/focus/moan. I remember saying during my drug-begging labor, “I could do jumping jacks!” when I was inbetween contractions. It was like that the whole time for me.

Yes, some women get “birth high,” but I think women who “let go” and “get into” their labors get birth high. I have watched hundreds of women have babies and not all women get – or want to get – birth high. It isn’t that the woman has to keep control, either, because the woman herself isn’t “in control,” but her body is in control and labor is a lot of getting out of the body’s way to let it do its thing.

That’s one thing I really like to remind women, that labor isn’t something happening TO you… it is YOU happening. It is the most incredible display of what your power is capable of – all without anyone else’s manipulations, machinations, or medications.

None of this addresses the issues of what is being called Primary Tokophobia – fears that occur before any birth has even happened and include everything from feeling a baby inside the body, fears of tearing, cutting the vagina, defecation during second stage, incontinence, the uncertainty of the outcome for the body, the anticipation of milk in the breasts, hemorrhoids, fears of any body changes including stretch marks, sagging breasts, pannus, labial changes and anything else that has already crossed your mind because I am sure every one of us has thought of some of these at least mildly. The difference for tokophobic women is that the intensity of feeling is multiplied a hundred-fold.

Secondary Tokophobia comes for women who have had a traumatic birth experience already. Whether she’s had a birthrape experience, an experience where she tore extensively, perhaps she had a large episiotomy, an instrumental delivery, a long labor followed by an emergency cesarean, a birth that required reconstructive surgery postpartum, a fetal death… any number of factors can send women into a place where the fear of another pregnancy or birth is immobilizing and they would do anything to avoid it.

I know that, for me, I can understand Secondary Tokophobia (ST) more than Primary Tokophobia (PT). It seems like at least the women gave it a shot and they know what they are talking about, but who says women have to “give it a shot” at all to know what they are talking about? Don’t women hear enough stories?

One of the biggest concerns I have is that so many women with PT say they watched movies that caused their phobia. It makes me SO angry that their only experience was watching the shit movies that I know they had to have seen – because I saw them, too (later, during childbirth classes). Why couldn’t they have been shown beautiful homebirth movies? Would that have changed the outcome of their psyches? I can’t help but believe so. Of course, there is no going back now, but I can suggest we stop scaring the crap out of all the future PT’s by taking birth shows off tv! I think I would have been a PT if I’d have watched Maternity Ward!

So, now we have this army of women with PT and ST and they are asking for general anesthesia cesareans.

(Contrary to what the last commentator believes, even cesarean women have lochia, so cesarean birthing women don’t wake up from surgery and head back to the office as if nothing happened. They still bleed for 4-6 weeks, just like vaginal birthing women. They are in a great deal of pain, just in a different location than vaginal birthing women… and 90% of vaginal birthing women are out of vaginal pain within a couple of days whereas post-cesarean moms are still in a great deal of pain at 2 weeks postpartum. Post-cesarean moms have bellies that are bigger longer than vaginal birthing moms, though just by a couple weeks, usually. I only share this information because cesareans aren’t the cure-all to a birth-afraid woman.)

Do we say, “Sure!” to women who ask for cesareans under general anesthesia? If we/the doctor/anesthesiologist explains the amazing risks for the mother and baby when using general anesthesia and why it is so rarely used and the mom still wants it, do we (as a community) support her choice? Do we support obstetricians who offer general anesthesia to women who request it? Do we send women to the OBs we know who support women with PT/ST? Do they become as popular as the ones that support the homebirth midwives? Do we supply doulas to PT/ST women to help them choreograph their births so they feel the most comfortable and get the safest birth possible? I mean, those of us who work in birth shouldn't withhold our knowledge just because we might have a different opinion, right?

How does this sit with you birthing women? How does this sound to the women with tokophobia? Is this the solution? To “de-criminalize” medicated cesareans? Would the support from us “crunchies” (as the article called us) help? Or do you even care if you have support from anyone. Do the women with tokophobia want to get rid of it? Or just want the rest of us to accept it as if you were coming out as lesbian or red-headed or something else un-changeable.

Where do we all go from here?

References (1)

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Reader Comments (74)

Two experiences growing up dramatically influenced my attitude about birth:

1) I remember watching a birth video in 8th grade health class. It was `a close up shot of a woman's vagina (on her back in stirrups, of course). It was all orange and for the longest time I had no idea why. I thought maybe pregnancy caused your vagina to turn orange? (It wasn't until I started studying childbirth as a graduate student that I realized it was the antiseptic they'd poured over her vagina that caused the color!). I distinctly remember the woman saying "I am never doing this again."

2) My mom was strung up from her ankles while giving birth to me. Needless to say her stories about birth were less than positive, at least about mine. (She had 5 children, all without pain medications, even during a 24-hour Pit induction for Rh- sensitivity with her youngest).

Mainly because of these two experiences growing up, I saw birth as demeaning and humiliating, something women had to "get through" in order to have a child. I resented that I'd have to go through that at some point. Nothing to the extent of tokophobia, but just a general dread and disgust.

This all changed in an instant when I learned about home birth and midwifery. My negative attitude shed like an unwanted skin as soon as I realized that it wasn't BIRTH herself I feared and despised--it was what was done to birthing women. Once I saw that birth could be joyous, empowering, normal, and even enjoyable, I KNEW I wanted to do it again and again. Birth became my life's passion.

Fast forward a few years to my peaceful, calm unassisted birth. I had no fear of birth, and like you eloquently said Barb, it was so very "normal" and "me." I did have a huge birth high in that I felt huge levels of endorphins. But it was me in my own skin the whole time. I was totally clear, focused, and present. Five minutes afterward, I said, "That was hard work but definitely doable."

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRixa

Wow, that was super long and I admit I skimmed in places. I just wanted say that after my traumatic/PTSD/birthrape experience 29 months ago, I am becoming increasingly afraid of giving birth again. Some of my friends are pregnant and everyone keeps asking when are we going to start trying again and I just say I'm not ready yet. When I see pregnant women and newborns it makes me want to turn away in disgust. I avoid them and their conversations and their big bellies and their wrinkly newborn babies. It is very odd because I have become a birth activist over the last two years, volunteering my time to try to help the situation. I spend a large percentage of my time reading about birth, learning about birth, talking about birth, and advocating for natural birth. And here I am afraid to give birth again. I cringe at even the normal labor sounds and sights of a natural birthing woman and it triggers something deap inside me that gives me a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and makes me want to vomit and then never get pregnant again.

That being said, I was afraid of labor and birth the first time around too. I saw it as something to get through. Something that would be painful and hurt, and my worst fear was tearing. I read about how not to tear, I stretched the tissues so I wouldn't tear, I wanted a water birth so I wouldn't tear, and I ended up with an episiotomy and 3rd degree tear.

Anyway, I wasn't terrifed enough the first time to not give birth in the first place, but I'm not sure if I can do it again. All of my worst fears were not only realized, but what happened was worse than the worst fears that I had. Things happened that I didn't even know to be afraid of. So now, unless I can just give birth in my house by myself, I'm afraid of doing it agian. And even doing it by myself doesn't ease my fears because I am afraid of my own body and the intensity of pain and speed that it performs at as it brings a chid into the world. I would hate to be dragged along on that crazy ride fighting and screaming all by myself.

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I sent this post to someone I love.

Five minutes after my daughter was born (at home) I said, "I'm going to think long and hard before I do that again." After my cesarean I said, "I'm never doing that again." I was so afraid of another cesarean that I paid for a homebirth out-of-pocket. But those were my fears and they're so different for each person.

It's hard to separate my identity of myself and my identity as a mother of x number of kids. Reading the comments on tokophobia makes me think we are defined by our motherhood whether we have children or not.

The key is to find some peace -- the most elusive goal of all. Finding ways of having or not having kids, or rearing children if you want to when you don't have your own. But being okay with what is right for you, regardless.

I wonder too, how many women know all the range of options: hospital, home, attended, unattended, medicated, non-medicated, interventive or not. It seems that in both Rixa's case and mine, for those of us with non-phobia levels of fear, it often suffices to take control in the areas where we can. But it takes more education than most people seek.

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterreeciebird

Oh wow, this post broke my heart. It's so sad to think that many of these women's fears probably stem from the horrible blood-and-gore, life-or-death, doctors-wielding-knives, endless-agonized-screaming depiction of a textbook hospital birth. All the things they describe would not even be a factor if they had been introduced to homebirth as a norm. :(

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Why don't we flood schools with free DVD's of natural childbirth? I work at a high school. I gave my waterbirth video (from my midwife's birth center)to my school when I was done watching it. The health department scooped it up and played it too all the students as part of the curriculum. I think this is an easy way to get the word out that birth does not have to be how it is portrayed.

Kim

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you, navelgazing midwife. Thank you for your post. Kudos to you for taking up the topic.

I am the poster who sent the email regarding Dame Helen Mirren. I am a life-long, superduper, heavy-duty chronic tokophobic. It has done megamega damage to my life--too much to go into here, but just the lost relationships alone are tragic.

I'm not here now to whine and vent, but I do have a few comments. First of all, I witnessed a natural childbirth at a birth center and that was the last thing I would *EVER* want to do with my vagina. I would rather have the epidural and inevitably tear up the wazoo and possibly bleed to death, rather than do all that and suffer childbirth torture as well. (Even if none of those things happen, I still don't want to be aware of childbirth. Humiliating and gross.)

I mean, seeing a natural birth at a birth center was really, really bad. Really bad. So please don't think a DVD of that is going to change the paradigm. What we need is a way to be able to NOT BE PRESENT during the birth. I mean, I don't want ANY awareness AT ALL as to what is happening to me. Just like knee replacement surgery or whatever, I want to be stone-cold out of it. (And please don't play the "childbirth-is-natural-and-not-like-knee-surgery-card, it's still blood and gore and torture that wouldn't be legal at Guantanamo Bay.)

I expect pain from surgery for a csection recovery as with any surgery and I will make provision for that by hiring help and avoiding breastfeeding, but there is NO WAY I WANT *ANY* memory *WHATSOEVER* of ANY PORTION of the labor and birth process. I want to go in before I go into labor, get prepped for surgery just like any other surgical procedure, and wake up just like any other abdominal procedure. (Yeah, I know anyone can die in surgery, I will take my chances, thanks, at least I won't be awake for my bleeding to death.) I expect to be in pain, but I want NO MEMORY at all of anything to do with the labor and birth. Ain't ever gonna happen.

It was my former roommate who had just this experience, and I envy the heck out of her, because her husband was rich enough to buy it for her and she has a baby and I don't. If my crotch is going to be shredded--and like our dear Navelgazing Midwife noted, there are no guarantees with birth--I am not willing to be concious of it. If I can't get that, and at the time, I couldn't, I won't have a baby. And it is so sad to be alone and over 45, and I am really P.O.'d that she was able to arrange that GA/CS and I wasn't. Just because we are tokophobic doesn't mean we are unworthy of motherhood. It's so cruel.

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Perhaps I am being naive here, but since Tokophobia is a phobia, is it not treatable like other phobias?

Surely there are counseling methods, medications, and alternative helps (like EFT* - can't recommend this one highly enough!!) which can help women cope with their phobias?

If a woman wants to have a child, but tokophobia prevents it, can't we start with treating the tokophobia for the legitimate phobia it is?

Even if a Mom is able to procure a CS under GA, when she wakes up, the debilitating fear is still with her. That hardly seems right....

I don't expect logic or education of any sort to help a woman who is birth-phobic, any more than I expect logic to help someone who is afraid of spiders or heights or small spaces.

Yes, there is definately value in promoting a more holistic and healthy view of birth - but it won't help the women with tokophobia, because fears of that intensity are not 'rational' - that's part of why they are so powerful.

*Sigh* For any person with an intense phobia, that IS their reality. Childbirth IS a horror filled gore-fest which leaves them shredded. Spiders WILL eat them alive. They WILL suffocate in the closet. I can't deny their reality. BUT, I'll do everything I can to help them see a new reality, if they want to. I will introduce them to a friend of mine who does EFT. I will hope and pray that the phobia which has ruled their life, will finally release it's claws, curl up, and die, so that they can live a life of freedom; a life without debilitating fear.

....stepping off my soapbox now....

Thanks for bringing this topic out into the open Barb.


(*EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique. Emotional accupressure, so to speak.)

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSarahthedoula

I don't know what the answer is, but as a future provider, thank you so much for bringing this issue to my attention. I had no idea...and now I will know to be more sensitive with women, and try to be aware that some are in this situation.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThe MSILF

why not offer adoption as an option for people who want kids but not childbirth. Especially if they don't want to breastfeed.

There are plenty of children who would greatly benefit by being brought into a home where they are loved and wanted.

We should not try to force an activity on them that they don't want to do, especially when such a mutally beneficial alternative such as adotion is available.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternakedthoughts

Adoption isn't as easy as it sounds. I know many couples who have waited for years and years to get a baby. True, it is easier to get an older child through the foster care system, but I understand the desire of wanting a baby.

As far as tokophobia...I too had no idea. When people would mention childbirth being so disgusting I tended to view it as a "slap" against me or what I do as a Bradley CBE. I don't know why I took it personally. Now I know better and I am so thankful for this education so that I can be more compassionate.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Hello NgW,

I am a 26 female who's a big fan of your site! It has been very empowering to read your natural birth stories. I was told a few years ago that I MUST have a c-section when it comes time b/c of an intestinal surgery that left me with a foot long scar up my belly. I've been told by several different sources, that it all depends on the direction of the scar: ie if you had one that was horizontal, it was ok to birth naturally but diagonal and vertical would rule it out b/c of a high risk of tearing the old scar. I really really want to try and have a natural birth experience but my gastro doc say no way. What are your thoughts?
(This is just to further my eduation on the matter, in no way will I hold you to it :))
Cheers
Jena

November 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for bringing this issue up. I had NO IDEA that this phobia existed. It makes me so sad that these women want to have babies but cannot bring themselves to have the birth.

I wonder if hypnosis couldn't help a tokophobic? Or might it be safer for mother and baby if twilight sleep was used instead of GA?

It must be horrible to be so afraid of what your body can do so naturally.

November 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDevin

I suffer normal, non-phobic anxiety disorder and have had two different births- one c-section for breech and one non-medicated vaginal births. I'd say it's a toss-up. Both were scary to commit to, both were difficult to recover from.

For the C section I was given some kind of anxiety-reducing med which left me humming to myself throughout the procedure so maybe that was OK...I'm not sure.

For the vaginal birth I was amazed how the pain comes and recedes, and those little breaks made it doable, but it was really, really hard work. I was working too hard to be scared...probably like those who work dangerous jobs. The memory of it gives me anxiety though, unlike the c-section. I don't like to think about it at all.

I can respect tokophobia. It is a LOT to ask someone to go through and there's no reason anyone should feel bad for not wanting to take the risks, do all that work, or suffer possible damage from the experience. It's really a heck of a thing for anyone to do.

I did it because my great-grandmother had 23 children. I thought I could at least have 1 or 2, but I don't want to do it again.

We sure don't have it easy, us ladies and mothers...aren't there jokes about how things would be different if men had to give birth?

November 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDawn from MN

As far as what "can be done" for a woman who wants a baby but is tokophobic, I think the first thing is acceptance. Someone suffering from a true phobia is *truly* afraid, and dismissing their fear (which no one here has done) only isolates them more.

Anonymous/tokophobic is in a real bind, and yeah, I would second the recommendation of going to a therapist as she would with any phobia. If she were agoraphobic and afraid to leave the house, for example (I have a touch of that).

I do find it really interesting that someone can be so phobic of birth yet still desire to have a child at all; that seems to point to a disconnect, somewhere, that it is going to take time and healing to address.

I would also want to say, there is *no such thing* as not being transformed by birth, even with a GA c/section. The act of gestation and then recovering from it (and from surgery) is going to affect you in many strange ways, just as natural birth does. There is no such thing as absolute control over your body during or after birth. I would be afraid for a tokophobic woman to go through her "ideal" birth only to find that she is not unscathed after all.

November 2, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Reading this entry really knocked some things home for me. I don't think all of it applies to me - I can't imagine wanting to not experience my child's birth, but on the same token, I am beginning to believe that childbearing is out of the question for me. I have wanted children for years, but never thought I would have them for a variety of reasons. The main reason? Fear of medicalized childbirth. Artificial insemination or IVF? Doesn't bother me a bit. Letting some harsh doctor rip a child out of me? Terrifying. The thought of a c-section - ANY c-section - or being stuck in a bed with a catheter and constant EFM was terrifying for me. No one in the last two generations of my family have had an out-of-hospital birth. Most have been induced or sliced open. I don't want that for myself.

Once I found a partner that will be with me for life, I began researching natural childbirth. I honestly believe I could have a child if I could do it on my own terms. We got excited, thinking we could have a child. We researched out of state midwife centers (midwifery is practically a lost art and, in most aspects, illegal here) and discussed, in depth, the parenting decisions we would choose to make. "We're gonna do this even if we have to fly across the country to find a midwife!" we joked.

Of course, I now realize I have PCOS and type II diabetes (non-insulin dependent). I don't know of a single midwife that would take me on now. My own doctor looked at me like I'd grown a second head when I discussed natural birth during our IUI consultation.

These days, I feel that old fear creeping back into me. Perhaps childbirth isn't going to happen for me after all, no matter how desperately I want it to. Thank you for this thought-provoking article; your blog is the best thing on the internet. I only wish that there were more people out there like you and Dr. Wonderful.

Ashleigh
anstuddard[at]una[dot]edu

November 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm curious to know how many tokophobics are survivors of sexual abuse. And if working through the issues surrounding the abuse can help with the tokophobia.

November 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKind of Crunchy Mama

I didn't get grossed out or scared by the videos they showed in health class, but I know my classmates did. I think that part of the problem is that when they show the video, most kids have never even seen a REGULAR vagina, much less a mid-pregnancy one. They automatically connect it with this private, personal thing that no one's supposed to see or know about and the leap from that to "childbirth is bad" is a short one.

Also, I wish they didn't show the childbirth video to boys and girls at the same time. It's not hard to be bothered by seeing a woman's mid-pregnancy genitalia and hearing stupid middle-school boys saying "EW, she's all gross and hairy!" and "Ugh, she's gonna be all stretched out now!" Boys especially at that age think of the female genitalia as solely for sex, and their judgments of the "gross" female body can be internalized until girls are afraid of never looking attractive to their lovers after giving birth.

November 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBasiorana

"I do find it really interesting that someone can be so phobic of birth yet still desire to have a child at all; that seems to point to a disconnect, somewhere, that it is going to take time and healing to address."

I can't help it, but I find the whole debate about tokophobia so sexist! Men wish to have children too and nobody thinks it's strange. So what's so strange about women wanting children? The only difference is that women have to go through pregnancy and birth and men don't. Tokophobic women simply view their body differently than other women and can't imagine "renting" it to another human being (pregnancy) and being willingly mutilated and humiliated and put at risk of death during birth. Ask any man if he wanted to be subjected to something like that and 99% will say that it is one of the reasons they are happy to be men rather than women!

November 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

So, I've heard of a study which indicates that men are more likely to want and find it important to have children than women. And if I remember correctly, these would be genetically related offspring. Which I find interesting. For one, we are the ones who have to go through it.

(Just so you understand, I'm bisexual) My ex-girlfriend and I had been considering children in our future. We had vaguely discussed the options, though it was unspoken that the person who might bear the child would be me. We decided that, when the time came, adoption would be a better choice. We parted on amicable terms, and now I am with my current boyfriend. He wants offspring of his own flesh and blood. Badly. I am indifferent, and adoption has some significant appeal to me.

I am interested in natural birth, homebirth and other such things. Apparently, I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but I have an aversion to noises. When I was younger I decided I wanted to be unconscious for the birth of my children. The pain does not scare me, nor bodily fluids. I am terrified of tearing, or being cut. It makes me nauseas.

November 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The tearing you don't feel (or, the caveat, I suppose, is MOST women don't feel... not met one yet who has felt herself tear) and even having an episiotomy without lidocaine isn't generally felt because of how low the baby's head is.

HOWEVER, the suturing *is* felt, at least the lidocaine application and then the pulling sensation of the sutures through the skin. But, nothing more than a bee sting when the lidocaine goes in should be felt - and if a poke is felt, then more lidocaine should be given if mom wants it. Many women blech at suturing, but concentrating on their babies keeps their minds off of it all and it's over before they know it.

When women would be tearing, IF they are tearing at all, the head is coming out and that sensation is FAR grander than any teeny thing like a tear would be. The head coming out isn't a pain, either... it's just HUGE! a GIANT sensation of POWER and INTENSITY! A baby/soul is coming to earth and, rightfully so, it is extremely power-filled.

The sensation lasts a fraction of a second.

And then the baby is here on earth and that intensity of body is over and the intensity of spirit is just beginning.

Sometimes, I wonder if THAT is where tokophobia *really* is. (Just a thought.)

November 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Dear Navelgazing Midwife,

your description of birth is probably the best positive description of birth I ever read and it might change the mind of some tokophobic women that are not so sure about their tokophobia. But still I had diffulties to get your final point...
However,on the other hand, you are describing exactly what women with tokophobia(that probably includes me) don't ever want to go through. They don't want to be stretched and torn and sewn "down there." They don't want to feel the pain for hours and hours. They don't want to be incontinent. They don't want to ruin their sex life, if they feel it is the part of life that makes them able to maintain mental health. They don't want to be at somebody's mercy for help and medication or even humiliated during the process. They don't want to risk getting postnatal depression. They want to start their motherhood as positively for them and their baby as they can. They don't want to and need to feel proud of themselves on account of going through vaginal birth. They want to be proud of themselves on account of other things, like being a good parent and a good person and maybe achieving something transcendental in this life that would influence lives of other people.
The only solution for these women (if they can deal with pregnancy at all)is cesarean section and I don't see any one valid argument against it, if they are willing to pay for themselves and are aware of the risks. I agree, though, that it should be done only after a couple of sessions with your doctor, so that you have a chance to change your mind.

November 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

cFor those who think a C/S is the solution, I would encourage them to try and watch an actual procedure. Maybe even a few.
I'm a L&D RN who cringes during most of these procedures. Mothers moaning as they feel the pressure of the tugging and pulling to get the baby out. Arms out at their sides and strapped down. Trying to vomit in this position.
This is a phobia and like other phobias, these are not normal feelings. It's not sexiest, it's abnormal.
I would question a MD who would use general without treating the cause of the issue. A quick fix which is what so much of medicine has become.
Good post.

November 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy,

you are entitled to have this opinion and feeling about CS. However, you should be tolerant enough to let other people have their own opinions as well. Even doctors differ on this issue, so let the tokophobic women go to those that are in favour of CS and you work for those that are not. You probably witness most of the time emercency CS, when there is a lack of time to wait until the anaesthic works(therefore the moaning and tugging). It is an abdominal operation like any other, like apendicitis for instance. Do you think that apendicitis operation looks any better?
By the way, what makes you think that vaginal birth is sexier than an abdominal operation? Neither is "sexy." But operation is a controlled procedure, especially if planned. I personally trust an operation much more than I trust nature, I'm sorry. Nature isn't a good mother to us. It's trying to get rid of the weak and ill and I don't want to be dead or afflicted for life because some people say "it's natural". In what century are we living again?

November 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I don't think she meant to say "sexiest"... I think she meant to say "sexist."

November 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Goodness. Thanks for thinking and pointing out my mistake. You are right. I did not mean, in any way, shape or form, sexy. Three kids, long night at work, and I had a slip. Sorry.

OK. My post put you on the defensive and that was not my intent at all. All I was trying to do is point at the fact, something the medical community does not always do,that a C/S has issues with itself as well. I think we're coming to a place where a C/S is seen with a major element missing, that it's major abdominal surgery. Women will cry after surgery and say "Why do I feel so bad!?!?" Yes, you've had a baby, but you've also had your abd opened, tugged, pulled, etc. MDs can really minimize the whole thing, which I don't think is fair to patients.

People tend to brush aside the risks to the baby with a C/S as well,figuring that a little oxygen and suctioning will clear up the resp. issues these kids can have.

Most, and I'm talking 99.9%, of the C/S I see are not emergency. Epidurals, spinals, etc. effect everyone differently. Different MDs administer them differently as well. I had a natural birth with my son because I knew who was on call for anesthesia, and I knew it would be a waste. His epidurals never worked worth a darn. Some have no sensation, some have a little, and some have "a lot".

Please understand that I'm not judging, dishing out negative opinions, etc. on those with toko. What I'm mearly trying to point out is that if a MD tells someone that a C/S is the cure all to avoid childbirth complications, then they are giving you a crock of crap. This is where I think a lot of issues come from. "This and that is not a big deal" and people come away in shock after having a completely different experience.

A section is completely different from having your appendix out. They are done completely differently, length of stay is different, anesthesia is different, etc. No comparison.

I work at a hospital that has a section rate of almost 50%. We also have a free standing birth center, but this is where I choose to work.

Please understand that I'm commenting in the hopes of helping, not hurting those who have this phobia. I would hate for someone to go forward thinking that a C/S is it, and find out otherwise, only to be further traumatized. That is my only concern!

November 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy,

I understand your point. However, you speak from your point of view as a supporter of natural birth and that makes your perception of tokophobic women a bit distorted. I think that most tokophobic women know the pros and cons of VB vs. CS perfectly well. They know the risks just as well as benefits. Don't think that they expect it to be a walk in the park. They all know pretty well that it's an operation and might hurt as hell afterwards and you might die in the end. But for them it is the ONLY way they can have children at all. I don't believe that any amount of counselling or more information is able to change that because it's not like being afraid of elevators. That can be avoided by taking the stairs. This is a matter of good and happy life with children or being unhappy all their life for not having them only because they would rather die than have VB.

Midwife and Amy,
as for the sexist vs. sexiest.
It is sexist because women are expected to go through pain and discomfort to have children whereas men don't. OK, if it was really fair, men would have to go through the same feelings at least mentally. But it doesn't work like that because nature IS NOT FAIR. I know that many people don't even think about these thinks, and good for them, but I feel that childbirth is one of the last areas where society makes women feel inferior and less valued than men. Why not give both sexes to be equal even in this?

November 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh, I'm sorry...lots of misspellings and missing words. I hope you can ge the point, though:-)

November 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Ok Anony -

PLEASE slow down . . .

First, I had a typo which I mentioned when I first started out. Goodness. I really cannot think of any bodily function that is sexy. I was tired. It was 1 AM when I posted, trying to wind down after a crazy night at work.

I am not a natural childbirth advocate but rather an advocate for what a woman wants. Like I stated, I work for a hosptial that is far from going the natural route.

I choose my natural route with my first based on who was on call. Pour water in my back or do IV meds and be done with it. That's what I choose to do. I have had one other child by birth, and I won't mention how I did that to avoid you labeling me as this or that.

PLEASE slow down and listen to me. You are so defensive and I'm mearly trying to make sure that everyone, not just you, realizes that a C/S is not a walk in the park. You recognize that and that is great. However, I work with MDs who say "Come on! Let's go have a baby!" and that's it. There is something called informed consent in medicine, and it's a joke most of the time.

Barb, please back me up on this last point. There are pros, cons, and then there is your MD and how things are truly done. Unless you work in this field you are in no position to say you understand all the ins and outs of the medical field. I'm trying to allow you to see another side, not just a list of this and that.

Can you please take a breather and see where I'm coming from?

November 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy,
I'm breathing quite all right,thank you, it is you that is getting defensive now, although we obviously don't disagree - we are just talking about two very different issues. We are coming from different timezones and different systems of medical care, so it's sort of difficult to get all the points right for both sides.
You would like for all the women to get as much info as they can before they can decide for CS or VB. That's absolutely right and I agree with you heartily. I wouldn't want for anyone to think that a CS is like having a facial. No, that's very wrong and it's wrong of those MDs that make it seem that way. I agree.
However, I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about tokophobic women being laughed at and deemed silly or hysterical, when they try to talk about wanting to have a CS. I don't know about US, but in Europe, doctors would rather bite their arm off than give you a planned CS (it's all about the costs, of course). I was talking about the right of these women to do with their body what they think is best and not what the medical insurance companies (or national healthcare) think is best. For European women it is difficult to get a planned CS even if they are willing to fully pay for it. Simply because it doesn't fit into the local centralized medical system. This is why I get defensive when I read about "getting counselling" or "you shouldn't have children at all" or "you don't know anything about CS" because these opinions seem to me like coming from the Middle Ages when women were thought of an unable to make their own decision about themselves because they were leeser beings. Unfortunately, on some unconscious level this sort of thinking prevails even among the medical profession.

November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I know what you mean. Debating on a blog is not the best way to talk about this. A lot gets lost a long the way.

As a RN, my frustration comes when a woman does not have her rights protected. This is all to common is certain areas of the US/world when it comes to medicine. Just as I go to bat for a woman who wants to walk during labor (that is a huge no-no where I work now which is crazy), I give the same care, concern, consideration, etc., to someone who says "Please do all that you can so I don't feel a thing", ie. "I want an epidural as soon as possible". Most women come into things with a very good idea as to what they want, and when that is not met, it can be devestating. Natural patients wind up with C/S. Epidural patients do have sensation and are scared by the pain. Someone who wants an epidural has a fast labor and the baby is here before the MD arrives. So my concern comes when a patient thinks that a C/S is going to be "just having a baby another way" without being told the issues that can arise. Believe me. It can happen and it's sad, for me, to see.

Why did I mention counseling? Not to fix people all up and have them love the concept of childbirth, breastfeeding, etc, but to possibly explore any underlying issues. Most phobias are the result of something that has happened, and couseling is something that can be beneficial. I had a recently had a patient who was abused as a child, and desperately wanted to breastfeed but was haunted with painful memories anytime anything was done with her breasts. She felt that breastmilk was best for her baby, and wanted to deal with the underlying issues. She explained how she had gone to counseling, and wanted to try various ways to give her child breastmilk without having to breastfeed. So we worked with her and what she was comfortable with.

I know that there are major frustrations when it comes to insurance. A few years ago, a MD friend of mine had a patient who desired a C/S as a result of fear that was brought on by abuse. He basically had to lie to justify doing the C/S, something which put everyone in a bad position. But the MDs first obligation is to do no harm, and anything but a C/S would have been harmful to the patient.

I do become very defensive when I feel that a patient is not being told the whole truth about what is being planned for her baby and body. The biggest is a C/S for failure to progress - ie not moving fast enough for the likes of the MD. You are right. "I am the MD and therefore I know what is right for you". Ummmmm . . . not always and that is where I raise my voice. I truly have patients who believe that a C/S is like having a facial; walk in, lay down, and be serviced. They are shocked to the core if things vary from this idea of a pain free and "visually" pleasing chidbirth. Shame on the MDs who let their patients think that. They are out there, and it really bugs me. You are obviously well informed on the issue, but there are many who are not. That's just not fair, esp to someone who has tokophobia.

That is another reason that I had a midwife deliver my babies. We were in the hospital, but I knew that whatever was done was in MY best interests, not her schedule, not meal time, not what was waiting in the office, etc. I truly believe that if anyone is going to give excellent care to someone with tokophobia, it's going to be a midwife.

I don't know you, but please believe me when I say I would never laugh at you. I would never think that you were silly or hysterical. Everyone brings something different to the table, and that's why I love my job. There is no greater joy, for me at least, than to be there when two become three. It's a beautiful, sacred time in a family's life, no matter how the bundle arrives.

I hope you have a nice day. It's warm and sunny here today. Too warm for Nov.

November 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Hey Amy,

you are so lucky you have sunny weather!
I think you said it all. It's all about respecting the patient and giving as much info as possible.
As for the counselling, I think it might help many people to cope with their fears, but I doubt that it can help you to completely overcome them for life. Anyhow, in my case it's not connected with any trauma, but rather my conception of myself and my world view and my way of thinking. Why would I want to completely rebuild my personality just of one thing that "other people = society" think should be "properly" done this or that way? Especially, when there is another option how to deal with it. It wouldn't work anyway because I believe counselling can help you only if you yourself want to change something about you and not when the healthcare system decides you should change because they need to save money.
I'm not big on what's proper or not, I do things my way and don't care much about what people think of me. As long as I don't hurt any one, it's perfectly moral stance as well. It's their problem that they don't like something about me because they needlessly worry and get upset about other people's business and therefore destroy their own peace of mind.
That's why I decided to speak up on this blog because many other tokophobic women are ashamed of their fear. I wouldn't even call it a phobia in my case or even in general, because it is just a result of discussing pros and cons of life with children and without and the way that leads to having them, taking into account all the conditions that I live in, how many children I want to have, my health and my personality, and trying to make the best decision possible for my family and me as well. Because I strongly believe that if the mother feels happy, the baby feels happy too and the father has no reason to be nervous either. Whereas if the mother is traumatized by horror birth, it might take her months to actually start loving her baby, which is a terrible loss for both of them.

November 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The last thing a tokophobe needs is a midwife--no offense intended, my navelgazing friend.

It has been my experience that midwives tend to be crunchies, and it has also been my experience that crunchies will rip the head off of a tokophobe. They seem to take it personally, the phobia, although it has nothing to do with them at all...who knows why. We need someone who can accommodate our problem without harassment and insisting that we participate in useless aromatherapy or some other inane behavior.

Let me give you an example. I may need shoulder surgery. I am not going to be concious for that surgery, and I wouldn't have it if I had to be awake. Period, not negotiable. Same thing with childbirth. It's as repulsive as shoulder surgery, and I don't have to be awake for either. Again, period, not negotiable. I will accept any and all risks, thanks, and I don't want to hear some crunchy telling me NO because she is there to defend the baby from my decisions--yes, I have actually heard that one, too. We need to be able to get what we need, and save us the platitudes and the attitudes. And we can't get that yet, which is not the best thing, because there are more than a few of us who are tired of having multiple abortions rather than a family.

There is no cure for tokophobia, folks, and we need to proceed to strategies for working with it.

Stepping off of soapbox now...

November 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The last thing a tokophobe needs is a midwife--no offense intended, my navelgazing friend.

It has been my experience that midwives tend to be crunchies, and it has also been my experience that crunchies will rip the head off of a tokophobe. They seem to take it personally, the phobia, although it has nothing to do with them at all...who knows why. We need someone who can accommodate our problem without harassment and insisting that we participate in useless aromatherapy or some other inane behavior.

Let me give you an example. I may need shoulder surgery. I am not going to be concious for that surgery, and I wouldn't have it if I had to be awake. Period, not negotiable. Same thing with childbirth. It's as repulsive as shoulder surgery, and I don't have to be awake for either. Again, period, not negotiable. I will accept any and all risks, thanks, and I don't want to hear some crunchy telling me NO because she is there to defend the baby from my decisions--yes, I have actually heard that one, too. We need to be able to get what we need, and save us the platitudes and the attitudes. And we can't get that yet, which is not the best thing, because there are more than a few of us who are tired of having multiple abortions rather than a family.

There is no cure for tokophobia, folks, and we need to proceed to strategies for working with it.

Stepping off of soapbox now...

November 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Oh, and one more point...yes, I agree with one of the previous posters...It's true that I would rather die than have a vaginal birth. When you die you don't come back; with a vaginal birth, you remember it and you are traumatized for the rest of your life, forced to relive it again and again in your memory until it fades. Yep, I would rather die.

November 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

While this doesn't explain all of it, I'm struck by how much internalized misogyny there is in some of the reasons for this fear. As with any phobia, there are multiple reasons of course. "Phobia" generally means an irrational fear and I'm not sure that being afraid of passing something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a garden hose is necessarily irrational--even though I've done it twice under less than ideal circumstances.
But, how many women here have mentioned how ugly they are "down there", who can't even type the word vagina? There were several who were worried that their husbands wouldn't love them anymore or find them sexually attractive anymore if their husbands saw them give birth. One said she didn't want her husband 'down there'. (He was down there at some point one would think.) Worries about body image (saggy flat boobs, pouchy stomachs, etc.) point to the expectation that all women should forevermore look like 20 yr olds. And a love/sexual attraction based on looks alone is doomed anyway. None of us will look the same at 60 naked as we did at 25, childbirth or no childbirth.
A woman's genitals have often been compared to flower petals (thank you, Georgia O'Keefe) and that's really mostly what they look like. Flower petals are universally thought of as something beautiful. How did we allow ourselves to be convinced that is ugly or nasty or dirty?

One thing we can do is to counter the messages women get constantly about how nasty, dirty, smelly and gross we are (feminine deodorant spray, anyone? I'll use that when they come out with a masculine deodorant spray, thank you very much.)with more positive images of womanhood, our bodies, and insist that we are valuable and beautiful at any age. Put our money where our mouth is about that whole "it's what's inside that counts" and hold our men to that ethic. They can do it. It won't alleviate the fears of the women currently suffering under this phobia but it may help some of our daughters from ever developing the phobia in the first place.

November 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

"Phobia" generally means an irrational fear and I'm not sure that being afraid of passing something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a garden hose is necessarily irrational

Christina,
I couldn't express my attitude toward the so-called phobia any better. It's completely rational to me not to be willing to go through something like that. I actually don't understand how anyone in their right mind can do it. I understand the yearning to have your own kids, but still don't understand the willingness to be tortured like that. No offence intended.

However, I don't think that tokophobia is mainly caused by our distorted and unnatural body image. It's not only about being ashamed of one's vagina or how ugly it is or could be. In fact, I personally don't care about any of that craziness about skinny and perfect bodies. I don't posses it and I don't think possesing it would solve all my problems and would make me a more successful person. For me the problem is completely reverse. My vagina is the most loved and cherished place on my body. The only place that's completely mine. And I simply don't want it stretched, ruined, cut and sewn, thank you very much. Not even if the result is a baby because my baby won't be living my life for me for the rest of my days. It will be a new person that needs to grow up into an independent person. And I don't want to live only vicariously through my child and become a problem for the child rather than valuable role model and parent because my sexual life has ended at its birth and I don't have anything else left that I could take pleasure in (well, yes, career, drugs, alcohol, art and the like,k but good sex is much better, I reckon). I don't want to take even the smallest risk that this might happen.
Now I know that this might seem a trivial and selfish reason (but it is only one of many for me), but I know myself better than you or anyone else might know me. And I know that ruined sexual life would ruin my whole life and subsequently the life of my child through my own unhappiness.

November 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Ouch. That's an unfair blow to midwives, in my opinion. What I was trying to say is that I feel you have a better chance of having understanding/compassion with another woman - OB or midwife - versus a male OB. Just my opinion.

There is a spectrum when it comes to midwives and MDs for that matter.My midwives in VA had a very soft, if any, crunch. Their main goal was to be an advocate for laboring women and to work with them to achieve the birth that they desired. Don't see anything wrong with that!

Have you seen the razor for men that is to be used in places besides the face? I wonder how popular that is going to be! Maybe things are starting to change! :)

November 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

What an amazing post (actually, 2 amazing posts) about the subject.

I'm on the other spectrum - I loved pregnancy and I thought labour was the best experience I've ever had. In the end, we walked away with a positive birth experience (even though I needed to be induced, which was not what I had planned on). My partner said I hardly made a sound during the entire thing, but I could hear other women screaming in the other birthing rooms, and I wished so badly to make their experience better for them too.

Sure, I grimaced at the touch of my baby's head crowning - but I wouldn't give each uncomfortable sensation up for anything.

I suffered from panic attacks due to agoraphobia before pregnancy, but never suffered them during. I did have a couple of sessions with a social worker (because of the agoraphobia and because of past sexual abuse) during pregnancy just to make sure I was okay, but I didn't really need it.

I think the only advice I can other women about it is to really embrace your confidence in your own body. Your body knows what it's doing - it's your mind that doesn't. Trust in your body that it's doing what is natural and right, and work every day at the mental barriers that your facing.

Find good care before, during and after pregnancy. Talk it out now with your partner, friends, health care professionals.

It's such an amazing experience, and I'd hate for a woman to miss out on it if they can be helped

December 1, 2007 | Unregistered Commentertracey

Tracey,

I know that you mean it well, but this is exactly what I've been hearing repeated from the "earth mother" squad since I began debating my problem with other people on the internet. This is exactly that kind of rhetoric that makes me want to scream: I'm not you, for Godssake! Do what you think is best for you and let other people do the same!
People are different and they have different conceptions of themselves and their bodies. I guess you must agree with me on this. So, because people are different, I'm therefore different from you. I'm not a fan of letting my body do what it wants. I'm a fan of total control over my body. And labour is a total and complete loss of control over my body, total and complete loss of my privacy and a situation that puts me at mercy of strangers that will be touching me and watching my most intimate and private parts. And it will be hours and hours of excruciating pain when all the nice nurses will be telling me that the baby is worth it and it's only natural to be humiliated like this (when I will be only thinking about killing myself). In the end they will cut my vagina (yes, my dearest little pussy) with scissors like a piece of meat and then they will sew it. And after all that I'm supposed to be exhilirated to be a mother and if I'm not and I'm only shocked and traumatized and see my baby as a the culprit of all this, I will be put into an asylum. I'm shivering with rage as I'm writing this that something like this happens to most women all over the world and this is not the worst I can imagine. I haven't even mentioned the unsympathetic or even cruel personnel and permanent demage to the baby and me that can occur.

No, thank you very very much. I'd rather undergo a controlled surgery and suffer the consequences of that. Is it now a little bit more clear what is the view of childbirth of tokophobic women? Do you think I could change it during a couple of sessions with a therapist?

I don't understand one thing, though. Why all the women that chose vaginal birth or natural birth etc. for them, are so upset about other women that just don't want to take this way? Why do you keep persuading us when you know that it's useless?

December 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm a different anonymous but I wonder - is there a similar word or feeling to describe those who have those same negative emotions towards breastfeeding as other anonymous describes towards the idea of a vaginal birth?

December 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am the poster who sent the article about Helen Mirren to our navelgazing friend. I must agree with the previous poster, in that Tracey clearly means well, but her reaction illustrates just how far we have to go in getting the right support for our phobia. Let me be emphatic: this is not, *not* going away, people. It is not going to be treated, at least for most of us. It is an incredible force that causes real damage in our lives. Collectively, if we could "out" ourselves and meet and talk, others would be astounded at the damage this phobia has caused our lives. Just the unwanted abortions and lost relationships alone are tragic. I pursued treatment for this at least twice with excellent therapists. It ain't goin' away, pal. We need and *deserve* to be respected and given the type of birth we can handle. Expecting us to permanently damage our mental health with a vaginal birth is entirely too much to ask. I don't deserve years of emotional and mental misery just to have a child. What kind of mother is that??? And conscious, vaginal birth will cause a mental health crisis for me. It's hard enough to be a new mother, but going into motherhood on psyche meds, psychotic, suicidal, with PTSD and PPD is just a little much--especially when it can be prevented. The #1 thing people can do for us is accept that this is our issue, our problem, and you can't cure it. Support us in our unorthodox needs, understanding that this is the best we can do and all of your advocacy in the world isn't going to change the outcome. Focus on helping us get a baby the only way we can--however the tokophobe can manage it. We understand the risks we are taking. We are taking these risks because there is NO ALTERNATIVE. It is hell to be my age--45--and watch my fertility ebb away because I couldn't find the help I needed so I NEVER had the chance to have a child. EVER. Would you want that? Do you want that for your daughter/granddaugher/self??? Here I am, at the end of my reproductive cycle, and I never was able to get the help I needed. It wouldn't be so bad for other people if I were the only one, but clearly, I am not. Try to see it this way: there are young women out there, and even on this board, who are suffering from the same phobia. Don't make them live the way I am living. When my mother dies--and she is still P.O.'d that I never had a child--I will be alone. That's right, alone. Let's keep the younger girls from suffering this way. Let's advocate that they get the birth they can handle, not necessairly what others *think* they should handle or think they should experience. It's not about you, it's about the phobic. But don't take my word for it: ask our navelgazing midwife--would you want me for a patient? I betcha not!

December 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

As a man, it is harder I think to automatically imagine, without experience at childbirth, having my flesh go through it. I can attest to the loss of control though. I have chronic pain and chronically ill. It has made me realize that I never had as much control as I thought. To live with your lack of control, and the consequences of it, thrust in your face is very difficult, though.

I can attest to the lack of understanding. Some people lack the experience or imagination necessary to understand an experience or how that's how it must be. They do not understand how it is to be chronically ill - and to try to function in a world that assumes you're healthy. They may well not know such a thing is possible.

I think it has more to do with personality and medical culture than gender per se. My mother had an excellent male OB, and a negligent female one who discharged her from hospital without an exam. Men should be able to learn, at least with experience, to compassionate patients including women undergoing childbirth.

The problem seems to me to be more rooted in a medical culture that sometimes takes only the doctor's supposedly completely subjective view as the be-all and end all - and sometimes gently laughs at us, not realizing how it is to someone lacking the power of knowledge and experience. A good doctor, midwife etc. should realize how important it is that you get the chance to discuss your concerns - even if they know a given fear is groundless in fact.

As far as C/S for 50% of births - isn't that way out of line with medical norms? I think the news said 27% is the average, and even that was considered too much because of the risks; some women are apparently given them without a reason, psychological or medical. I wonder if some doctors who fear doing them may be dominated by a fear of endangering their patients.

I'm also curious about what the ethics are about doing something if it in fact raises the risks significantly but alleviates suffering -including if such alleviation would increase risk to the child but not the mother. I know little about this.

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSam

For me, passing up the epidural was a way to keep control over things. No being able to move, having a "hot spot", etc was not what I was up for.

Control, for me, was being able to switch positions when I desired, walk whenever, urinate in the toilet vs a Foley, get up after delivery and use the bathroom, etc.

This was my issue, not the RNs. I am a RN, and I have no problem doing this for patients. For me, it was asking my co-workers to do this, and it was just a hang up of mine.

I had IV narcs with my first, and it really threw me for a loop. It was the middle of the night so I was tired to begin with, but I just couldn't "wake up" and shake it off. Sort of like when you've had a little too much to drink and you are trying to be in control, but can only do so much.

We have a very high section rate - not 50 but 49%, and there are many factors for this. I hate to say that most of it is MD impatience. They all cover for each other, and after hours, when it's not their patient to begin with, their patience is minimal.

December 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

To Sam-
As to the ethical questions you pose, I think that it is ethical to increase *possible* risk as an althernative to *near certain* risk of psychological suffering when discussing the mother. When discussing risk to the baby, consider both the long term and mental effects of both c/s and vaginal birth. While I don't not, despite my own tokophobia, think c/s is a great thing, I by no means think we should automatically deny it to those who feel unable to birth otherwise. There may be physical risks to the baby from anethesia, etc. during c/s, but also consider the emotional/psychological damage to the child later in life if it learns of the trauma of its mother, or has a mother so depressed she is hardly able mother at all. No one wants to hurt babies, but the woman matters too.
One person mentioned here how she was worried about losing her sex life after birth and therefore living vicariously through her child. I do think that this can happen if birth is traumatic enough and/or if prior abuse had happened. I think so becuase this sounds like my mom. She had stalled labor from demerol and then needed pitocin. I heard repeatedly how bad it was. Although I know she felt that she was violated sexually earlier in life(and therefore maybe never felt valuable to a husband), I strongly think that her fear and trauma contributed to her never dating anyone for 20 years until recently, where she is perimenopausal and likely unable to conceive. I think she was afraid that if she met anyone, they would want kids and ask her to do it again. She's always said "no-way".
I do not advocate either way. I, like most here, want those considering c/s to be aware of risks and those who do not suffer what we do to try to be objective and non-judgemental. I just say, consider the degree of risk associated with each choice and go from there.
It is nice to hear a man weigh in with compassion, it can be so hard to explain to the man you love. Hope this helps you decide.

December 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"As to the ethical questions you pose, I think that it is ethical to increase *possible* risk as an althernative to *near certain* risk of psychological suffering when discussing the mother."

I do feel that this is a misleading statement. If these were the only two options available, I would probably agree.

However, one could also look at it as being unethical to increase *possible* risk to the child, when there is the option of not increasing the risk for the child or risking psychologically scarring the mother. Adoption exists.

I feel that it is never ethical to increase possible risk to the child (obvious disclaimers exist: sometimes the only options available are risky ones). I also feel that part of being a parent is putting someone else ahead of yourself in your decisions.

I realize that this sounds harsh (and will not be a popular opinion, here). I also realize that some will feel that this is the same prejudice they're coming up against everywhere. But as I'm considering the safety issues for the children, I do not feel that my questioning the reasoning of that original statement is unfair.

December 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterN

The comments are starting to deteriorate into name-calling and intolerance for another person's opinion and feelings, so I am editing/censoring the comments until civility can return. For those of you who haven't gotten your comments published, if you'd like to re-do them in a more humane tone, I will gladly publish your intense thoughts. They *can* be shared without daggers.

December 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

To Navelgazing Midwife-
Both the article itself and the dicussion that ensued afterward are very interesting. Thank you for sharing, and for opening this up to discussion. I've learned a lot. Thank you even more, perhaps, for continuing to take the time to mediate, here.

December 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"As to the ethical questions you pose, I think that it is ethical to increase *possible* risk as an althernative to *near certain* risk of psychological suffering when discussing the mother."

n said: "I do feel that this is a misleading statement. If these were the only two options available, I would probably agree.

However, one could also look at it as being unethical to increase *possible* risk to the child, when there is the option of not increasing the risk for the child or risking psychologically scarring the mother. Adoption exists.

I feel that it is never ethical to increase possible risk to the child (obvious disclaimers exist: sometimes the only options available are risky ones). I also feel that part of being a parent is putting someone else ahead of yourself in your decisions."

i wrote that, and it is not a misleading statement. For women who want biological children, these are the only two options. I agree that adoption is fine if biological relation is not a concern of the woman/couple.
When women want a biological child, the likelihood that they will suffer mental or emotional truama is likely, much more so than the possible physical risk to a baby during a c/s. That said (again, no one wants to hurt babies), it is not fair per se to say that the mother should sacrafice to protect the child, because for a tokophobe suffering a traumatizing birth, she isnt protecting it. The trauma she suffers will indirectly, but with more long term consequences, also hurt the baby. The stories that child will hear about birth and the other connotations that the child will form about children and birth because of her trauma will only follow the child into adulthood and make it suffer,esp if the child is a girl. I know this because it is me and my mom. I do not hold her completely responsible for my feelings, and I know she did not mean for anything bad to come about from her telling me over and over again thru my life how bad it was. She clearly has unresolved fear & anxiety(hasOCD i think, since she was a teen, but it has not been formally diagnosed) about my birth, and never did it again out of that fear. Trust me, children can suffer from the mental trauma of the mother. I think she told me simply because she didn't think she had anyone else to talk to. No one seemed to think that, afterwards, there was anything to complain about-anything to resolve. Afterall, aren't women told that it's worth it (which it may be) adn that you forget the pain? She got blown off. And yes, I do know that postpartum depression/PTSD are more recognized now and are treatable with therapy. However, with the stigma attached to tokophobes, i think many would be unlikely to seek out help. Anyone I've talked to either thinks i'm exaggerating, completely irrational, or should just get over it.
While i would not want to have gotten some physical deformity from birth, if she had been tokophobic before I was born, I wouldn't have blamed her for doing what she had to do. I sure don't like the consequences that exist now.
Whether it's ethical or not boils down to what degree of risk for mother and baby respectively, and what you're risking, mental or physical health. It may never be ethical to increase possible risk to a child, but the damage to the mother is also a risk. That is what you weigh.

December 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Reading through the comments, here, there are so many women saying similar things that this is obviously a real problem. I don't think you're exaggerating or irrational.

I also wasn't trying to imply that woment should suffer through a birth they aren't equipped to handle, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. I do believe that the damage to the mother would be real and that it would probably result in damage to the child as well. I'm sorry if I came off as implying otherwise, that was not my goal. Truly, I am also sorry to hear about your mother.

My entire point was that, I think adoption should always be one of the considerations. Ethically, I think it's worth rethinking the need for a biological child if the only available options, there, are putting the child at increased risk and putting the mother at definite risk. That was what I was referring to when I mentioned feeling that being a parent involves putting someone else first--just that it might be worth giving up carrying your own child to avoid the risk, not that I think anyone should have to suffer to ethically bring a child into the world.

If a tokophobe found herself with an accidental pregnancy, I agree with the considerations you mentioned being the ones you weigh.

December 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterN

N-
I'm glad we were able to better understand each other her. Personally, I dont have a problem with adoption and would maybe consider it.
However, the issue of biology is not one that the woman alone can decide. Even if biology isn't important to the woman, it may be to the man. I know my boyfriend (who I will probably marry) wants at least one child who shares his DNA. He wants lineage of his heritage (he's part Native American). I don't think it's fair to make him necessarily have to give up that profound desire (the same desire many other men and women get) to have his own progeny becuase of my fears, if there are ways to negotiate them. While I myself am terrified of birth, I will at least attempt it (under certian conditions) before getting a c/s.
Thanks for the understanding about my mom.

December 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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