Friday, September 29, 2017

Childbirth is Not Easy. The Natural Birth Movement Needs to Stop Insisting That it Is.

Few women have been pleasantly surprised by how easy and pain-free childbirth is. Yet a zealous natural childbirth movement continues to tell them that birth can be--should be, perhaps--easy. This article, which insists that painful birth is a "myth," is the newest example of this ridiculous claim.

I'm a huge supporter of natural birth. That's why I had one. I believe that, for the right woman, an unmedicated birth can be deeply empowering. Natural birth can help women see their hidden strengths, and regain control over their own bodies. 

When we start telling women that birth is easy, though, we remove all the strength they stand to gain from the challenges of birth. It's time for the natural childbirth movement to stop lying to women. Birth is rarely easy. And when it is, it's a fluke--not something the woman earned with enough meditation and natural childbirth classes. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Here's How You Can Really Help Women in the Postpartum Period

In the two weeks following the birth of our baby, I spent every shower crying. My parent friends tell me that this is normal. For many of them, the stress and pain of the immediate postpartum period extended well into the first year of parenthood.

The phrases my friends use to describe their postpartum experiences--"Worst year of my life," "wanted to die every day," "still struggling to overcome my rage and trauma,"--don't neatly fit into the blissful postpartum narrative of easy motherhood most women are fed. In fact, I don't know a single woman who describes the weeks following childbirth as enjoyable or easy. Instead, they talk about childbirth recovery like a hellish crucible. 

I got through the immediate postpartum period, and I never developed postpartum depression. I was lucky. Many people I love have not been so lucky. Weirdly, none of them mention hormones--even though the popular press continues to blame vague "hormonal shifts" for years of postpartum suffering. Instead, their suffering correlates with very clear, very fixable needs: more paid time off, better pain management, more help around the house, greater understanding from loved ones, a chance to talk about their births. 

Every couple of years, another study comes out with the exact same finding: postpartum mood issues are common, many women don't discuss their symptoms with their doctors, and treatment is inadequate. We collectively shake our heads about this, as if it's some sort of mystery why women are struggling. We often do this while ignoring the clear and obvious needs of women recovering from childbirth. Mental illness happens for many reasons, and not all cases of postpartum depression are preventable. Yet all women--yes, all women--who have given birth need support. Very few get enough of it. 

So if you really want to help someone recover from birth, if you really want to increase a woman's odds of avoiding postpartum depression, here's what you can do. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Things White People Need to Stop Saying: 10 Simple Rules for White Liberals Discussing Racism

Until recently, almost no one openly endorsed neo-Nazi sentiments. The election of white supremacist Donald Trump changed that. Now we have to be sensitive to white supremacist feelings by calling these monsters members of the "alt-right." That's scary enough. Here's what's even scarier: it's given white liberals a free pass.

Now that racism is so visibly associated with the vocal belief that people of color are inferior and a willingness to kill them, many white liberals can pat themselves on the back. "We're not racist!" they gleefully proclaim. "Look at those neanderthal Trump supporters and their torches. I've never burned a torch or run over a black person. I even have a black friend! I can't possibly be racist."

I've spent much of my life trying to engage with people who think this way, so they can understand how their more palatable and muted form of racism enables more aggressive forms of white supremacy. In the wake of the Trump presidency, these smug white liberals have become a lot more certain they're not racist. Meanwhile, their brethren of color grow ever more desperate. I've watched dozens of social justice groups disintegrate as people of color clamor to be heard, white people silence them, and racism becomes more and more pervasive.

Then the white liberal racists insist that the divisiveness is the fault of people of color. If they would just be quiet, we could defeat real racism.

White people: the only way we can defeat real racism is for smug white liberals to admit to their own racism, fix it, and then unite with people of color to end this plague once and for all. For that to happen, we need to change the way we talk and think about race.

Here are 10 simple rules that can move the conversation forward. They won't protect you from call-outs or uncomfortable conversations. They shouldn't. Those conversations need to happen. These rules can, however, prevent you from saying something profoundly damaging to a person of color.