Wow. What a powerful, powerful testimony. Yes, we do matter, and how insensitive of us to say ‘it doesn’t matter, at least you’ve got a healthy baby’. No wonder we have doctors believing this too, if we believe it ourselves.
…that the birth matters…and so do I.
by C Lo on September 2, 2011
There is a mantra that we have culturally adopted regarding birth.
“Nothing else matters as long as there is a healthy baby”
And, I don’t know why I’m not used to it after 12 years, but it still shakes me up every time I see it.
Because…I matter. My feelings matter. My health matters. I have to live with the choices. I carried that child for the better part of a year and I have to raise that child…I matter.
While I had all my children naturally, my last birth was very devestating for me. I had two children previously….one in a birth center, one in a tub in my tiny little 2nd floor bedroom. That second birth was really the best birth I could have asked for. I had high expectations for number three to be even better.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans. I ended up in the hospital (while my birth tub was filling and subsequently flooding my bedroom). No, there were no problems and within an hour of arriving, I delivered my 11lb baby boy in about two pushes. And he was healthy and perfect.
Sounds good right? All that matters is a healthy baby, right?
While I stood laboring next the the triage table, I had nurses conversing around me as if I didn’t exist. I was repeatedly told “no” I couldn’t do things. I was instructed to lay on the table and do as I was told and when I didn’t, everyone stood around and stared at me as if I was crazy. No one helped me. At all.
I laid on the bed because my legs were about to give out and I quickly realized that the baby was NOT coming out in that position. I begged for someone to help me turn over onto all fours and the doctor said “NO!” and the nurses all just looked at me and shrugged their shoulders. When the doctor left the room, I scrambled awkwardly off the table, landed on the floor, got on all fours and pushed with all my might. I pushed out of fear that this stranger who didn’t know anything about me would come in and somehow wrangle me back into that God awful position. I knew I had to get that baby out ASAP. I did. A couple of pushes and some 3rd degree tearing and my son was born. I then had stitches that no one told me much of anything about. And the doctor walked out without saying a word to me. My husband looked on from a corner as I spoke my first words to my son…”I’m sorry….I’m sorry“.
The aftermath was…horrible. My husband blamed me for “changing the plan on him with out his input”. I couldn’t walk for a few days and it was probably more than a month before I wasn’t in agonizing pain every minute of the day. I was obsessively worried that I’d ruined my vagina and I would never be able to pee or have sex normally again. Oh…and post partum depression on top of all that.
I felt like a failure. That birth was not the empowering, healthy, safe birth I’d envisioned. And I grieved that.
Birth doesn’t matter? All that matters is the healthy baby? What does that mean for women like me, constantly being told to hush up and just be glad I have a healthy baby? My feelings don’t matter? My physical scars don’t matter?
I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to be a mentally/physically/emotionally healthy mom when I’m glossing over bad things that happen and pretending they are all sunshine and rainbows when inside I’m grieving a loss.
Birth matters. Lots of women in our culture aren’t told this and never even really get to experience it’s transformative powers. But it matters. Birth matters and moms matter.
The experience of the mother matters. Just as it’s important to celebrate the power that is realized when a women finds that her body is actually capable of making and birthing her children, it is also vitally important to validate and nurture women when they experience a birth trauma. Because it matters. Your feelings matter, my feelings matter, and we are all changed by the event of birthing our children. And the negative experiences deserve as much recognition as the positive.
Along with the “all the matters is a healthy baby” mantra, there is another saying I hear a lot. “Why does anyone care how anyone else has their baby??”
I care because it matters. I struggled with writing this because there is such a vast amount of information out there on the topic. There are so many ways in which we fail women in our society when it comes to maternity care and birth. If you haven’t watched The Business of Being Born, I really really really suggest you watch it. Even if you don’t plan on having more children. Even if you never plan on having children. That documentary explains exactly why birth matters and why moms matter.
Birth is powerful. Birth will change you. Birth is important. I deserved the birth I wanted, not to be bullied and ignored while in one of the most vulnerable positions of my life. I should have been able to be healthier coming out of that situation. We all deserve better. We all deserve to be healthy. We all deserve to be safe.
The United States has some pretty awful birth statistics for a 1st world country. And that isn’t going to change until we start recognizing that birth matters. Until we stop the rhetoric of ”all that matters is a healthy baby”.
There is more to birth than just a healthy baby in the end.