Monday, June 21, 2004

... but better for whom?

The MSN tagline teases, the nice guitar-riff warbles, and the butterfly does his butterfly dance, helping our hero get through life's challenges -- from relationship disasters to pregnancy -- while changing guises accordingly. (The dating-disaster butterfly is a Hollywood hunk, while the pregnancy butterfly is a zaftig, mensch-y guy, you know, the kind of guy who shares & cares, & would be caught dead sitting in on a Lamaze class). Which brings me to my one burning question about this whole MSN butterfly notion ... why the heck is the butterfly, in the pregnancy-themed commercial anyway, a "guy" at all?

If a couple is faced with a pregnancy, let alone a pregnancy involving surprise twins (if you've seen the commercial you can follow along with the plot, here), wouldn't it make sense, wouldn't it just be common sense, for the help to be required by, and offered to, the woman -- the one who is actually going to have to do the 9 months of gestation, and pop the puppies out in the end?

Apparently not in MSN's world; more specifically I guess, not in MSN's ad agency's world. See, in their world, it's guys who use the Internet, ipso facto, it's guys they advertise to, even if the topic is, yep, the only thing that women do that men simply can't. Namely, give birth.

I posit an alternative butterfly for this particular scenario. A female butterfly. A butterfly who's been there, who can offer expert advice on morning sickness (not just "dealing with a crabby wife," which seems to be a big theme in the existing 'mercial), ultrasounds (which are not, hate to break it to you MSN folks, primarily intended to find out if you're having twins), and the birth process (trust me on this, there is a bit more to it than making sure you know which freeway to take to the hospital).

See, there's a problem in the United States around birth. An epidemic of Caesarian births, Caesarians-on-demand, voluntary over-drugging ("convenient" but bad for both mom and baby), and all-around disengagement from birth as a natural event. (It follows on our disengagement from death, but that's another topic). Women need good information when they face pregnancy. Men do too. My proposed butterfly would turn our heroine on to a good midwife and doula, teach her about birth as a natural event, talk to her about nursing and attachment, and basically reassure her that she is built for what she's about to go through.

But, and here I sigh and turn off the TV, I know this would make for what is known in the industry as boring television. Sincerity is out, most definitely feminism is out, and good information for birthing women is just about last on the list of what TV and advertising folk think makes for compelling watching. (We're not counting that "all births all the time" channel that I couldn't stand watching when I was pregnant myself. Focusing entirely on medically-entwined hospital births is not what I call "good information for birthing women". Actually it's pretty much the opposite.) So I'll dream of an alterna-butterfly, a truly better butterfly; one more akin to my own use of, and appreciation for, the Internet and its resources when I was pregnant. Is it really so radical a notion to posit that (to paraphrase a popular 80s T-shirt) a woman's place is on the 'net?



At 6/21/2004 9:52 AM, Blogger Algernon said...

Hear, hear!

Since I'm male and not even a parent, here, gentle reader, is your chance to avoid reading something that you may, somehow, find inflammatory or at least annoying; not that I intend to write such stuff, I'm simply acknowledging the fact that I have about as much business yammering about birth as, say, Bush does being president.

The disaster that is Western medicine often seems like a bulldozer outta control: a great tool that, when misused, wreaks havoc.

Note to self: future blog subject, "Western Medicine: Technology v. Healing."

Great article links, by the way, Tess. It saddens me to think how much control over our lives, our choices, we, as a people (as a culture) have given over to the medical industry. I use the word industry pointedly because there's a difference between having faith, confidence, trust in a person (e.g., a medical professional) and giving it up to a faceless entity. And that, it seems to me, is largely what we've done: given up (not necessarily willingly) our faith/vote/determination/choice/whatyouwill to an industry whose highest diety in its pantheon is Money. "If it lowers costs, it's the better choice" is their motto (which is insidiously aligned with the unspoken, "If it makes more money, it's the better choice"). How many people these days actually trust their doctor (assuming they're lucky enough to have one-- there's a whole nuther ball o' wax)? Trust, as opposed to "accept" or "believe" or "accede to" or even "like".

Shouldn't healing be an intimate, collaborative (even if brief) engagement between the healer and the healed? Shouldn't the healed really be the healer? Not to say that doctors are unnecessary (well, maybe so; what we need are more healers not doctors!). The point is that one who seeks healing (including a pregnant mother, in the sense of her wanting to maintain the health of both herself and her baby through the transition of birth) should be empowered first to be the most important healer in any interaction involving her own health. Meaning she should be assisted to do the best job of healing (including giving birth) that she possibly can, not denied the opportunity to do so by being chemically removed from the lower half of her body. I say more midwives, more promotion of natural birth, more empowerment of patient (and a different word for them, too, like, say, "people").

Again, I'm a man so what do I know? Women often like to say that a man, facing such pain as is inherent in childbirth, would crumple into a whimpering ball on the floor. I guess I can't dispute that, so I can only admonish women to make more informed choices. Read the arguments, learn what's involved in C-section, including the risks described by all parties to the issue.

And for all our sakes, we should ask where do we want health care to go? what direction? what emphasis? To answer these questions is to consider where health care is now and weigh not only our desire for change but also our present level of involvement and responsibility in our own health care. It's my view that we've abdicated much of our responsibility in favor of a tacit acceptance-- rather than a trust-- in a depersonalized, profit-driven, over-technologized industry.

Whatever happened to health and healing?

At 6/22/2004 10:30 AM, Blogger tess said...

Well said, Algy. I've become convinced over the last few years that our entire outlook on healing and medicine has become so cockeyed that we have to go outside of Western science entirely -- say, to Chinese herbalism and acupunture -- to find a different approach that feels trustworthy.

Western medicine excels at getting rid of problems, and it tends to do so in a take-no-prisoners way. Cancer, for instance; the conventional approach to treating it amounts to nearly killing the patient in the process of getting rid of the disease. Chinese medicine, on the other hand, is focused on restoring the person to wholeness, balance, and health. If both approaches could be combined in ways that promote healing, that would be good, would it not?

But Western medicine's insistence on problem-solving as its be-all and end-all also means that it's a great place to go to have something fixed. A broken bone, say, or a case of hives or pinkeye (aka, scourge of day-care users everywhere). I am glad to have access to both, and I keep myself well-informed enough to feel some degree of control over my choices.

I recently had a bout of asthma. It was a great lesson for me in what's wrong and right with medicine. I was given a prescription for an inhaler and prednisone; the inhaler came with a complete circular, while the prednisone came with a very brief insert that said "a monograph is not available for this product". Period. Had I not had access to (and the ability to comprehend) resources available on the Internet, I'd have taken way too much of the "cure" and could have ended up much worse off. Many people do.

At 6/22/2004 12:13 PM, Blogger Algernon said...


You hit on something vital, I think, with your description of "Western medicine's insistence on problem-solving." The conclusion I'd reached over the years (and I'm at least partly influenced by family members' involvement in the health care industry) is that Western med, which we may call allopathic med, is largely about treating symptoms. Contrast that approach with, as you offered, Chinese medicine, which has a focus on the well-being and overall health of the patient-- or at least doesn't exclude the patient from her own treatment.

I'm with you that if anything really nasty and traumatic happened to me, I'm glad I'm here in the capital of technical medicine so they can put me back together again. Fractures, major traumas, acute appendicitis, etc. But statistically speaking, these shouldn't be a big worry for me; and what should I do when I have a more common disorder? say, a cold? have an allergy? feel inexplicably "off" and there are no obvious symptoms? am suffering from a physical problem whose origin may well be mental or spiritual?

In short, where do I find a healer as opposed to a medical technician? Well I don't go to a Western doc, that's for sure...


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