My friend--the one who had a cesarean for her second baby (breech) and whose third baby was breech until a successful ECV--had her third baby several weeks ago. It was a precipitous labor, and she made it to the hospital just minutes before her baby was born. I was hoping to drive out for the birth, but when she called me in the middle of the night with contractions that were 1-2 minutes apart, I knew there was no way I'd make the 3-hour drive before her baby was born.
She told me me her story later on that day, and a few things jumped out at me. Once she made it to the birth room, the nurse said, "now let's get you on the monitor." She said, "no way!" and went to the bathroom, where her water broke with a dramatic gush . She started feeling really pushy, so she headed back into the room. The nurse said, "let's get you on the bed." She said, "no way I'm lying down!" Instead, she grabbed a Chux pad, knelt on the floor next to the bed, and pushed her baby out a few minutes later.
I was present when she had her second (breech) baby. She went into labor when the one OB who did vaginal breeches was out of town, so she knew she was heading for a cesarean. She labored for several hours at the hospital before consenting to the surgery. During that time, if she didn't want to be on the monitors, she'd simply unplug herself and march into the bathroom. When she was done laboring in the bathroom, she'd go plug herself back in, standing up and swaying next to the bed. She didn't ask permission to get off the monitors--she just did it. Because of her "I know what I'm doing; don't mess with me!" attitude, the nurses didn't bother her.
This is the same woman who, during her first birth, gave birth kneeling. It was the first time her OB had ever seen an upright birth. My friend had tried to lie down as requested but found it impossibly painful, so she got up on her knees and stayed there. She would have preferred to give birth standing up, but knelt as a concession to the OB, who was nonplussed enough as it was with my friend's unconventional birth position.
How many times have we read stories where laboring women weren't "allowed" to get out of bed, where the nurses wouldn't "let" them get off the monitors, or where the doctor said they "had" to lie down to push and couldn't change positions? This has happened to many, many people I know both personally and through my blog.
I don't want to minimize the enormous power institutional and medical authority have over laboring women. Nor am I implying that it was a failure of the individual laboring woman when she was told she couldn't do X or Y. Not at all.
What if we simply stopped asking permission? What if we simply did what we wanted to? What if the mantra of laboring women became "don't ask, just do"?
Don't ask if you can eat or drink. Just do it. Don't ask if you can get out of bed or walk around or go to the bathroom. Don't ask if you can change positions or give birth kneeling or squatting. Just do it.
Do it with confidence. Do it with an "I know what I'm doing, and please don't mess with me!" attitude.
Just do it.
Let's join Dr. Michelle Harrison's vision of a new womanly revolution, from her book A Woman in Residence:
I used to have fantasies at Doctors Hospital about women in a state of revolution. I saw them getting up out of their beds and refusing the knife, refusing to be tied down, refusing to submit – whether they are in childbirth or when they were forty and having a hysterectomy for a uterus no longer considered useful. Women’s health care will not improve until women reject the present system and begin instead to develop less destructive means of creating and maintaining a state of wellness.