No Man is an Island

by Miranda on February 14, 2012

“In the Heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact IS everything else.”
- Sir Charles Eliot, in his Japanese Buddhism

“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail

I’m planning a VBAC for this pregnancy.

That’s really not a secret if you’ve been around here for any length of time. But what may be a secret to some is WHY I’m planning a VBAC.

In short, when Joshua entered the world I was treated like an object and not like a person.

Nearly three years later, I’m still not over that experience. I carry its memory with me every day.

That experience has become fuel for my current experience. It is one of my biggest fears of this pregnancy. It’s the reason why I changed providers with 11 weeks to go.

My experience with Joshua’s delivery has also become fuel for VBAC advocacy in general because VBAC is not the popular choice when it comes to second-time-around deliveries (or third, or fourth).

Some women go their entire pregnancies without a doctor ever mentioning VBAC to them. They carry shame and guilt from their first delivery experience. They hear the word “failure” and are told they should just be happy they have a healthy baby because a healthy baby (with no mention of a healthy mother) is all that matters. Their feelings regarding their first experience are invalidated.

They are mis- or uninformed and never know there’s another way.

In some places, VBAC isn’t a choice for women at all. In some places, VBACs are actually against the law. Medical professionals cannot offer them and hospitals cannot, or refuse to, allow them.

The reasons for this are many and not exactly relevant to this particular discussion (though I’m happy to discuss those reasons should anyone wish to have said discussion).

What is relevant, however, is the word “choice.”

Choice is a word bandied about in Feminist circles. Well, in all the circles, really. We talk about choice as if we all have one to make. As if all choices are equal.

I don’t believe they are.

When it comes to some things, sure, we have choices. I can choose to wash my hair in the morning or just use dry shampoo. I can choose whether I want burgers or spaghetti for dinner. I can choose which political candidate will receive my vote and then go and cast that vote.

Sometimes, however, I believe we only have a choice insofar as the choice we make does not cause someone else to be unable to make a different or opposite choice.

When the default choice of many care providers is an elective, repeat c-section, it becomes that much more difficult for those of us wishing to do the opposite to actually achieve that desired outcome.

And that’s the problem with “choice.”

“Ah, but Miranda,” you say, “What if the woman WANTS an elective, repeat c-section? What if that IS her CHOICE?”

Well, I can support that.

I can see the legitimacy of choosing when to have your new baby so that things can best be planned and timed to accommodate the schedules of everyone involved. (I won’t lie. I’ve thought about it.)

I can understand why some women who’ve been through nightmarish ordeals would want the control that can come with a c-section the second time around. I can see why, for medical reasons, women would opt to have a c-section instead of a VBAC.

I would never advocate forcing all women into a VBAC and I don’t truly think anyone else would either. Not in all cases whatsoever no matter what.

There are always circumstances where women should be given the choice of a repeat c-section over a trial of labor and VBAC.


(Life Lesson: There is almost always a “but.”)

But the fact is that this particular choice is taken away from women at rates higher than that at which this choice is given.

Despite my own personal desire to VBAC this baby—my baby—I support a woman’s right to choose a repeat c-section.

I will get vocal about another woman’s right to choose a c-section provided she also raises her voice in support of my choice to avoid another one.

To me, it’s not enough for us just to say to another woman “I support you and your decision!” and then sit idly by while that woman fights her own battles. That’s lip-service.

If you support her decisions, then fight alongside her.

Lend her your strength—your voice—when she is weak so that when she is strong she can return the same to you.

Ultimately, this is about more than just c-sections versus VBACs. This is about all of our common fates and destinies.

I believe in the Heaven of Indra. I believe in the “inescapable network of mutuality.”

I believe that the choices we make reach further than we can know. That we are all connected. That we must make our choices with the knowledge that our choices affect those whom we have never met.

I believe that if we are to effect change in the world, if we are to exercise control over our individual situations, then we must look at our situations as the situations of all women and move forward from there.

I believe we are all in this together and that one woman’s fight is the fight of all women.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
–John Donne

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