Believe it or not, birth is a feminist issue...well, it's quite a huge feminist issue actually. More and more women are feeling powerless after their births, they haven't felt in control, supported or listened to and they are beginning this new chapter of their lives on the back foot, when really they should be feeling like badass super babes.
So how do I know this? I'm a birth worker. I have an awesome job where I support women and their families during one of the most important and memorable times of their lives. I'm a doula. I support women through pregnancy, I attend their births and I support them postnatally too. As much as I love babies (and I really do, the fresh baby smell and their fuzzy little heads get my ovaries kicking), I do it for the women. Those incredible females that go through powerful transitions during those magical months. I do it for that primitive roar that escapes their mouths during the heavy depths of labour, and I do it for that moment a women becomes a mother, whether it's for the first time or for the sixth.
Now as a doula, I'm not medically trained, so you wouldn't put me in the same category as say, a Midwife, but I know women, I know statistics, I know birth and I know exactly what women's minds and bodies are fucking fantastic at. I am driven to help women have a birth they feel positive about. I want them to feel prepared, educated and in control.
Now this is the problem, as women, we aren't often given the choice on where and how we want to give birth. We are treated as vessels rather than individuals. The decisions made about our bodies, and our births are often taken out of our hands. We are judged by our weight, our height, our mental health, our ethnicity and our values. We are told things like, 'you can't do x, y or z because you have a high BMI'...statements like that are not only hugely insulting and humiliating, but it goes against your human rights. Your body is a powerful force, and often labelling a women in this way can have a dramatically negative effect on how they birth. They can loose faith in themselves, and lose faith in their bodies (which have been doing a pretty good job so far, right?) and they can loose faith in the system.
Because of what I do, I hear a lot of birth stories, which is great, I embrace those like I do chilli cheese fries. But whilst hearing these birth stories I also ache for women. I ache for them when I hear that they weren't respected. I ache for the women who are terrified of giving birth again, it fills me with sadness to hear that they have been denied things, such as food and water during labour whilst they are essentially running a fucking marathon. I want to hug those women so tight, because they deserved so much better.
So I'm going to tell you something. Please forgive my brash tone, but I want to make myself very clear;
When it comes to you, your body, and your baby, you can do whatever the hell you want.
Ok...so I am not suggesting that you put anyone at risk, that is NOT what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that you have the right (and yes, it is your human right) to give birth however you want, where ever you want. What I have an issue with, is that mother's aren't being given these choices, sometimes they don't even know they even have them. In so many cases, women aren't being listened to, or respected and are essentially being controlled by a trust's policies and guidelines. You can be advised against something, sure, but the ball is always in your court.
There are doulas and midwives fighting for this every single day. You want to give birth in the corner of your bedroom in complete darkness whilst munching on rich tea biscuits? Do it. You want to book in to the Portland and receive a tummy tuck immediately after your planned cesarean? Have a fabulous time. These are empowering decisions that every woman should be able to make, and if it makes them feel powerful and in control and makes them feel like a warrior, well that's bloody amazing!
We should be given options and choices and we should be spoken to with respect and empathy. We are giving birth and raising the future! And every single mother should enter into parenthood feeling fucking fantastic. Every. Single. One.
By Sarah Caldwell