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Don't try this during your next cervical check

July 15, 2009

(Oh good lord, I wonder what sorts of Google searches are going to bring hits to my blog with that doozie of a title…)

One of the most delightful parts about moving back to my home state is that I now have countless opportunities to spend time with my aging relatives.  I treasure my moments with them, and I adore listening to them recount the important stories from their lives.

Not surprisingly, now that I am a bona fide “birth junkie,” I love hearing my grandmother and aunts tell their birth stories.  Despite their waning memories, the memories of the births of their children are still crisp and fresh, and the stories themselves are beautiful and tragic and inspiring.

Oh.  And some of them are downright hilarious.

Just this past weekend, my great-aunt G (who, like my grandfather and their six siblings, was born at home into my strong, courageous great-grandmother’s arms in the 1920s) told me a story about the birth of one of her own five children.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the doctor (presumably a male) performed a vaginal exam to assess the dilation of Aunt G’s cervix.  This was standard in-hospital practice then, just as it is now.

It should be noted that cervical checks don’t really hurt–or at least they shouldn’t–but they’re not exactly pleasant either.  In fact, even the most gentle practitioner will cause his or her patient some discomfort during a vaginal exam, and this discomfort can be all-the-more exacerbated when a woman is in the midst of labor.  Accordingly, Aunt G was having at least a minimally unpleasant experience when her doctor checked her cervix.

But perhaps she was having a maximally unpleasant experience.  Because toward the end of the cervical check, my ever-opinionated, sassy Aunt G did the following to her obstetrician:

She reached out, pinched him hard on the face, and said, “Hey, how do you like that?!  It’s not so comfortable, is it?!  Well, neither is what you’re doin’ to ME!”

I about spit out my coffee when she told this part of the story.

And while I don’t recommend that anyone repeat Aunt G’s action the next time they find themselves in a labor and delivery ward, I do think her boldness is a fine testament to just how humiliating and uncomfortable medical intervention can be during childbirth–even if it’s a relatively “normal” (if not supremely invasive) intervention such as a cervical check.

What’s more, I think that her response–potentially lawsuit-prone as it may be these days–represents the way many women feel inwardly during labor.  With a swarm of medical staff often treating one’s reproductive organs like a baby factory that needs to spit out a bustling bundle of joy on schedule and according to some elusive Birthing Babies: For Dummies manual, it can be easy to feel objectified and even demeaned during childbirth.

Unless, of course, one is lucky enough to have an obstetrician or midwife and nurses who not only respect their laboring mothers but also respect the beauty and inherent knowledge of women’s bodies and their ability to birth babies.

It makes me wish that Aunt G’s pinch could be felt ’round the world of obstetrics.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jenny permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:00 pm

    AWESOME! Sounds like your Aunt G is pretty freaking cool! 🙂

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