I teach at a local university. In medical anthropology, I teach a unit about childbirth cross-culturally. How do women in rural Mexico give birth? In Russian hospitals? In the Arctic circle? What is the role of dads, village elders, shamans, midwives, sisters, mother-in-laws, etc.? How are babies made into appropriate people through birth practices? (By the way, if you like learning about this, check out the popular film “Babies” or read “Birth in Four Cultures” by Brigette Jordan.)
I always hope that this unit sparks my students to question the American way of doing birth. In an ideal universe, some of those students would actually go out and have better births than they would have had otherwise. But most of the time my students graduate, go on to live their lives, and I have no idea what happened. Today, however, I got to read an essay from a student who said she never thought about birth until my class. She says she always assumed she would give birth the way most Americans do and she felt fine about the idea of having a medicalized experience. Since my class, she says she has been doing lots of research and now she’s sure she wants to hire a midwife and do everything possible to ensure she can have a natural birth. Yay! She made my day!