The experience of pregnancy and childbirth is uniquely female. Not all women give or want to give birth. However women who do give birth whatever the circumstances, are faced with the reality of one of nature’s most powerful events. The fact that women can express extremely negative or incredibly positive experiences of childbirth is evidence of the generic power of the experience itself. This most basic fact, that childbirth is a powerful force to be respected, has been lost in the overall devaluation of the feminine in our society.
Women often feel alone with the responsibility of motherhood, even when they have supportive partners. Mothers are criticized quickly when things go awry in childrearing, while their positive contributions go unsung. In fact, many aspects of female development remain invisible to our culture at large. Childbirth is no exception. The message of our society is that the experience of childbirth is unimportant.
Countless women have come to see me in my practice because they could find no one to talk to about their childbirth experience. Their psyches called out for an integration of this very powerful event, that brought their babies into their lives, their hearts and their minds. But they are questioned for their need to process it, as if the tremendous physical transformation of a newborn emerging from within their bodies were not significant enough to address. Their obstetricians often express dismay that they should want to talk further about the experience for any reason, because after all they have a healthy baby! Women are left with the implication that to continue to have any need to discuss the experience means they don’t really care about the baby, or they have missed the point of it all. Again, this is a way of saying that the experience of giving birth should not matter to a woman. This gives women the message that their own development does not matter once they become mothers.