Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: gender

The day Jesus walked into the delivery room

For all 4 babies, I had nothing but terrific birth experiences. Please, put that in perspective that I was giving birth, so it wasn’t filled with rainbows and lollipops, but at the end of the day night, I had no regrets about labor or delivery. I had built a strong relationship with my first midwife, Bonnie, who delivered my first 3 kiddos. She knew my wishes, talked me through the hard parts and had nothing but encouragement for my desires for a natural delivery. (She was supremely supportive of my friends who opted for as many painless options as possible, which is what makes her a great practitioner.) Going into that L&D room, I knew that if Bonnie said I needed to take a different course of action, I needed to listen. I had nothing but trust for her.

My relationship with the midwife practice who delivered my 4th was also positive, however there were 4 midwives in the rotation, so I just didn’t have the opportunity to grow the rapport. It was still a positive experience and I had a good understanding of the ethos of the practice so I could trust them.

With this perspective in mind, I’m absolutely appalled this isn’t the case for all women. When I started following ImprovingBirth.org  on Facebook, I was horrified at the stories.

softball water rape exam

 

I respect doctors and midwives and the years they’ve spent practicing and training. They have delivered more babies than I have. The wisdom of the medical and birthing community is needed. Based on my experience alone, it’s clear the above stories aren’t the norm for women.

Friends of mine have experienced emergency c-sections and even post-birth emergencies that could have been quite grave. Praise Jesus for knowledgeable professionals that acted quickly to preserve as much wellness to the situation as possible. Not everyone gets an easy-peasey delivery. Cords are wrapped, heart rates drop, body parts get stuck. Birth is messy and different, every single time for every single woman. So a level of trust must be established for a doctor or midwife to take necessary action in critical situations. We cannot second guess every decision of the health care industry (though I’m the first to question several).

On the other hand, these stories are real for far too many. Women in our developed, first-world country with freedoms guaranteed, did not welcome their babies with such love and joy. It is a sad day, indeed, when fear trumps love on a day so special to families, not because of tragic situations but rather because of tragic carelessness of people’s souls.

Birth, while a joyous and necessary ordeal, can be extremely humiliating. There’s the nakedness. And people’s hands are all over you. I’m not sure it’s protocol for a nurse to shake your hand before she shoves hers in a personal space to “check your progress.” By the time the baby arrives, you have a crowd of people which you never met with access to knowledge about your shaving or waxing preferences. Of course this comes with the territory because it’s the territory of birth, but just because you find yourself in humble situations does not mean you need to be treated with disrespect. In fact, it is precisely because we’re in a humble situation that grace should be most extended, is it not?

Immediately I was taken to a story present in all three synoptic Gospels.

[box] A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:24-34[/box]

Years of bleeding and mistreatment by doctors (the text indicates a majority of male physicians, I believe) who also took her money (can we get political about the cost of birth in this country?!) and she’s out of options. She yearns for wholeness, to be included and treated like a woman again, not just a thing currently enduring a condition.

She’s in the midst of a crowd, a gaggle of onlookers wanting to know who is slowing down the show by requesting something so simple as a touch of the robe, which she fought tooth and nail to the front of the line to steal. Jesus asks the entire crowd who touched him and she meekly steps forward, falling at his feet. I wonder if she fell face down because she couldn’t bear to look him in the eye. She trembled with fear at what could happen. Fear. The hands of so many healing men before this one had brought destruction and though she believed this one could be different, her experiences cause a reaction quite the contrary and she trembles.

Ultimately, she gets healed. One of the other gospel writers says, “immediately the flow stopped.” Treating someone as human has immediate effects. Jesus states that her faith healed her. Faith in Jesus? Well, yes. And. Perhaps a faith that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a better way of life.

There is a Kingdom in which the King believes that all people are… people. Loved. Cherished. Treasured. Made in the image of the one who Created each and every one of them.

The work of this organization brings doctors into the hot seat (and I believe it’s a deserved question, as it seems possible, if not likely, that such treatment of women has existed since, oh, Jesus’ time). Yet let us not all pick up a stone until we ask – how have we been tempted, nay, even acted, in ways that took advantage of those in humiliating places and times because we forgot they were human.

We hold just as much guilt for hurrying past a situation demanding mercy because we have an appointment with the cable guy. 

I’m thankful when I found myself in humble situations, it became the opportunity for pain to bear joy, not heartache. Thoughtful and loving hands handled me and my little ones with care. It’s time we begin to demand this for all women. (And men and children, too, of course. Especially if any of them give birth.) And as we demand this in the delivery room, let us demand it of ourselves on the streets, in the stores and in the classrooms.

 

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Jesus and Preventing Babies

Fact: I never went to law school. I have, however, read a large number of John Grisham books, which is kinda the same thing, yes? Ok, not really. What about those Law & Order reruns I became addicted to my freshman year of college? Certainly those count, especially when they’re “based on real life events”?

Now that we’ve established my credentials on posting about a Supreme Court ruling, let’s also bring out my achievements in the world of health care. Like the fact that I hate it. If health care insurance companies showed up at my party, I would politely ask them to leave or, at the least, I would spit in their food. In general the American health care model of all forms has made my life miserable.

And now, on to Christianity. Ding ding ding! A winner! I’ve got a degree in that. I’m pretty well practiced when it comes to loving Jesus. I even have a pretty good grip on my Bible. So allow me to direct you to the chapter and verse where it says we should make all healthcare decisions for one another because we value life. Just let me find my Greek and Hebrew concordance. It’s around here somewhere…

I fully support the right for businesses and organizations to exert their “personhood” and I don’t believe they need to foot the bill for products and procedures which oppose their values. Catholic institutions have been doing it for years (and I believe their success lies in their consistency – they didn’t get all picky-choosy, allowing the pills yet leaving out the IUD). Yet I would ask Hobby Lobby to think again. They can continue to make their personal healthcare decisions based upon their view of when life begins but enforcing it company-wide might not be the best form of proselytization.

My Christian Ethics class, and professor, taught me that our ethic should inform all areas of our life, parts that seem unconnected. Small things do matter and if it matters, then we should live it – kudos to Hobby Lobby for wanting to remain true to something they identify with as wrong. However, that course also taught me what seems the obviously right choice might not take into consideration the very people whom Jesus spent his life ministering to – the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised and the unreligious. Jesus had very high ethical standards for the religious elite; for the common folk, he tended to speak with words of grace and compassion before jumping to behavior modification.

In fact, we can see in Jesus’ stern words to the priests and Pharisees in Luke 11 (verse 46) – “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” This came in a whole series of harsh remarks toward the religious ones. I think if you want to wave a religious freedom flag you have to put yourself into the category of “religious” when it comes to Jesus’ teaching. These warnings are for us, the ones who love our religion.

We the religious tend to take our stand against something, anything, to differentiate ourselves. But in taking a stand against issues, we’re creating distance between our values and the people we’ve been directed to love. “Us and them” is the very language Jesus opposed; you can see throughout his life and ministry he wanted people to begin to understand that all of creation belonged to God, not just the ones privy to the ancient texts and their meanings.

I don’t love Hobby Lobby’s policy because it rejects the only form of birth control my OB will allow me to use (the copper IUD is the only non-hormonal option) and if I’m in that boat, surely others will be as well. It’s not “my right” that an employer cover every health care need (more on our poor view of health insurance later), but to feel singled out and even accused of moral shortcoming because of it and using Jesus as the reason, makes me uncomfortable. According to this, in order for me to remain un-pregnant, I am un-Jesus-like and practicing something on par with abortion. I’m not sure that’s the message Jesus would want to give women.

I also don’t love how again the fellow Christians have responded in outright support of such a decision simply because it’s “Christian.” Which leads to the division it creates, a direct opposition to the way of life for Jesus. (You want to come at me with the the “I come with a sword” and division of family verses? Bring it. Post forthcoming.) Any time we the Christians want to exert “our rights” I have to wonder at the expense it comes. The cost may be the invitation for a civil chat at the table about issues that matter because we’re all the time yelling about our beliefs, unable to listen.

I have to wonder how Jesus would deal with issues of reproduction and health care and working. How would He love all parties involved? How would he consistently point toward God and reveal our own selfish tendencies when choosing a “side”? I can’t think that he would vilify anyone but those who use religion to their own advantage (because that’s how he dealt with most issues in the Gospels).

And I’m positive he’d be cool with the IUD.

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Who wears short shorts?

Packing for 4 for any length of time can be quite an event. While I am quite practiced at it and each child has a bag and they even help me gather the necessary items, I have found the best approach to be to pack on a grid: types of clothes in a line for each kid.

Pack on the grid

And while I check and double check, invariably someone arrives without a swimsuit, underwear or seasonally appropriate shirts. I’ve accepted it as my lot in life .

So when I dug through 3 baskets full of clean clothes and couldn’t find a single pair of shorts for Baby M, frustration arose. Digging, digging. Aha! Yes. When he ends up without pants, it will be a surprise, not because nothing is clean.

Then I realized they weren’t his shorts. They belong to the (nearly) 3-year-old daughter.

Short Shorts

On the right: Girls size 3t. On the left: Boys size 6-9 months.

I’ve realized that these shorts were, well, short. Most of them are. Frustratingly so. Both of my girls have more than a pair of shorts that don’t pass the fingertip rule.

My problem is a little bit the lack of modest options for my 3 – THREE – year old. But the other problem is the double standard. The clothes makers are cutting the same pattern for my 3-year-old girl as my 6-9 month old son. (In actuality, he’s a year old, but apparently quite the scrawny guy.)

The shorts I folded for my oldest boy when he was 3 were distinctly bigger than his infant sister’s. Why is this not the case for the girls in comparison to the infant brother?

Part of the solution is me – and you – the consumer. We buy it and therefore it continues. It’s a known economic fact that companies rarely continue product lines that sit on the shelf year after year. So solution #1 is to stop buying short shorts.

This incident is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my internal struggle to talk about bodies and sexuality and standards, especially with my girls. (Note: I’m quite careful that the boys hear the same message, but they generally have to think very little about what they wear.) How do we explain differences, some that are anatomical and some that are socially-driven? Why do we expect certain things from boys and girls? Quite clearly, we’re different, only one of the genders can carry a baby on the inside. But how does that translate into how we look at our bodies and then dress them?

This morning H Boy asked if he could go to swimming lessons in just his trunks, without his sun shirt, and I agreed. So, of course, Miss M asked if she could go bottoms-only. I told her no and, as expected, she wanted to know why. It didn’t make sense in her head: boys boobies and girls boobies at this point look pretty much the same. Why is one person’s expected to be covered? (My response was that I wasn’t sure, but I thought it was related to girls being able to feed babies with their boobies. Which is not helpful because I think it’s completely appropriate to feed babies in plain view. I’m discrete when I nurse, but your discomfort with my breast is not a reflection of me or my hungry child, it’s an indication of your view of breasts.)

Teaching modesty is a struggle for me right now. I don’t believe short shorts are advantageous to anyone in our society and while I want my girls (and boys) to be free to express themselves through their fashion, I’m not sure short shorts express anything noble except to say “ASS”. Honestly. What else do short shorts say? Am I missing something? I don’t believe the girls choose the short shorts because they advertise their sexuality, but I do believe they wear them because they’re available. It’s what they know.

Oh, dear reader, we’re in for a journey on this one. Stay tuned.

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