I wasn't really prepared for childbirth, and not for lack of trying. I read books, attended classes, and asked every mom I knew questions, but when push came to shove (literally) I had no idea what I was in for, how I would feel, or what I would be allowed or expected to do. I thought I would be treated with respect and kindness, but I wasn't. To make matters worse, there were so many things I needed that I was actually afraid to ask for when I was in labor.
Anyone who knows me is probably shocked to learn that I was afraid to speak up and advocate for myself. I mean, I'm kind of an extreme extrovert, so most of the time I totally ask for what I need, when I need it, and without hesitation. But when it came to giving birth the first two times, I ended up having to advocate for myself and, and a result, dealt with some serious shaming from the very people who were supposed to be there to provide support. That, my friends, shouldn't happen.
I honestly get angry just thinking about it. I mean, childbirth is hard enough without feeling afraid to speak up when you need something because you fear being shamed by your partner, your health care providers, or other moms. That's totally how it was for me, though, and it kept me from asking for the following things:
There were points during labor when I wanted to be alone or, at the very least, I wanted a privacy curtain to block the door during those damn cervical checks. Other times I wanted a second to snuggle with my partner and enjoy our last hours before our son was born. I shouldn't have had to ask for privacy and, when I did ask, I deserved to have my wishes respected.
A laboring person should not have to beg for pain management. Period. End of story. That's it. The show's over. It was super unkind for the nurse to make me beg for that goddamn epidural, and then question whether I really wanted to "give up" in the first place. Pain management during labor is not "giving up" and we've got to stop shaming people who want or need it.
Some Damn Peace & Quiet
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, at least, and if I could have something to help me sleep. I was so nervous.
I was starving during labor, but I didn't want to get in "trouble" or have the nursing staff yell at me, so I snuck snacks from my bag when the nurse was out of the room. I was afraid to ask if I could have something to eat, only to be chastised. Labor is hard work, though, and I was freaking hungry.
When I was admitted for induction due to preeclampsia during the end of my second pregnancy, I had no idea what to expect. The hospital staff admitted me at 5:30 a.m. and no one came to check on me until three hours later, when I finally pressed the call button and asked when they were going to get the party started. I didn't want to bother anyone. Me. The laboring woman. How ridiculous is that?
When I had to be induced due to preeclampsia, the hospital staff called 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."
I felt so disrespected, and her bedside manner was trash. I think the way some providers treat laboring women is more than a little misogynistic. If a man was admitted for kidney stones or surgery, would the staff treat him like a child or openly question the medication needed to treat his condition? Nope.
A Barf Bag
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, for goodness sake.
To Be Heard
Me: "I need to push."
The nurse: "I don't think so."
That's when I reached down and felt my son's head between my legs. The nurse 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?
How about listening to the woman who is telling you what is happening in their bodies, instead?
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