I almost hate to draw attention to this article (it was in the weekend’s National Post too). But someone else drew it to mine, and I’d like to share the pain. “Tokophobia” is the name of a “disorder”–those women who are apparently morbidly fearful of childbirth. I am now myself quite fearful of these women who claim this illness as their own, and wondering when a psychological association will acknowledge my personal distress officially.
At first as I read, the author had my sympathy. But then I read on. She cites her friends who have had horrible childbirth experiences: “‘It’s a conspiracy,’ she said. ‘Nobody tells you, nobody prepares you for what you go through. If they did, the human race would die out.'” I juxtapose this with my many multiple friends who are having children right now–though they are all great people, none are superheroes–and not one had such a thing to say about her experience giving birth. The author goes on to say this:
And yet, my terror of the process didn’t make me careful about contraception. Instead, I played fast and loose. …In fact, I have been pregnant twice, once in my 20s, and again when I was 30. Both ended in terminations.
I know I want my own biological issue. The extraodinary all-consuming love that a mother has for her child fascinates and appalls me in equal measure. If I could be spared the pain and just be handed a baby, would I sign up? Now I am in my early 40s when the dangers and complications for mother and baby multiply, and it would be so much easier just to close the door on the matter. But as long as I think there is a prize worth walking throught fire for, then there is torment.
Well, so long as she knows what she wants–which is apparently her own biological issue as some sort of prize. But just so long as that prize doesn’t come at any personal expense. Less like childbirth, more like winning a huge stuffed dog at a fair, after playing the beanbag toss.
Brigitte is chuckling: “But as long as I think there is a prize worth walking throught fire for…”? Like, say, the amazing if painful miracle of childbirth? Gosh, these women. They “intellectualize” things so much they end up making hardly any sense at all.
Tanya wonders: So, this tokophobia, is it the social equivalent of homophobia? Should we stare down our noses at her and say, “You’re such a tokophobic!” Or is she drumming up sympathy for a mental disorder (in which case we need to pull out the ‘tolerance’ card)? Keeping up with the latest politically correct trends is very exhausting!
Véronique adds: I became acquainted with tokophobia in the process of writing this article. (Some argue that women who suffer from tokophobia should be allowed to request cesarean sections without a medical reason). Like all phobias, tokophobia is not rational and difficult to understand for those who do not have the condition. However, just like 3 of my children are “deathly allergic” to red peppers, all women who claim tokophobia are not clinically tokophobic. Having given birth five times without drugs, I speak with some authority when I say that childbirth is not a walk in the park. A dislike for the idea is not a phobia, nor is looking at childbirth with apprehension. Both are normal emotions that can be dealt with through support and preparation.
This reminds me of both abortion and assisted suicide arguments. In the case of abortion, a woman faces a crisis pregnancy. Instead of helping her get rid of the crisis, we help her get rid of the baby. In assisted suicide, a patient who is suffering is hopeless to the point of wanting to die. Instead of helping the patient with the pain and the hopelessness, we help the patient end his life.
Tokophobia and other non-clinical expressions of fear of childbirth should be treated as such. The problem is the fear, not the baby or the process of childbirth.