What really is regular?

“Regular” can be a very subjective term. This week in class we have been learning about the medicalization of birth. Our blog prompt asked us to consider the ramifications of medicalized birth vs regular birth for the Inuit people, the Hmong people, and the average American person. I thought about this a bit and I found it kind of funny that for the average American person regular is the medicalized way of having birth. Think about it, we don’t hear about people having kids at home very often, and when it does happen and they don’t have some sort of midwife at the house or it was unplanned that is seen as abnormal and kind of a big deal. According to thebabycenter.com both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists and the American Medical Association recommend against having at home births. (1) When this is the belief that is held in our culture, I would argue that the medicalized way of giving birth has become the “regular” way for us.

However what is seen as “regular” for us is not regular for everyone. Like the Hmong families in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and the lecture and article on Inuit births we have learned that medicalization is not the norm. In the first chapter of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down we learned how Lia’s mother gave birth to her children in their family’s hut. We also learned that it is normal in the Hmong culture to bury the placenta underneath the floor of the hut. However when many Hmong refugees came to the United States they were not given their placentas after the birth because the doctors didn’t understand why the Hmong people would want the placenta, or sometimes as language barrier would prevent them from being able to ask. (2) There were definitely ramifications from this. For instance, Lia’s parents believed that her seizures were caused by the fact that her soul couldn’t find it’s placenta, and potentially as a result didn’t give her medication that could have helped because they figured it wouldn’t work.

The Inuit people are another group that have dealt with the ramifications of medicalized birth. Like the women that we learned about from Pavernatuk who have to be flown down to the nearest hospital, sometimes against their will. (3) I think that the fact that they are being forced is enough to illustrate that the women don’t want to go down to the more western hospital, especially when their community has been giving birth for generations with only midwives to help them.

I think that medicalization has been so ingrained in our own culture that this is the regular way to have a child. However when that is forced upon another culture that has it’s own system of child rearing, that is when we start to see negative repercussions.

  1. “Planned Home Birth | BabyCenter.” BabyCenter. Accessed July 29, 2016. http://www.babycenter.com/0_planned-home-birth_168.bc.
  2. Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.

One thought on “What really is regular?

  1. I had not fully considered that in our society the regular birth is the medicalized birth, which is absolutely true. Like you, I also drew on the idea that at home births are considered very abnormal in our society, for thousands of years people were having their child at home but in the current medical world it is high advised against. When discussing the Hmong, I also spoke of the burial of the placenta as culturally significant. In their views of disease and illness, the burial of the placenta is a preventative measure, when they were unable to bury Lia’s placenta and then she developed seizures they made the connection between the two. In their culture the seizures were the result of her placenta not being buried, so why would they give her modern medication to combat her illness when the cause is culturally related. While modernization and medicalization are the norm in our society we need to remember that it is far from the case in most other places in the world. It works in our favor; often this medicalization is far from beneficial to other societies. For thousands of years they managed to survive and thrive without our westernized interference.

Leave a Reply