I bought a pair of shoes this week. I think I buy shoes about twice a year, if that often. For the past few years I've been living in black Saucony walking shoes because of a persistent case of plantar fasciitis. They're not attractive, and they mean I don't often wear skirts or dresses, but they mean I can walk around in comfort and do my job.
So: new shoes. They're Merrells, and they're comfy and somewhat more attractive than black sneakers.
For me a shoe purchase is blogworthy because I buy shoes about once or twice a year, and am just baffled by the people -- usually women -- who spend a significant part of their disposable incomes on footwear. I don't get a lot of the stuff that women are supposed to be into. I'd rather have a canoe from the Mountain Equipment Co-Op than, say, a diamond ring.
I do wear makeup sometimes, but I don't feel like I can't leave the house without any. I shave my pits right now because I'm trying to stay active and my sense of smell is so heightened by the pregnancy that I was grossing myself out by the end of the day. But I still feel, often, that I'm, well, a bit of a freak.
At the fitness class last Wednesday, I found myself yet again the resident alien. Many of the women (there are about 20) were comparing notes about what products are best for numbing the skin before waxing. It didn't seem to occur to anyone that it was even possible to just go ahead and let the hair grow. It was just accepted that it's a woman's lot to submit herself to pain to meet a standard of beauty.
But when it comes to actually giving birth to all these babies, I seem to be the only one even considering a home birth with midwives. Midwifery is traditional women's wisdom, handed down over hundreds of years. It expresses faith in women's ability to handle a normal, low-risk birth without medical intervention instead of treating it as a terribly risky event that requires hospitalization and often surgery. It shows a respect for women, our ability to handle pain, and our ability to make informed choices that the obstetrical model of birth often just doesn't. It requires women to take a great deal of responsibility for their children well before they are born. And it's a way for women to connect with each other on the deepest of levels.
And yet those of us who want a natural birth in a familiar place are often considered almost criminally irresponsible. We are consciously rejecting the deepseated belief that the most advanced technology must be the best option available. Many people who hold this belief find challenges to it to be misguided and even threatening. (My aunt, married to a formerly practicing obstetrician and herself certified as a childbirth educator 20 years ago, has already started warning my mother about what an ill-informed, dangerous decision Mr. Krapsnart and I are making.) We're also considered a little crazy for being willing to open ourselves to pain in order to bring a baby into the world.
The conversation among the educated, motivated pregnant women at the fitness class invariably turns to doctors and hospitals and epidurals and episiotomies and caesarians (with, of course, the occasional foray toward Brazilian waxes. Pain for beauty's sake is, apparently, perfectly acceptable, but pain in childbirth is to be scrupulously avoided, even when the verdict is that 24 hours of labour are far, far preferable to 24 hours of waxing). Midwives and home birth are rarely mentioned, and when they are, they're afterthoughts.
If I speak up, I get Looks, and the occasional "Wow, you're brave." If I'm silent, I seethe.
I know I'm painting in very broad strokes here, and I know that I don't know the instructor (who, again, is fabulously well informed) or the women in my class well enough to do so yet. But so far (after three classes) I haven't found anyone else who's working with midwives, so I think I'm not completely wrong to consider myself an exception to the norm, both in the class and in the society at large.
My body and my baby are no different from those of most of my classmates; why are these women -- and so many others -- so convinced that birth isn't something they can do without needles and knives? And why do I feel so alienated for having faith in us?