Thursday, February 3, 2011

Radical Homemakers

As a midwife one gets lots of phone calls, quick questions, and requests from pregnant women. Mostly, these women are not my clients. They ask about how to turn their baby, does their weight gain sound normal, what's a gestational diabetes test, etc....Most of these questions don't come from my clients because we discuss these things, they are out in the open, transparent for the both of us to grapple with and resolve. The fears of a pregnant woman are nothing to be dismissed, in fact the further they are buried, the more likely they are to rear their ugly head at inopportune moments (i.e. labor). It often leaves me wondering how as a people we have become so out of touch with the flowering and bearing fruit of our species. Or perhaps we know too much, the technologies peeking into hypothetical drawers not meant for our eyes. Once opened though, we can't forget the drawers contents. In the past did women really worry about 'back labor' in their fifth month of pregnancy? Did midwives need an ultrasound machine to tell them which way the baby was facing? Who had a scale?!

I found a piece of the answer in Shannon Hayes's book, Radical Homemakers. In it she talks about how so many of our basic skills and economies have been usurped by corporations thereby swapping what she dubs 'a life serving economy' for ' an extractive economy'. She implores us to switch back. What is midwifery if not life serving? Do I dare say that obstetrics(think almost a 35% national cesarean rate) is extractive in the true sense of the word?! I found Hayes's book compelling. It offered reasons why so many women who choose the cookie cutter model of obstetrical care are often the ones calling me with burning unanswered questions. Like food, clothing and even education, the art and science of obstetrics has been co-opted by economic interests. Discussing with a woman how to possibly influence her GBS status, how to avoid a posterior labor, or even what constitutes a good baby growing diet, would not serve an extractive economy. It would take too much time and wouldn't pay so well.

When I get these queries from women who often see a new doctor at each visit, I feel for them. They are not blossoming from the care they are receiving.Rather their trust in themselves and their bodies, is literally being extracted. Doubt often creeps in. Midwifery on the other hand is life sustaining for both mother and midwife. It is a personal relationship with someone in your community who shops at the same grocery stores you do, who breathes the same air, plays at the same parks. This is the soil upon which new life is brought forth. It begins with a family and folds into community. It is an honest relationship brokered on trust. Just like we are discovering that local food is superior in terms of quality, environmental impact, and even taste, I hope that sentiment spreads to mothers and babies. Look for local, sustainable midwives and birth. Build a real community for your baby from day one.

Radical Homemaker is a fascinating read with lots of history of how we got to where we are in terms of a largely consumer society rather than producing to meet most of our needs. Here are some quotes I liked from the Radical Homemaker:

  • ..."the homemaker who simply learns to cook dinner, keep a garden, and patch blue jeans will probably not find deep fulfillment, either. Those who do not seriously challenge themselves with a genuine life plan, with the intent of taking a constructive role in society, will share the same dangers as the housewives who suffered under the mystique of feminine fulfillment; they face what Freidan called a "nonexistent future".

  • "In order to revive our culture and create a vibrant society that does not depend on a consumer driven and ecologically rapacious economy, more of us need to look homeward to create a life-nurturing alternative."

  • "The simplest and most sensible start for Radical Homemakers departing the extractive economy and building the life serving economy were the elemental practices of thrift, frugality and debt avoidance....The defining principles: are including everyone in the economic picture; capitalizing on available resources; minimizing waste; becoming net producers of goods rather than net consumers; bartering; spending money where it matters most; and understanding the concepts of "enough".

  • "Healing remedies were once standard knowledge for homemakers, right up until the industrial revolution"

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