A doula colleague of mine posted a story in a facebook group about a vbac client who refused a c-section for post dates. Eventually the mother went into labor, at 42 weeks and one day, and she had a lovely vaginal birth, as per her plan. However, as the mother was walking out of the hospital , the accompanying nurse told her that while she was glad she had succeeded in pushing her baby out her vagina, she had been “naughty” in not listening to her OB about the necessity of a cesarean birth.
It’s that word that gets me. “Naughty.” It is a child word. Nursery school kids are naughty when they eat finger paint. Third graders are naughty when they let their eyes slide over to their neighbor’s math test. By the time we get to teenage curfew violations, taking the car without permission, and swigging Boone’s Farm, the transgressions have moved far beyond “naughty.” At this point, they illicit other descriptors, ones which carry more weight, and possibly four letters.
This mother had just achieved something gigantic. Not only had she accomplished her vbac goal, but she did it on her own terms. Now, I do not know this woman, but if she is like most of the vbac-ing mothers I do know, she probably did a whole lot of research, asked others for their opinions and apparently was comfortable waiting a bit longer to see if labor would start on its own. She evaluated the risks, made her choice and stuck by it, even in the face of opposition from her care provider, a provider that she herself chose. She did not hand over her power to another. She not only claimed it, she used it, in a very visible and undeniable way. That child came out her vagina because she insisted on time. There can be no argument there. And that is not the mark of a naughty child. It is the mark of a fully grown, capable human, exercising fully grown, capable reasoning.
And that is extremely threatening. Someone in power wanted her to do something. She didn’t.
In conflicts of oppression, if the weaker person “wins,” there are repercussions. Without punishment, the weaker may try this independent thinking thing again. It might even spread to others, and then we have a revolution. A revolution would make a mess of the carefully constructed hospital system, destroying a top heavy power base that has worked extremely well for those in power for decades. (Just decades, mind you. Not centuries or millennia. Maybe it is not as strong as it first appears?)
In this case, the repercussion came from the nurse. What better way to put a new mother in her place, taking back that mature power she claimed, than to turn her back into a baby? Babies do not threaten. Babies drool and look cute and poop. This mother used her adult prerogative of self determinism; let’s use child words to negate that, to cut it down into something easily contained and understood. Something “naughty” rather than terrifying, something teensy-weensy rather than something momentous.
Or let’s not. Instead, let’s celebrate adult women making choices, making fully developed, reasonable, heart driven choices, that are neither outlandish nor insignificant. Our world deserves that.