Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Abandon Biases All Ye Who Enter Here

I'm generally not one for touchy-feely medicine. I'm well familiar with it, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, where there's no ailment that can't be cured in a sweatlodge or with pot and ginseng tea, but it's not really my bag. Give a me good old-fashioned medical doctor, complete with white coat and stethoscope and grouchy bedside manner.

So although I was open-minded about Body, Soul and Baby, I have to admit to a wee bit of scepticism. Oh sure, I thought. "Integrative Medicine." It's gonna tell me to drink wheatgrass juice and get acupuncture and 'journal.' But the credentials of the author, Tracy Gaudet, were impressive - bona fide doctor! from Duke University's School of Medicine! - and so because these things matterto me, I decided to give it a chance. If a real doctor - that is, not a graduate of the West Coast School of Alternative Hemp Therapies - can make a case for touchy-feely medicine, I'll be sold.

My interest was specifically in the TTC (trying to conceive) material, so after the reading the introduction (which confirmed my suspicions that this would the sort of book that uses nouns as verbs - 'journalling,' 'dialoguing,' argh) I headed straight to the section on preconception. Here, Dr. Gaudet promotes what she calls 'conscious conception,' which, not surprisingly, pushed my anti-woo-woo buttons. 'Conscious,' 'intentional,' meh. Gazillions of women get pregnant every year without the slightest bit of conscious intention.

However, however... upon reflection, I realized that there was something important to this idea. My husband and I have been 'trying to conceive,' but not very hard. It's been a matter of simply throwing caution to the wind and not paying attention. Which means, really, that we haven't been trying. Should this tell us something?

I don't know that our lackadaisical approach means that deep down we don't want another child. But it certainly points to some ambivalence, and Dr. Gaudet is right to urge women to be as conscious as possible of any ambivalence, not least because it will certainly colour one's experience of pregnancy and of the post-partum period. As someone who struggled with a bad case of post-partum depression that actually started pre-partum, I learned the hard way that staying aware of my feelings - no matter how negative they seemed - was absolutely necessary for pulling myself out of the darkness. Gaudet calls this staying conscious, and she's right to emphasize its importance. If I'm to make it through - make it happily through - another pregnancy and birth, I do need to remain conscious.

She's also right to promote things like journal-keeping and engaging in dialogue. I avoided both of these in the late stages of my pregnancy and during the early post-partum weeks, against the advice of my psychiatrist, and definitely suffered for it. It wasn't until I discovered blogging - an exercise in 'journalling' and 'dialoguing' if there every was one - that I was able to begin bringing about a sort of consciousness, and so pull myself out of the dark.

All of which is to say - I might have been much better off had I read this book before my first pregnancy. The problem is, I might have avoided this book for all of the silly reasons that I note above. Which really is a shame.

So - for all you skeptics and anti-woo-woo types out there - take the advice of this Bad Mother: in pregnancy and motherhood, more than any other experience you've ever had, you need all of the gentle, loving help that you can get. And you need to set aside your biases in accepting that help. This is like nothing that you've done before, so abandon all your preconceptions and embrace this adventure, body and soul.

And a good first step in this would be to read this book.

Part of the Parent Bloggers Network review series on 'Body, Soul and Baby' by Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D.

1 comment:

mothergoosemouse said...

So very well said. You captured my feelings - misconceptions prior to reading and wistfulness after reading - perfectly.

I'm just glad to have the book now, as I navigate my current ambivalence (and give voice to it).