The Rape of Childbirth

Their aggressive hands reached through between my legs,

The place where I have kept hope no matter what I have been told,

The place where female power longs to beam out, but has been restrained,

The place where only those trusted are allowed,

Their hands reached there with aggression, as they instilled fear and managed my demise.

But it is my voice that saved me,

The voice I was shamed for using so often,

The voice I nevertheless insisted on using,

The voice called annoying, too loud, too frequent, too whiny, too needy,

That voice saved me.

When you silenced me, I spoke, I roared, I screamed.

I can live in the story of a failed battle no longer...

I am a warrior, and I conquered that battle.

...

I remember the feeling of my son inching through my birth canal. I remember his large, round crown stretching and sliding through me as I bore down with force so strong that it could only come from the universe. It was the most glorious feeling. I think that is what Mother Earth must feel when a new tree sprouts from her body. And when we dance, hop, or skip upon her, it must feel like when I first held my son’s hand; I suddenly felt him, knew him. His energy blended with mine like two flavours mingling into a new experience.


I feel so close to the Goddess of creation, Mother Earth, in childbearing and birthing. Likewise, I have more empathy for her mistreatment when I feel mistreated. When greed, control and power takes hold of us as humans and we exploit the land, we exploit her body. Likewise, when greed, control and power begins to take over medicine, we exploit a woman’s landscape, her body.


Many before have pondered the likeness between childbirth and sex. Some people experience orgasmic births and many argue that the sacredness between sex and birth are similar.


It is only lately that I have started to realise at what point birth and sex should be treated with the same sensitivity and care.


First of all, the same body parts are involved. While birth is generally about pushing life out, birth attendants and health care providers often insert fingers, devices and machines in the vagina. Birth professionals must take extra care when doing anything vaginally. Even in the most sexually healthy, sexually open, and lucky-enough-never-to-have-been-sexually -assaulted person, the vagina carries a limitless number of taboos, fears, protective instincts taught to us by years of sexual shame imposed on us by a society in which people with vaginas are often exploited.


Second, sex is often seen as a pleasurable experience while birth is seen as a painful experience. If we stop and question this for a minute, we might remember that not too long ago, in the west, it was a largely accepted myth that sex was not pleasurable for women but it was rather seen as a duty. It was only due to some societal shifts in attitudes about sex that women’s pleasure became more central in sexual experiences. To this day, sexual pleasure for women is still often ignored. Is it possible, then, that the pain of childbirth is worsened by the rituals, customs, interventions and attitudes that surround it? Many birthers claim having pleasurable birth experiences given the right circumstances (calm environment, control and power in decision making..etc).


Third, both require constant consent. What personally traumatised me the most in birth is how I felt manipulated and coerced into interventions. It is so important that birth workers keep central in their minds (along with safety) that the woman is consenting freely and willingly. Pushing, and asking over and over, or saying things like, ‘I really think you should….’ ruin consent. It doesn’t count. While I understand that sometimes, to save a birther from torturous pain during a procedure or from death, medical professionals might have to act without consent, they must know that this may have an effect on the patient's psyche. Therefore, at least compassionate debriefing should take place.


Fourth, the bedside manners matter. While I understand that there are a variety of sexual tastes and fancies out there, generally I think that to feel safe in sex and birth, mutual respect needs to exist. The small things done around the act itself have an impact on the emotional reaction one has to sexual and birth experiences. Barging into a birthing woman’s room unannounced, not introducing yourself, not making eye-contact, those things affect a person.


Finally, both experiences are powerful. Sex and birth are moments where a womyn’s glory and power have the potential to be at their highest. Unfortunately, it is in those places that patriarchy has attempted to stomp on and banish this power. The consequence of this is exploitation, violation and rape. Care must be taken in the birth room to not only respect the womyn, but uphold and believe in her potential for greatness.


To conclude, for anyone who witnesses or attends births, think of yourself as walking into a room where a sexual experience is occurring. You must behave with sensitivity, respect, and appropriate distance. To be truly great, you must also allow the birther to shine, to be all that they can be. You are but a witness. When you are needed, you must work with care, compassion and think of yourself as honouring the warrior bringing life through time.


Christiane

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