Thursday, April 21, 2005

Imaging Versus Imagining

Two controversial issues in pregnancy and birth imaging are gathering steam.

The first is videotaping of births. Some parents like to have a record of their child’s first moments ex utero. Some birth injury lawyers spontaneously ejaculate when the same record turns up as evidence in a malpractice case. As AMA president John C. Nelson noted, birth videotape is “a potential nail in the coffin from a liability perspective.”

The second issue has to do with “ultrasound boutiques,” which I hadn’t heard of before reading about them on Red State Moron’s post. They use ultrasound machines solely for the purpose of giving you photos or videotape of your baby, not for any medical diasnosis. Here is one that’s in a shopping mall.

In both cases what interests me is not the tension between doctors and patients, but the relationship between families and technology. What do we gain from a live-action record of birth that could possibly surpass our own memories of the event? How many women have been surprised or even shocked to see the mismatch between their recollection of the birth experience and the projected images they see on videotape? I have observed this even with photographs. Some women do not want to see photographs of their baby’s birth for fear those images will overwrite the ones in their memory.

And what in seeing the profile or bas relief image of our child draws us to her or him in a way resting a hand on our undulating belly can not?

This is not a criticism. I wish I had videotape of my sons’ births. If given the option at my ultrasound appointments, I certainly would have wanted to see a 3D image.

But why? What is our relationship to videoscreens that it overrides internal wisdom and connection? Are we letting our visual processing overwhelm other senses? It makes me wonder what the experience of pregnancy is like for blind women. What connections do they make to the growing life inside them and their changing bodies when they cannot rely on sight to affirm and define it?

I wish there were as many options for women wishing to acknowledge their pregnancies through non-visual, or should I say non-technological, means. I don’t even know what forms these options would take. The belly cast is one, visualization is another. What else? How else have you found to connect with, believe in the reality of, and bond to your baby without looking at an ultrasound monitor or reliving the birth on a TV screen?


Blogger Julie said...

I am very glad not to have photos of my births, let alone videotapes. In fact, I didn't even want to look in the mirror. For me the overwhelming memory of my births is a tactile one: the sensation of that warm slippery wet baby coming out between my legs, and then resting on my belly. And the memory of that physical sensation almost makes me want to have another baby. I think Sage Femme (or was it you?) talked about not putting babies on the mom's belly, but I for one loved having them there.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I think the point about not putting the baby on the mother's belly was about the birth attendant deciding how and when to do that versus the mother doing it herself in her own time, not about baby on belly versus baby not on belly. (Did I phrase that so it made any sense at all?)

Anyway, it is a very interesting topic, one that I haven't put a lot of thought into actually. Recently I went in for an ultrasound (not for pregnancy) and found it absolutely fascinating, I could hardly tear my eyes away from the screen. And this was just my kidneys, spleen, gall bladder et al. that we were looking at. Maybe it is just the fascination with being able to see that which is normally unseen. Kind of magic.

I've been pregnant and given birth four times now, and only done ultrasound once and pictures once. No videos. I kept thinking that it would be awesome to have videos for educational purposes, but not for remembering. I don't like videos. Every time I see a video of some event that I was at, it's so completely unlike my actual experience of it that it seems almost fake. Untrue. I *especially* don't like watching videos of myself because those seem the most so.

Having a video of the birth wouldn't help me remember better the things that I want most to remember, like Julie says, how it felt, how I felt. And I do have to wonder if video memories, being more immediate and accessible, would crowd out the innate memories that I treasure so much.

4:22 PM  

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