Guest post by Angela Quinn
We are conditioned from the time we are young girls to placate, to assuage conflict, and to defer to authority. We are social beings. No one likes the bossy girl on the playground, and bitches don’t get asked to the school dance. How many nights of sleep have we lost wondering how to smooth things over with an offended colleague or why a certain friend seems to be giving us the cold shoulder? It doesn’t make sense, but we feel a sense of rejection when the girl at the coffee counter is unnecessarily rude or a random stranger gives us a dirty look. We say, “I’m sorry” almost compulsively, even when someone else bumps into us. Though our parents may have raised us to be strong, independent women on the outside, many of us still grow up with an almost pathological need to be liked, accepted, and respected by everyone around us.
So, when it comes time to ask our obstetricians the really important questions, we hold back instead of pressing forward. After all, who wants to be that patient, the “troublemaker?” We wouldn’t want to put him on the spot, make her uncomfortable, or, God forbid, be annoying. Even when the things we are told do not resonate with our sensibilities, with our intellect, and with the very moral fiber of our being, we do not question. We leave the office dissatisfied, with unresolved issues and nagging doubts. But we do not argue. After all, we are good little girls.
We listen and we smile and nod for 9 months. We do not rock the boat. We shush the little voice in our head that keeps asking why…or why not? So, after months, years, a lifetime of obeying and acquiescing, bowing to authority, why should it suddenly be any different while we are in labor. Inside we may be screaming, DON’T DO THAT TO ME! But we don’t say it out loud. Instead our conditioning takes over. But what if my doctor gets mad at me?…Could he just walk away and refuse to be my doctor, even now?…Will she ever speak to me again?… Those nurses are going to hate me…It’s easier to just go along with it…And, of course, I wouldn’t want him to think I don’t trust him!
What if, instead, we took a stand? What if we armed ourselves with information before ever stepping foot in the hospital and knew which “rules” (which are rarely written policies and are usually de facto practices) we were prepared to follow and which we intended to flaunt. What if we acted like consumers, like people who are paying for services that we choose from providers who should be grateful for our business, rather than acting like we are privileged to be accepted by them?
Armed with evidence, what if we pulled out healthy, nutrient-rich food to fuel the marathon of labor we were about to run and (gasp!) just ate when we were hungry? And looked anyone in the eye who said that it’s not allowed and asked if they were prepared to forcibly remove a woman in active labor from the hospital? What if we stared down every OB, scalpel in hand, prepared to do an episiotomy “just in case,” and threatened that his cutting us without our consent would be considered assault? What if we refused to sign informed consent forms that appear to strip away our rights to make decisions about our care, and challenged the hospital to deny us any care because we refused to sign a form? What if we checked in to the hospital in labor, even pushing, and didn’t request permission to continue to labor, but made a firm statement to all that we will VBAC our babies, and we (and our lawyers) dare you to perform a surgical procedure on us without our consent.
We deserve evidence-based care given to us by providers that have our best interests at heart. We are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of what happens to us during our birthing process. We will have to carry the mental and physical scars of these experiences for the rest of our lives, not the OBs, not the nurses, not the hospital administrators. We are the ones who will, almost desperately and for years afterwards, search out willing listeners to hear our “birth story,” a story that may be filled with what-ifs and maybe-next-times and regret and confusion.
What if we cared less about being good little girls, and gave our bodies, our minds, ourselves the respect we deserve? What if?
Angela is a soon-to-be mother of 4. She had an unnecesarean with her first, a VBAC with her twins, and is planning an HBAC for her 4th. She is a La Leche League leader, an ICAN member, and is constantly fighting her own urges to always be that good little girl.