Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Warning: Rant

When I originally wrote yesterday's post, I had this at the bottom, but decided against it in order to keep comments from getting off-topic. This is a rant I've been keeping in my head for a long, long time (over a year? almost 2?)- I've ranted a bit about it on Twitter recently and eventually decided I'd just post it. I keep trying to go back and clarify things and re-arrange things, but hey, it's a rant. I'll probably clarify things in the comments if I feel like it.

I'm a firm believer that the owner of the vagina gets to decide what is done to the vagina and who is allowed to be near it in all circumstances: birthing room, bedroom, everywhere. McKay is not allowed to do anything to my vagina (or my body for that matter) without my full "ok". That's how it is- anything else would be sexual assualt or marital rape. If he had "put his foot down" and said that I had to give birth in a way he was comfortable with I would have definitely taken this as an attack on my body and autonomy and self. That's my vagina he would be controlling.

Maybe I can say this so easily because I never had to choose between marital harmony and bodily autonomy, but I really can't see how a husband can get to "not allow" a woman to birth the way she wants to. For me, giving birth where I was most comfortable was very important. If the choice is between a place where dad is stressed versus place where mom is stressed, I'd choose the place where dad is stressed. Stress affects mom's hormones and the ability for contractions to be effective, the ability to relax, the ability to stretch and open. As for dad's stress, well, he doesn't even need to be at the birth- you can just tell him to go away if his presence is too much. If he's not on-board, then he's not on-site.

If McKay had been really pushy about how I gave birth, then I probably would have just gone off and given birth without him. Lucky for him by the beginning of the third trimester, he was ok with and even supportive of the birth plans (this is why you're pregnant for 9 months, ladies!). Perhaps I'm selfish, but for me, bodily autonomy isn't something that I would compromise about, particularly when it involves something as dramatic as birth- which can permanently change the way your body feels and moves.

And perhaps I was just really lucky with husband choices; even when I mentioned a particular haircut the other day he said, "Well, you know how I like it, but it's your hair." I am so grateful that he respects my decisions about my body.

Now I know it might sound very "my way or the highway" and it pretty much is, but I did listen to his concerns. I did lots of research and shared with him the parts I thought he worried most about. In the end, he trusted me fully. He was in school and couldn't devote much time to birth research and told me he trusted my research and my feelings about it.

For women who feel this is a point of conflict in their relationship, a doula friend of mine told me once that a lot of the time the husband just doesn't know a lot about the choices. If you give him time to question the mom/midwife/OB, his concerns of "what happens if..." can be put to rest. McKay and I went over many "If this happens we do need to go to the hospital" and "If that happens, I should try this" scenarios. He saw the amount of time and thought I put into the birth and I answered his concerns to the point where he didn't have those concerns anymore. That worked for McKay and will probably work with some other husbands out there.

Related, but not transitioned well enough because, hey, it's a rant:
I can understand where women would use the term "birthrape" to describe an experience. I know some people think that's too harsh a term and that rape is sexual and what happens in a birthing room is not. However, it is my understanding that rape is not sexual: it's about power and control. And if in birth a woman feels that her power and control is taken from her and decisions are made about her body without her involvement and things are done to her without her consent, then I don't think "birthrape" is too harsh a term for her to use.


  1. Even more off-topic, but just curious -- are you completely pro-choice then, too?

  2. So...I don't know if it was when I got pregnant or right before that I told my husband I wanted a home birth. He was against it. Of course he hadn't been doing all the reading I had been. It's hard for me to fight for myself because of the way I was brought up. I understood where he was coming from--he was afraid something could go wrong and that he could lose his baby or wife. That's very scary.

    But something I have realized over time is that he will not force me to do anything. If I tell him my reasons then he will come to understand them. If I don't explain it, he will never understand it, so having that communication is so important.

    While it's very "nice" of a woman to want to please her husband or compromise with him for sake of harmony, the birthing of a child is way too big a deal for compromises. I wish men understood that. I wish women understood that. I wish I had had more choice in the matter (high risk)!

    And I don't think "birth rape" is too harsh a term. If it feels like rape, then it is.

  3. OOO! This is so my type of post. Authentic and real.

    I have found that my husband is totally willing to listen to all the research stuff I want to share. He can tell when I'm really passionate about something, so he knows to pay attention. I think we are both blessed wtih great husbands for our personalities!

    The term birthrape is good. I agree with what you wrote.

  4. I agree.

    The end.

    OK, not "the end." But I do agree, especially with that last paragraph! Rape IS about power and control. I had a whole bunch more to say on the topic, but couldn't get it worded just right.

  5. I totally agree with you! I was certainly understanding that DH was concerned and helped to educate him. It never came to a draw, but I would have put my foot down.

  6. Jane, I would say that I'm pro-choice. While I don't believe abortion is a choice I'll have to make in the future, I do feel it should be available as a legal and safe option for women who do need it.

  7. I say amen to this post as well. I know several doctors at our local hospital that I feel commit birth rape all the time. They really seem to enjoy having women in a place of weakness and vulnerability so that they can control or "rescue" women. I know not all doctors are like that but there are some that being an ob is all about power and control.

    Also, it makes me sad when husbands are not supportive of their wife's wishes, but I do think that sometimes it is better for a woman not push wanting to birth a certain way if she isn't supported and try to find a middle ground. That makes me sad because I don't think a marriage should be that way (and am glad that mine isn't) , but sometimes pregnancy and labor isn't the best time for some couples to tackle the deeper down problems in their marriage-- too many extra emotions, fears and changes. You hope though that eventually they get those things figured out sooner than later-- or at least before they have another baby.

    I really liked this post. You can rant more often :)

  8. Heatherlady, I guess I really struggle with "I don't want to have stress about the birth" turns into "We'll just do what my husband wants." In those situations: why does he get to trump this? Personally, I feel the person who is most invested gets to call trump- and in birth it's pretty obvious that the mom is the most involved party. Unfortunately, many moms let the partner trump. You can see this on almost any mom forum- you're almost guaranteed a thread on "How do I get my husband on board with my birth plans?" ending up with people talking about how they based plans on how comfortable their husband was and not on who actually has to give birth.

  9. A woman should give birth wherever SHE feels safest.

  10. I find that you are continually putting my thoughts into words. How do you do it so well?! Thanks!

  11. Rant or not, this is an excellent post. My dh knew from the get-go that I was not going back to the hospital for a birth unless there was a serious medical issue. I'm very grateful it was never a point of contention. I agree though that the owner of the body gets to control the body. I firmly believe that our society has mingled the current culture of fear with the old fashioned notion of women being the weaker sex and come up with a tragic situation.
    Keep talking!

  12. I completely agree.

  13. applause!

    i take the same position you do on this's not his uterus, it's not his choice where the work will take place.

  14. I think there is a question of degrees here. My first birth was in a hospital because it was early - my water broke unexpectedly at 34 weeks and my daughter was born the same day. And then I hemorrhaged. I lost approximately half of my blood volume in a matter of minutes, and my husband watched this. Understandably, he felt fairly shaken by the experience.

    So when he voiced a preference for having our second child in the hospital I understood. This time I went to term, and had an easy and intervention-free hospital birth. My son was born 45 minutes after I arrived in my room. I could have done without the drive in active labour, but otherwise I felt comfortable with birthing in the hospital.

    I think that the birthing mother definitely has the final say, but I also think it's reasonable to take your partner's feelings into account. As long as you're not being overridden or being 'made' to do something you really don't want to do, finding a compromise that everyone can live with seems reasonable to me.

  15. Love this topic, especially learning new terms like "birthrape" -- I haven't heard that one before. It fits your explanation perfectly.

    Birth is all about the woman. She's the one who carried the baby 9 months and is riding the contractions and pushing with her whole soul, shaking the universe and rearranging the heavens to bring a new spirit to earth.

    I thank my lucky stars my husband was with me all the way regarding my choice (home birth). I can't imagine birthing our 4 kids, including twins, any other way. Period.

    Home birthing used to define me as a mama: crunchy, granola, natural. Now the meaning has changed to define me as a woman: empowered, fearless, unwavering.

    PS: What does "UC" stand for: Unassisted Childbirth?

  16. Brilliant post. Rants can be very effective and as we can see from all the comments, useful for others. Thanks for sharing. :)

  17. I sooo agree, so glad for this post. I can't tell you how many times I've heard women say how much they would love to have a homebirth, but their husbands "wouldn't have it." I'm the same as you; lucky that my husband was on board, but if he wasn't, too bad, I was giving birth where i wanted to.

  18. I think the KEY is knowledge! It's really power! Stuart didn't even want me to go without drugs because all he knew of birth was when I got an epi at 3 cm, and what he had seen on tv (let's be honest, sudden collapsing in pain, screaming and swearing, not exactly encouraging to a husband!) So I did what you did, I researched. For over a year! Now he knows more of the reality of childbirth and the mechanics. He's honest when he tells me that he isn't interested in childbirth, and I don't know how much help he'll actually be during the process, but he knows it is important to me and will do what he can and knows.

    As far as homebirth, I want one. Sometimes I think I want one with this baby. But I'm comfortable with the situation, and I figure if I can't make it to the hospital I'll just have the baby at home! :)

  19. <3 Heather, as always, you are awesome!


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