POWER can be uncomfortable, but it’s yours,
whether you like it or not.
Meet my kids.
Each one of them, born differently.
She was a hospital birth. I had a birth plan and wishes for natural delivery, but with an OB/GYN. Things happened in that birth that I will forever question myself on, and things with my daughter’s health as a result. If only I had just spoken up, if only I hadn’t just taken the doctor’s word for it, if I only had chosen differently.
That is my burden, but in context of my life and my personal evolution, I made the choices then that were most fitting of me, and given my awareness of my own naivete and ignorance, I have forgiven myself. In other words, I did the best I could at that time with what I had.
He was born in the hospital, although it wasn’t at all how I’d planned. By this point in my life I had grown stronger, more aware of our systems, more resistant, but I still wasn’t quite all the way there yet. My outrage at the positions I would be put in, at the things that were done to me without my consent and without respect for my feelings, would ultimately catapult me into learning the truth about birth that I carry with me today. The horror and disgust taught me some very hard lessons, and valuable ones.
Despite what others did from the outside, despite any chance at legalities I may or may not have had claim to for some actions, I was still an adult capable of making choices (although I wasn’t strong or smart enough yet to make the right ones). I was accountable.
Wrestling with my thoughts, trying to figure out what the medical industry had to offer me that I hadn’t yet tried, trying to figure out how to outsmart the system, find the secret formula of care I needed and how I could get people to agree to let me, I discovered their answer for me: nothing. No one was going to save me. No one was going to speak for me. I had to save myself. After going more than half the pregnancy not having a clear idea of what I needed to do, the dawning which occurred to me left me without any health care providers. I was both scared and liberated, emphasis on the liberated.
I had finally spoken up. I had finally said no. I had finally realized and exercised my accountability. And now, under the birth which went only in a way that I had chosen, I had no one to thank nor to blame but myself, and it was good. I was healed, the birth was the healthiest of all of them, and I understood my own strength. The truth is, the power had been mine all along. I just hadn’t understood that.
I had forgiven myself of the past mistakes I had made, and did not place the blame solely on my care providers. While I still have my feelings about what should have been, I also realize that I had been an accountable adult all along. In fact, I had been THE primary accountable one. All my mistakes were my own, and anger and hurt feelings aside, the weight was not just to be placed on all the medical pros ever “responsible” for me.
There’s a strong anti-natural and anti-home birth movement out there. A favored evocative tool of that group is the anti-homebirth story, often wrought with tragedy. The end tone is usually that it was somebody else’s fault. I can’t help but think the whole time listening to these that there were other accountable adults there in these seemingly avoidable events. There were people with nagging intuition telling them something wasn’t right. They did nothing. There were uncomfortable mates wanting strongly to seek emergency help but doing nothing. There were quiet birth support friends shaking their heads in the corner, making meek suggestions while watching on, doing nothing. Sometimes there were even other experts giving their okays but then passing the buck. Are you seeing a trend here?
And somehow… it all comes down to the midwife– homebirth’s favorite extreme. Exalted wrongly as the hero as much as wrongly demonized as the villain. When a bad outcome happens in a hospital, we take for granted that a doctor is educated and did all he could. Occasionally there is a lawsuit, but more often than not, there is respect and forgiveness and understanding. In a homebirth, the midwife gets the opposite of this– the opposite of the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because it’s easier to blame them? Because society takes them less seriously? Because in the backs of our minds, we doubted them and natural birth somehow, all along?
I am not saying that midwives or any medical professionals are not and should not be held accountable for their choices. No sir. But, they do not shoulder the blame alone. Wherever you could have a say, wherever you could have made a choice, so do you. We are all accountable.
I shoulder the blame for any time I did not exercise my right to say no and right to choose, and the med pros who saw me shoulder blame for anything they ever did which was against me. The times they did things against my knowledge or will, the times they would not give me what I wanted out of only policy-keeping, the times they acted in any way not like a friend, the times the information given to me was untrue, the times things were only done for their comfort or their convenience, etc. And, I forgive myself for my part in not calling out the BS, and made peace with that. Now that I know better, I will DO better. I make a promise to myself and I keep it. I will protect myself, because don’t be fooled– nobody else is looking out for you; nobody else has your best interests at heart. I can’t be mad at myself for who I was back then. I meant well. I thought I knew what was right. But, I lived and I learned and now I’m taking those lessons with me and moving ahead.
If you choose to place all the accountability and blame into someone else’s hands, that is an illusion. Even if you always allowed someone else to make those choices for you. If you had a voice to use and did not, you played a part in your experiences in life, whether you like that fact or not. Don’t assume that just because someone is a professional and has seen more birth than you that they know better than you. If you don’t agree with something, or something doesn’t feel right, it is your duty to yourself and your baby to act on that intuition. Stand up and be accountable for your birth. Whether you make a choice or don’t make a choice, that is still a choice.
This is NOT advocating “blame the victim” mentality; it is advocating the cessation of setting yourself up to be the victim.
Once you accept your accountability, you can forgive yourself for your past choices and move on. At the end of the day, you really must be able to forgive yourself or you will not have peace and healing. Let yourself off the hook.