I am going baby crazy here, so bear with me as I dive back into this topic.
I hear the title quote a LOT. It is constantly coming out of the mouths of those who are negating the need for birth plans, or even for mom to really do much more than check into the hospital and leave herself in the capable hands of her doctors. It also comes from those scoffing at “birth rape” or those who claim that a natural birth can be an empowering or healing experience.
But how true is it?
Obviously it is true that healthy mom and healthy baby are of utmost importance. But is that all there is to it?
I don’t think so.
This came to mind when reading on “My OB Said What?!?” A recent quote was:
Not that shocking a quote, is it? To put in in context, this was an OB after a mother asked three times that a vaginal exam be stopped. Three times. If the patient had time to ask three times, there was time for a simple dilation check to be over. There was no crises going on. Here’s the submitter’s semi-full story:
I explained to the doctor that I wasn’t comfortable with exams due to past sexual abuse. She rolled her eyes. I felt like that stupid and difficult patient, so I consented.
Part way through I asked her to stop. She didn’t. I asked again. Nothing. I flat out told her “you need to get your hands out of me right now” and she told me “ten more seconds” and kept going. I’m pretty sure she swept my membranes even though I had already said I didn’t consent to that before the exam took place. Then she lectured me about how “a baby was going to come out of there” and I basically needed to deal.
I was too afraid to do anything and ended up crying and apologizing when it was all said and done.
That’s right. A sexual abuse victim who was having a traumatic reaction to hands inside her genitals when it was unnecessary, and a doctor refusing to respect her wishes that she stop.
Then I read another comment by another poster:
At the hospital I had my first child at if you refused an exam they would have other nurses come in the room, hold you down, pry your legs apart and do the exam anyway.
This is unbelievable to me. And it tells me that, despite the good experiences most people have, there are some truly horrible doctors, nurses, and hospitals out there, and going through birth where you are belittled, dismissed, and physically assaulted in the name of taking care of you, you may well suffer trauma from it.
And that is to be expected. There is nothing wrong with feeling traumatized when someone pries your legs open and forcibly inserts something into your vagina while you tell them to stop.
And yet, when these mothers then go on to have midwife assisted births, which studies have shown to be just as safe in outcome as hospital births, they are dismissed, laughed at, belittled. When women say they want to “take birth back” or find something more in future births, they are told that “all that matters is a healthy mom and healthy baby” and so they should be at a hospital where that is the most likely outcome (supposedly).
I’m sorry, but that is not all that matters.
If a woman is raped, and later goes on to find a loving partner who she decides to have children with, is all that matters conception? No! And in fact, she is encouraged to “take back” her sexuality, and grow confident and comfortable with herself and her body through positive acts of sex. That first act of sex after the rape is a massive deal – it can bring back the trauma, or it can help her move beyond it. It matters. And she is encouraged to make it, and all future experiences, as good as possible.
If someone goes out to drive their first time and gets t-boned and injured and sees injury to others, are they just thrown back in the same car on the same road and told that all that matters is they get to their destination? Of course not. Getting in the car might be a step. Driving again might be a hard place to get back to. But that first successful drive is incredibly empowering, and should be. Of course you want everyone to be happy and healthy at the end of it, but chances are they will be, and there is so much more to it than that.
Heck, a person’s first sex act or first time driving is a milestone, too! And there is much more to it than just the outcome. Avoiding STDs or car accidents are not the only thing that is important. The experience matters.
So why do we say it doesn’t for birth?
Why are new moms belittled for caring about how their birth goes? For doing research and having opinions? Yes, if they try to plan things to the minute that is not reasonable. Yes, if they decide they want a drug-free birth and then do nothing to prepare for it that is not reasonable. But many moms do their research and do their homework and are prepared for deviation from the “plan,” but just want respect and autonomy while they birth. Why is that a bad thing?
And even more so, why are moms who have a traumatic birth experience, like those described above, told to just get over it and move on, because they are alive and so is their baby? Why can we not respect the trauma they went through? And why, when they try to “take back” their birth the next time, is that in any way a bad thing?
It is such a double standard. And it is so hurtful. Being misunderstood, being belittled for reasonable feelings, being told to just “get over it” by those who don’t understand makes the whole experience hurt so much more.
I don’t get it.