Monday, August 2, 2010

Enough With the "Pain Is Good"

Do you think pain is good? I'm betting no. Most reasonable people avoid pain- isn't that its purpose, to serve as a warning and a deterrent? So why, oh why this silly cult of Pain Is Good? I see it everywhere- from the twee little sports shirts that boldly proclaim "pain is weakness leaving the body", to wacky crap like this, which posits pain during child birth does everything short of unclogging your drains and reorganizing your closets.

Sure, sometimes pain is a necessary evil- you have to have the "pain" of intense workouts to train your body for sports play, or you have to endure a certain amount of pain if you want to give birth (even medicated delivery is NOT pain free). But most people don't play soccer because they like pain, or get pregnant in anticipation of labor pain. Why? Because that would just be stupid. Plain and simple. Pain is not "good".

Ok- I can understand the motivation for claiming "pain is good" in sports circles. It stands as a motivation of sorts, and works as a badge of honor- "I withstood the pain, I'm one of the insiders". I contend this is wrong-headded, as it often leads to people pushing too hard, to the point of injury, but I understand it. Childbirth? Not so much.

Maybe I could understand "pain is good" coming from moms who have Been There, using it in much the same way as the athletes do as motivation/approbation. But from a male midwife who has never given birth? Strange stuff, really.

Dr. Denis Walsh (that's PhD, not MD), asserts pain in childbirth is good because it regulates the process, and may aid in "bonding" between the woman and her baby. I'm here to call bullshit on those two claims.

1. If you have ever endured labor and delivery, you know you are not the one in control. All of the visualizations and breath control techniques in the world aren't going to stop or start contractions. That's a good thing, too- if you had to think about what you were doing, I'd wager it would be a much dicier proposition than it all ready is.

2. "Bonding" is utter nonsense. I was really worried about bonding, since there seems to be so much hand-wringing over it. I should have saved my worry for something else, like the misery of perineal tears. The truth is, you start out feeling a sense of responsibility to the baby, because that's what society tells us to feel, and over time, you begin to love the baby, as it develops a personality, and you begin to be able to interact with it meaningfully. I would guess that 99% of the women claiming to feel an instant "love connection" with their baby are full of crap. Sure, you feel a connection- this is YOUR baby, after all. You probably feel a sense of wonder, too. Babies are pretty amazing little things; from nothing-to-something in 9 months is pretty impressive. The little boogers can be downright cute, too, and people are programmed to like cute little things. But swept away with overpowering love for something you don't even know? Hardly. Women feel compelled to say that to bolster their "mommy cred", but conversations with real new mothers that go past the gloss paint a totally different picture.

So why, Dr, Denis, all the "Pain is Good" posturing?

Because Eve was weak! That's why. The whole natural labor movement, the concern that medicating women in labor and delivery "deprives" them of some key experience all goes back to the sexist idea that women are the Weaker Vessel, and they better toughen up...or else! Even for those who have discarded the trappings of fanatical religion, the core message is still found, intertwined in the conscious and subconscious of all who see women as lesser beings. I just bet Dr. Denis doesn't have a lot of real respect for his patients, and operates at a paternal level with them. Secretly, in his heart of hearts, I bet Dr. Denis thinks he could do better than these hysterical women, if he just had half a chance. He could bear the pain, easily! He could have textbook labor and delivery every time. And because nature so cruelly keeps him from demonstrating his perfection, he has to jab at those weak women sometimes, make them really feel the burn for their own good. Because life is unfair! And they shouldn't get to have all the fun, now should they?

Sadism just never gets old. I wish men and other people who never have/could have babies would devote more of their time to obsessing over something else that doesn't impact me.

Who's up for a good game of (fill in the sport)? Dr. Denis, I hope.