I find that pregnancy, delivery and recovery are nothing short of bewildering and overwhelming no matter how well prepared you think you are or the opportunities that are available to you. It can be such a rude awakening, showing a woman how little control she has over her body. So much so that it makes what should be an empowering experience become nothing short of undignified, to say the least.
Worse still, there is a large portion of society that dictates that a woman should quietly accept it as a sacrifice she makes that should inadvertently prove her love for her children. This is especially true in our culture of stoic sacrifice that comes as part and parcel of motherhood; a society that expects women to willingly accept the veneer of veneration shown to mothers and motherhood that is really disguised drudgery and is taken for granted by all. Woe to the woman who voices her displeasure of this status quo!
It was not just a simple matter of biology as each time a little life has cohabited my body; everyone else took over my life, laying claim to something I had not offered.
All of a sudden I was dealing with the health care system that refuses expecting mothers human dignity; where on my first night of recovery after having my daughter, a nurse decided she should so rudely wake me from a hard won deep sleep, yelling “wake up!” and trying to startle me into taking the mandatory first few steps after surgery; or a doctor stating that I can never breastfeed and ordering the midwife to give my baby a bottle before she ‘starved’ without even consulting me; his contempt obvious, as though I was a nonentity that did not understand his words.
No reasons were offered, no explanations volunteered, no discussion sought and yet these incidents are minor compared to other women’s unconscionable birthing experiences at the hands of some disdainful healthcare professionals.
Forget consent or informed choice; forget asking for a competent healthcare system where staff treat an expectant mother with care and respect; forget the rare chance an involved partner/husband should show the slightest interest or willingness to be involved lest he have his masculinity come under question. Forget privacy or even a chance to rest and recover.
I remember my husband’s unyielding support through my pregnancies, never missing a doctor’s appointment, attending birthing classes and comforting me; I remember all the concern for my husband from others and outrage towards me when he joined me in the operating room. It seemed I was “demanding too much” of my partner whose name my children will inherit as theirs. I remember the hordes of visitors that offered so much unsolicited advice that I was left feeling absolutely inept not to mention exhausted.
As I welcomed a second baby into my young family, giving birth has yet again proven to be an education on the many facets that shapes a woman’s experience in the delivery room and beyond. This time around I was prepared and got the birth experience I wanted within the resources available. I argued, threatened and cajoled to get the treatment I felt I deserved. I made friends with the healthcare staff, ensuring better treatment at my most vulnerable moment. I dictated when the visitors will be allowed to see me and my new baby. I had my husband next to me as I delivered – to hell with all that opposed this choice! I was lucky it seemed, as weeks later I spoke to women in the waiting room of the private hospital I delivered in, I realized how many women still have little to no say how this experience will take shape.
In a culture where the archaic source of respect for women seems to only come from being nothing short of a broodmare, having a dignified birth process, it seems, is a rare commodity. When becoming a mother should never have to be a sacrifice or a mantel to bear as the weaker sex but something women should choose; a bit of human dignity and the right to dictate as much of the process as humanly possible should not be too much to ask for!