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rethink birth BONUS - know your rights!
This is the final article in our Rethink Birth series - and it’s an important one!
Knowing your rights, and exercising them with both courage and finesse is absolutely essential to having an empowered birth experience, especially if you're giving birth in the system … whether that’s in hospital, or at a lovely independent birthing center.
If your midwife or care provider is licensed by an official entity, she’s got protocols to abide by, and that does impact the care you receive in one way or another - whether or not you realize it.
You may have heard the saying, “If you don't know your rights, you don't have any”. It’s important that we understand how this applies to women when we enter a hospital’s domain.
Both components of the phrase ‘informed consent’ - the informing and the consenting—are frequently at risk of being disregarded in the name of protecting medical professionals from liability.
So how's an informed woman to stand up for herSelf?
First - it’s critically important that you innerstand, from a place of clarity and not fear, that just because something “shouldn’t” happen or is against “policy” or is … that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
When we engage with the system from a place of blind trust, instead of using our “street smarts” and discernment … it can open the door for experiences that may violate our sense of autonomy, consent, or comfort.
This is not a judgment, it’s just what happens when birth gets “managed” by the system. There is no reason to fall into fear or indignation around this - but the fact is, the system is not designed to let birth unfold naturally. It’s designed to minimize risk.
I’m certain that your individual care provider is a lovely person who genuinely wants to support you in an unhindered birth … but ultimately, they are beholden to following the system’s protocols for risk management, and these protocols will often supersede what’s written on your birth plan. It’s a matter of conflicting importances.
Second - memorize the phrases, “I do not consent;” “Excuse us for 10 minutes while we discuss the options privately;” and “Can I get that in writing, please?”
Use these liberally before agreeing to any procedure or intervention. This can be done with warmth and kindness - but don’t be afraid to speak up, or even to say NO! or STOP! with force, if necessary.
Third - make a plan, and get yourSelf some backup! Don't allow yourself to be bullied, shamed or threatened into doing anything for yourself or your child that you are uncomfortable with. Expect cooperative care with an emphasis on partnership and trust - and enlist the help of your partner or a birth pro to help you with challenging conversations.
Almost nothing is “urgent” whether during pregnancy or labor - and so you may postpone a decision about whether to consent for this or that test or procedure, until you’ve had time to reflect and consider the impact of each choice on your care, overall.
These organizations are specifically involved in protecting mothers and babies in the system:
https://humanrightsinchildbirth.org and https://www.birthrights.org.uk
I am saddened that the website for the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services no longer seems to exist - but we can read through their Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative via the Natural Child Project website, which hosts a treasure trove of articles that have profoundly shaped me as a parent for over 20 years.
I hope this series of articles has given you some food for thought, and inspired you to seek out a more conscious, connected, heart-centered way of birthing your baby.
If you’re wanting to hear more about how to navigate a holistic, empowered birth while engaging with the system in a discerning, collaborative, and conscious way - please join me for Navigating Birth in the System - live on Zoom at 11am CST, Monday, August 21.
We’ll talk all things birth - both in and out of system - about our rights and priorities, and how to engage with clarity and kindness, eyes wide open. A 35-page PDF book on labor, birth, postpartum and newborn considerations will be included.
This is not a hate session on system providers - it’s more of a road map for creating conscious conversations around labor and birth that honor our rights and allow us to have an autonomous, holistic birth, regardless of what kind of setting we’re in.
Holistic choices and empowerment are not limited to freebirth.
I’m wishing you a beautiful, conscious birth!