Give Mama Some Respect

Post by Raven Chitalo for the Love for Love series.


Photo of my belly at 37 weeks, by Love Bug Photos

Give Mama Some Respect

Today is my six month anniversary of giving birth to my gorgeous little girl (I can’t believe I have a 6-month old already- the time really did fly by). It was such a major event for me that I’m still processing it. I didn’t suffer from any of the major traumas many women go through, but I still learned some profound lessons about myself, my body, my family, and our medical system. Birth is a time of tremendous strength and courage and should be one of the most empowering experiences of a woman’s life; however our medical system is set up to completely disempower most women.

I want to talk about birth choice, trauma, and respect for all of us to share our stories. However, there is so much conflict and defensiveness around any motherhood or birth topics (AKA Mommy Wars), so I will start out by making it clear that I’m not judging anyone’s choices. If I say something good about home birth, it does not mean that all mothers that had a C-section are {insert your insult of choice here}. That is obviously a false equation, but because we all love our children so much, we tend to jump to defensiveness because we’re worried about somehow screwing up. Please assume love in all cases and let’s keep this about empowering choices. (In fact, that’s a pretty good way to go about your life every day- assuming love in all cases).

Let’s start off with a summary of my birth story. WARNING: This does have some birth details, so if that sort of talk bothers you, please look away. Also, if you have suffered any birth trauma, it may also trigger you.

I am a total geek who loves to learn new things and read anything I can. Even before I got pregnant, I’d done lots of research about birth and the options available. We had a clear birth plan and found a home birth midwife that we love, who was terrific for our needs. I had a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, so home birth was a great option for us. I did labor at home for 30 hours, with my midwife, mom, and husband, but my little girl never moved down into birth position, even though I kept dilating. My midwife suggested her head was probably too big for my pelvis and that an epidural might relax my pelvis enough for her to move down, so we agreed to transfer to the hospital. Up until that point, it had been hard work, going through the contractions, but it had been peaceful and calm and I felt like a well- supported, strong woman, doing something that my body naturally knew how to do.

Everything switched at the hospital. They treated us like we’d come in from doing satanic rituals instead of just birthing at home. My midwife is a Certified Nurse Midwife, who has worked in hospital delivery for more than 10 years and home birth for more than 20. She proved her knowledge and skills over and over, but the hospital staff kept treating her (and me) like we were uneducated and stupid. I’d had excellent prenatal care, which she had documented in the file she had with her, but every nurse that came in talked about me not getting prenatal care and also talked about me like I wasn’t in the room. My midwife gave them my birth plan, but they kept ignoring it until she raised a fuss about my rights. They didn’t inform me of anything that they were doing, while they went around sticking needles in me and putting fetal monitors inside me. Luckily, my midwife kept telling me what they were doing.

Then the doctor came in and told me that he was putting me on Pitocin. I told him I refused Pitocin and he responded that I’d lost that right.

WHAT??

I was so shocked that I literally could not speak (and for me, that’s REALLY saying something). At NO point does a patient lose their rights to refuse treatment. I did not have the energy to fight, after 30 hours of labor, and not being able to keep any food down, so I relented. Now, looking back, I wish I had fought harder. Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin, a hormone the body produces during birth to cause contractions (also during lactation and orgasm). Pitocin is used to induce labor and can cause much more painful contractions. Natural contractions come in waves, so you have a bit of breathing time during the buildup between, but Pitocin contractions just slam into you over and over. It made my labor much more difficult and painful. And there is research about complications and problems it can cause down the road that I really didn’t want to risk. It didn’t help my labor progress- my 3 hours before the epidural weren’t any more productive than my time at home, but when they finally listened to my midwife and gave me the epidural, things went pretty quickly. I managed to have a vaginal birth and my little girl and I were both healthy and happy.

I’ve seen plenty of stories and comments that would tell me that a healthy baby is all that matters, no matter how she got here. And, while I love her enough that I don’t doubt how valuable she is, I also think I matter too. My well-being, both mental and physical, affect the care I can give to her, yet so many women are told over and over that we don’t matter. That we’re just important for getting the baby here safely and we shouldn’t have any feelings about one of the most intensive experiences we’ll ever have.

I call Bullshit.

Women matter. Birth matters. Respect MATTERS. A woman becomes a mother through this incredible experience, so respect her through the process.

If you had a great doctor who explained things to you and you felt heard and respected during your birth, that’s awesome. But I’ve personally experienced how a doctor’s nonchalance and attitude can tarnish your experience. If my midwife hadn’t been tenaciously fighting against some other interventions I didn’t want, the doctor would have sailed along to give me those, without even telling me. I’d have been much more likely to sail along with unnecessary interventions until I had a C-section that I didn’t want or need. And I had a comprehensive birth plan, was highly educated about the process, had an excellent advocate on my side, and I still got treated like a child who should just sit back and let the big man do his work. (If you had a C-section, and you felt it was necessary for you or for your baby’s health, then I’m very happy for you and I’m NOT saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying it was not a desired outcome for us and there was nothing about my labor that made one necessary.)

I’d love to see more women demand better care from their care givers. I’d like to see more caregivers realize that they are not in charge of labor- that the women are powerful, that our bodies are not broken, and that birth is not something to rush so you can play tennis. Most of all, I’d love to see women allowed the space to talk about all the parts of their birth- the guilt they might feel or the strength they gained or the mistreatment they received or how unbelievably beautiful it was-in an open, supportive environment without other women telling them they should shut up and be grateful. Know that your story matters, no matter how normal or abnormal it is. And that just because I talk about mine is not a judgment of yours.

Please feel free to share your story in the comments or email me if you want to be heard.

 

Raven is a Joy Archaeologist, helping you to dig deep into your life & find your joy again. To dance your own dance, full of the fire & passion you were born to share with the world. In May 2013, she started her new job as Mama to an amazing little girl, who is full of star shine and wonder. (This is by far her most important title.) She is also a dancer, a traveler, an artist, a writer, an amateur photographer, a voracious reader, and a basket weaver. She firmly believes in the power of women to make great changes in our own lives and therefore in the world. She holds sacred space for those that need healing, revitalization, and to rekindle joy. She has no intention to tiptoe through life- she believes in living to the fullest and drinking every last drop from her cup. Connect with her on her website or on Facebook or email.

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