Nothing could really prepare me for childbirth, and because each of my birth experiences were so different, I couldn't even rely on my own past experiences to let me know what was in store. I did, however, expect to be treated with respect and kindness during every labor and delivery. Sadly, the first two times I had to advocate for myself during childbirth to get what I needed, which made the experience much more difficult.
Childbirth the first time was challenging, scary, and painful. I had no idea what was happening, if my baby was OK, or what I was allowed or expected to do. To make matters worse, my idealistic birth plan ended up being not what I wanted at all when I was actually giving birth. So, I ended up having to advocate for myself more, in part because I had to first convince myself that it was OK to deviate from the plan, then convince my midwife that I was serious.
The second time I gave birth I was induced due to preeclampsia. I, again, had no idea what was happening and dealt with some serious shaming by the very people who were supposed to be there to provide support. A laboring person shouldn't have to convince her providers or partner that she is in pain, wants an epidural, feels sick, or feels like she needs to push. Seriously.
When I checked into labor and delivery this last time around, I totally expected the worst and was prepared to have to advocate for myself. Surprisingly, I felt supported and respected from start to finish and enjoyed a beautiful experience, which is something that all people deserve during childbirth. Here are just a few examples of times moms-to-be shouldn't have to advocate for themselves when pushing a freaking human out of their bodies. Seriously.
When I Needed Sleep
During my first two deliveries, I was literally up all night with no pain management and frequent interruptions. If you think it's hard to give birth, try giving birth when you haven't slept in over 36 hours. I remember asking the nurses if they could leave me alone for an hour and if I could have something to help me sleep. I even threw a pillow at my then-husband to get him to stop snoring so I could try and sleep. Then, he told me I was "making too much noise." Unreal.
When I Needed Information
When I was admitted for induction of labor due to preeclampsia for my second pregnancy, I had no idea what to expect. They admitted me at 5:30 a.m. and no one came to check on me until three hours later, when I pressed the call button and asked when they were going to get the party started. No one could tell me the plan, which was very discouraging.
Later I learned that while the nurses had me on the schedule for an induction, there were no orders from my midwife about when, how, or who would be attending my labor. I ended up waiting until 3:00 p.m. for the on-call midwife to come to the hospital and start my induction. I was so angry.
When The Midwife Shamed Me
My midwife was out of town for my son's delivery, which meant I got the on-call midwife who I had never met before. The first thing she said to me was, "Are you sure you want to do this? Pitocin is a horrible drug. If I had my way, we wouldn't give it to women."
My reply, "I'm pretty sure if you read my chart, you'll see what I'm here for. I'll take Pitocin over dying."
She was not amused.
When I Was Starving
When I Felt Sick
Seriously, when a laboring woman tells you she is going to vomit, believe her. Don't watch her struggle to reach the bathroom, only to puke on the floor and then complain about the mess. Instead, hand her a barf bag or a basin.
When I Wanted An Epidural
A laboring person should not have to beg for pain management. Period. It was super unkind for the nurse to make me beg and then question whether I really wanted to "give up." WTAF? Pain management during labor is not giving up.
When I Was Loud
During my second labor, the nurses actually asked me if I could quiet down because I was scaring the other people in labor. WTF?
I replied, "Seriously? This hurts. What's wrong with you?"
When I Wanted To Be Left Alone
There were points during labor when I wanted to be alone or, at the very least, I wanted privacy during cervical checks when my *ss was hanging out. I shouldn't have had to ask for privacy and, when I did ask, I deserved to have my wishes respected.
When I Didn't Know What Was Wrong With Me
After I got my epidural, my then-husband went to get some lunch. I started to feel dizzy and heard ringing in my ears. Turns out, my blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. I pressed the call button for five minutes before someone responded. The last words I heard before passing out were, "Oh sh*t! She's coding." I was fine, but it was super scary.
When I Needed To Push
Me: "I feel like I need to push."
The nurse: "No, dear, I don't think so. Maybe, you are going to have a bowel movement."
I reached down and felt my son's head between my legs. She paged the on-call midwife, who arrived just in time to watch me catch my own son.
She was pissed, but what was I supposed to do? Cross my legs?