I don’t often get so personal on this blog, but I think this topic very much ties into birth so it’s going here. And I am interrupting my Pro Tips series to get something off my chest that has been weighing me down for a good long while.
I am sick, sick, SICK of being ignored, friends. As I chatted with a couple new doula friends a few weeks back, one brought up this topic and she mentioned a personal experience of her own. She said that when she had moved to Houston and needed to get a Texas driver’s license, she looked up what she needed online and brought everything to the DMV. She waited and waited in a long line only to be told she was missing something once she finally got her turn. She asked if there was some way they could help her so that she didn’t have to go back home and gather what was needed and wait in that awful line again and was told no. Then she cried. And you know what happened next? They helped her. Why did they not just help her in the first place?
And since that conversation, I have been paying attention to my interactions with both my kids and my husband here at home. And you know what? The vast majority of the time, I am ignored the first time I say something. And often even the second and third. It is not until I either get crazy mad or really upset and cry that I am taken seriously. WHY???? I am not into the business of husband-bashing. Truth is, my husband is incredible and I love him dearly. But, he doesn’t often take me serious the first time I tell him something. Actually, he doesn’t often even hear me or register that I have said something to him the first time I say it. And it’s not that he’s insensitive or mean or whatever. It’s a strange phenomenon, really. He truly has no recollection of me telling him many of the things I say until I’ve said them two or three or four times and often not until I make a big fuss about it. And you know what? My three kids do the very same thing to me. Just now, as they were doing their chores in the kitchen after lunch and I was doing some work at the computer in our bedroom, I hear the younger two arguing. I listen for a minute and finally call out “What’s going on out there?” Nothing. So I try again, “What’s the matter, kids?” Again, nothing. This time, I just burst. I am MAD. And I go flying out to the kitchen and shout “EVERYBODY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW!” They all stop and stare at me and I calmly say “Raise your hand if you heard me calling from the bedroom asking what was going on out here just now.” Friends, all three of my dear children raised their hands. And then they all three confessed that they did in fact hear me call out not just once, but two times. And I. Lost. It. Whatever “it” is, is now spattered and sprayed all over my kitchen as I turned into a screeching and screaming monster exclaiming that I am DONE with everyone ignoring me and will not be ignored any longer. Then I took away their screen time indefinitely. Now I have their attention. They’re all crying. But not because they feel bad for ignoring me all the time. Nope, they feel bad for themselves because they can’t watch their favorite TV show today. But I’m going to talk to them once I cool off and explain the very important lesson that I want them to learn here: Everybody’s thoughts and feelings matter and you need to pay attention to them, especially when it is a loved one.
And this is where I can relate this to birth. How many pregnant moms out there sit in the OB’s office with a birth plan only to be refused some of the things they want for their birth? How many expecting moms out there feel like their provider brushes off their concerns, isn’t really listening to or understanding them, is rushed, disconnected, or just too busy? How many pregnant moms out there feel that their OBs talk down to them and treat them like children when they express their desires or concerns for their birth?How many expecting moms out there feel that their husbands just don't understand why some things are so important to them? I am not a betting woman, but I bet it’s a huge number. And I bet it’s a pretty large number of these expecting mothers that just politely shut up at that point. Why? Why is our culture devaluing what women have to say about an event that is so incredibly important and sacred, an event for which we were given the ability to instinctually know what is best for us? Why does our culture generally encourage women to always be quiet and polite and not make a fuss while simultaneously conditioning everyone else to not take women seriously if they are being nice and quiet and polite?
I am telling you that I have had enough. And I’m asking you to join me in that. That doesn’t mean we have to get mean or lose “it” all over the kitchen every day. But, be firm. Don’t just shut up when you’re ignored or talked down to or brushed off. Especially when it’s about your birth. Who cares if everyone around you thinks you’re crazy and doesn’t understand why you want what you want? If it’s important to you, get it! And if you need help in that, or need to have someone totally on your team, who will support you in what you want even if everyone else thinks you’re crazy….hire a doula. That’s what we do. I will support you giving birth hanging from the chandelier if that’s something that’s important to you. You are worthy of being listened to. Your thoughts and feelings are important.
Make yourselves be heard, mamas.
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.