The other day, my Page-a-Day calendar had the following bit of trivia:
Researchers at International University Bremen in Germany monitored 80 women with different hair colors as they took intelligence tests. Before the test, half the women were told “dumb blonde” jokes. (Like: “Why do blondes open containers of yogurt while they’re still in the supermarket? Because the lid says, ‘Open here.’”) Findings: The blondes who were told dumb blonde jokes took longer to complete their tests than the blondes who weren’t told jokes. Did the dumb blonde jokes make blondes dumber? No, the researchers say: The jokes made them more self-conscious.
If hearing subtly or not-so-subtly that you’re stupid can make you take longer to take a test, I wonder what effect being told that your body is broken can have on your labor?
Often, when women are in labor, they are subjected to various drugs and interventions that are not necessarily necessary nor beneficial. What effect can being put into a gown for sick people have? Or being made to lie down in bed, as if you’re too frail and helpless to do things yourself? Or being given an IV as a standard practice? Or being not allowed to go to the bathroom, instead being forced to use a bedpan? What subtle messages are sent by all the poking and prodding and monitoring that women undergo on a regular basis during labor? Certainly, some women are high-risk, so they or their babies may benefit; and intermittent auscultation of the fetal heartrate is good; but when low-risk women are being told that their bodies are defective until proven otherwise… how can that be beneficial? Does it hurt?
There are so many stories I’ve read of women who felt like, as soon as they went into the hospital, or as soon as the machines were hooked up to them, that it was the machines and the drugs that took over and did the work — they were just empty vessels, non-persons, that things were done to, rather than women working to give birth to a new life, as countless other women have done before. So sad.
On the other hand, what messages does a woman hear, when her birth team encourages her, tells her that she is doing it, that she’s strong and powerful, that things are going well, and everything will be fine!