Monday, May 12, 2014

A Mother Rape Culture

If you spend any time in the birth topic, you're probably familiar with the numerous official statements and headlines from doctors, medical organisations and the like that all allude to the problem of women.

Our maternal morbidity and mortality rates (that is, injury and death during birth) are out of control. We rank at the bottom on the list of developed countries. And that's despite a lack of regulation on reporting cases. (Meaning, doctors and hospitals are not legally required to report injuries and deaths in an organized or accurate way.)

Why? Doctors aren't really sure. Officials can't really say. But, when they do open their mouths, they theorize that it's the mothers. We're too fat. We're too lazy. We're scared. We're fragile. We have rampant diabetes. We live sedentary, unhealthy lives so we put our precious babies at risk and the magnificent doctors just have to do those c-sections to save our babies from ourselves.

Sometimes, they play the victim card perfectly. They claim that women are just pressuring them for these needless, risky c-sections and interventions. We're forcing them to participate against their will, to risk our babies and lives for some kind of convenience, or almost as if we have a fetish for being cut open while tied to a table.

Finally, it seems an actual doctor wants to take a stand against these ridiculous blaming tactics. He reviewed a Consumer Reports study and commented:

"Too often the medical establishment blames mothers. “They must be older, fatter, sicker, or they must be requesting C-sections,” Main said. “But that’s completely bogus. As a doctor I can convince almost any woman in labor to have a C-section.” Even after you account for things such as mothers’ age and weight, according to Main, you are still left with huge discrepancies of care. What it boils down to is culture,” Main said. “Culture of the hospital, the nursing staff, even the patients.” 

Culture, indeed. Sound familiar to anyone?

Women are subject to increased interventions because they are sedentary.
That's what you get for not running away fast enough.

C-section rates are increased because women are demanding these kinds of births.
She asked for it. She wanted it.

I'm worried about increasing c-section rates, but that's what my patients want.
I didn't think it was right, but she was making me do it.

If women were more informed about their births and took responsibility for their births, they'd avoid interventions.
If women paid attention to their surroundings and took responsibility for their behavior, they wouldn't get raped.

People can continue to promote the cultural message that women must stave off unwanted medical interventions. They can continue to tell women to wise up, to learn ways to circumvent pressure tactics. They can warn women to kick at doctors and nurses who hold them down and force them to endure painful or unwanted interventions. They can share red flags for bait and switch behaviors. They can tell women to get out of an abusive situation.

Let's not forget to say the main message. It's not "stop being victimized." The message is clear and it needs to be shouted: STOP victimizing. STOP raping. STOP coercing. STOP scaring. STOP shaming. STOP lying. STOP abusing and traumatizing those in your power.

The natural birth community is just as complicit in the mother rape culture as the doctors, nurses, midwives and doulas who are doing the violating.

Just as the "Breast is best" campaign is working against a breastfeeding culture, the "Don't get birth raped" campaign is working against a humane birthing culture.

I've shouted it before and I will shout it again. Every woman and her baby in EVERY medical situation has a right to informed consent and humane, respectful behavior from medical staff. Not just white women. Not just rich women. Not just "informed" women. Not just low risk women. Not just hippie women. Not just home birth women. EVERY woman. EVERY baby. EVERY situation. 

Whether her gown is too short or not.
Whether she says the right thing or not.
Whether she looks like she wants to or not.
Whether she is drugged or not.
Whether she can consent or not.
Whether she asks to or not.
Whether she understands or not.
Whether she likes it or not.
Whether prepared for it or not.

If she's scared and new, uninformed and confused, anxious and alone...she deserves evidence based medical treatment and a respectful staff.

If she's drugged up and drowsy, unable to write a clear signature and unable to comprehend, nodding her head without understanding...she deserves evidence based medical treatment and a respectful staff.

If she shows up with a birth plan and birth hopes, with a doula and a birth partner, with a birth ball and essential oils...she deserves evidence based medical treatment and a respectful staff.

Women, you can't stop getting hurt by someone who wants to hurt you. It's time to get out of this culture.

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