Aside from the fact that Meghan Markle can’t seem to do anything right for our press (have they learn nothing from the Diana years?) I take issue with the way she is being written about because of the way she is planning the birth of her baby, choosing her hospital and birth team.
This week her birth choices have been much discussed and she has even been described as being a birth brat which did make me smile – good, I’m glad she is being a brat about it, even thought that is an awful description.
Women should feel able to plan more and to have more control when it comes to the birth of their baby – and that may not prevent interventions becoming necessary but it can mean more respect, communication and dignity.
In no other circumstances would we hand ourselves over to be touched, prodded and told what to do – yet in labour and birth this is often considered the norm. I am fiercely passionate about good preparation, planning and communication for and during labour and birth – not to control every detail of birth because it can be unpredictable, but to set the tone for discussion, inclusion and options all the way through.
I have spoken to so many postnatal women who have felt that the balance of power in the room was with the medical staff when it should be with the labouring women – this is her party and she should be able to say what she needs and how she aims to do it. Unless there is a medical emergency, our brilliant midwives are there to support, encourage, listen and to be ‘with woman’ – the definition of midwife.
Birth has to be more than having a healthy baby at the end – this of course is high priority but so should having a healthy mother.
When I speak to women about the birth of their baby, the women who are more likely to be upset and possibly even traumatised are the ones who weren’t communicated with, they weren’t included or listened to and they have felt invisible. We can’t control what someone says to us but we can ask for the support we need, we can speak up and say what we need, we can plan and we can hire doulas. And that is ok!
Birth has been part of my life since 2001 and as a busy antenatal teacher my job is to provide good information and practical skills, along with discussion and an opportunity to ask questions to encourage more expectant parents to be more empowered, to work with their midwives and doctors to have greater communication and inclusion in options. And this isn’t just for a natural birth, this is for inductions, epidurals and caesareans.
And this is not an exercise in midwife bashing, far from it. Midwives work within an over-stretched system and they can struggle to provide the level of care they want to provide. If parents are better prepared and empowered to ask for the care they need, that can make it easier for a midwife to communicate and support the birth plan. And if speaking up encourages a midwife or a doctor to reflect on their practice, is that such a bad thing?
Remember, set the tone, it is ok to be at the centre of your own care.
Good birth prep and planning means sitting at the table (to quote Sheryl Sandberg from Lean In) and being heard. And if that means being called a birth brat then so be it! It is ok to want a say, to be a boss and to want to be included – this is your body, your baby and your birth.
Janine | Birth, Baby & Family
A specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting
I run antenatal course, relax & breathe sessions and individual appointments. Just send me a message if you have any queries about how I can help you be better prepared for the birth of your baby.