This week, I am bringing to you a wonderful piece by my friend and awesome mommy, Candace Salim, model, jet-setter, graduate student, and CEO of Couture Angels Marketing Agency. I’m really excited that Candace expressed interest in sharing her voice and birthing experience. Be sure to check out Couture Angels’ Facebook page, and don’t forget to follow Candace on Twitter for advice and tips on fashion, music, and hot topics!
It’s the beginning of the end…of that long, seemingly 2-year pregnancy you’ve been dealing with. The Braxton-Hicks contractions, the rolly-polly move you have to do to get out of bed to pee again, and most importantly the mood swings! Yes, the way our moods swing, jump, and pounce during pregnancy can really change our perceptions of life and the ways that people perceive us. But, despite all of the hormone-driven feelings that we endure, we are still ourselves. Before being a Mommy-to-be, we were career-driven and successful. We were intelligent and assured…people actually listened to us! However, towards the end of our third trimester, most people see us as bumbling idiots who are obviously dealing with some imaginary mental condition called pregnancy. And, in that, many people take that to mean that we are incompetent and enraged (especially after a 24-hour labor process) so they have to make our decisions for us towards the end. But wait *record scratch* when did our partners, our Mothers, and the hospital staff become experts on OUR bodies? Despite the fact that during my 36-hour labor, I was practically blowing great balls of fire while in the birthing center, I was desperately trying to let those around me know that I was actually still coherent enough to make my own decisions. But, in a show of “expertise”, the nurses took my well drawn out birthing plan that I’d neatly written in my school teacher hand writing on a large note pad and threw it out of the room. Apparently, they didn’t need any help or advice from me. In our day and age, if you’ve yanked one baby out of a womb, you’ve yanked ‘em all and the Mother should just sit there and enjoy her happy drug aka “The Epidural” aka “The Big Needle Thingy In Your Back”.
So, what’s a first-time Mother to do when one of the most intensely beautiful days of her life is suddenly swarmed with bright lights, drone machine sounds, and IVs?
For me, it was quite the production. Not only was my daughter one week “late” (which is a presumption all in itself) according to my OB/GYN, but I was also not dilating after being induced. After two injections of Petocin and Cervadil, nothing was happening. I started to regret jumping the gun. Hell, I knew that my daughter would eventually come out and maybe I should have stayed home and waited a little while longer. But, once you intervene on the natural process of birth, there are a number of procedures that then have to follow. The illustrative phrase “cascade of interventions” refers to the fact that after one procedure begins, everything jumps into high gear. And, often, none of these steps are previously explained to you in great detail. Honestly, there is no time. For me, once the doctor physically reached into my uterus and manually broke my water, time immediately became of the essence. I was pumped with more drugs than I could count. And the question of the day was “Don’t you want what’s best for your baby?” I went from a steady, slow labor to an onset of Doctors, Nurses, Surgeons and Anesthethiologists in a matter of an hour. Of course I wanted what was best for my baby. This is why we were all here, right? But, I also wanted everybody to just STOP for a minute. I wanted to think. I wanted to decide. I wanted to know. And it went from one needle prick to one gas mask to one scalpel to one morphine pump to not being able to hold my daughter or walk around for 3 days after the emergency surgery I’d endured. None of it was planned, but it was all deemed “necessary” and “urgent” by the medical staff. In many cases, I’m sure that is actually the case. But, in retrospect, I wasn’t sure if that should’ve been the case for me. Why were we rushing? Barack Obama had just been elected President. Thanksgiving had just ended. Christmas was two weeks away. The snow was falling lightly outside of my window. And although I was in a slow labor, I was calm and happy. I truly felt, in the end, that the hospital staff must have had some type of “time limit” on women in labor and I’d apparently reached mine. In the future, unless I am 100-weeks pregnant and there is no sign of the baby ever coming out, I will truly reconsider being induced. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew the birth process was no longer under my control. I turned into a science project, of sorts, and I was operated on without prior knowledge of what any of that entailed…especially the very intense recovery process.
Recently, I had a 2-hour conversation about this same topic with a colleague who is a doula and prenatal yoga instructor. She shared with me her experiences with the ways that women are treated by health providers during pregnancy and the birthing process. Specifically, the ways that many hospitals act as the “experts” of Mothers’ bodies and how their voices/rights can become removed from the healthcare process due to the ways that pregnant/laboring women are perceived as emotional, irrational and over-dramatic. There is literature available on the trauma that can be caused by women who are coerced into “emergency” Caesarean births, which are rapidly increasingly across the nation. As a young, Black woman there were times when I felt disempowered and very overwhelmed during the pre and post natal processes. I am not particularly sure if it was relevant to my race, as I delivered at a renowned hospital with a heralded maternity ward. However, after subsequent research I found out that their rate of “emergency” Caesarean births was at an all-time high across race/socio-economic statuses. After speaking to my friend who births babies for a living I was astonished that she almost took the words right out of my mouth as if she was actually there! Obviously my experience was not that unique but had I not spoken to her I would’ve never understood the nature of what I endured. Moms (future or current) need to know their rights and to have a supportive, informed team around them to advocate for them when their voice is overshadowed by the lights, machines and adrenaline in the labor room.
Do you have a similar birthing experience? How can we support mothers-to-be to ensure that their voices are heard before, during, and after giving birth? Please share in the comments below.