To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I am writing this. Therapeutic? Maybe. To possibly help some other woman along the way, somewhere? Maybe. But maybe I am doing this for my daughters. It terrifies me to think that unless our birth environment changes, that they will be faced with the same misinformation and fear in childbirth that I faced in the very start of my childbearing years. The very same that caused me to end up on an operating table, being cut open, having my son removed from my body. The faith in my body and the faith in my Maker were blacked out by one single, smooth talking authority figure. Who was I to question him? It only takes one sometimes. Even when you have one hundred telling you the truth…sometimes it only takes the one.
So this might be my way of being a “one”. Certainly not for every woman. I can be far too controversial for that. And not every woman wants change. Some women want to remain in the place that they are in, because it means that the responsibility lies on someone else’s shoulders. But if my passion, my heart, my advocacy changes things for even one woman, then I have done a good job. I always tell people that I am the furthest from a feminist that they will ever meet … except when it comes to childbirth. We NEED strong women to stand up against what is being done to other women, for what has been done to us. Our babies. Our bodies. We NEED strong women to make a change, now, so that our daughters don’t have to fight…and face losing as we did. This is OUR responsibility. Not just the outspoken advocates who have already been heard, and labeled an activist. It is OUR responsibility, the average woman’s, to fight against the damage being done to women as a whole. If we don’t, then our daughters face the same.
I hear from women all the time, “I know that a home birth is probably the best way to have a natural birth, but my husband would never go for it.” We place the responsibility on our husbands or partners for something that they will never physically experience. Our husbands do not feel what we feel during childbirth. The hard work, the pain, the joy, and the utter empowerment. They will never know what it feels like to constantly have their body violated by unwanted vaginal exams, or checkups done without prior permission. They will never know how it feels to have the baby that they just worked so hard for, taken away by a stranger with gloves on. They will never feel that pull. It’s not instinctual for them. Stress can completely interfere with labor, and this is a fact that many women do not know. I don’t think I can even count on one hand, the women that I have come across that actually knows what goes on inside of our body during labor. Why? Why is this not known? Why is it not known how routine practices in childbirth can damage the hormonal flow?
So far, I have never come across a woman who has been unable to labor effectively in their home. Some don’t understand why their labor at home was shorter than their labor in the hospital. This all points back to the beautifully choreographed dance of hormones in labor. But women are not educated about hormones. They are not educated about what goes on inside of their body, and inside of their baby, during labor and childbirth. Seldom do I come across a woman who knows WHY inductions are not good, and even more seldom do I find a woman who knows that when an induction “fails”, the body was doing its job beautifully – protecting the baby who is not ready to be born.
For most women, it is simple. She goes to her routine prenatal appointments, and doesn’t ask too many questions. After all, her doctor or midwife is a doctor or midwife, and knows what s/he is doing. She goes in for any and all tests and screenings that are recommended. As she gets to 36 weeks, she prepares for weekly vaginal exams to see what her body is doing, if anything. At 38/39 weeks, she is offered a membrane sweep, since her cervix doesn’t seem to be cooperating. And since she trusts her care provider fully, she does not question this, or ask about potential risks and side effects. She becomes discouraged that her cervix has not yet begun to dilate, and asks her care provider what will happen if she gets to the next appointment and has not yet had her baby. She does not do her own independent research, because after all, she is not the one with the medical degree. Her care provider discusses the possibility of induction, and tells her that she can then pick her baby’s birth date. No more waiting! No more discomfort of pregnancy! She can plan her baby’s birth date, and have her family in town to do so, if she wishes. And to the average woman, this sounds great. Why wouldn’t it? She has not been told any differently, and she has not researched her options. She has not researched each thing that has been done, and has not been able to give true informed consent for anything. Why?
With books like What To Expect When You’re Expecting, it walks her though all of what is mentioned above. Why would she think to ask questions? Her expert pregnancy book has groomed her for these appointments, and she has been expecting them for a while. Popular pregnancy sites like BabyCenter.com, and AmazingPregnancy.com, all include the same phrase ( possibly worded differently, but all meaning the same ) sprinkled through every article : “Depending on what your doctor decides is best…”. Where is the advice about researching every prenatal/labor/birth option thoroughly and make an informed decision? Where is the information that shows both sides of the coin on a wide variety of prenatal, labor, and birth topics? Where is the responsibility?
Some women say it lies with their care provider. The care provider says it lies within the patients.
If we do not have more women stand up and teach other women about taking responsibility in prenatal care, labor, and birth…then this cycle will continue. Ignorance in childbirth is one of the most dangerous kinds of ignorance. It’s a failed responsibility that every woman needs to take back, if not for themselves, for their daughters. Their friends. Their sisters. Regardless of who it is done for, it needs to be done. And it needs to be done soon.
When I began writing this, I wasn’t sure who I was writing this to or for. I am sure now. I am writing this as a call for advocacy and activism. This is a call for women to use their voices, their feet, their minds. This is a call for women to take responsibility for birth, and make a change. There are so many avenues by which to do this, one only needs to ask. One woman can write dozens of letters to hospital administrators, state legislators, the state medical board. One woman can wear advocacy t-shirts, and get noticed, answer questions. One woman can pass out flyers, or lend help to local birth change organizations. One woman can spill her heart out onto a page, and have hundreds of readers who might finally question the routine practices in childbirth. One woman can begin a fight for the babies who have no choice in what is done to them at birth.
And total change can start with just one. Total change can start with you.