Excuse Me but No One Allows Me to Do Anything With My Body

For years I have sat on the sidelines quietly brooding.  Maybe that isn’t completely true.  For the hundreds of women that I have had in my prenatal yoga classes, fitness classes, and assisted as a doula I have been softly vocal – but never as vocal and to the point as I have felt in my heart.

My first son was born in a hospital when I was a student age 23/4. I was young and full of apprehension about pregnancy, birth and becoming a mom. I was the average woman.  I was aware that I had rights, but not sure of what they were and when I could assert them – or even how. My first birth experience was in a teaching hospital where no less than 10 medical students stuck their hands inside of me to determine my dilation, effacement, and position.  They had no idea what they were doing, I was young and scared, and honestly a few of them hurt me (unintentionally I assume) and I didn’t know I could tell them to go away until the nurse caught me crying and asked why. Without this becoming a full on retelling of my birth journey, there were procedures that now, at this point in my motherhood life, I would never allow to happen again.  I have experienced two wonderful homebirths since and one loss of a pregnancy between them. What has solidified in my mind is the fact that no-one “lets” me do any thing with my body.  I am the captain of this vessel.

I read countless posts online on pregnancy boards, Facebook and prenatal sites from women:

“I’m 39 weeks and my doctor said she will only let me go to 40 weeks before she schedules an induction….”

“I’m 37 weeks and my baby is breech, my doctor wants to schedule my c-section he won’t let me go past 39 weeks…”

“My doctor told me I have to have the gestational diabetes glucose test….”

“I explained my situation and asked him what my options were…he said: “You have no options.  You never wait to go into labor naturally with a breech presentation.  This needs to happen in a controlled environment.  There are too many risks.  You need to schedule the c-section now.  Our policy is to do it at 38 wks”

I’m saddened by these comments and want to write back to all of them letting these women know that no individual has the right to tell you what to do with your body. The last comment was written to me by a client who did fight back and did  have a birth on her own terms, with a healthy outcome.  No-one can make you take steps you don’t want to.  If you feel scared, that the information you are being given is wrong, that is your instinct kicking in, your maternal instinct letting you know what is right for you and your body.  We can’t always listen to those around us for the best advice for ourselves and our babies, sometimes we have to listen to that little voice trapped inside. As women we also have to listen up to what is being told or asked of us.  Informed consent is a joke.  If we truly had informed consent we would be given the pros and cons of a procedure and then asked to decide.  Instead we get, “We’re going to start your c-section now, ok?!?” That isn’t informed and it is hardly consent when you say “yes” since you aren’t really given another option. (Here is when a doula can be helpful in pointing this out.)

What we need to realize is that as families and clients we are paying the bills. If you don’t like what your doctor is advising, get a second opinion, change care providers.  Would you continue to take your car to the same mechanic that did a terrible job? What if that same mechanic tried to tell you that your new car wouldn’t start even when you know, with proof, that it would if he would just give you the keys?

Some doctors do exactly this.  They claim babies just won’t be born without intervention, and this may be true – sometimes they aren’t in position to be born, they aren’t ready yet.  Perhaps intervention is not necessary, maybe patience is what is needed. Strike that, I know patience is what is needed.  I have been to too many births and read too many stories where it is apparent (there is no medical emergency) that patience would have been best. Since these babies are born with all of these interventions they have now become standard place.  There is no apparent damage – so there is no reason for a mother to be upset, or question the outcome.

Except when we look at what kind of birthing society we are becoming and what that means to our children.  The rise in ADHD, autism, and other chronic illnesses – the lowered incidence in breastfeeding – many researchers have drawn correlations between these and our overly medicated, overly intervened births.  The March of Dimes has even started a campaign to advise the public that the best place for baby is in the womb until at least 40 weeks. Evidence and research all support that babies need as much time in utero as possible.  Their brains and lungs need those extra days and weeks to mature.  Even after hundreds of years science still is not sure why and how labor starts – but a new theory suggests that when the lungs are formed enough they secrete an enzyme that signals the uterus to start to contract.  Medicine has its limits, it is – in its own words – not a science (look at any medical release waiver it is there in black and white – or at least the ones I sign).

How then did our rights as birthing mothers become co-opted? Why are we willing to let go of them so quickly at one of the most important times in our families’ lives? How can we get them back? Roe V Wade is one decision I blame.

As a woman I have always thought myself equal to others.  As a woman who has given birth I have demanded that I be given the right to choose.  As a mother who lost a pregnancy I can never imagine a pain more heart wrenching and would never wish it on anyone. Bluntly I am anti-abortion. My mind, body and soul truly know this is not an act I could ever sanction. Let me state more bluntly I am 100% pro-choice.  These are not, as some would have you believe, mutually exclusive beliefs.

The creator, the mother in me and my spiritual being abhors the idea of an abortion. The feminist woman, the political thinker in me knows that we must grant ourselves and other women the right to choice. Between the two we are left to hope that the correct choices are made by each individual. I don’t harbor ill will or feelings towards any woman who has had or will choose an abortion.  As a woman I can’t imagine the circumstances that would force a woman to make that choice. Even before I was a mother, I knew this would never be an option.  I remember learning about D&C in my high school American Problems in the Law class and feeling remorse and sadness as we discussed the procedure in relation to the infamous Roe v Wade.  

Just as we were granted the right to vote so that we may exercise our voice, so that we may take part in helping to mold the opinions of governments – we must uphold our right to choose our own paths and for others to do the same. We need to make sure that no-one, not an individual like a doctor or judge, not an institution such as a hospital, and not the government – takes away our right to decide what happens to our body and when.  The problem is, it isn’t just about abortion rights, there is a larger more pervading influence on our births.  If we take away our right to choose one medical procedure we slowly strip away at all of our rights to choose.

I’m not arguing that abortion is not immoral – that is a debate for religious institutions because that is where morality comes from.  I don’t need a law to tell me not to have an abortion, I never would have one.  Based on our population I would argue most women feel the same

The number of births in the United States reached an all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007

But I don’t deem to know more about another woman’s plight than she herself knows.  While I am a creator of life, I am not the creator and therefore have no measure to judge her or anyone else by. For those who believe it is their destiny to throw themselves into this mess, to deny women their inalienable rights to govern their body, they should not look to patch the problem, they should look for the source of the problem.  Poor sex education programs, poor protection for women, and poor families are a part of the problem

The Guttmacher Institute, which periodically surveys U.S. abortion providers, reported Tuesday that there were 1.21 million abortions in 2008 and a rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

Both figures were up slightly from the previous 2005 survey, ending a steady decline since 1990, when U.S. abortions peaked at 1.6 million and the abortion rate was 27.4.

One possible factor was the recession that hit in 2008, altering the financial prospects for many families.

“Abortion numbers go down when the economy is good and go up when the economy is bad, so the stalling may be a function of a weaker economy,” said University of Alabama political science professor Michael New. “If the economy does better, you’ll see numbers trending down again.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/01/10/abortion-rate-stalls-years-decline/#ixzz2HNRZbsyp

With our population unthreatened we can turn back to the discussion of rights. And although you will find argument such as the following,

 

Advocates of Roe describe it as vital to the preservation of women’s rights, personal freedom, and privacy. Denying the abortion right has been equated to compulsory motherhood, and some scholars (not including any member of the Supreme Court) have argued that abortion bans therefore violate the Thirteenth Amendment:

When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to ‘involuntary servitude’ in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment….[E]ven if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.[40]

Advocates of Roe describe it as vital to the preservation of women’s rights, personal freedom, and privacy. Denying the abortion right has been equated to compulsory motherhood, and some scholars (not including any member of the Supreme Court) have argued that abortion bans therefore violate the Thirteenth Amendment:

When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to ‘involuntary servitude’ in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment….[E]ven if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.[40]

I disagree. In Roe V Wade I only see the subjugation of women further by the system,

The Court asserted that the government had two competing interests – protecting the mother’s health and protecting the “potentiality of human life”. Following its earlier logic, the Court stated that during the first trimester, when the procedure is more safe than childbirth, the decision to abort must be left to the mother and her physician. The State has the right to intervene prior to fetal viability only to protect the health of the mother, and may regulate the procedure after viability so long as there is always an exception for preserving maternal health. The Court additionally added that the primary right being preserved in the Roe decision was that of the physician’s right to practice medicine freely absent a compelling state interest – not women’s rights in general.[25] The Court explicitly rejected a fetal “right to life” argument.[26]

I have bolded the lines that are key to my argument.  Roe V Wade makes women second class citizens, the wording infantilizes us, makes us a class that needs to be protected instead of giving us the right to protect ourselves and make decisions about our own bodies.  These rights are given to the physicians and the government. This is where our problem lies. Before you get sullen about the situation that same client I mentioned earlier did a great deal of intelligent research before making decisions about her birth path.  She forwarded me an interesting Q&A that I have not been able to find online myself from my resources. I believe this was from ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network):

Q: What if I challenge my care provider and he or she decides to drop me from care?

A: Professional ethical guidelines state that a physician may only drop you from his care after giving you 30 days notice. This means that if you are within 30 days of your likely delivery date, your care provider cannot terminate your care. In addition, if you are pregnant and are outside of that 30 day time frame, your provider must give you a referral and ensure you are transferred to a specific provider. Physicians who fail to meet these guidelines may be charged with patient abandonment, which is grounds for malpractice and constitutes a violation of ethical conduct that could result in loss of licensure.

And that my female compadres (or commadres) should help you sleep a little better.  You are in control.  You are powerful.  You are in charge of your body. You just need to remember this and surround yourself with people who support your control. Why would you settle for anything less?

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One thought on “Excuse Me but No One Allows Me to Do Anything With My Body

  1. Pingback: Excuse Me but No One Allows Me to Do Anything With My Body | Family Can B Fit

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