Birth – this is perhaps the greatest and most transformative moment of your entire life. It is also the hardest and scariest you may have ever experienced. This is when you bring your baby into the world.
Whether you give birth in the hospital or at home, in a bed or an operating room, or in a hot bath, childbirth is an arduous process. There’s a reason they call it work, after all. Almost inevitably, there will be choices to be made. Also, inevitably, it won’t turn out exactly the way you imagined, planned, or intended.
Unfortunately, for many working mothers, the unexpected is more than a surprise. It can be deeply traumatic, especially if they feel pressured or coerced into making birthing decisions they may not have been prepared for. (If you’ve had a traumatic birth, be kind to yourself, ask for help, and check out these resources.) That’s why learning to be your best advocate in the delivery room is so important.
Why advocacy is important
Childbirth may be the most natural process in the world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tough choices to be made. Questions about where you want to give birth will likely be resolved before the baby arrives.
Still, your little one is more than likely to throw you a few curveballs along the way. You may have sworn off the epidural. When the pivotal moment arrives, however, and you face a long and difficult job, you might change your mind. You may have determined that anesthesia is the only humane way to get through the process, especially in light of new evidence that shows epidurals do not prolong labor or increase the risk of cesarean section.
Knowing how to defend yourself gives you the tools you need to protect your right to change your birth plan when and if you need to. At the same time, self-advocacy ensures that you don’t have to go through procedures you don’t want, procedures you think might not be best for you or your child, such as the use of forceps or suction extraction.
Indeed, although you receive the greatest gift of life at the end, the truth is that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to medical experiences is a reality. You may never be more vulnerable than when you give birth.
So when you combine this already difficult experience with potential coercion from healthcare providers or even spouses and family members, you may leave the delivery room feeling helpless and traumatized.
Find your people
One of the first and most important things you can do to stand up for yourself in the delivery room is to get the right support teams together and create a dynamic where you, not your doctor, your partner or anyone else person, have the last word, especially when the big moment comes.
It also means finding a doctor and healthcare team who will recognize and understand your pain, who will pay attention and respect to your experiences, including your reporting of symptoms that the healthcare team might not expect.
This may be easier said than done, however, as research has shown that women’s pain is often overlooked, minimized or misdiagnosed. Thus, it is imperative to find a doctor who will honor, believe and respond to your experiences.
As you assemble your support team and establish your leadership role in this profound process, it’s also important to remember that there will almost certainly be times in the delivery room when you just can’t fight. . In times like these, you will need to have someone appointed to step in and be your voice. It can be your partner, your mother or your sister, or a close friend.
For many women, however, this role is filled by a professional, such as a doula. Doulas are specially trained to support mothers and babies before, during and immediately after birth. They can also be the most effective and knowledgeable advocates a woman can bring with her into the delivery room. Additionally, since childbirth is a doula’s career, she can provide expert guidance and reassurance throughout the process, which can be unfolding and comforting to working mothers.
Childbirth is the most powerful experience most will ever encounter. After all, it’s the moment you become a new person, the moment you transform into someone’s mother, the moment you welcome a little soul into the world and immediately become the center of their young world.
At the same time, childbirth can be frightening and even traumatic for women in labor. This is why knowing how to defend yourself and your child in the delivery room is so important. From building the right support team to enlisting a trained professional, such as a doula, there are steps you can take to ensure that you remain heard and empowered throughout this profound and valuable process.