Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Reproductive rights: personhood shouldn’t be the question

The illogical and frankly horrifying “personhood” amendment in Mississippi — which would have made having a miscarriage or using hormonal birth control methods legally equal to manslaughter or murder and likely ceased many fertility treatments — failed yesterday, and, though I’m shaken by how close it came to passing, I am also so, so thankful, and no little amount relieved. The function of the law would have made having and using a uterus in Mississippi a sentence to chattel status — not as a poorly planned side effect, but as intended purpose. I cannot understate how vital it is that any similar law or amendment be defeated.

But.

I have misgivings about some of the rhetoric around these misogynist proposals. Not just the dishonest and bigoted shite coming from the side of their advocates, but from “my” side, as well, as we try to argue our way to avoiding becoming nothing more than government owned gestators.

Because Vulva Baby is a person. And she was the day she was born. And: she was the day before that, too.

I have said again and again that children are people, and babies are people, and assholes have mocked the hell out of me for that. Yes, these amendments absolutely must be roundly and thoroughly crushed, because they are functionally evil. But the argument of non-women-haters shouldn’t be “fetuses aren’t people”, because… who says? I know Vulva Baby was as much a person on Aug 31 as she was Sept 1. I know it, and no amount of anti-personhood rhetoric, no matter how much I want it to succeed at its cause, will convince me otherwise. But on Aug 31, though a person, she was a person inside me, dependent on me, fully intertwined with me. That’s the difference that makes all the difference, not any personhood or lack thereof. And no, she wasn’t a “person” on January or February 1, but, if I’d miscarried then, as I was afraid I was doing, I would have mourned. Mostly the lost potential, but also, partly, the tiny spark that was, then, her. That became, sometime in the next several months, this tiny person who now rests beside me.

We have no concept of interdependence, culturally, and a loathing of liminal states. We distrust if not abhor spectrums, and strive for absolutes: either a zygote is absolutely a person, or a 40 week fetus absolutely isn’t, because if it’s aught else, then we’d have to grapple with complexities and grey states and elucidating less sound-bite-friendly reasons to support our side. But when we shy from that, we lose so much. We lose truth, we lose common ground, and we lose the beauty of the growing person-within-a-person of a chosen pregnancy.

Fetuses should have no legal rights, because they reside wholly within the domain of the bearer of the uterus which houses them. But part of that domain should be the right to declare “this is a person”. No one else should get to do that — or deny us that.

Guest post: Birthing at Home

Amanda Llorens, of Mommies are Light, Daddies are Dark, is 1/3 soon-to-be 1/4 of a kickass multiracial family. She talks about race, LGBT rights, adventures in parenting and their experiences as a multiracial family — and today, she writes about why she is planning a homebirth with her second child. Although I birthed both our children at home, and so don’t have the hospital experience to contrast it to, her reasons are largely similar to mine.

Note: Although I do not require that every commenter agrees with the choice to birth at home, this is not a place for debate. Bear in mind that regardless of what you would choose for yourself, choice of birth place and attendants is and must be a part of any authentic reproductive rights movement.

Birthing at Home

By Amanda Llorens

There’s an African proverb that likens giving birth to crossing a narrow bridge.  You might have help on either side, but when it comes to the actual crossing, you’re on your own.  I’m due for my second narrow bridge crossing in early December.  When I went into labor with my first child, I remember getting strong urges to run off into the woods and have the baby alone.  Even fully immersed in the throws of labor, I was aware that literally having a baby in the woods was not a viable option.  In retrospect though, I realize that something deep down was yearning for a peaceful, secure, and familiar space to give birth.  This time around, I intend to get closer to what my body and soul were asking for.

I gave birth to my son in a hospital, supported by family, a doula, and a well-respected midwife group.  He came a little early at 36 weeks and 6 days.  I’d planned on a waterbirth in a hospital but because my son came early, neither birthing nor laboring in the water was an option.  In fact, even if he’d been full term, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to use a tub since the hospital only had two they were both already in use by the time I arrived.  Nevertheless, our birth experience was pretty good, as hospital births go.  There were no complications, and we had a healthy baby boy.  Still, two hours into a three-hour pushing session, our midwives changed shifts.  Needless to say, it completely threw me off.  In fact, it actually made me angry at the time.  The new midwife had a very different bedside manner and even told me that my previous pushing had been unproductive, so none of it “counted.”

Although my hospital experience didn’t leave me traumatized, it did leave me wanting more from my birth experience.  The hours and days after the birth had consisted of constant messages coming through the intercoms and nurses coming in to check on the baby, check on me, or run one of a dizzying number of different tests.  Then, just as we established a rapport with one nurse or another, their shifts would change.  I’d  left the hospital completely in love with my son, but completely exhausted. With all of the various interruptions, sleep had been nearly impossible.  The shower had been dirty and the cuisine was often greasy cafeteria food.  They’d even strongly encouraged me to give my son formula while we were just getting to know each other and trying to figure out breastfeeding.

This time around, I’m more confident in my own body.  Not only can it grow people from scratch, but it has successfully birthed a pretty amazing little person and it’s getting ready to do it again.

So, after years of knowing that women before the 1900s all birthed their babies at home, that home birth is as safe as a hospital birth for a normal pregnancy and that home births mean a reduced chance of unnecessary medical interventions, I finally sat down and asked what I really wanted for my future daughter and myself at our birth experience.  It’s one of the most special moments we will ever share as mother and daughter.  I will, with a push and a breath, push her out into the world to fill her lungs with air for the first time.  The two of us deserve a peaceful, secure, and familiar space in which to share that moment.

When I bring my daughter into the world, I’d like to be surrounded by the sounds, smells and comforts that I am used to.  During my last pregnancy, I labored at home for around 12 hours and felt totally safe and secure.  It wasn’t until I got in the car to head to the hospital that I started to get tense.  Then, sitting in triage in mid-contraction, I felt less like I was about to experience the most amazing day of my life and more like I had some disease that needed to be cured.  Then, to top it off, I went wrong somewhere while fastening what seemed like a thousand snaps on my hospital gown.  I remember looking down and realizing that my breasts and butt were exposed.  Talk about distracting.  This time around, I want a calm experience.  I want to be surrounded by things that remind me of how much I love my life and my family.  I want my son to be able to see his little sister and stay as long as we want him to.  I want to sleep in my own bed, with my husband, the night after I give birth.  I want to eat healthy food, prepared with our family in mind.

My birth team will consist of some pretty awesome people.  First, my husband, the only other
person in the world who loves our children as much as I do.  A man I’ve been with since I was 19 and he was 20.  The one person in the world who knows me as well as I know myself.  Second, our midwife, who is guaranteed to be the one “on call” since she has a solo practice.  She is a certified nurse midwife, a registered nurse, and has a bachelor of science in nursing, a master of science, and some other certifications I don’t even understand.  She also happens to be one of the warmest, kindest people I’ve met.  She has 21 years of birth experience in hospitals, at birth centers and at home births.  Third, the doula and childbirth educator from our son’s birth who is now the birth assistant for our current midwife.  There is something very special about knowing that two of the people that supported me while bringing my son into the world will also be there with me this time.  Both of these women have children.  Both of these women enjoy birth and are committed to supporting mothers and their babies as they journey through one of the most important experiences of their lives.

Don’t believe the hype.  My midwife isn’t going to show up with a bag of herbs and some happy thoughts.  She’ll bring along oxygen, medications for clotting if the need arises and all kinds of other important medical supplies you’d find in a hospital.  I have the choice to decide if I want my baby to get a vitamin K shot and the erythromicin eye ointment.  Birthing at home, I’m more likely not to get an episiotomy or any other intervention unless I really need it.  In some hospitals, you have to be very explicit and insistent to achieve that same kind of outcome.  In the event that something does go wrong, my midwife will call the emergency room nearby and I’ll be transferred there.  In the event that I need an emergency c-section, we’re lucky enough to be located about 7 minutes by foot from the hospital.  Technically, my husband could pull me there by sled (remember, it’ll be December), but an ambulance or a car will get me there much faster.  Most emergency c-sections require a 30-minute operating room (OR) prep so they’d still be prepping the OR while we checked in and got settled.

We’re planning to birth in water, but if meconium is present or something else about the situation changes, we may not have that chance.  If I do birth in water, I am less likely to tear than I would be birthing out of the water at a hospital.  People ask if I’m worried about the clean up afterward, but more than likely, the birth team will handle it.  Unless I have some sort of major hemorrhage, I likely won’t notice the clean up just like I didn’t notice them grab the Chux pad and sheet from under me at the hospital.

After all, I’ll be giving birth to a baby, not having a major surgery in my basement.

Whose uterus is it? A poem and a polemic

Flipping, squirming, hiccuping being inside
me
my
belly moves, bulges, requires
tables to be shifted
my
body to be shifted
my
gait and stride and way
I
move through the world
to be shifted
to make room, one day, for
not-me

*****

Whose uterus is it?

Increasingly, it seems, not the person in whose body it resides, not when US states have to debate — though most aren’t even doing that — whether to compensate women they insulted and forcibly sterilized, when pregnant athletes are banned from sports, when, not long-ago but right now, women face murder charges for pregnancy or neonatal losses, when women are being stripped of rights and social supports and we can’t even get the powers that be to acknowledge this systematic attack.

There are two unique genetic signatures here in this chair, but only one body. Two heartbeats, but one flesh that interacts with the world. The person-ification of the parasite within me, the extent to which I am I-and-other, is for me to decide — not strangers who wish to rub my belly, not family who speak of “our baby”, not governments who would criminalize my choices not for their effect on my fellow citizens but for perceived damage to the flesh-in-and-of-my-flesh.

I am not heartless, not lacking in sentimentality, not ignorant of the profundity of the person-creation that is procreation, of the of-me-but-not-me-ness of the being within me. But as long as it is within me, sustained by me, symbiotic with me as no other stage of existence can be; as long as this is so, no one has the right to dictate or regulate my rights, my choices, my self as though it is not my body who will bear those burdens.

Because, whatever you may say, it is my uterus.

Private