Cesarean Voices -A web site by, for, and about cesarean born people
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A Converstion Between Friends - Natalie Ednie and Jane English 10/21/97

N - Having read last night most of the papers you have been sent so far from various parts of the world, responses to your book Different Doorway, I was just enchanted with the responses, even the ones I didn't totally agree with, that there were responses at all, that there was felt to be a place in our conscousness to allow that different birth experiences do make a difference in world view, and the appreciation of those differences. I had thought that people in general would have an attitude of "so what" or that they would be so unsure about where to put the information that they would not want to think about it. In my mind it has to do with going on from cesarean birth to the other technologies, growing babies technologically.

I once saw a science fiction movie about a woman whose fetus was secretly being grown in a lab. She found out about her fetus and when she saw it her reaction to it was maternal, was to embrace it even though it was not in her body.

All this has to do with what it is to be human, the bond that binds the newborn to the rest of mankind. Our assumption is that if a baby is born he is automatically bonded to mankind; that a cesarean baby is bonded the way every other baby is bonded. In a way that is so and in a way not so. It seems to be a different kind of bond, like yellow instead of purple. I think it would be an enrichment for humankind to accept that there are different kinds of bonding.

J - As Mairead said it is about having a cosmic knowing but there being no particular one person there for her.

N - and I don't understand that statement at all.

J - I do

N - My assumption that people would say, "so what," is based on the assumption that we are all in here together and the sooner we forget our differences and get on with it the better off we are.

J - Say more about your watching my evolution with this cesarean work these past 22 years.

N - When you first started expressing interest in this I felt it was going to lead nowhere for you and that it was, perhaps, an avoidance of getting over whatever was troubling you and getting on with your life.

J - That is ultimately one way I have come to perceiving it, not "so what" in a negative way, but being able to transcend it all. But not repressing it.

N - I felt also that the idea that cesarean born folks might have a different worldview, maybe must have a different worldview, than those who were vaginally born was another divisive idea that would separate us into two separate classes of people, like blacks and whites, males and females. The cesareans were going to create another minority and get to be victims. Imagine a female black cesarean born -- that person has all the advantages a victim could want! I was very tired of divisiveness and was at that time longing for more sense of commonality and unity in mankind. That desire in me made me resist your work more than was necessary. I was thinking you were like that because of your New England upbringing or because of who knows what, but "Let's not talk about cesarean birth puleeez! You can't do anything about that; its a done deal."

J - As I said in my article, when you just look at the "effects" of cesarean birth it is a dead end. When you are locked in to cause and effect you see the birth as in the past and there's nothing you can do about it. That's what happens when you look at in a mechanistic way.

N - There is one thing that still bothers me, and this is a personal response. When I was reading about Felice it reminded me about one of my daughters as a child. It seemed no different than when I hear blacks lamenting about their lot in life and realize that it is no different from the story many whites could tell.

J - This is where it is important to remember that I am not saying that the cesarean traits I identify are exclusively cesarean traits. Also Joanne was in the early stage of being with these ideas, that of seeing everything through this lens, as I did for a while. When you have a new toy, you play with it a lot. Even with her training as an early childhood educator she didn't know what to do with Felice. And these ideas were something that worked! I am in no way saying any of these traits are exclusively cesarean. One person who saw my slide show years ago said the patterns I spoke of were archetypal patterns but that they were re-arranged.

N - I know they aren't exclusively cesarean, but I am still bothered by the divisiveness, her claiming some sort of dispensation for Felice's bad manners as a child. I would not have claimed that dispensation for my daughter. I would have put it squarely in her lap and told her to clean up her act. Its her life, she has to do it. During temper tantrums I wouldn't have held her; I would just have walked away. That is an area of my personal preference: we all have to get along in this world.

J - One thing that didn't get into Joanne's piece is that her ways have worked. She says that now Felice is very social and has lots of friends.

N - And my daughter who is quite a bit older than Felice is still trying to figure it all out!

J - With Felice it was not more separateness that she needed. As Joanne said, cesareans already know about separateness; what they need is a connection to the rest of the human race.

N - I like that she said that, that she acted on it and that she had the courage to do that. I know I would not have done the same.

J - You can't say that. You have never had a cesarean child. You would have had different intuitions, different instincts if you had.

N - Maybe so, but I don't think so. I think she was far wiser and creative in her parenting than I was.

I have, however, always agreed wholeheartedly with the idea that cesarean born babies might be handled differently, ought to be handled differently, and have care taken to the abruptness of their entry into the world. That they ought not to be held face up but be turned as soon as they are taken out of the wound and be shielded from the light, be wrapped snugly and given to their mothers immediately. I think those things ought to be standard birth practice. I agree with Joanne Steele and Robert Oliver. There is no cost, it won't increase risk for mother or infant, so why not do it? It is kind; it is gracious. It boggles my mind that it is not done.

J - It is not done when people consider newborns as lumps, not as sentient human beings. It is fairly recent in our culture that there is awareness that a newborn is a human being, not just a vegetable that will eventually turn into a human being.

So how have things changed for you in your view of my work?

N - One of the changes I noticed in myself was that I began to look a little deeper when I ran across a person whose behavior seemed to me to be "Jane-like." Working in the office of my psychiatrist-husband, greeting his patients, I began to notice these "Jane-like" people, people who struck me in some ineffable sense as being like you. I began asking them, "Are you cesarean born?" And I discovered quite often that they were, and the ones that weren't would often begin telling of other birth trauma.

I have always thought that the way that you are born is the way that you are, in a very deep sense. Some of my seven children have been born in a very circumspect and economical fashion and have grown up to be that kind of person. Some have wallowed around, not knowing whether they wanted to be born or not, taking their time, and they are that kind of people.

J - All during these 22 years there have been in me doubts about the validity of what I have been doing. Obviously the yes was stronger than the no because I have stayed with it. Doing this has made me go beyond one of my cesarean birth patterns, that of always looking for external initiative in people-related things. Having the initiative come from within me is very foreign to me. It has been a strange process.

N - I remember you telling me that many years ago, and showing me the painting of you receiving gifts. I remember feeling very afraid for you. I had taken you into my heart and wondered if you might run out of reasons to get up in the morning. Your motivation to live was not the same as mine. I worried that you might fail to live because of this feeling that self-motivation is foreign, not valid, not what counts. I was reassured by realizing that externally I did not see that in you, that lack of self motivation. It seemed to me that you were easily reassured. That you got your reassurance from dreams, from happenstance, from things that people said or failed to say, all kinds of clues that the universe would give you that life was OK.

J - Half of the pattern is that motivation doesn't come from the inside, but the other half is that it is all there, given without my having to do anything.

N - Maybe that is what Mairead means about the cosmos.

J - That everything will be taken care of. but there is no one person who you are bonded with. You have to trust this large, apparently fragmented, whole.

N - I have the same trust, but I suspect my inner experience of doing it is different from yours and that of other cesarean born folks, and I cannot begin to say what the difference is.

J - Could you say more about the sense of "Jane-like"?

N - A lot of it is feeling that sense of separateness from the commonality. I picked that up from you when I first met you and had no idea what it was. All I knew was that here was a person I needed to build a bridge to. I also sensed that you would not build one to me. I knew I needed to build one, that it was my priviledge to do it because I could. If we stay with this simile, I built the bridge to within two feet of you and you jumped on it and came running across!

J - Its the all or nothing pattern.

N - It is, and I was delighted. Talk about instant satisfaction!

J - It scares a lot of people.

N - But maybe they are not consciously trying to build a contact.

J - I didn't have a clue that you were trying to build a contact.

N - Well, you weren't supposed to! It has to do with my personal history of having been brought up in a lot of different homes with a lot of different people. I was raised in nine different families. Something in me yearns for that kind of contact. I saw you and realized that there was a bridge that needed to be built. It was clear to me that you couldn't do it.

J - I do get fed up with some of my friends for not taking enough initiative. I am usually the one who is arranging things, and there is a part of me that doesn't trust that. Their lack of initiative towards me may be because they are in families and relationships and are self-sufficient.

I don't trust my own initiative inter-personally. I trust it in relation to projects, but not to people.

N - We are absolutely opposite there. I trust my relationship skills a lot, but not my project making. I look at your books and think, "How could she do that?!" I wouldn't know where to begin!

J - I just do it. I didn't plan to do books. I just did what I enjoyed and one thing led to another.

N - I also go where my interests lead me, put one foot in front of the other and something emerges. I trust that. But you put something else into it that I don't. I hang back and wait and see. You stir the waters, you challenge things to see if you can get through here or get through there. I don't do that, I wait. I can't be the way you are, and I think you have trouble sitting with me while I wait.

J - It has been an amazing process for me to do this cesarean work. It has been an inner process validated by other cesarean born people, by cesarean mothers and by people like you. I put this stuff out and it comes back to me that it is useful to other people. I don't think the question is whether it is "true" or not, but it is useful, it changes the quality of their lives.

N - That speaks to my pragmatism that says, "If it works, lets do it."

J - I have been thinking about where this whole project is taking me. I certainly don't want to become the center of it. My purpose is to get out of the way. I don't want to lecture or sign books and all that. But I wasn't able to just walk away from it. I had to get it out into the world. I am not interested in making (or spending!) a lot of money on it so the web site should work OK. When I get to a place of satisfaction at having communicated this, I have no idea who I will be then. I will be free of some limitation I am currently living within. I can't even imagine where I will go to.

N - My hope for this work is that it expands and attracts more attention. Even if it simply means that cesarean born babies get handled differently that would be a plus. But beyond that there is an obligation that we have to one another as people in the world together to have the courage to look at our differences, to acknowledge the differences in our worldviews. The obligation is to find common ground. And this is not just about cesarean born people. The question about what is human that are coming with cloning and with greater technological conceptions and births are going to challenge our ethical system, our basic assumption of what it is to be human. The Star Trek sequences with the androids are not that far in the future. We already have bionic people, people with artifical hearts and artificial limbs, eyes and voices. We accept those because they're mechanical things. We haven't asked how these people's worldviews are different. We realize that there must be differences; of course there are. (More on technological birth)

J - One of the things about being cesarean is that this is an almost invisible difference.

N - Consider how people who are left-handed are in a minority in a world set up for right handed people. Scissors don't fit them, they write differently. They are having to fit into a world that isn't made for them. We accomodate them, for instance, by letting them have the place at the table where they won't bump elbows with other people. We just accept that they are different. This is a good simile to use with the cesarean born. They are different. They keep running into things that don't accomodate them. They are one more minority, and which must be accepted. If we right handed people learn to accomodate the lefthanders and we vaginally born learn to accomodate the cesareans we will all get along much better than if we try to pretend the differences don't exist.

I am convinced that we don't want to be all alike so this is a battle we will win, because we need diversity.

J - The seeds that I have planted are already beginning to sprout in a few places. I look forward to watching them grow. I don't want a very active part in it.

N - That strikes me as very much like grandmothering.

J - I like that!

N - I don't want to be actively involved in my grandchildren's lives, or my children's lives now, but I am very interested in seeing what will happen. And I don't have to make any judgements on their lives. I can express my likes and dislikes, but the last act hasn't been played yet, and more power to it!



Natalie Ednie and Jane English have been good friends since 1975. Natalie is the mother of seven vaginally born children. Her husband, Tom, is a psychiatrist. Natalie's email address is ednie@dmi.net

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