In a recent study published in the Reproductive Health journal, one out of six women in the United States reported being mistreated while in labor, including mistreatment, “loss of autonomy; yelling, scolding, or minatory; and ignoring, denying, or getting no response to requests for assistance.” Mistreatment was more prevalent among women of color, women with color partners, women of lower socioeconomic status, and women under the age of 30 to make those numbers even more snotty.
I am a midwife and I am furious. One of the single greatest opportunities possible in human history is to be entrusted with the duty of caring for a woman who is giving birth.
I won’t lie-it’s not an easy career. It’s overwhelming and boring and sometimes even jading, and maybe we’re going to doubt the merit of making the decision to spend our days doing that.
Sure, we’ve been working extremely hard to achieve where we are today. Yet where we are is next to a woman who gives birth. You were vowing an oath. Each time you ignore or raise your voice to a woman in labor, or disrespect a woman, you break the oath because you do. Birth trauma — and make no mistake, labor mistreatment is a trauma-inducing consequence — has very real implications.
As I have previously shared, we do it from our hearts as we give birth — not just the center of our bodies but the heart of ourselves. Before and after birth we are transparent and fragile and the energy that is around us is the energy that we consume.
This is a part of the inner voice of motherhood that guides us. The snide comment about her “crazy behavior” as she labored.
When you missed her call-bell she just called for more medicine. You didn’t call the translator service that time, because “she would understand by now.”
What was important to her then and now it matters to her. I want you to go back to the nursing, medical or midwifery school you just accepted. Will they be proud of what provider you became?
I think a large number of providers out there will say yes. I think most people try to do the right thing, and be successful. Yet each and every one of us needs to look very hard at ourselves and our practice to make sure we still deserve the honor. Your very life, Peggy Drexler writes, deserves respect.
Even the brightest, most competent provider is a human being, just like you. None, she writes, ever excuses mistreatment. She says your complaints are real and deserve to be heard. Trust yourself and don’t, Drexle writes, sweep your feelings under the rug.
It’s not your fault if you’ve asked a thousand questions, he says, or screamed and yell the entire time you’ve been in labor. The suffering you endured was the fault of the doctor, and not the fault of your physician.
You’ve got freedoms and options, lastly.
Whether you believe you ‘re suffering or being mistreated, you’ve got protection and you’re not alone. Consult with your birthplace to see if they have an advocacy program for patients, or contact an attorney or advocate near you to help.