I just watched an episode of A Baby Story on TLC called Baby Santiago, about a young, ambitious, college-educated couple about to have their first son. I’ve recently begun to think about maybe (maybe!) having children myself, and so the show has become increasingly fascinating for this reason alone.
The episode is promising at first. Stephanie and Anthony have chosen “natural” childbirth, a phenomena rarely depicted on this reality show. It seems like almost every woman on the show ends up having a C-section or an epidural or an induction. As somebody who is skeptical of the medicalization of birth in general (we treat it like a problem/operation rather than a natural process), I was glad to see a more holistic/natural approach depicted on a national television series.
As Stephanie begins to have contractions in her own home, her midwife tells her to take a walk, which she does, after some coercion (understandable; would you want to take a walk when you feel like your insides are being pummeled and torn apart?). She has more and more contractions, and finally heads to a birthing center set up with medical equipment just in case of an emergency.
At the medical facility we hear Anthony tell Stephanie, “We’re not having an epidural. No.” But he doesn’t say it in a positive, affirming, supportive way; it isn’t one of those, “We’re in this together” moments. He says it in a, “Don’t even think about it” way.
At this moment in the episode, I paused. Is he the one who wants a natural birth, or is it Stephanie?
I recalled an earlier part of the episode, in which Stephanie’s mother said, “She listens to him.” The statement took on a whole new meaning. She listens to him; or, maybe she’s ordered around by him.
Stephanie’s pain and suffering continues to worsen as the contractions progress. Her midwife and doctor agree that this is a “difficult” labor, more difficult than normal. While Anthony is around, Stephanie doesn’t argue with him,, but the moment he leaves the room she asks the doctor about an epidural. Like a typical controlling husband, Anthony seems to be lurking in the shadows, and comes in the room to again tell her and the doctor, “NO.” When he’s outside talking to his sister and family, he again emphasizes “his” choice to have a natural childbirth.
Time to rip into this guy: dude, you’re not birthing anybody. Your wife is birthing. While your input should be taken into consideration, your wife has the final say, always; after all, she’s the one doing all the fucking work: getting fat, bloated, feeling sick, tired, and finally pushing out an eight pound human. If she wants an epidural, she gets an epidural. You should feel empathetic toward your wife and grant her requests; instead you just seem intent upon “keeping” her from the epidural. Fuck off!
Eventually, Stephanie gets some balls (sorry to use a sexist phrase in a feminist post), which is AMAZING! She hisses at Anthony, “YOU LISTEN TO ME! I CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE!” from her hospital bed. Anthony looks shocked, and, to be honest, I wonder how he might have responded had the cameras not been around. But, he does give in, and kudos to that.
Baby Santiago is perfect, beautiful, and healthy. The usual crying, cooing and sleepy mommy declarations of happiness ensue. Anthony is ecstatic to meet his daughter.
“Trust yourself. Trust the decisions you make. Trust myself and follow my instincts because it’s worked so far,” Stephanie says at the end of the episode. She then mentions that Anthony “apologized” for making her wait so long for her epidural. A bitter-sweet conclusion, if you ask me; Stephanie is attempting to build up her own self-confidence, but, her comment that he “made her” wait so long is disturbing; again, why did he have a say? Why does he feel he can dominate his wife and control the situation? Why is this acceptable?
Women should have a natural child births if they want to. It certainly shouldn’t be forced upon them, just as a C-section shouldn’t, unless it’s medically necessary.
But this post isn’t really about childbirth, or birthing practices; it’s about controlling husbands. Anthony didn’t “trust” his wife’s judgement. I think this is a major problem in modern-day marriages. Men say they view women as equal but underneath their politically correct demeanor, they often feel their own intelligence is superior and so they “control” and question their wife’s decisions to emphasize their dominance.
Should men have a say in whether or not a woman receives an epidural during childbirth? Do men often “question” their wives in order to make them feel insecure about their own decision-making abilities?