Happy Independence Day! How blessed we are to live in this free and great country!
I am also a homeschooling mom and this week’s lessons have included lessons about what it means to be a Patriot and famous patriots during the American Revolution. I suppose, one may even consider me a patriot when reading yesterday’s blog and now today’s. I taught my kids that a patriot is someone who loves their country very much and defends and protects it. I do love my country and I love our rights and freedoms as citizens of America. This Independence Day (and many other days throughout the year), I am hoping to cause you to think about one question: How free are pregnant and birthing moms in America?
In my blog yesterday, I discussed the language that care providers use with pregnant and birthing women, the (false) belief that providers have authority over their patients, and encouraged moms to exercise their right of informed consent and refusal and to truly understand what it means to be a consumer of maternity care. Today, I want to bring awareness to something I believe is a right that every woman should have, but many do not: The right to choose where and with whom she gives birth.
In Nebraska, where I was born and raised and lived most of my life until our recent move to Texas, it is a felony for a licensed care provider to attend a birth at home. It is not illegal for a woman to give birth at home, but the state has taken away her ability to have an educated, trained, licensed professional there to care for and support her while she does so. Nebraska is one of only two states that has such restrictions on home birth (Alabama is the other).In many other states, although it is legal for midwives to attend homebirths it is illegal for them to attend the birth of a woman planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or a mom welcoming twins whether at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital.
Such restrictions are meant to keep moms and babies safe. But, they are infringing on women’s rights and there is no evidence that they are improving outcomes. I don’t care the intentions behind it, it is not OK to legislate and restrict where and with whom women are “allowed” to welcome their babies into the world. I want to encourage everyone to get involved with legislative efforts in your communities to increase access to out of hospital maternity care and birth. The medical community strongly opposes most efforts and they hold much of the money, therefore the power, so it will take a lot of families to stand up against it. Even if you are done having babies, or you have no interest in an out of hospital birth, I hope you recognize how important it is for this to be a safe, viable option for those that want it and will support it. When we all work together, we can do big things.
As many of my fellow Americans, I have spent a good amount of time these last couple of days feeling grateful for my freedom in this great country. I am also a homeschooling mom and our lessons this week have talked about the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, what it means to be free, and our rights as citizens of the United States. And while doing so, I am seeing things being written by expecting mothers in several facebook groups that is unsettling and leaves me asking: How free are pregnant and birthing moms in America?
These moms are saying things such as “my OB won’t let me…,” “my midwife says I have to…,” “I won’t be able to...,” and “they are making me…,”. And this both breaks my heart and makes me a little angry. Pregnant and birthing women must understand that medical professionals have no authority over them. Somewhere along the line as birth moved out of the home and into the hospital, the view of pregnancy and birth has shifted. What was once a normal, healthy life process that was supported and revered as sacred and miraculous has now become at best an illness, at worse a catastrophic emergency. And during that shift, medical professionals have become an authority over pregnant and birthing women. But, that is a FALSE sense of authority! Yes, they went to school for a long time. But, they are human. Their emotions and social and family lives can make things messy. The science and research and latest guidelines behind pregnancy and birth are ever evolving and can be hard to keep up with. And our culture views of fear surrounding pregnancy and birth shapes how many practice. Please remember that this is your body, your baby, and your birth. You are the expert of your own body and of your baby. And you are smart and capable and have the right (thank you America!) to make informed decisions about your care and the care of your baby. Please don’t allow a provider to speak to you in the ways I used above. Don’t allow them to talk down to you, leave questions unanswered, scare you, lie to you, or otherwise coerce you into doing something you do not want or need. Don’t allow them to be an authority over you. They are not. You are paying them to provide a service for you. They are an educated and trained expert consultant. You are funding their paycheck and that makes you the boss. You are a consumer of maternity care just as you are a consumer of food goods, clothing, and other products. If you are not receiving the care that you desire and deserve with your provider, stop giving them your money and your business. Do not fatten the wallet of a provider that does not respect your bodily autonomy. Seek a provider that will give you the care that you desire and deserve.
This is America. We are free. Growing or birthing a baby does not change our freedom status or rights as citizens of this great country. If we do not stand up and claim that freedom and those rights, we will lose them.
Be sure to check out part two of my Independence Day blog series!
Amber Piller - Professional Birth Doula and owner of Agape Birth Services. Serving Northwest Houston including Jersey Village, Cypress, Tomball, Spring, and Katy Texas.