Birthy Thoughts by Jane E. Drichta and Jodilyn Owen

The Language of Oppression, VBAC Style -Jane April 10, 2013

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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.


17 Responses to “The Language of Oppression, VBAC Style -Jane”

  1. Kathy Pulley Says:

    Well said Jane. Here is this nurse – seeing a “as God created it to be” beautiful birth – and she still insinuates that a C-section is superior! Sorry to have to say this, but what an idiot! No wonder these brave moms feel like they are going to “war”, fighting to have the birth experiences they want in our hospitals. This so called “birth professional” wouldn’t even acknowledge the amazing natural birth that took place in front of her own eyes. How much more “perfect” it would have been for this mom to have her gut cut open, risk the infection and trauma of a C-section – not to mention the lengthy and often difficult recovery time – instead of actually being strong and recovered enough to face the demands of motherhood and childcare when she got home from the hospital. Thank God (again) for in-home birth. And thank God for mid-wives who invite others into their homes for the miracle of natural birth as well.

  2. vanessa Says:

    Great post! Thank you for honoring this mother and her power and shining light on the subtle and not so subtle ways that our society can react when a woman forges her own path and makes her own informed decision regarding birth. And way to go, mama, if you read this. You are a warrior!

  3. TM Says:

    How beautiful! This was a strong mama who was intune with her body and her baby. She knew what was best for her and her baby. She listened for her body’s clues and signals. She was not taking chances, she made an informed choice. She lived the choice moment by moment, re-evaluating every day to be certain that all was well. How strong! How powerful! I admire her. She was not “naughty” She was magnificent!

  4. Lisa Says:

    Love this story, though I would love to have heard what this mother responded. It’s the story about a birth, but the broader, well-stated point is that this happens ALL the time to women and sometimes I can’t believe it’s still happening in the year 2013. Why are we as a culture, as a world, still so afraid of women? Why are we women either demonized or neutralized in the most humiliating manners? Old old questions, I know, but we need to keep asking them.

  5. This is a poignant demonstration of the way I’ve seen pregnant and laboring women spoken to time and time again by nurses and doctors during office visits and labor. The Language of Oppression is right! There is often a message that pregnant and birthing women are weak, helpless, sick and feeble, that they need to be taken care of when in reality they are doing the most powerful and righteous thing humanly possible, giving life.

  6. hettiegrove Says:

    Well said great post!!

  7. Robin Says:

    I am the proud mother of three beautiful young women. Before it was recommended and somewhat fashionable, my OBGYN insisted that I was able to do a vbac. Not only did I accomplish it after not one but two c-sections, I was out of my bed walking around feeling like a million bucks within an hour after delivery. I am also proud to say that I returned home 22 hours later to my kindergartener & toddler who very excitedly awaited their new baby sister. Bravo to the women able to safely have a vbac, and some people just need to learn to live and let live.
    Hopefully, many mothers will see this and have renewed strength to stand in their own truth and do what’s best for them even with the naysayers lurking in the wings!!!

  8. lori Says:

    This should apply to all of our medical and other decisions. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out of a medical professional’s building and never returned : )

  9. Catherine Argyros Says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this.
    Woman’s power is often diminished by “words” assigned to them, their choices and decisions.
    Would one male ever use the word “naughty ”
    when addressing another male!

  10. Stacey Says:

    Loved that last paragraph. Hoorah for intelligence!

  11. Roberta Says:

    So well put! Thank you.

  12. Katriina Says:

    I would hope that nurse got taken down a few pegs. It’s difficult to believe that there are people who have the kind of mind-set that the natural is not as good as cutting people open and putting them at risk. As far as I am concerned, natural everything tops the alternative. Hurrah for women who speak up and let the world know they are not to be toyed with by anybody. Hurrah for women who have a handle on their power and refuse to give it away!

  13. Unfortunately the language of oppression permeates our society where women are concerned in every area of life. Thank you for pointing to it in the medical world.

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  15. […] The Language of Oppression, VBAC Style -Jane […]

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