Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday: Women's Bodies

When I was at my 38 week pregnancy appointment last week, the nurse-midwife looked at me and said, "We can begin sweeping your membranes at 39 weeks if you want." This is basically the first step in artificially inducing labor. I just stared at her. Why was she even suggesting this? I have had a textbook perfect pregnancy. I am healthy. My baby is healthy. Why would this even be suggested? It is a completely unnecessary medical procedure. More importantly, suggesting it subtly attempts to undermine my ability to trust my body to deliver my baby at the right time. Her reasoning was that some women just get impatient. Well, yeah, I can't say that having a 15lb squirmy medicine ball where my stomach used to be is particularly easy, but isn't it more important to encourage me to believe that my body is capable of triggering labor at the correct time for me and my baby?

Women's bodies are in incredibly complicated. Think about how complicated the human body is in general, and then add to the fact that women's bodies are actually designed to replicate, build and sustain another human body. Our bodies are complicated. Because of this, I have often felt challenged by my body. Between hormones and reproductive cycles and pregnancy, sometimes I feel like I have no idea what is happening in my body or how to respond to it. It can be incredibly frustrating. Yet, as I have traveled through this pregnancy, it can also be incredibly encouraging. My body is amazing in its capabilities. Truly amazing.

Unfortunately, I feel like Western medicine has bought in to this strange idea that women's bodies are perpetually broken and in need of fixing. Our bodies are viewed either as objects of lust or confusing mysterious machines that never work quite right. And there is also an utter disregard for our emotions and minds and how they affect our bodies. Lots of people will joke about how women are more emotional than men, but why aren't our feelings even a factor when discussing our bodies with doctors?

I've had conversations with two friends today who said yes to an optional (though recommended) medical procedure not because they were comfortable with the procedure, but because the doctors approached them with horror stories of what might happen if they don't go through with it. Western medicine operates out of the fear of what may be rather than having any faith that maybe if we just give a body a little time, it might do just fine. And the utter disrespect of their emotions was infuriating. We cannot disconnect how we feel from how our bodies are doing. They are always connected.

A friend once said that Satan hates women especially because we have been given the gift of bringing life into the world. As I look around at the body image issues and physical issues by which so many of my friends have been plagued, I think this is true. Our bodies and the image of them have been attacked on so many levels. How many women truly believe that their bodies are beautiful, incredible works of art and mechanics? Because they are. They are valuable for a lot more than sex (which is the only value our society seems to place on them these days). Our bodies are miraculous. It is a great tragedy that we have lost all sight of this.

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