I’m really sick of reading articles where everyone from a random couch commenter to actual physicians will say that women can prevent doctors from performing unwanted and unnecessary c-sections on them by educating themselves.
That is crap, and it’s condescending.
First, these people are implying the many, many women receiving unnecessary and unwanted surgeries are being physically cut into because they just didn’t do their research. It’s not like the doctor has any responsibility to do no harm. Wait… Don’t they?
Second, it’s victim-blaming, and I’m over it.
This is the same irresponsible commentary people used to make about rape victims. I remember in the 90’s when people talked about how if you wore jeans, you couldn’t be raped because it was surmised that a woman would have to physically help in removing her jeans for a rapist. There was complete lack of thought toward the mental manipulation and coercion and fear and social ramifications that play into rape. This was before people thought verbal and emotional abuse were even valid types of abuse. I remember this time before I turned ten years old.
I remember, because I, myself, have been coerced into being molested. Twice.
Once at about 5 or 6 years old, and again at about 7 years old. Both by different neighbors. Both older males. One lived right next door and was 18 when he touched me. When I told my mother, sweating, afraid she would never look at me the same, as I knew I had done something so dirty, so shameful, that I could never be forgiven. She called the 18 year-old’s mother up.
Her son was a quarterback on the football team, probably attractive to his peers, but to me, just old, and an authority figure. He had taken me upstairs to “show me his room” while our parents had dinner and wine together downstairs. He told me to sit on his bed. He talked to me. I would watch after his parents’ cats and they would pay me for it. I trusted his parents, so I trusted him. He talked me up. Then he touched me.
I don’t remember how I got downstairs, or the rest of the night.
I remember I was afraid to tell my mother, and that when I did, she immediately called his mother. My face burned as I watched her tell his mother. I imagined his mother, sitting in her living room, right next door, aghast. I imagined her imagining me like that, sexually, and I couldn’t bear it. I felt dirty.
My mother talked to her as if she was chatting with a friend. Can you believe he did that? she asked. It was strange. Then she covered the receiver and asked 7 year-old me, Do you want to press charges?
All I knew about pressing charges back then I had seen on TV and heard about in school. Rape was finally being talked about in the 80s. I imagined myself on a stand, having to testify, to tell all these grown up strangers what he did to me, in front of my family, in front of him and his family. Seeing how I felt this uncomfortable just sharing this with my mother, I didn’t think I could do it without feeling shame every day of my life. So I shook my head no, and buried it. We never talked about it again. Ever.
Luckily, in the 90s and 00s, when I told my story to very select people -my husband, or women who opened up to me first that they had been sexually abused – not one of them said something stupid like, “Why didn’t you scream for your parents?” or “Why didn’t you fight him off you?” You know, comments that would imply if only I had tried harder, it wouldn’t have happened.
No, of course people don’t say these things nowadays. Yes, they used to. But they don’t now, because our culture has effectively educated/shamed those who have victim-blamed children who were sexually abused.
But women who are forced to have unwanted, invasive procedures, or abused during pregnancy or childbirth are not yet seen as victims.
Think about that.
A husband watching his wife writhing in pain, or scooting away from her nurse’s fingers, or sobbing while being wheeled down a hall to an unnecessary csection, are not seen as victims, and while it would clearly be seen as abuse in any other situation – unwanted sexual and/or invasive touching and cutting – it just isn’t yet registering as abuse for those it did not happen to.
For the woman, it feels like abuse. The images of it come up well after the birth. She might have problems trusting medical staff after this. I certainly do. The very people that I put my trust in to take care of my health and my body took advantage of me and harmed me. That’s hard to get over. It’s devastating. Especially after being sexually abused before.
But I can’t tell you how many people, including the HEAD of the Labor & Delivery Department, told me if only I had had “better advocates” around me to protect me from her medical staff (my husband and doula and birth plan weren’t clear enough?), if only I had asked for a second opinion (I did, in my birth plan, and none were available that weekend), I would have been spared the abuse.
Of course, she didn’t call it abuse. But she implied that it was my fault. That I should shoulder the responsibility of what her incompetent and unethical team did to my body.
That would be inexcusable in itself. It was more enraging for me since I HAD gone over what I consented to in my birth plan with all three doctors, and with this very head of the Labor & Delivery Department, well before my labor. In fact, I had spoken to this very woman two months before I delivered to tell her my concerns about having been a survivor of sexual abuse and birthing in her hospital. I talked to her about what I could expect. She told me that having a birth plan and a doula and speaking to her beforehand were great preparations. She told me that she would note it in my chart and talk to her nursing staff about me to prepare before I went into labor so they knew to be extra alert about respecting informed consent when I came in.
She did none of what she said.
Instead, I was assigned the worst nurse on staff, who was later fired for other instances of incompetence or malpractice, and the doctor on-call was known for – I found out later through online reviews – coercing unnecessary c-sections that turned into uncomplicated vaginal births.
I was told days prior that my doctor, and the other two doctors on staff would not be available if I went into labor before the date she planned to induce me… As if I could control when I went into labor.
I was told they would all be gone from Wednesday through Sunday at my Tuesday appointment. That only the locum doctor, whom I had never met, would be on call during that time.
I went into labor on Friday, December 16th, a week before Christmas. I was c-sectioned almost exactly 3 hours after arriving at the hospital, at 9 centimeters dilated, after a very quick first time labor (I had only been in labor a total of 12 hours when I got to 9cm …unmedicated back labor, to boot).
I did all that grueling, painful work for nothing.
I found out later that two doctors, including my doctor, came in that very night that I was in labor to help another woman labor. They spent hours with her trying to turn her baby from a breech position while my body was sacrificed against my will. She birthed her baby at around 11pm… about 20 minutes before I was checked into my labor and delivery room and found to be 6cm.
I had a doula, the locum doctor told me she loved doing c-sections, and she was immediately defensive after she read my birth plan. No amount of education would have prevented my c-section. No amount of yelling or kicking at the doctor. Why? Because she and the nurse lied to me and drugged me so that I couldn’t physically or mentally fight them off. And therein lies much of the problem. Laboring women are fighting just to get through their labor – all her energy, especially in transition – is spent on getting through the contractions. There is no mental energy leftover to tell your husband to hold your hand, or get off you, let alone repeat what is already laid out in your birth plan, something your doctor should be respecting as it is. There is absolutely no energy to put your lawyer and advocate hat on, and be skeptical of your OB and nurse when they tell you your baby’s life is in danger when it isn’t. To say, hey, let me look at that heart rate strip and get me someone unbiased in here to explain to me what actually deems my baby is in distress and warrants a c-section.
See how all the cards are stacked against a woman and hospitals use this to take advantage of her? No, the answer is not to tell the woman to arm herself, be prepared – or, as they did in the 90’s, to dress differently and not put themselves in that situation to not be raped – no, the answer is to hold OBs and medical staff accountable for taking advantage of women, for the abuse, for the medical malpractice. The answer is to educate the abusers that what they’re doing is abusive and to hold them accountable.