Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Twitter phenom Feminist Hulk recently spoke with Ms. magazine about giving birth. Turns out she's a PhD student from the University of Iowa, where I did my degree! I've been away long enough that we've never met in person, although there's a 99% chance that I know her midwives. I miss those long afternoons at Iowa Midwives' Association meetings...
Congratulations on your baby! Did your Feminist Hulk superpowers come in handy during the 44 hours of labor that led to the birth of your child?
Hulk is all about productive discomfort–the notion that growth requires us to step outside of the familiar spaces where we feel safe. My pain during childbirth had less to do with the relative strength of any given contraction but with the attitude I brought to coping with that. When I felt vulnerable or passive, I tried to hide from the contractions, which only made it harder. My midwives and my mom really helped me dig in, get active and aggressively pursue the contractions. I would dance to bring on contractions, then get in position and say, “Okay, this is gonna fucking suck, and I’m gonna make it suck even more, because then there will be one less contraction between me and my child.” I created new comfort zones.

Why did you decide to have a home birth? What were some of the challenges you faced in making that happen?
While I value the ways that obstetrical science has made birth safer for women with high-risk pregnancies, mine was a low-risk pregnancy and I was compelled by the many studies that show the midwifery model of care is as safe as hospital birth, often with fewer interventions and post-birth complications. Unfortunately, though Certified Nurse-Midwives legally practice in all 50 states, I gave birth in one of the handful of states which still does not license Certified Professional Midwives. I am active in attempts to push midwifery licensure through our state legislature. I still chose home birth, though, and am so lucky to have labored in an environment that made me feel relaxed and safe, with a birth team that gave me tons of love and support. And for anyone who asks, “What if something goes wrong?” all I have to say is, “Something did go wrong.” I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage and lost about a quart of blood. My birth team responded with speed and skill to stop the bleeding (and they would have transferred me to a hospital without hesitation if they encountered a complication that required additional resources). I owe them my life, and I have nothing but faith in the quality of their care.

How did your pregnancy affect your views on reproductive rights?
I’m a single mama by choice. I spent two years planning before I began the insemination process. Not long after I became pregnant, state and federal law saw an unprecedented parade of anti-choice and anti-reproductive health legislative proposals. I was sick with anger when I heard the horrible and unfounded assumptions being made about women who consider abortion. I felt so blessed to have chosen my pregnancy, and I wouldn’t ever want someone to be forced to bring a child into the world who wasn’t chosen. My love for the life growing inside me made me even more committed to protecting the legal right to choice.
Read the rest here


  1. Love this!

    And I could really relate to her description of pursuing contractions. I growled through most of my last labor.

  2. I'm usually a happy follower, but this post left me feeling offended by the language. I think it's possible to describe and even experience natural childbirth without resorting to profanity.

  3. I have to agree with anonymous. I follow your blog and enjoy what I read on here, partly because I appreciate your values and the image you portray. I didn't even read this post because the first word I saw completely shocked me. This language doesn't sit well with me. I know now that it was actually written by someone else, but that doesn't change much for me.

  4. hehe- I felt liberated to read such 'profanity' on your blog - nice change ;-P people express themselves in many ways without altering the truth of the content.

  5. Feminist Hulk sounds like she has a lot of interesting things to say. Too bad I'm not on twitter.

  6. I had considered taking out an F-bomb or two but left them in (in part because I have so much less time right now for blogging). I personally don't cuss but it doesn't bother me too much in the context of labor & birth.

  7. I agree with anonymous also.

    But mostly, I was very upset by her opinions. I don't really come to birth blogs to hear about how one ladies journey through life's most incredible miracle reinforced her beliefs that women should be allowed to kill their babies if they don't want them.

  8. Just goes to show you how homebirth brings together people from all walks of life and all kinds of political and spiritual contexts.

    Rixa, I know Fem Hulk, and you DO know her midwives! :)

  9. Just goes to show you how homebirth brings together people from all walks of life and all kinds of political and spiritual contexts.

    Agreed! I'm a feminist and pro-choice. Not only did going through pregnancy and birth make me even more strongly pro-choice, I see birth choice as part and parcel of my broader views on reproductive choice. After all, if a fetus has more rights than a woman, then why shouldn't there be court-ordered c-sections?

    However, I know there are lots of people in the birth community who are pro-life, and I'm not offended to encounter them on birth blogs, even if I disagree strongly with their views.

  10. Um, you kinda choose the baby by choosing to have sex.
    If you don't want a baby ... don't have sex!

    But no one believes it can be that simple!

  11. As someone who has been kidnapped, tortured and raped, no its NOT that simple.

    NONE of that was my choice. NONE. I would have killed myself before giving birth to a child of that monster.

    Perhaps others are stronger or more something than I. More power to you. But until you walk a mile in another's shoes, you do not have the right to judge another person. Far as I am concerned no one who hasn't been through what I did has a right to a real opinion about it.

    Sorry. I do respect a woman's right to choose... and on a daily basis have angered local feminists by fighting for nursing rooms for grad students, more flexibility for pregnant and mothering grad students so that we do have REAL choices on both sides of the fence.


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