Meghan is not letting anyone tell her how she’ll be giving birth which seems to make people extremely cross (Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay/Pool)‘When I’m in labour’ I said over dinner with friends recently, ‘I’m not letting anyone put anything inside me before they’ve at least introduced themselves.’
Everyone around the table who had given birth laughed, as if I’d announced that when I have children in the future I’d like to have them removed from my body via a firm but relaxing massage.
This has, generally speaking, been my experience of expressing any feelings about labour as a childless woman.
‘That’s not how it works’ the friends told me. ‘One nurse told me that I should pop my dignity by the door. I had people putting their hands in my vagina without even introducing themselves.’
When I pushed the point, several of the mothers around the table became frustrated with me, saying it’s ‘not about how you feel, it’s about getting a healthy baby’ and telling me that I have no idea what I want because I haven’t been there.
Forgive me, but isn’t it a bit medieval that the options are healthy baby or retaining some control over how you give birth?
One woman who isn’t being bullied into giving birth on anyone else’s terms is the Duchess of Sussex.
In the last week we’ve been told that she won’t be doing the post birth photo shoot outside the hospital, à la Diana and Kate, and that she’s apparently passed over the traditional royal birth medical team for a female doctor, having said she doesn’t want her labour run by ‘men in suits’.
Meghan is not letting anyone tell her how she’ll be giving birth – she’s insisting on making her own choices, something which seems to make people extremely cross.
There will be no post birth photo shoot outside the hospital, à la Diana and Kate (Photo: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)I’m not stupid. I, like most women, realise that labour isn’t generally a fun experience. But is it really so unreasonable to expect decent treatment?
Much of the commentary around Meghan Markle’s birth has centered on her being ‘ungrateful’ for the top tier care she has been offered, and critics have even dubbed her a ‘brat’.
If being a ‘brat’ is how you get full control of how you give birth, then sign me up. I’m delighted to be a birth ‘brat’.
If you are not a birth ‘brat’, then your chances of getting the birth you want and deserve are pretty low.
Women are entitled to elective c-sections. They have the right to refuse induction, and to demand as much or as little pain relief as is safe to take.
Women should also have the right to give birth without experiencing birth rape.
What is birth rape?
Birth rape, or obstetric violence, is the term for when a woman is subjected to a non consensual vaginal examination during labour.
The term was first used legally in Venezuela, when it was brought into legislation in 2007 to protect women giving birth. Within two years Argentina followed suit, with Mexico doing the same in 2014 – yet no such law exists in the UK.
Jodie Gibbons, who experienced obstetric violence described her experience to The Sun, saying ‘I begged the doctor to stop doing my vaginal exam, but he just ignored me. So I asked again, then again and even kicked at him to stop, but he wouldn’t.’
What does it say about the state of birth in the UK that I’m not even pregnant yet, and I’m already worried about how I’m going to be treated by the medical professionals who handle my labour?
I’ve already started coaching my husband on how to tell a doctor that I don’t want an internal examination, and read up on my legal rights to a caesarean or to resist an induction.
Having someone penetrate your body without your consent is not permissible outside of the labour ward. How and why does it suddenly become acceptable when you’re giving birth?
There is an expectation that we a woman should be so grateful to be in labour that her own comfort and bodily autonomy ceases to be a relevant concept. That expectation can absolutely go f**k itself.
Labour is a painful, arduous and deeply sexist biological process. It is not a privilege, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it your own way.
For Meghan Markle that may mean having a female doctor and skipping the press junket afterwards. For some women it will mean a home birth, and for others a scheduled c-section.
Please stop laughing at women who express a desire to give birth on their own terms, whatever those terms are.
Labouring women deserve to be treated as whole human beings, not as big sacks of baby making meat. If that makes them birth ‘brats’ then that’s just fine.
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