Some things I want to talk about on this subject:
1. Women who judge each other’s pain.
2. Birth professionals and their roles in birth.
1. Why would a woman ever want to give birth in a hospital? at home? by herself? We all have our reasons for the choices we make. Some of them are basic, like when we go to the hospital “just because”… because, what else would we do? But some, especially if they seem more extreme, happen for very, very good reasons. “Good” is a relative term, but it’s safe to assume that when someone makes a seemingly radical choice, something drove them there. People don’t just come to extreme conclusions by accident. This is so very true in birth.
So, why isn’t that good enough for some people before they judge?
There are some women out there judging the kinds of choices that women not like themselves make. Let’s take UC as the obvious example. I have been very vocal about the fact that I came to my position and decision about UC because of hard experiences for me– dare I label them “birth trauma”. What I find here is that radical individuals get excused for their choices, but not radical groups. Hey, here’s a thought… a group is just a collection of individuals. So what gives? Assume we all have a valid fucking story, bitch. “Oh, well it’s understandable why you chose XYZ, you definitely had it bad. But that doesn’t excuse those other people who like it.” <– I hear this every so often, and I don’t think it’s fair. Oh, so because someone tells you their tale of woe, you graciously permit and validate them in their choice? Or is it that you’re just too much of a coward to tell someone to their face that they are also lumped in with the stupid? I shouldn’t get a pass just because you agree with (or pretend to agree with) me. Other people are dealing with the same shit as the person with the “valid” story you heard.
Here’s a newsflash, in case you missed it:
most women turn to UC because they “had it bad”.
Talk to any UCer and she is more than likely to have a traumatic story to tell you that drove her to this. And, it’s not all just fear based. It’s about overcoming adversity. Like any strong survivor of trauma, there is a driving force in a human being that pushes them to preparation. Determined not to ever let that happen to them again, they read and research and dig deep into their soul and mind to make sure they are doing the utmost to protect themselves. You may liken this to victims of sexual assault going to therapy, taking a martial arts class, and getting a gun. Hopefully you wouldn’t be ridiculing their position, too.
And let’s not even go there and have yet another Mommy Wars pissing match over whose pain is greater and therefore worthy and excusable for their birth method. You can’t judge my trauma. You can’t tell me to suck it up. There are people who have had it “better” than me and “worse” than me, but you know what? It’s all completely relative and we are all doing what we have to do to recover and take care of ourselves. Give people a break! If I’m not stepping on your toes, don’t step on mine.
Just as I understand how some people have been driven to hospital births due to tragedies they have faced, I understand what drives one to UC. Have a little god damned sympathy, please. And try to give credit to someone, a little benefit of the doubt, that if someone is moved to do something you consider extreme, it does not come out of the blue on a whim. It has meaning and purpose. You don’t have to “get” it.
It’s another human being’s life, so don’t be so damned judgmental about what drives them. If you can excuse one of us, extend the courtesy to all of us or stop lying about getting it for any of us.
2. Over at another birth page on Facebook, one discussion that just popped up lately is that of how a birth professional should speak to a woman about her birth after the fact. One resounding feeling amongst the women was: acknowledge us and our pain.
Wow. So many women have been traumatized by their births. This isn’t just something I fictionalized. Huh? Whattayaknow? I mean, just looking at all the responses and my starting premise in the book didn’t seem so outlandish, after all.
The thing that we all seemed to cry out for is– validate me and what I went through. Tell me what was hard about my labor. Tell me where I did good. Please don’t just ignore me and treat me clinically. Talk to me about it. Don’t just ask me how breastfeeding is going and check on my postpartum body. Ask me if I want or need to talk about my birth. Tell me your impressions of my birth and the experience, in detail. And for god’s sake, admit to me if you think something should not have happened to me or should have gone differently. We need to hear it.
One woman said that she went on and on for hours with her midwives after the birth, just trying to understand it, getting it all out. A part of me wanted to cry. “I needed that”, I thought.
Women need to know that the hurt isn’t all in their head, their burden alone, some whacked out interpretation of events from a delusional mind. I can’t tell you how long it took me to discover that my births had “traumatized” me… like how dare I use that word! Even today, I hesitate to describe it like that in person because the potential for confrontation over that word would crush me. I retreat. But, inside, psychologically and logically, I understand that that is precisely what it is, whether others are willing to validate that for me or not. Women need their caregivers to be their support and their shoulder, not the “other” side.
When people complain that homebirthers, natural childbirth advocates, or UCers are too anti-medical establishment, this is a large part of the reason why. We are not creating the Us/Them, we are responding to it. We didn’t all start out this way, you know. Some of us were just as conventional about birth as the next woman. When I am told I will be dropped from care if I do not comply with medical interventions I do not believe in, you have chosen your side. Well, it forces us to stand strong as our own best advocates. This is why we are turning away from the system.
There are a lot of hurt feelings going around from us to our professionals and back again. We count on them to do what is best for us, and especially with midwives we hope for their comfort and guidance. They are maternal figures, often viewed as protectors of maternity and birth and womanhood. When we get what we believe to be the opposite of that, the opposite of “trust birth”, or “you can do this”, and when we don’t hear “That wasn’t right” when warranted, where else can we turn but to ourselves? Women need to be protected and loved and supported. They need to cry it out if they are hurt. There is an emotional need here that is not being met and women are walking away empty. Confused.
I told my midwives I didn’t want them to read my book. I pretty much call midwives unnecessary in In Search of the Perfect Birth. I try to encourage women not to rely on others, because even those who do exactly as you wish are an accidental hindrance on a natural birth. Because of how entrenched in identity midwifery is, I did not want my midwives (whom I still associated with and considered friends, despite it all) to be offended. I liked them as people. And, under the surface, my fear was that they too would judge my trauma (like the women in #1 who judge others). The last thing we need when we’ve been through this kind of pain is a medical professional firsthand witness to invalidate your experiences and emotions. We need a hug and a friend, not a judgment or criticism. I was trying to avoid all of us hurting each other’s feelings, truthfully.
One of them inquired about it to me and after I told her she shouldn’t read it, she didn’t speak another word of it to me. She and I are still friends. One I deleted from Facebook a while back because we never really spoke and I didn’t think she’d miss me, but I still felt friendly towards her. She later ordered a signed copy of my book. And then one, whom I’ve never discussed the book with, deleted me from FB without a goodbye. This made me sad, even though I was prepared to expect this and worse. I must have hurt her with the book somehow, but the sense of rejection and invalidation from all the past things I’ve gone through with her and my birth is still real. I guess she just couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Maybe we all took everything personally.
The bottom line in any this is: we as women need to honor each other’s hurt in birth trauma and talk about it, heal it, and not grade and compare it. We need to listen to each other, and see ourselves in one another.