Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Why I understand my Pregnancy and Birth Choices as Political Action

Whether by nature or by constructive design I am a feminist in every way that I understand feminism to mean. Whilst I happily debate with many and often myself about the historical inclusionary, exclusionary and culturally specific aspects of feminist thinking, I have always stood in agreement with one traditional argument – there is no separation between the personal and the political, my personal is public and everything about it is intensely political.

It all comes down to the intriguing concept of ‘choice’, I am never one to take semantics lightly particularly concerning this word and its array of meanings in the English language. The moment I make a choice I am practicing conscious action based upon my political beliefs and feelings as a woman, in whatever environment I am in at that time. I am fully aware that such choice making is a privilege given to me by my social position and geographical location in the world, dependent upon my access to varied knowledge sources, freedom to act and speak without physical or legal repression and the influence of the hundreds of women dead, alive and yet to be born whom I take inspiration from.

Knowledge (or stuff and info), lived experience and emotional memory drive the choices I make; I would admit the latter dominates whether consciously or not. It has taken until my third pregnancy to reflect upon the politics in my personal reproductive choices and behaviour and until now to construct the confidence needed to defend myself against a status quo of a medicalised appropriation of women's bodies.

At 36, female bodily experience and the immense surge of power I feel when with foetus has finally led me to be proud, confident and happy about the choices I am making for the life of my womb and its contents, due to physically separate at birth. My studies have led me recently into the realms of foetal subjectivities that are at once fascinating and mind blowing. I have become seduced by the writings of French philosopher Julia Kristeva who attempts to find ways of explaining what may or may not begin in the womb, from the moment of conception: or what she so eloquently names the semiotic chora – the poetry of the pre-lingual. I find it nourishing to think about how my actions now may impact on the formation of the new human currently growing from my body, I also love the ideas of social scientist Barbara Duden who writes in her book Disembodying Women of the foetus as an astronaut who travels the length of the female body, influencing every aspect of it and societies claims upon its vessel. It is this literature that reminds me every day that choice is political practice and should never be taken for granted.

I am proud to say that I have denied registering my pregnancy with my GP and state maternity care; I have researched and hired an independent midwife who pops by only upon my request and chats without laying a finger on my body and who trusts me to know my own body; I have chosen no external interventions such as ultrasound, urine and blood testing; I am returning to the place and people where I feel emotionally drawn to birth; and most importantly I am taking full responsibility for my pregnancy and birth decisions because I choose to do so including any consequences that come along with that responsibility.

I understand my decisions as no better or worse than any other pregnant woman, I am doing what I feel is the correct, political thing to do based upon who I am and how I understand it is to be a woman. Even in the most life affirming, sensitive, beautiful and painful moments of my life I cannot deny that politics creates the situation I and my children are in.