Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring our Veterans

Disclosure statement: this is not your typical Veterans Day message. I do appreciate the service of my ancestors, relatives, friends and fellow Americans in the armed forces and recognize the sacrifices that families throughout the world make when their nations and people engage in war. This post will be highlighting the fight that women find in the battlefields of their lives.

The authors of "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" cite a statistic that in the years during World War I, more women died in childbirth than men died in battle. An even more interesting and galvanizing statistic would be comparing the number of women who have died in childbirth compared to the number of men who have died as a result of war in the course of history.

Another recognized fact is that a woman dies in childbirth somewhere in the world every minute which is over half a million a year. In addition to deaths, one in three women throughout the world experience the surgical removal of the fetus. The trauma rates of childbirth, expressing itself as PTSD up to 6% of the time, is also about one in three. This trauma can be caused from fear of losing the baby, intense physical pain and even violence perpetrated by health professionals. The number of abortions that take place through the world is upward of 40 million a year and spontaneous miscarriages and stillbirths are known to happen in approximately 30% of pregnancies. In countries where rape is used as a weapon of war, many babies are conceived in trauma and horror. In the Unites States were one in three girls experience sexual assault or molestation in their lives, childbirth can be a triggering event leading them to recall their assault. That's a lot of death, grief, trauma and loss caused by or experience in a normal event and that's not quantifying the childbirth injuries or complications like obstetric fistula, nerve damage, postpartum hemorrhage, etc.

Its not just a developing world issue, women in the developing world face the same possibilities though in some cases with reduced risks.

I think its safe to say that giving birth is the woman's war. Its the battle between life and death coalescing into a brief period of time ranging from a couple hours to a couple of days and it can happen a number of times in a woman's life. Though the total fertility rate is around 1.7 in many developed countries, some women give birth many more times than that in their lifetime.

And every woman has her birth story. That she often remembers in great detail throughout her life and into old age.


Childbirth has been an intensely fulfilling, peaceful, joyful and safe experience. While men can beat their swords into plowshares and refrain from war, women cannot stop bearing children (if we want our species to survive). Yet we can make childbirth safer, more fulfilling and joyful for women around the world. By ignoring, and allowing the governments of our planet to overlook childbirth issues, we are saying that a war on women ought to continue.

Each woman who has given birth is a veteran. Whether she bears the physical scars of a C-section, episiotomy and stretch marks or the psychological scars of a traumatic birth experience or she can returned home the victor after an orgasmic birth experience, she has survived and come out the other side of an intense battle for autonomy, confidence, life and attachment.

Today may be a day to recognize Veterans of wars and armed forces, but my remembrance is called up to my mothers and sisters who give birth.

Any remembrance post that is calling attention to an important topic needs a How-To address this issue. I'll refer you to the appendix in Half the Sky as the authors have created an impressive lists of ways to address global issues impacting women.



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