The McDonaldization of birth and the effects on society

Photo credit goes to Google Images.

Photo credit goes to Google Images.

It seems America has found a way to make birth into an assembly line process.  I’ll give an example:

You go to the hospital in labor (if you are lucky and have not been induced because the doctor is going on his family vacation during the most likely time you will give birth) and they check your dilation and run a 20 minute strip.  They send you on your way to L&D and put you in a room, where you are hooked back up to the machines and get an IV going.  You can not stand the pain because you are chained to the bed, so you get an epidural.  The epidural slows your progress so they start a pitocin drip.  The pitocin makes your baby’s heart rate drop, so you need a c-section.  The doctor finishes up his c-section by 5 o’clock and gets home in time for dinner.  You do not get to see your baby for a few hours because he has to go to the NICU, or you are stuck in post-op, or whatever.  So you never get your skin-to-skin time. Breastfeeding gets off to a bad start. You get postpartum depression because of the emotional trauma of an unplanned, unwanted c-section.  You never start parenting the way you wish you could, so you give up.

How many stories like this have you heard or read about?  How many mothers go through this everyday?

I have to imagine it, at least partially, explains why attachment parenting seems like an unattainable goal to some.  And I am not just talking about the checklist of breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, etc.  It seems the respect for a baby or child gets lost amongst the chaos and disappointment that ensues during and after a birth like this.  A mother may just fall back on parenting techniques she grew up with, that may only be born out of tradition, rather than love.

My personal birth experience went like this:

I am poor, so qualified for Medicaid. I chose the only midwife practice in my area that accepts Medicaid.  Their statistics for c-section, induction, maternal and fetal outcomes, etc. were better than any other provider I could have chosen with Medicaid.

My pregnancy was normal and healthy.  I went over my birth plan with one of the midwives shortly before going into labor, and she put it in my file.  When I got to the hospital, I handed out my birth plan like candy, and it was entirely disregarded.

The scenario I wrote above is very similar to what happened, but my epidural never worked properly so I was paralyzed but could feel everything.  A nurse kept touching me during contractions and when I repeatedly asked her to stop, she ignored me.  Instead of a c-section, a vacuum was used and an episiotomy was given.  And when my baby exited my womb, the midwife reached her whole arm inside me and scraped out my placenta, which left a piece or two inside.  That resulted in an infection.  Every time I tried to walk, pee, or poop, I screamed from the pain, for a week, even though I was taking ibuprofen and Vicodin.

For some reason, I did not get to see my baby for 7 hours.  I knew he was healthy, and there was nothing wrong with him.  When I did see him, I doubted if he was my baby. I had troubles with breastfeeding, (my baby was breastfeeding perfectly and knew what to do, but I had no clue, was confused, disoriented, etc.).

I got postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder.  Fourteen months later, I still get flashbacks and have bouts of insomnia.  For the first few months of my baby’s life, I did not really want him.  I was having panic attacks, especially when he cried.  I was under additional stress because my son’s father could not find a job and we were living with my in-laws.

My in-laws kept trying to tell me how to parent my baby; how I should feed him, how I should dress him, how he should sleep, etc.  Because I was so vulnerable, for a couple months, I listened to them.

When I got pregnant, I researched extensively about pregnancy, birth, and caring for a baby.  But when I gave birth, it all went out the window. It was as if nothing ever happened or existed before that event.  When I finally got my brain back, and started therapy, I actually started mothering my baby how I knew he should be.

I am certain that the McDonaldization of birth has a very negative impact on our society as a whole.  And I can’t help but wonder if the USA would be a more peaceful country if the way women brought life into this world was done peacefully, and without harm.  I don’t think the damage done by the McDonaldization of birth is reversible, but it certainly is preventable.  I hope we find a way to change these damaging, harmful, traumatic birth practices into compassion, consideration, and peace surrounding birth.  But I fear it won’t happen in at least my lifetime.

How do you think the McDonaldization of birth affects American society and the way Americans parent?  Is it preventable?  Reversible?  What can we, as individuals, do to change it?  What would the USA look like without the McDonaldization of birth?


Any thoughts?

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