I haven’t written anything in awhile, but this morning I found myself reading pictures on the Improvingbirth.org Facebook Page about birth trauma, and how negative our views on birthing women are. How little they seem to matter. How much is taken away from them while they are doing one of the most important things in their life. Check it out. The amount of women who experience some sort of trauma is absolutely horrifying.
Now, that all being said, I have and currently know some amazing nurses, doctors and doulas. I’m not saying everyone in the medical field is bad. I’m not saying that there aren’t emergencies and that every birth is perfect. I’ve said all this before. I have a great deal of respect for nurses and doctors. What I don’t respect is professional medical personnel in any capacity forcing women to do things that they don’t want to do. I don’t respect them getting court orders to perform a csection. I don’t respect them belittling a woman’s choice or making her feel uncomfortable or forcing themselves on a woman in an effort to “help her”.
I’ve had both good and bad things happen during the births of my babies.
While I was pushing with Reilly (for almost 3 hours), my midwife staved off of an episiotomy for as long as she could. She waited when I asked her to. She let me make that choice.
When I got to the hospital while in labor with Ophelia, the attending OB and nurse were adamant that I wasn’t in labor because my contractions were erratic and not “text book” even though I was 4-5cm dilated. They told me to either get up and walk around for a couple hours or consent to something I didn’t want (fetal monitors and an epidural) if I really wanted to be admitted that badly. They told me that it would “be awhile before I had that baby”. I signed the consent form for an epidural. At the time, I was in so much pain (they made me lay down on a teeny, tiny bed so they could keep the fetal monitors on me, even though I asked them if I could take them off) that I probably would have done a lot of things to get out of that triage room and out of that bed. When my water broke and I was suddenly almost fully dilated, they finally took me seriously. They tried to move me from triage to a labor room, which failed because I was pushing. 5-7 nurses and an OB rushed into the tiny room (which was stupid. There was only enough room for the OB and one nurse, plus my husband and I) while I lay on my back, trying to push my baby out. They told me to “wait to push”. They gave her medication that I didn’t consent to after she was born.
During my 39 week appointment with Bachman, my midwife was butthurt that I didn’t want my membranes swept. She told me that it would speed up labor. I had already been in early labor for a week and was 5cm dilated at my check up. I was having contractions while she was checking my cervix. She advised me to walk around for a few hours and come admit myself to the hospital (the same hospital that during my previous labor told me that they wouldn’t admit me while I was in labor with Ophelia because my contractions weren’t “text book”.) I ignored her advice. Because I remembered what had to happen for me to be admitted previously. I was scared that they weren’t going to labor the way I wanted to. That they were going to make me lay down in the bed with monitors strapped to me (“for 20 minutes at a time”). I was scared that they were going to notice that my body wasn’t making enough progress for them and either tell me to go home or try to get me to get pitocin. I was scared (and voiced this regularly to my husband) that they would try to talk me into a csection.
When I finally went into labor with Bachman, I was at home. We had to call 911 because we wouldn’t have made it to the hospital in time. Brad had 911 operators telling him to “not allow” me to labor on the toilet. When EMS showed up, they tried to coerce me into laboring lying down on my bed instead of standing up in the bathroom. They turned on my bathroom light multiple times after being told not to. When my husband told them that I was just fine, that this wasn’t my first baby and that I was a certified doula and I was comfortable with how I was laboring, one of the guys got snippy and asked him “if you didn’t want our help, why did you even call?” simply because I wasn’t doing what they wanted me to do…they wanted me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. My husband had to tell this gentleman that if he wasn’t going to listen, he would be escorted out of our house by the MP who was there.
When the midwife suggested I come into the hospital and I didn’t, I was less scared of delivering at home, by myself, than I was of going to the hospital because I wanted to give birth to my baby my way.
Now, my births were no where near as traumatic as some. I wasn’t forced to do anything. I wasn’t held down by medical professionals. I was listened to for the most part. But, these thing bother me still YEARS later. And the parts that bother me are the parts where my feelings and concerns and the facts about MY body were not listened to. When I got to the ER after Bachman was born, the midwife who had told me to come back to the hospital the previous day made me feel terrible that I had listened to my body and didn’t come in. She made me feel bad that I wanted control. While in a labor room, she also tried to forcefully remove a piece of the placenta that got left behind…it felt like my insides were being ripped out. When I asked her to stop, and asked if we could wait a while to see if it passed by itself, she acted offended, then proceeded to tell me that if it didn’t pass within 12 hours, she would be manually removing it. (It passed by itself less than 4 hours later.)
I’ve read a lot of stories and listened to a lot of first hand accounts of women giving birth to their children. Some were amazing. Some were not. Some are much, much worse than anything I’ve ever gone through. But we are the ones who grow these tiny little creatures inside of our bellies for 9 months. We are the ones who take these babies home to care for them. We are the ones who raise them. We are only in the hospital for a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things and while there are serious, true, real emergencies, they are the exception, not the rule. The worst phrase I ever hear in regards to babies being born is “a healthy baby is all that matters” because it’s not true. How can we expect women who have had traumatic births to raise these children who they haven’t been able to bond with? Or are so fucking traumatized from their births that they have post partum depression or PTSD. How can we expect them to be at their best for their children when they are having a hard time dealing with their experiences?
Babies ARE important. They are so important. I want my babies healthy and happy. But I also want to be treated like a human with rights to birth my baby how I want to birth my baby, pending no complications. I want the right to be able to say “no” and have someone listen to me. I want to be able to stand up during my delivery and eat a cheeseburger because there are no complications, not because of some hospital “policy”. And look, it’s not that I don’t understand why women are told not to eat. I understand all of it, and I’m sympathetic to the doctors and nurses who truly want a better birth experience for women but have to follow the rules. I’m sympathetic to the bad things that can happen during labor because it’s not predictable. But while hospitals and doctors are trying to control what I do with my body, no one is remembering that we wouldn’t be here had women not given birth. Are the maternal and fetal death rates lower now than they were 100 years ago? I don’t have the statistics, but logically speaking, yes, since we have 100 years of medical advancements for real emergencies.
Can someone tell me why we’re so afraid to let women listen to their bodies? It’s mind boggling to me. While I’m done having kids, I have friends who are still having babies. I have three kids who might have their own babies one day. This desperately needs to change. The fact that birth trauma is a thing at all is deplorable. The fact that we need to fight for our own rights is sad.
This is a crazy, all-over-the-place rant, and for that, I apologize. I don’t know all the facts and I wish I did. I can only share my experiences and opinions and fight for my kids to have the right to birth at home, or by themselves, or to say “no” to a c-section and not have scare tactics used on them. I may be done having babies, but the rest of the world isn’t.