"They Let Me..."

Let's talk about words.  We have talked about the word "deliver" in relation to men delivering babies, and paternalism as it relates to the state of obstetrics.  But today I want to talk about the phrase, "They let me...."  Or, even worse, "They won't/wouldn't let me............."

When do women say this when discussing birth?


Just a few I have heard from students and hospitals: 

"We don't let people go past 42 weeks."

"My doctor won't let me push how I want.  Everybody has to push in X position.  It works better for him."

"They won't let me go past 41 weeks."

"They won't let me have my waters broken for more than 24 hours."

"They will let me labor even though I have had a c-section."  (By the way- one of the only places in town that will "allow" this.)

"We don't let women squat."

"They let us eat in labor."

"My hospital doesn't allow patients to take Bradley classes."  (Yes, I was told this.  By the way, that hospital had the highest c-section rate in the great state of Texas.)

And the list goes on and on.

The quote above from Midwives Rising is so very true.

The ability to labor how we please, birth in whatever position feels right for us, be able to move, go drug free, have a VBAC, hold our babies, and nurse our babies without threat of artificial food or nipples, etc, is nobodies to give us.

Giving birth is something that women DO.  We were created to do this.  These are all OUR powers, not anybodies to GIVE or TAKE from us.  Nobody should have power over our bodily autonomy in such minuscule ways at the time of birthing.

I mean really, "They won't let me eat."  Is that some kind of joke?  We are really being deprived the ability to eat by other adult humans and that is just fine with us?  Are we really that afraid?  Are we really that inexpert?  Do we really believe that it is up to somebody else if we EAT or NOT?

Yes, yes we do.

(Restrictions on eating have to do with the minuscule chance that you would have to undergo general anesthesia and would aspirate our vomit while anesthetized.  Some of this tradition dates back to the time when more women were under general anesthesia and the use of a mask made it difficult to view her mouth.) 

We have co-opted our power, our bodies, and our births and we have not even noticed it.  It is so ingrained that the language of birth is not about OUR power or ability but is about THEIR rules and restrictions.

We can do this.

There is a down side to taking back our power though, and it is that with power comes responsibility.  Often these restrictions have to do with the fear of liability if something goes wrong that is known to be preventable.  When we demand freedom, we must recognize that with some of those freedoms comes some risk, even if it is very minimal.  We have to own that risk.

Frankly ladies, I think sometimes we just don't want to own it.

The "they let me" idea is deeply ingrained not just because others wish to have power over us, but because sometimes we want to have others take responsibility for us.  We can't have it both ways.

There is always risk in life and in birth.  Let's stop "letting" them take our power.  Rise up!


Muffin Mama said…
When I tell women that my last baby was almost 3 weeks past her EDD, they say, "they let you go that far over?". I just tell them I had a midwife and a homebirth. Even if I had a doctor, I wouldn't let them tell me what I could or couldn't do. Yeah, I'd be *that* patient.
I think people think doctor have this huge authority over us. They're just another person that just studied for a long time. Some times what they've learned is out dated and the patient could be more educated on a certain topic(I had a nurse very rudely tell me that low thyroid had nothing to do with low milk supply).
You pay the doctor, he/she works for you!Once you stand up for yourself(or your family) once, they'll realize they can't pull the wool over your eyes.
Anonymous said…
Yes, yes, and yes! This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine and exactly why I birth at home - at first I was considering the hospital, but when I thought about all the things *I* wouldn't "let" them do to me, I figured it'd be less stressful for everyone if I just stayed at home. I highly suspect I have some form of oppositional defiant disorder, and if you tell me you won't "let" me do something, I'm going to do it just to piss you off on principle. Nobody "lets" me do anything.
Jennifer said…
I am doomed to hospital births because of preexisting conditions but my last birth I took back some of my power. A nurse tried to deprive me of food and yelled at me for eating peanut m&ms. I even offered to sign a waiver or whatever and told her I didnt give a rats ass what happened cus I was starving and I was going to eat whatever the hell I wanted. I even tried to play the HG card as I was used to eating when I felt ok enough to eat. Nope she still tried to insist I didnt eat. It ended with her walking out muttering something nasty about me and me throwing a cup of ice at the door.
I do have to give them some credit because the word c section was never mentioned although I had gone over 24 hours with ruptured membranes. But that was because I told them if they even said the word c section while I was in the room I would freak out on them.
Karen Joy said…
I'm trying to get this out of my vocabulary, both in my thinking and speaking and teaching. My tendency is to do my own thing within the system, without making enemies of my caregivers by bucking the system too much. (I have had five, all-natural, med-free, non-induced births in a hospital with OBs who practiced midwifery style of care.) I think there's something to be said for being an advocate for yourself without being a jerk. However, the idea of "they let me" surrenders all of your decisions to the will of a doctor, and that's really the wrong attitude.
Anonymous said…
Whistles! Claps! Cheers!

This is so TRUE. Every word. I'm passing it on to everybody I know.
Mountain Mama said…
I just had my second baby at home. She came really fast...so fast, in fact, that as I was beginning to make my way to the birthing pool she came rushing out of my womb and into my arms...no one was there to tell me how to do it, or to 'let me' do things a certain way. I caught her. No one else touched her, or took her from me to do Goddess knows what.
My partner was filling the birthing pool, my midwife was drinking tea in the kitchen, my 2 year old daughter was having snacks at the dining room table, and my dear friend was helping me make my way out of the bathroom.
My baby and I were in tune with one another throughout our birthing journey. I wish that doctors, nurses, midwives, and other birthing assistants would look to the mother to see and understand how things are going with the baby. We work in harmony with our babe in order to birth. Mother knows. She always knows.
B McC said…
I had a conversation today about how once you have a C section, there is no doctor in this town that will let you try for a VBAC. What's even worse is in some states, it's ILLEGAL to have a VBAC.
Super Happy Jen said…
The eating thing always bugged me too. Generally, nurses during labour are witches and nurses who help with the baby afterward are sweet and helpful and wonderful. Home birth with epidural...that would be the sweetness.
Carolyn said…
One of the biggest things I learned during my hospital induction was not to ask and just to do. All sorts of people will tell you "no" if you ask for permission... you're pretty much giving away your rights just by asking for permission in the first place. I can't think of a single thing I was told not to do that I did, yet had I asked for permission I'm sure I would have heard "no" a lot. My doula did make the mistake of asking my OB for permission to deliver side-lying while I was already doing it. I just ignored his answer and nobody stopped me. I also learned that you don't always have to listen.
Very well said! I totally agree with you!
Very well said! I totally agree with you!