“If you don’t let us give you Pitocin, your baby could die.”
Her doctor said it with complete finality, but there was no medical evidence to back up his claim, as the midwife in the room attested to.
The doctor was on his fifth delivery of the day and was overheard telling a nurse he was ready to go home — and was playing golf later that day.
I’m a doula, and my client who shared this story with me, ended up having a C-section she feels she was pressured into.
Shame, which has sidled its way into the ingredients of our culture, commonly mixes into childbirth. Women are constantly being pushed to accept unnecessary interventions they’re not comfortable with, just to suit the needs of those that have a hand (often literally) in their birth experience.
There are of course beautiful exceptions to this rule in the form of doctors and midwives who put their clients’ needs first and only suggest intervention if it is medically needed or requested by the birthing woman. In fact, that needs to be the rule.
So how do we take charge of our birthing experience, empowering the body, baby, and intuition to lead the way, instead of a care provider who just wants to go home?
Here are 10 ways to stop birth shaming:
1. Step into your right to choose the right care provider for you.
You don’t need to stick with your current obstetrician just because he or she is currently caring for the health of your vagina. Interview other obstetricians, midwifes, and naturopathic doctors until you find the perfect fit. And remember, you can fire them and switch to someone else if red flags pop up later down the road.
2. Educate yourself on your rights.
Research your rights during childbirth. In a nutshell, your rights are that you have the final say in everything. Let this knowledge empower you to take a stand for what you feel is right for your unique situation.
3. Meditate on what a happy and healthy birth means to you.
Your version of what you deem a happy and healthy birth is unique to you. A natural home birth may be the only way you feel comfortable birthing, or you may be set on receiving an epidural. Spend quiet time thinking and writing about what your ideal birth will look like.
4. Create a well thought-out birthing plan.
After you’ve determined the big picture of what your ideal birth will look like, break it down into specific requests. Write out a concise birth plan, outlining your preferences for each stage of labor. Take this plan to a prenatal checkup near the beginning of your third trimester and go through every line with your medical care provider, ensuring you’re on the same page.
5. Find out what constitutes a true “special circumstance.”
Some care providers will push an intervention on a client even if there is no medical urgency. Via various credible sources, educate yourself on what constitutes a special circumstance (aka complication) that would require medical intervention in the name of the health of the mother or baby, not the convenience of the medical care provider. Then, ask your care provider their thoughts on what you’ve found.
6. Familiarize yourself with the birthing facility.
The experience of birthing a human is surprising enough, you don’t need additional surprises when you arrive at your birthing facility. Take the hospital or birthing center tour, and ask every question that comes up. Even better, have a list of questions to take with you on the tour. Knowing the policies of the center, after hours entrance locations, and more will allow you to feel confident that you’re stepping into a known environment come the day of baby’s birth.
7. Take a class.
Yes, your baby and body know how to move through childbirth without any help, but you (read: your busy mind) will need some assistance as to how to get out of the way during birth via relaxing and breathing so the baby-body team can do its thing. Find a childbirth preparation method that syncs with your needs and desires and take the course around the beginning of your third trimester.
8. Consider additional birthing support.
You can never have too much positive energy and support during childbirth. Consider the option of hiring a birth doula, which will provide you and your birth companion with emotional and physical support in the form of massage, aromatherapy, breathing work, and pretty much anything that does not include medical assistance. Studies have shown that birth doulas help to decrease the chance of a C-section.
9. Take charge of the birthing environment.
Glaring overhead lights, frigid temperatures, stiff sheets, and sterile scents do not need to be attributes of your birthing space. It is your right to control your environment: turn down the lights, plug in an essential oil diffuser, bring in your own sheets and pillow, adjust the thermostat, and do or bring anything else that makes you feel more at home.
10. Ask questions until you’re satisfied.
If there is a medical need for intervention, ask questions about the nature of the complication and your different options. Keep asking questions until you feel satisfied with the answers and the course of action you’ve selected.
Most of all, remember: you deserve a blissful, unexpectedly comfortable, joyous, simple, healthy, and happy birth. Claim your rights, empower your desires, and step into the uniquely perfect birth nature has laid out for you.