When do women say this when discussing birth?
ALL. THE. TIME.
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!