Extreme isn’t even the word for Friday night's 20/20 on ABC. Bizarre was more like it. I was extremely disappointed that topics such as thinking a baby doll was real was mixed with extremely extended breastfeeding. I have a hard time understanding that orgasmic birth is seen as just as “extreme,” but I suppose it is. The segments on Friday night’s 20/20 were a mismatch of oddities mixed with small doses of causes/wishes I can get myself behind. The first segment was on orgasmic birth.
Extreme isn’t even the word for Friday night's 20/20 on ABC. Bizarre was more like it. I was extremely disappointed that topics such as thinking a baby doll was real was mixed with extremely extended breastfeeding. I have a hard time understanding that orgasmic birth is seen as just as “extreme,” but I suppose it is.
The segments on Friday night’s 20/20 were a mismatch of oddities mixed with small doses of causes/wishes I can get myself behind.
The first segment was on orgasmic birth.
While filmmaker Debra Pascali-Bonaro tried to explain there isn’t a goal of orgasmic birth, that it isn’t a competition, but that pleasure in birth can be a possibility for some women... and a more pleasurable birth is available for all women... her words were squashed by images of a woman clearly having an amazing, continuously orgasmic birth.
In reading complaints about the show, the issue of combining orgasms with one’s child squicks many. I’m not sure how to adequately explain that the child isn’t being used for pleasure, but the experience of labor and birth are sensuous even without the addition of the expulsion explosion. Sexual abuse information is so pervasive in our society, it isn’t unusual that many someones would use it to mix up the birth-orgasm-as-child-abuse topic. I am pretty surprised 20/20 didn’t address this aspect, but I think there was enough other fodder for them to pull from.
Those of us in the know understand that orgasmic/pleasurable/tolerable births are more likely to happen at home than at the hospital. The home environment is much more conducive to the possibilities of sensuousness than a glaringly lit and stranger (and germ)-laden hospital. How comfy are we in hospital gowns open down the back, tied in two places that are designed to pull the gown (and choke us!) as we sit and (re-)arrange ourselves on the oh-so-small single hospital bed that makes more gyrations than most women are “allowed” to do? Over and over, when women choose nudity over the gowns, I watch uncomfortable nurses and doctors draping contracting women with sheets. I will never forget the client that was so tired of having her nudity covered, she took the sheet the nurse kept putting on her and puked on it. The nurse didn’t try to cover her again.
Logistically speaking, hospital births provide barriers to intimacy – or even mere tenderness. Bars on single beds, beds raised high in the air, women stripped of their own clothes, wires, tubes and electrodes push the women further and further from those who love her. “Honey, you are so yummy with that IV in your arm, those wires coming out of your choo-chach and that sexy cotton shift.” Yeah, baby.
Not that birth is necessarily a sexual experience. For some, I suppose it could be described as such, but I would venture to guess that we just don’t have enough words to describe the sensations in another way but sexual. You know, like Eskimos have hundreds of words for “snow” because there are so many types? I believe if we talked about the variety of genital stimulations possible and invented new words to describe them, delightful birth sensations would have a very distinct verbiage that is far from the same we’d use for sex.
The second segment on Reborns was scary and disturbing – and really distressing that they included these freaky women in a show on mothering.
Reborns, you’ll see in the link, are dolls that are made to look like real babies. Apparently, there are (mentally ill) women who treat these dolls as if they were their own children, feeding them, changing them, throwing them birth day parties, sleeping with them, creating whole nurseries for them – and taking them out in public as if they were real! When strangers coo and ah over the babies, they don’t admit they are dolls unless someone actually touches the doll and feels how cold they are. One of the women disclosed that she loved doing this because it gave her attention. Hey, woman... GET A HOBBY!
When asked why these women don’t just adopt a baby, Sarah, who was VERY agitated with this segment, turned to me and said, “Because they don’t allow loony tunes to adopt children!”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The third segment on extended breastfeeding will be, I believe, responsible for millions of weanings over the next few weeks.
Watching this, my most visceral reactions were amusing and interesting (if I were to look at them objectively).
I was a La Leche League leader who nursed three kids for six months and two kids for 2.5 years. I have known hundreds of women who extended nursed... until about five. I knew of one who nursed until six. I also acknowledge the average age of weaning in the world is four years old, meaning some kids nurse until 6-7 (especially given that the grand majority of kids in our own culture are weaned at or near birth).
But the thing is, you never saw it because they weren’t nursing like newborns – they were nursing a couple of times a day at the most.
If I was shocked (and yes, mildly disgusted) watching this segment, what then were the majority of women (and men) thinking?
Again, looking at myself from afar, I find it interesting to see that I have limits to what I can agree with(? approve of?).
How the thoughts are jumbled in my head:
•- Can’t you just stay in your own home and do that? Why are you nursing a 6-year old in the mall? What kind of shock value are you trying to obtain?
•- But, we shouldn’t be hiding any breastfeeding. If more women nursed toddlers in public, then there wouldn’t be the shock value anymore.
•- Kids that old can be reasoned with and told they can’t nurse outside the home. Grow some ovaries and set some limits.
•- But some kids need to nurse longer than others.
•- I could see nursing a 7-year old if I lived in Somolia and they needed the nourishment, but we choose to live in this culture and need to adhere to the constraints of society.
•- If we listened to society, we’d only nurse under blankets and in bathrooms. We’d also only marry men.
They briefly brought up fathers' feelings about extended breastfeeding (and Sarah yelled at the screen, "What does he have to do with anything?!") and, happily, the fathers were all supportive. However, having worked with women whose partners were anything but supportive, I know how tied to success nursing is with a spouse's approval. This is the main reason I can see babies/toddlers being weaned even as I write this. "I'll be damned if you're nursing a 7-year old!! Get that kid off your boob NOW!"
I’ve bared my thoughts. Feel free to have yours, too.
Serial surrogate mothers were highlighted next and sure, I can see finances pushing a woman to be a surrogate more than once or twice. That money would be handy in most households and if all you have to do is get pregnant and have a baby, then why not? You are giving a family an incredible gift – they are reciprocating with an equally wonderful gift.
So, in the last segment the topic of homebirth was tackled. Well, let me re-state that. Homebirth/Unassisted Birth was addressed. Yes, that’s right, the seamless intertwining of homebirth as an extreme sport and UC showed that the producers/writers of 20/20 just didn’t get (or didn’t care) that the two are worlds apart.
As if they were the same, Laura Shanley yacked about her agenda and in the next frame was Abby Epstein from Business of Being Born. As expected, they showed Abby’s dramatic ride to the hospital as she precipitously birthed her premature breech baby.
UC us extreme. Homebirth is not.
I’ve watched the segment a couple of times now and I am not really sure what the public will take away from the piece; will they see UC? Or homebirth? What will the message ultimately be?
All I can do is what I can do... keep writing about homebirth as a normal choice for women, disclosing the dangers of UC and explaining my reasoning (and proof!) of both.
If you haven’t seen the 20/20 yet – please do go. If nothing else, your hackles will be raised by at least one of the topics!