How did I arrive at this conclusion? By reading other women’s birth stories, and seeing what they took away from it. In various pregnancy- and baby-centered websites there will be pages where you can post your own birth story and read other women’s stories. Soon after my older son was born, I read several of these, focusing on the “negative” birth stories because I wanted to understand why these women felt as they did after birth–especially since I felt so positive and empowered by giving birth. Almost uniformly the stories were of women who wanted a natural birth and were coerced into accepting unwanted and possibly unnecessary interventions–they wanted to walk, but were made to stay in bed; they wanted to avoid drugs, but gave in to epidurals and Pitocin; they wanted to give birth vaginally, but were coerced or scared into having a C-section. And there were some heart-wrenching ones–like the woman who was certain that something was wrong because she was in terrible abdominal pain but the machines didn’t register anything wrong so the doctors and nurses ignored her complaints, until they finally realized that she was suffering from placental abruption, and her baby almost died; or the woman whose epidural for a C-section didn’t take, but the doctor ignored her when she said she could still feel her abdomen and cut into her stomach and uterus, and she was screaming in agony, and the anesthesiologist quickly put her completely out, mercifully. But one that got my attention, because it was completely different was the woman who was absolutely angry that her request for an epidural was ignored, and she had to give birth without any pain medications. In her first birth, they wouldn’t give her an epidural when she first requested one because she wasn’t far enough dilated, and then she progressed quickly so they refused to give her an epidural because she was too far dilated, and it could interfere with her pushing or be detrimental to the baby. So when she went in to the hospital in labor with her second child, she related her first experience to the nurses, and they assured her that she would get her epidural. But the same thing happened again.It made me really rethink things. Most childbirth educators teach women how to advocate for themselves so that they will have the birth experience they want–typically things like avoiding Pitocin, epidurals, IVs, being stuck in bed, etc. Most of the negative stories were of women who tried to avoid these things and failed; yet here was this woman who had an unmedicated birth–the goal of most women I knew–and was mad about it!
In thinking over all of these stories, the one common denominator was that all of these women were ignored. They were not treated as individuals, as humans. Their wants (to have or to avoid an epidural), their words (classic symptoms of placental abruption, but not gushing blood; insisting that they could feel a supposedly numb area) were brushed aside as unimportant. They were brushed aside as unimportant, although they were the paying customers–the doctor, nurses, and hospitals work for them, yet they were treated as servants, to be told what to do and when.
To me, childbirth education is not about achieving my idyllic birth, because everyone’s ideals will be different. Also, some women may not be able to have their ideal birth–they may plan a totally natural birth, only to require a C-section if the cord prolapses, or the baby suddenly stops moving. They may plan to have an epidural, only to find that their health condition precludes it. These things happen, though rarely.
Childbirth education to me is educating a woman about what happens during childbirth–normal, variations of normal, some of the more common things that may go wrong, risks and benefits of various drugs and procedures, advocating for yourself and what you want, and tips to help you through labor. It is most definitely not “one size fits all.”
If you want a C-section and are denied it, you will be just as likely to be upset as if you want a vaginal birth and are denied it. While I cannot quite understand why any woman would choose major abdominal surgery unnecessarily, I accept as a fact that some women do. When your request is ignored, or the doctors or nurses don’t fully explain what is happening to you, or why it is necessary, then you will feel like you are less than a person….unimportant. You will likely carry negative feelings with you regarding your birth for a long time–even if you eventually accept these things as necessary, but were confused or ignorant at the time. This is why it is so important to fully understand and really choose what happens to you. It doesn’t matter what I would choose, or what I chose–it’s not my birth. It doesn’t matter that this is what the doctor would choose for herself, or choose for his wife–it’s not their birth. It’s your birth, your body, your baby. It’s important to you, so you have to make yourself important to them.
Filed under: birth choices, birth experience, informed consent, labor support Tagged: | birth choices, birth stories, C-section, childbirth, childbirth education, home birth, homebirth, hospital birth, labor and birth