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Stop telling me that I'm strong enough

by lizzi (follow)
Helping plant the seeds of positive birth. www.sproutbirthing.com.au
Birth (105)      Lizzi's Birth Journeys (4)     
I met with a friend of mine recently. I know…Huge news! She’s a midwife. We had arranged a while back to meet up for some birth debriefing while I was in town. She knew that I had had traumatic births and that my options going into future pregnancies are very limited. She knows that I have extreme anxiety around the prospect of going to hospital. She knows that I am a fighter.

Our chat was amazing. I didn’t get any firm answers or options. Nothing was magically solved. My trauma wasn’t healed and my anxiety is still there. So what was different about THIS chat? Why was it more amazing than other chats that I’ve had?

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

So let’s step back for a minute. How do birth debrief conversations usually go? They generally involve me telling someone (friend, mentor, midwife, random facebook acquaintance) about my births (briefly!), my trust issues and anxiety and then mentioning that birthing at home, possibly without an attendant, is something that I’m looking into for next time. Once the person finishes asking me if that’s even legal (yes it is, in case you’re wondering as well) they start with all the reasons why hospital would be fine this time. “But you know so much more”; “You’re strong enough to fight against the hospital this time”; “You know what you need this time” are the most common comments.

Here’s why those comments aren’t useful.

1: I was strong last time!

And the time before. I know how hard I fought. How long I held out. How many times I stared down a care provider as I told them my choice. How many people I had to defend my choices to. Here’s the thing though – no matter how strong you are as an individual you’re probably not going to be as strong as an entire maternity care system that has a multi million dollar legal department dedicated to supporting and protecting a culture of coercion, bullying and assault. Especially when you are past 42 weeks pregnant.

2: I was knowledgeable last time!

I spent almost the entire time between my first birth and the second researching and learning. And here’s the biggest thing that I learned. Care providers don’t really care what you know. If you find evidence to support your choice they will simply tell you all about the evidence THEY have to support THEIR decisions (that they are making for you). Then they will tell you that you obviously can’t interpret the evidence anyway and not to worry your pretty little head about that. They’ll do the thinking and deciding for you.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

3:Yes, I do know what I need.

I need to not be in hospital. I need to be able to fully trust that ANYONE who enters my physical and emotional birth space is supportive, kind, honest and trustworthy. I need to feel safe and secure and not worried about the bait and switch. I need to feel that my baby and I are the priority, not a hospital policy. I gave the system 2 goes to provide those things and it failed. Dismally.

4: Maybe I don’t want to spend my pregnancy being strong and fighting.

Did anyone ever think of that? Every time you tell me that I am strong enough to fight the system I’m left wondering if, maybe, that’s what I should be doing. To help “pave the way” for future women who maybe don’t have the same level of knowledge and strength that I do. But here’s the thing – I’ve fought my way through 2 pregnancies now and I don’t really want to do that again. And if you want to know why that is actually unsafe I suggest that you do some further reading on the hormonal physiology of pregnancy and birth. I refer you to Sarah Buckley’s work and also that of Michel Odent.

boxing gloves
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I want to spend my next pregnancy filled with joy and happiness rather than fear and anxiety. I want to be overwhelmed with oxytocin not held down by adrenalin. I want to feel loved and trusted not bullied and disrespected. I want to look forward to the birth of my baby not dread it because it means going to a place where coercion is standard practice.

So…back to my (all to brief!) chat with my beautiful friend. The take home message was this: She didn’t tell me that I need to change myself or the system. She made me feel validated and acknowledged. Like I’m not crazy. She didn’t need to tell me that I am strong and knowledgeable, because just being in her presence made me feel that I am. This was the first time I have shared my story and anxieties with someone and come away not feeling judged…but feeling that I am enough.

#Lizzi's birth journeys


Further reading:

A letter to my midwife

My midwife betrayed me, giving me a beautiful gift

Why I'm joining the birthing revolution

The vessel

Just one day

But I don't want to birth in a hospital!

To myself, always remember

From birthing trauma to birthing revolution

I love my baby the most
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