Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Recently, through social media movements like #metoo, we have seen an increased focus on the empowerment of women - women finding their voice and telling stories of abuse and inequality. Women making sure that those that come after them don’t have to endure the same traumas they have experienced.
From a young age, many women have been conditioned to watch their place, to be apologetic for any ‘inconvenience’ they might cause, particularly with authority figures. In an article on The Child Mind Institute’s website, Rae Jacobson states that girls are often expected to be empathetic and hyper-aware of how their actions affect others…because girls and women are conditioned to be more attuned to—and responsible for—how their behaviour affects others.
How can we change this conditioning so that no women should ever feel compelled to take advice that is counter-intuitive? How do we empower women so that they use their voices and are never apologetic for the choices they make for themselves and their child? And, how does this apply to the birthing woman?
There are several decisions that a mother, and her partner, must make during the pregnancy and birth of their child. Public vs private care? Water birth? Delayed cord clamping? Pain relief? With added complications, the decisions become urgent, more serious, and often frightening. A couple must be able to make any decision confidently and with the support of their caregivers. The key, of course, is to be informed. But, what if they don’t have their caregiver’s support? What happens when a woman feels like she is losing control of her birth? She might become nervous, frightened, and slip into fight, flight, freeze or appease.
We hear a great deal about fight, flight, freeze, but what of appease? Appease is the women’s conditioning kicking in - to become apologetic and ‘go along’ with the directions of a caregiver, not wanting to cause a ‘fuss’. The mother’s voice is lost. And her ability to birth naturally is diminished.
Empowering women in birth is an essential and monumental task. How can we give women back the voice that they have not had, possibly, since their own birth? We arm them with knowledge – knowledge is power, after all. We give them self-belief and the confidence to trust their instincts. We undo the fears and records of trauma that have piled up in their subconscious since they were a girl old enough to listen to other women tell their birthing stories. And, most importantly, we change the culture around birthing until positive birth is the new ‘normal’. We empower one mother at a time, and engage her to empower other mothers, creating a movement of mothers that cannot be silenced.