Sunday, October 12, 2008

Navajo and New Mexico

We are in New Mexico for the weekend and, among other things, we visited with my husband's childhood friend, John, who lives in Santa Fe and is now a public health doctor who has been working for years for the Indian Health Service. His stints have included time with the Navajo, though he now serves a Pueblo population that we are going to see today. John, my husband and I were discussing how different these Native American groups are. As the stereotypes go, the Navajo is stoic and reserved, while the Pueblo is more open and friendly. But what was interesting to me is that he said Navajo women giving birth are practically silent; that it goes against their culture to give a voice to pain. If I've said it once I've said it a million times: Birth is a reflection of the culture where it happens. Fascinating to me.

Birth and Boston College

Last week I had the privilege of speaking on a panel after a screening of "The Business of Being Born" at Boston College. On the ride over to the college with Abby Epstein, the film's producer, she was reminding me about the history of Catholic colleges not being open to frank talk about women's reproduction (a la, banning the Vagina Monologues from campuses...) Anyway, the organizers for this event were warm and open-minded and I had the distinct sense that times have changed. The crowd of young people that turned out to see the film seemed truly moved by its message: That hospitals are not the best place or a low-risk mom to give birth.

Before I left BC for the night I had an interesting chat with a pregnant professor who was talking about the differences between radical feminists (those who believe in the power of the female body and therefore understand how transformative a natural birth can be for a woman) and other feminists who believe that an unnecessary cesarean is also a woman's right to choose. The question is: which feminist agenda will win the day?

One other note from that event: Abby and Ricki Lake are busy making a sequel to the film. Stay tuned.