Birth

Why is birth a poor marker for the start of personhood?

Birth is the painful transfer of a baby from the uterus through the vagina out into the world as we know it. Words cannot express birth and all that it entails adequately, so Respect People recommends you look at pictures and videos of real, honestly-presented human birth (and miscarriage) experiences. A vast source of real human birth pictures and videos is the Empowered Birth Project, founded by Katie Vigos, a registered nurse and mother. Seriously, if you've never seen a real human birth (fake romanticized birth scenes from movies/TV don't count), then you cannot genuinely understand the cost of carrying a pregnancy to term, so click here to improve your understanding before you do anything else. It's that important.

To be fair and just, a marker for the start of personhood must also make sense in the context of death. Considering birth, there is a parallel in how we start breathing when we are born and how we stop breathing when we die. But we aren't "unborn" when we die, which makes birth a problematic marker for the start of personhood. That's not to discredit the monumental event that birth is though. For a pregnant person, birth is more intense than running a marathon. We will not sugar coat reality: giving birth truly is a grueling, torturous labor that leaves a person bleeding and in pain for more than a month afterward. Epidurals can help, but they aren't free, they don't always work, and they do eventually wear off, leaving the person to feel the trauma their body just experienced. Nearly all women tear from giving birth, and for some, broken bones, serious nerve damage, uterine rupture, uterine inversion, and/or pelvic organ prolapse are painful, long-lasting birth injuries. Bringing a new person into the world has a very steep price. For too many women without access to modern healthcare (and even for some that do have access), giving birth means paying the ultimate price: their life. For people with a uterus, the ability to give birth is both a blessing and a burden.

 

"Many mothers-to-be find comfort and confidence in the idea that our bodies are built for birth. It's an affirmation that has helped many through labor, but too often this idea is tossed around not to help mothers get through birth, but to discount its difficulty."

-Heather Marcoux, Motherly