Push Girls

Have y’all heard about the series Push Girls coming out on the Sundance Channel this June about four strong female friends who also happen to have spinal cord injuries? This show looks like it is doing so much right: strong women who hold each other up instead of tear each other down, interracial friendships, actors with disabilities playing themselves (instead of the countless roles in which able-bodied and typical actors play people with disabilities a la characters like Artie in Glee or Raymond in Rain Man). Not to mention the very real, complex, and interesting lives these women lead. The series looks like it is neither focusing solely in on disability nor ignoring it but instead include it as one dynamic in a shifting

One of the things I’m most excited about is that we follow Auti Angel, one of the Push Girls, on her journey to become pregnant and start a family. We almost never see images in the media of women with disabilities choosing parenthood. We don’t see positive portrayals (or any portrayals for that matter) of women with disabilities during pregnancy, labor and birth, or the postpartum period. I’m excited to nuance this conversation, deepen it, and look at it with all of its complexities and joys. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping she chooses a midwife, but I guess we’ll have to see. Mostly, I can’t wait to see how the show producers choose to portray Push Girls and this particular story line.

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More on Adoptees as Parents | Borders and Bridges

I think Lena raises some important questions here. Any thoughts?

I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while now…as a doula, I witness the birth of new families all the time. As an adoptee, I can’t help but wonder how this experience of becoming a parent might carry a different meaning for adoptees.

What is it like to become pregnant when your mother hasn’t experienced pregnancy?  What is it like to look into your child’s eyes and recognize yourself in someone else for the first time in your life?  Does becoming a parent kindle a desire to search for birthparents? How does becoming a parent change your perspective on your childhood and the way you were raised?  Does it make a difference, or not at all?

Read the rest of the blog post here More on Adoptees as Parents | Borders and Bridges.

Your Best Birth Reviewed at Dooce

If you haven’t read Dooce, you really should. It’s one hell of a funny blog. The author, Heather B. Armstrong, is clever and down to earth and writes in a style that makes you think you’re talking to your best, funniest friend.

Armstrong wrote a brilliant and moving review of Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. I’ve written about Your Best Birth before and I’m so pleased to see someone else (especially such a widely-read someone else) giving it such a good review.

Armstrong says:

And then, oh God, the worst thing happened. And I didn’t even see it coming, but I’m sitting there reading that book, gritting my teeth, shaking my head when all of a sudden it started to make sense. I started to see just how medicalized labor and birth have become in America AND THERE GOES MY WORLD VIEW.

I’m not going to get into the specifics and the really convincing and at times jaw-dropping statistics of it here, there are so many other places and people who can write about it better than I can, but I will say this: if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, GO READ THAT BOOK. From now on when someone asks me what is the one piece of advice I would give to a pregnant woman, it will be: GO BUY A COPY OF THAT BOOK. Listen, I am not affiliated with that book in any way, I do not know Ricki Lake, she and I do not vacation in St. Tropez together (although if she’d like to come ride four-wheelers at my Mom’s cabin in Duchesne, Utah, THE OFFER STANDS), I do not owe that publisher any favors. But IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I’m not even kidding, I’ll say it again: IT CHANGED MY LIFE.

Read the whole blog post here. I can’t wait for her to write the second part of her birth story.

H/T to Unnecesarean.

Birth Matters Virginia

Birth Matters Virginia recently held a video contest in order to raise awareness about childbirthing options for women. The entries were judged by Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, Sarah Buckley, M.D., and members of Birth Matters Virginia. Of their three top ranked videos, here is my unequivocal favorite. I love that these women come across as real, everyday women you that you can take seriously.

HT to Citizens for Midwifery

Pregnancy and Power

I recently read independent historian Rickie Solinger’s book Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America. Solinger’s central argument is that women are not accorded full personhood and cannot be fully participatory members in a society where they are not allowed to manage their own reproductive lives, a premise with which I fully agree.

Solinger’s narrative about abortion was especially eye-opening for me. She argues that abortion today is far more heavily regulated and oppressive than it was pre Roe v. Wade when abortion was outright illegal.  It floored me to read Solinger’s account of the ease with which both women (read: middle class, White women) and doctors circumvented the law to procure the medical procedures they needed. General practitioners who performed abortions were hailed for performing a necessary service. There was no harassment of individual women terminating pregnancies and little organized public outcry, even from the religious right.

Working at Planned Parenthood straight out of college, I was constantly made aware of the perilous state that abortion rights are in today. My first day at work, I was shown around the building, shown which glass was bulletproof, where the panic button was, and what to do in the case of a clinic shooting or bombing. Several times a week, we had protesters lining the streets with ugly signs and shouting uglier slogans at anyone entering the clinic. Despite the FACE act, they repeatedly tried to follow women into our parking lot or physically block their access, at which point we called the police. They took photos of everyone who worked at the clinic and I would not  be surprised if my face was on an anti-abortion site somewhere. Working in an abortion clinic today can feel like a warzone.

Pregnancy, abortion, and motherhood have heavily shaped our ideas of race, class and gender in the US. One of the most engaging aspects about this book is the Solinger breaks down the reproductive realities of women throughout time by race and class. She portrays state-legitimized motherhood, and therefore the right not to reproduce, as a class and race-based privilege. Her narratives of the reproductive lives of White middle class, White poor, African American (both pre and post slavery), Native American, and Chinese women fill a glaring gap in many of our reproductive histories.

Regarding abortions pre-Roe, it was much easier for middle class White women and women of color to obtain care than it was for poor White women. Middle class White women could afford to purchase privacy and competent medical care. In a racist, pro-eugenics era, policy makers all but encouraged women of color to have abortions so as not to produce more “inferior” children. Plus, the lives of women of color were valued less than those of middle-class White women so if these women received substandard care, the government did not spend time searching out incompetent care providers. This was of course completely unconscionable, but the effect was still that women of color had an easier time procuring abortions than poor White women.

 

For poor White women, their ability to access abortion was tied up in their race and gender. There was no question that middle class and upper class White women were White. If they transgressed the strict boundaries of their gender by not carrying a pregnancy to term, it did not call their whiteness into question. However, poor White women existed in a boundary zone, especially if they were immigrants from countries not always seen as White – Ireland, Italy, eastern Europe, etc. Solinger describes how socioeconomic class was/is inherently tied up in our ideas of race. By virtue of being low class, poor White women were seen as in danger of becoming Black. The way to rectify this unthinkable circumstance was to strictly police and enforce gender norms, one of which was bearing and raising White children who would become productive White citizens. It was poor White women who were arrested and tried in the courts if they were discovered to have received an abortion. It was poor White women who were jailed and fined for such acts. Of course middle and upper class White women were having abortions as well, but they were not transgressing race boundaries and so were allowed to do so by and large without interference.

 

As time marches on, class and race still have great effects on our ideas of who is and can be a mother, what makes a “good” mother, which mothers deserve to mother their children, and what children are worthy of being raised in “good” homes. Just look at our racialized and gendered stereotypes of the welfare system, which parents can choose to stay home and mother their children, which children get adopted, and which children wind up in the foster care system. As responsible citizens, we need to actively question and combat racialized and gendered ideas of pregnancy and power where we find it in order to create a world where all women are equal and full citizens with autonomy and agency.