I’ve been thinking for a few weeks now about how to wrap-up the semester-long experience of teaching the Biopsychology of birth class. It really just boils down to one word: gratifying. Teaching in general is usually a satisfying experience for me, but teaching a class like this – a class where you can visibly see and feel profound changes in thinking and understanding regarding one of the most meaningful experiences on the planet – goes above and beyond the normal satisfaction. As one of the midwives interviewed on the Business of Being Born put it: Its like flipping on a light switch and going to the moon.
One of the more surprising outcomes of this class was how learning about birth and standard birth practices in the U.S. naturally extends into so many other important socio-political and economic issues. For my students, birth turned into a launching point for discussions about the treatment of women by men throughout time and around the world (as well as treatment of women by other women), the cultural view of women in the workplace, government/societal (non)support of working mothers, the feminist movement, etc. It was so enormously gratifying to watch these young women get critical about the world in which they live and their own roles in that world.
Another change I count among the many successes of the course was how my students spoke about talking to the men in their lives – their boyfriends, fathers, brothers – about the issues we tackled in the class. Not all of these men were super receptive, and several had pretty harsh opinions of some of the topics initiated by the student, but the main result was so simple: a conversation about birth with the men who may have witnessed their own birth, or might be present when they themselves eventually give birth.
In the end, I hope that what each of my students will take with them from the course is a healthy dose of educated outrage. I hope that by teaching this class I’m building a small army of educated, outraged young women who will go into their own birth experiences with eyes wide open, armed with enough knowledge and confidence in their body’s ability to birth to reject the unhealthy standard of care they will be confronted with if and when they choose to have a baby and to demand better for themselves and their babies.
Happy New Year!