This is a quick, off-the-cuff blog. And I'm reusing this image because it kind of illustrates my point perfectly (the image is words attendees at a recent Workshop associated with birth)
I'm writing because I've just finished an email to a woman who is late in her 3rd trimester. We spoke earlier today, after a flurry of messages in which she described herself as terrified. She is literally crying at the prospect of giving birth to her second child, after a far less than stellar experience with her first child.
She was not listened to during her labour, and as a result she walked away physically healthy, with a healthy baby, and an apology from the hospital...but without confidence, and without pride. She has sat with her trauma for 22 months, and through the majority of her second pregnancy.
The thing that pisses me off so much about this is that, because her story - and variations of it - is relatively common, she now equates birth with suffering. This is not her fault, or her responsibility. It's simply the inevitable result of every drama or movie showing birth as a sweaty, panicky, overwhelming affair. It's what happens when we encourage women not to bother with birth preparation because 'it all goes out the window once you're in labour'. When day time TV programmes set-up aggressive confrontation between birth practitioners (Eamonn Holmes, I'm looking at YOU), as if there are only two options; good and appalling. It's what happens when we tell women to expect a loss of control and dignity. And it's what happens when so many women have shitty experiences that it becomes the common language.
And what's the outcome of that? We perpetuate the negativity, and the cycle of fear and anxiety continues. It limits the options for individual women, and it makes pregnancy, birth and new motherhood scary, and often difficult to navigate. At best it's a missed opportunity for women to take pride, find power & resilience. At worst, it's a short step from there to poor mental health, poor physical health, limited career options, financial insecurity and dependency. Yep, it really is a feminist issue.