Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh, Mindy: The Mindy Project and Midwifery

I have been watching The Mindy Project because I really like Mindy Kaling, loved her on The Office, read her book, and because contrary to what some people believe, women are funny. I have felt lukewarm about the show so far with hopes that it would get better once it hit it's stride, but then I saw the recent episode Two to One (S1E8) where the doctors in Mindy's gynocology practice engage in a turf war with the midwifery practice in their building . In this episode they attack the practice of midwifery as faux medicine and seek to marginalize and invalidate it. While points are made in the end of the episode about how midwifery is inappropriate in cases where the mother or child have medical concerns that make the pregnancy high risk, I believe the episode went too far. I know that I am late in commenting on this, but I just watched this week's episode and I can't seem to get my Mindy mojo back. This is the only video I could find on YouTube of this episode:

I am a firm believer that pregnancy is not a medical condition in and of itself. Like I said earlier, in some circumstances there are complications or underlying medical conditions that warrant close medical care in the event of pregnancy, but it is essentially a natural function of the body. Are you cringing that I used the word "essentially?" Because I kinda am. Anyway, in most developed countries the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is highly medicalized and the socially normative idea that pregnancy is a medical condition, and that midwifery is hippie mumbo jumbo, causes people to routinely choose the care of an obstetrician rather than a midwife during pregnancy and this sucks. I certainly do not intend to shame anyone who chooses an obstetrician over a midwife because, of course, all women should have the right to the care that makes them feel comfortable and safe, but it is depressing that midwifery is not general considered a valid, safe choice where I live.

I chose to use a midwife for my prenatal care, the delivery of my son, and my post-pregnancy contraception and the fact of the matter is that midwives are awesome. Their main purpose is to make sure that women have the birth experience they desire. The most important aspect of this is that they get to know you and give you personalized care. At my appointments we talked about pregnancy stuff and then we talked about me. How I felt. What I thought. This is important because I think that having a child is one of the most radical things a person can do. It changes so much about who you are and the decisions you make. It changes your identity and having the care of someone who understands not just what is happening to your body, but also that you are having a truly core-shaking experience is extremely valuable.

I chose a midwife because I am youngish and healthy and had dreams of a blissful natural birth. I will admit that while I had a normal pregnancy until I went into labor, I still enjoyed some of the benefits of medical practice. Being pregnant is damn scary. I worried ALL THE TIME that something would go wrong and dopplar fetal heart monitoring and periodic ultrasounds are perks I enjoyed even while using a midwife. In the end, I didn't have the birth experience I thought I wanted. I spent 4 days in the hospital in active labor while my midwife and the consulting OB tried to stop my contractions. When they were unsuccessful, my son was born almost 7 weeks early due to a partial placental abruption. My complication was a fluke. It could not have been prevented and no amount of medical care could have foreseen it. It was scary beyond belief, but I felt like everything was going to be okay and I owe that to my midwife because she made sure to communicate with me about what was happening and what I could expect. I still got to have a low key vaginal birth, had no tearing, and due to the two steroid shots my midwife had the foresight to give me, my son only spent 10 days in the NICU and never needed to be on a ventilator. She did her best to calm, comfort, and support me and I never had any doubt that she was taking good care of both of us.

Me and Lucas posing for our first photo together.

So, to bring it all back to my original point, which is this: I had high hopes for Mindy Kaling and she disappointed me with her jabs at midwifery. To some it may seem obvious that a comedy show centering around characters who work in a gynocological practice would make jokes about midwives at some point, but I think it is uninformed, irresponsible, and an affront to reproductive rights. I completely agree with Sarah at's assessment that there is a social struggle between midwifery and medicine, which The Mindy Project attempts to leverage for comedic purposes, and:

          "...we do need to recognize that the two professions have political implications that are impossible to ignore. Until we can recognize the power and beauty that is inherent in childbirth, we cannot fully celebrate women’s bodies as powerful, or women as capable." 

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