Why You Feel Guilty
by Heather Barson on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 5:01pm
I know I make a lot of people uncomfortable with my strong opinions. When reading articles I post and the attached mini-rants, keep in mind one thing: I’m speaking of the rule, not the exception. Obviously there are situations in which nearly every procedure I rail against is necessary. They wouldn’t exist if someone somewhere didn’t think they helped something sometimes. I’m not ranting against their use under the right circumstances. But I don’t believe treating a healthy person like a sick person will prevent the healthy person from becoming ill. In fact, I have seen with my own eyes how doing so can cause medical complications which otherwise would not have existed in the previously healthy individual. I’ve also studied the research, and it continues to support my observations.
I have been informed a number of times over the past two years that I make women feel guilty for their birth choices. My stock “feel-good” response to that is if you believe you made the right decision, you probably did. Sometimes that’s exactly right. Most of the time, however, it is not.
If you want to continue to accept the “feel-good” version, and don’t want to hear something that might be difficult, or force you to strongly consider making different choices in the future, stop reading now.
No, seriously. Stop reading.
Don’t continue out of curiosity. If previous posts have made you uncomfortable, this is going to be down right offensive.
That’s right. Click the little “x” in the top corner of your screen. I do still want to have friends after this.
Alright? Is everyone left ready to hear a truth that may be life-changing? Good, then read on, brave souls!
If my expressed strong opinions make you feel guilty, you probably did make a wrong choice. You’re feeling guilty for a reason: You. Chose. Wrong.
But just because you chose wrong, doesn’t mean it’s your fault, and just because you chose wrong once/twice/many times doesn’t mean you have to choose wrong again. Remember, unfortunately sometimes the best of all available choices is still a wrong choice.
First off, medical care providers should be trustworthy. Saving lives, easing pain, healing the sick, comforting the belabored are all parts of a very honorable trade. Our culture depicts these men and women in the light their work deserves. And most of them are good and honorable. Nearly all of them are also subject to the limits of their training, licenses, insurance companies, lawyers, and legislatures, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, I want to address the existence of douche-bag care providers. Yes they exist. This does not represent most of the profession, but it does represent a chunk that is too large. Unknowingly, sometimes we put our care in the hands of one of these douche-bags. Sometimes we see red flags in the course of our care and either ignore them, or think we’re too far into our care to change, but not always (FYI, it’s never too late to fire a doctor or midwife). Sometimes their sliminess doesn’t appear until the damage is already being done, and their hands are where they don’t belong doing what they shouldn’t be doing, or we’re abandoned and alone when we need support most, or we’re giving misleading information at a critical decision-making moment, or any number of other damaging and unforgivable acts.
If this happened to you, you made a seriously wrong choice, but you know what? IT WAS NOT YOU’RE FAULT!!! You didn’t know he or she was a jerk, or if you caught a whiff of dirty hands, you innocently trusted them anyway, because doctors and midwives are supposed to be good people. Trusting people who should be trustworthy can sometimes be a wrong decision, but it’s never your fault when those people you trusted fail to live up to your good expectations.
As for the non-douche-bag care providers who won’t give us care in the way we need/want it, I could write a book about their motivations for doing so. Suffice it to say, these are good men and women who want to help as many people as they can. Sometimes that means they have to bend to unreasonable laws or regulations in a way that is not in everyone’s best interest. To some of their patients, it can be incredibly damaging both physically and emotionally, but it keeps them in a position to help others. If you could help 1,000 people, but only if you seriously harmed one, would you? It’s a difficult choice, and I don’t envy those who have to make it. This is one reason why I harbor no ill-will towards the doctors who are directly responsible for my two-year journey through hell. In a way, they were victims too.
Also in that category are the care providers who are limited by their education. I read somewhere (I think it was a guest-post on The Unnecesarean, but I’m not positive) about an OB reflecting on one of the first medical school experiences he had. One of his professors got up and told them that fifty percent of what he would learn in medical school was wrong, but they wouldn’t know which fifty percent was right. When I reflect on my first labor experience (and after reading a very detailed version of my medical records from that time), I can plainly see that my obstetrician tried absolutely everything he knew how to do to avoid the cesarean he eventually had to give me anyway. Knowing what I know now, I can see things he didn’t try that probably would have worked (though I’ll never know), and I see things I could have done before I ever went into labor that may have prevented the whole scenario entirely, but they weren’t techniques he would have encountered in his training as an obstetric surgeon. I can’t hold him responsible for information he never would have received.
In these cases of good and well-meaning providers who still harm us, or can’t or won’t help us, we still made a wrong decision, but again, it wasn’t our fault. These people were as trustworthy as we should expect them to be, but their hands are tied in one way or another.
So, you feel guilty when you encounter my strong opinions? You probably made a wrong choice. Are you willing to accept that? I can understand if you’re not, but don’t be angry with me. I’m just the messenger.
And I won’t stop shouting my message. I may me a tiny voice with a miniscule audience, but I can’t go back to pretending that the women I speak for don’t exist. They feel alone enough as it is. Nobody understands what they’re going through, unless they’ve experienced it for themselves. I speak out because I don’t want you to end up like one of us. I want you to learn to make the right choice the easy way. I would hate for you to have to traverse the path that brought me here. The very thought brings me to tears.
I understand that to accept that a care provider might have done something to you that was not in your best interest is an earth shaking idea. This is someone you trust that we’re talking about. They may even be a friend. As explained above, I’m not suggesting they’re bad people, or even bad doctors! But they have to make hard choices, and sometimes those choices may not be in your favor.
It reminds me of an episode in the 5th season of Angel (spoilers!), where Fred is infected with the consciousness of Illerya, a long-dead god. Angel dashes off to find a way to free his friend from the infection that will surely kill her (yes, Fred is a girl, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Angel). He finds it, and learns that the only way to save Fred’s life is to do something which will kill a large portion of the planet’s population. And so he let’s his friend die a horrible and agonizing death.
If you’ve been reading my posts, I don’t have to mention the specific things that should simply not be done to pregnant women, or women in labor, or women postpartum. If you’ve given birth or “delivered” in a hospital, you’ve had several of those things done to you. There’s no “maybe” or “most likely” about it. They have been done to you.
And I’m very sorry.
No one should be treated that way. You deserve better.
Do you believe me?
If you do, that is your call to action. You do deserve better, but I can’t just give that to you, as much as I wish I could (and I will do everything in my power to help). Your right choices may also be different from my right choices.
In Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, one of the answers to the oft repeated question “Who is John Galt?” is that he was a great explorer who went looking for the fountain of youth:
“’John Galt spent years looking for it. He crossed oceans, and he crossed deserts, and he went down into forgotten mines, miles under the earth. But he found it on the top of a mountain. It took him ten years to climb that mountain. It broke every bone in his body, it tore the skin off his hands, it made him lose his home, his name, his love. But he climbed it. He found the fountain of youth, which he wanted to bring down to men. Only he never came back.’
‘Why didn’t he?’…
‘Because he found that it couldn’t be brought down.’”