Alternative Childbirth and Food Options of Today

Find meaning in life by bringing birthing and cooking back home in a society of commercialized choices.

| October 2017

  • Some women choose a home water birth for their labor and delivery.
    Photo by Getty Images/mshallenbery
  • “A Bun in The Oven,” by Barbara Katz Rothman, traces the food and the birth movements from the era of scientific management in the 20th century through to the consumerism of Post-World War II to the late 20th century counter-culture midwives and counter-cuisine cooks.
    Cover Courtesy New York University Press

A Bun in The Oven (New York University Press, 2016), by Barbara Katz Rothman, an internationally recognized sociologist turns her attention to the lessons to be learned from the food movement and parallel forces shaping both of these consumer-based social movements. In both movements, issues of the importance of ‘meaningful’ and ‘personal’ experiences offset discussions of what is sensible, convenient and safe. The following excerpt is from chapter one “A Tale of Two Social Movements.”

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There are people dedicated to improving the way we eat, and people dedicated to improving the way we birth. Both movements move back and forth between the intimately individual — the kitchen and the bed- room, the mouth and the womb — and the larger systems in which intimacy is housed, agribusiness and the biomedical industry. The people at work in these social movements seek change through individual education, but also, in larger ways, they are doing more. They are working on social systems, working with the checks and balances on medical and agricultural monopolies. They are seeking ways to change how the economy structures the “choices” that are available to individuals.

For both of these movements, one could say it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. It is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolish- ness, it is the age of organic kale chips, it is the age of McDonald’s, it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity, it is the moment of the unattended water birth, it is the moment of the elective cesarean section, it is the season of light, it is the season of darkness, it is the time of the rising of the star of the master chef, it is the time of ubiquitous processed corn, it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair.

I’m jealous. My movement, the one I’ve labored in for almost forty years, is the birth movement. The food movement, for all of the despair, incredulity, and foolishness, has had clear successes, while mine — sadly, not so much. The word “birthies” gets marked in red by my spell check, but “foodies” has made it into the vocabulary. And therein lies my problem. Basically from where I sit, the food movement is making strides on a dozen fronts: the need for a more natural, more organic, and tastier diet is acknowledged everywhere. Vegetable carts bring fresh fruits and vegetables to poor neighborhoods. High-end kitchen appliances are hot items even for people who mostly microwave. Exotic-food trucks ply the need improving. People who don’t really have the slightest interest in or knowledge of cooking watch cooking shows. Julia Child is some kind of a national heroine — played by Meryl Streep! Can you be more successful than that?

And my movement? The birth movement? Well, people might know there is one. They’ve probably heard of “home birth,” which is some kind of progress from forty years ago. They cannot pronounce “midwifery,” but they’ve heard of midwives. We got one movie out of it that maybe somebody heard of: The Business of Being Born. Thank you, Ricki Lake. I’m forever grateful, sure, but I’d way rather have Meryl Streep playing Ina May (oh, sorry, you probably never heard of her either — the mid- wives’ Julia Child. Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery didn’t make the splash that Julia Child’s TV show The French Chef2 did, but it got some popular attention to the movement — more on that later).

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