I can sit on my hands

She said the words and it made all the difference, I knew she meant it. I was in a doctors office again, jumping doctors 20 weeks into my pregnancy because I wanted to be closer to my rural home and I needed better understanding from my doctor on my history that makes me fearful of hospitals. She asked about this pregnancy and about my previous “spontaneous home birth”. I felt guilty saying it but in some ways it was the truth. I had delivered my own baby; I gave birth to my son.

She kept saying this thing that all doctors seem to say and I don’t even think she knew what it meant. “I deliver babies like this” and “when I deliver your baby”. No one delivered my baby but me, on my hands and knees by my own power. I wasn’t alone like I made her believe but I was the one who did it. Hands off, no checks, the fan droning in the back ground and the lights down low, in my home. I had a traditional birth attendant and she did what I expected. What was that exactly?

She checked me after I delivered for tears (there were none). She checked my son and made sure he was pinking up nicely. She asked me questions about if I had to urinate because my placenta wasn’t delivering. Before that all happened, during the active labour?

She had a nap, she visited with me and my doula, she brought a general sense of calm and safety to the whole household. After I passed through the veil, I’m not sure; those memories are soft and blurred at the edges. I remember talking to my doula lots, getting into a shower, bouncing on a ball and saying only “hot” and “cold”. I wonder what sitting on her hands looks like for a doctor? I would like to believe it would look a lot like it did with my birth attendant in my home, where she truly respected my space and understood my birthing process, better than I probably did at the time. Would she be able to stand back?

Sure, there would be things that were different: the location, the lights and beeps. The doctor tells me I can bring my own music, my pajamas or a birthing pool. The doctor says no vaginal checks by nurses if I don’t want them, anyone that does without consent, it’s abuse; she says it out loud, she knows it to be true. Really it sounds like a hospital birth that even a sexual abuse survivor like me could stand. Doesn’t every woman deserve that birth though?

I want that truly. But we are still getting reports and stories that hospitals are harassing women for the consent in tubal ligation–birth trauma and interventions are still on the rise. She says it will be her and not someone random with three students clung to them passing through the doors to “deliver” my baby. She is worried about nuchal cord and can’t believe I birthed my 8 pound 9oz son by myself. She says it again, you delivered him by yourself, I just can’t believe that! How could I go to a hospital and believe that she will respect me?

When people said motherhood was a battle, and juxtaposition, they never said it started before birth. Always wanting the information and support but being shut out of corners to find the information you seek. Fighting for the birth you want and then fighting for a birth at all. Either which way you will have a baby but who will be in fall out? So much harm can be done in the moments in labour but only now are they only being kind of addressed. I want to trust the doctor and believe that she means every word, that she respects my body autonomy. I’m not about the gamble though; I will plan my home birth and “accidently” give birth at home again, “alone”. I can’t risk it, going to a hospital that is. I can’t risk being stripped to “well at least you had a healthy baby”. I’ve fought so hard in my life, through my pregnancies for support, through abuse and the daily challenges everyone else faces. I deserve my body autonomy, it’s my rights… but here I am in 2017 still fighting to claim it in every corner of my life. I am not the only one, I am one face of thousands of women trying to be talked out of tying their tubes, getting birth control or getting the birth they want. Thousands of women across the country being told that only regulated professional can be at their births or that they aren’t allowed to eat during labour.

“It isn’t policy”, the more I hear this, the harder it becomes, the more I hate it and it’s not maybe for the reasons you think. I took some parenting classes and one of the insights I really liked was making a rule and enforcing it not so that you are the bad parent but by simply throwing your hands up and saying “that’s the rule”. There is no argument there; it’s the rule, end of story. You don’t take the blame, even if they ask “well who made that rule?” “That’s the rule of our house”, now the “house” is the blame. “It’s policy” is the female body patrolling equivalent. It works for everything, facts or not, whether someone has disproved the “science” years ago. “Women will give birth on their backs, it’s policy”, “women aren’t allowed to eat during birth, it’s policy”, “women before 30 or who haven’t had their first child or don’t have their partners consent can’t have their tubes tied, it’s policy”. And so on, and so on, and so on! Until you are a reproductive mule for the state, until all the autonomy you ever thought you had was taken by arbitrary policies of a broken system, that pits women against each other. I hear the words from her again “I would just rather delivery your baby in hospital.” I smile “Of course, having all those freedoms, that’s not like giving birth in the city at all, to bring my own music and reject vaginal exams from nurses, I would feel better in that kind of setting.”

Her body languages changes, she shifts her arms, “Let’s hear the heart beat then!” I have placated her, I have her “approval”, and I’m a “good girl” again, back to being just another “cute pregnant women”. She doesn’t believe it but I’m plotting my freedom still, in the dark bedroom, with a fan and on my hands and knees I will bring fourth the next generation. I have my work cut out for me out I’m determined to install the right we are promised at birth of autonomy in my children, so this won’t be their fight. I want to break this cycle for all women, for today and tomorrow. I hear the heart beat and I am optimistic for this person I’m growing and for myself.

A. Charles

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