#103 | Giving Birth Like a Feminist: Interview with Author Milli Hill

June 2, 2021

When it comes to giving birth, women are too often told a healthy baby is all that matters. And while none of us will argue that a healthy mom and baby are the highest priority, it’s time to give mothers the respect, dignity, and agency they deserve in their birth experience.

Milli Hill is the author of “Give Birth Like a Feminist” and “The Positive Birth Book”, and is here to tell you, that women matter too; because how we give birth stays with us for the rest of our lives. 

Milli believes birth is feminist issue and asks women to no longer allow birth to be left in the hands of patriarchal control and dominance. In today’s episode, she offers practical steps you can take to claim your birth power and have your safest, best birth.

Give Birth Like a Feminist

The Positive Birth Book

The Positive Birth Movement

Similar Episodes:  Is a Healthy Mother & Baby All That Matter?

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View Episode Transcript

In maternity care, I think what often happens is women will slip unwittingly, but willingly into the child role. Because they'll be put there by the way they're spoken to or treated or taught to hop up on the bed or Be a good girl. It's not just about everyone being alive at the end of it. Although, you know, obviously, that's really important. But what I'm saying is, we need to move that from the, you know, the pinnacle of expectations to the baseline, and start saying, you know, what else matters in this experience, as well as everybody just having a pulse afterwards.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, I'm Millie Hill. And I'm in England in Somerset, and I'm a writer, I'm the author of two books about birth, the positive birth book and give birth like a feminist. And I'm the mom of three children. About 10 years ago, I guess, after I'd had my first baby, and just before I had my second, I started to think a lot about birth. And two, well, actually, it started in my first pregnancy, I started to think about the way I was being spoken to and the way choices were being framed to me. And I came into that experience as someone who was quite feminist, and quite opinionated and not really used to being told what to do. And I thought, wow, this is interesting, this is a very different type of experience for me being pregnant. You know, it's, it's definitely a different power dynamic. So that kind of all sort of got me thinking. And that's what's led to me, I'm a writer and a freelance journalist. So it's led to me doing a lot of writing about the topic of birth. And that writing then that onto my first book, the positive birth book, and then give birth like a feminist. And also during this time, I set up an organization called the positive birth movement, which for nearly a decade, has been a network of free to attend groups all around the world, for women's come together and talk to each other about birth. So kind of like peer to peer support, which was kind of a different concept in antenatal stuff. Certainly, the concept of them all being linked together globally was a new thing. And recently, I've stopped running that network, but the group's a lot of the group's carry on. So that concept is still out there, of women coming together, talking positively about birth, reframing birth, thinking of it in a new way, sharing birth stories, looking at birth films, and images, all of those concepts are stuff that I've been involved with over the past sort of 10 years.

Well, Millie is really awesome for us to have you on the show. When I found you on social media, I got your book right away, and I read it last summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I think we should just start off by answering the question, what does it mean, to give birth like a feminist? That's a very powerful statement.

Yeah, well, it's kind of a catchy title. And I guess what it means is underneath underneath a catchy title, it's quite a complicated thing. But in other ways, simple. It means to be the key decision maker in birth. It means to have agency it means to be the person who is feeling the most powerful person in the room. And so it's not really about how you give birth or where you give birth or what choices you make. It's just about moving from this idea of birthing, something that happens to you that's done to you into a place where you feel like you are the person giving birth, you are the person with agency, you are the person making the choices.

One of the things that you talk about early on in your book is that a healthy mother and baby is not the only thing that matters and giving birth. And that is sort of like the foundation of our podcast and our feeling about birth is that of course, a healthy mother and baby are the highest priority. But too often, it's the only priority and so much get so much gets lost along the way in the mother's experience and 100% I mean, women remember the day that they have their baby for the whole of the rest of their lives. And I think sometimes you know, they're told Oh, it's you know, it doesn't matter. It's just one day or an even worse messages, things like you know, leave your dignity at the door, and think It's like that, as still said to women in the 21st century, but it does matter to women. So I think that's the message that I've been trying to drive. Through my writing for the past, you know, 10 years or so is exactly that, that a healthy baby is not all that matters. It also to think about what is health, you know, this idea that everybody getting out of it alive, is that that's a good outcome. And, you know, we all know that there's more to health than that. So how women feel about themselves after they've had a baby, you know, they're going to carry that forward, into their mothering into their parenting, they're going to carry that forward into their relationship, the partner who has probably been in the room is going to carry the experience forward with him or her, everybody is going to take this experience forward, and and the baby as well is going to be affected by this experience. So it's not just about everyone being alive at the end of it, although, you know, obviously, that's really important. But what I'm saying is, we need to move that from the, you know, the pinnacle of expectations to the baseline, and start saying, you know, what else matters in this experience, as well as everybody just having a pulse afterwards, there's a wonderful quote that says, the moment a child is born, the mother is also born, she never existed before the woman existed, but the mother, never a mother, something absolutely new. How you give birth, defines how that transition from woman to mother manifests for a person. And whether your birth is a positive experience, or a traumatic experience can have a significant impact on how you view yourself as a mother in the early weeks, months, even years.

100% it can. And the other thing that's really important is how few women have the type of birth that is really, really an empowering experience. And that's something that I've written about and give birth, like a feminist. You know, we talk about, you know, the value of having a positive birth experience. And we all know about that. But there is a particular kind of birth that some women have, and the number of women who have this kind of birth is tiny, and I suspect that in the States, it's even smaller than it is here in the UK. And that is the kind of birth where they feel like they have done that under their own steam. Maybe the midwife you know, just sits in the corner and doesn't do much or doesn't seem to be doing much, we all know that she's doing a lot. She's holding that space. And she's she's watching and she's she would intervene if necessary. But she's, she's watching and she's waiting. And the woman gives birth, under her own steam, she does it herself, she may be even she catches the baby into her own hands, whether she's in a birth pool, or on the floor, or wherever she is. And so when you talk to women who've had that kind of experience, talking about what you take forward from birth into motherhood, and how it can really transform you, when you talk to women who've had that kind of experience, the way they talk about it is almost evangelical, in terms of how it affected them as a person. They take that confidence that they get from that experience into every area of their life, they take it into their parenting, they take it into that the way they feed their baby, the way they look after their baby, the how they feel about the change in their life that motherhood brings, they take it into their body confidence, they take it into their sex lives, they take it into their relationships, they take it into their career. And one of the questions that I've asked and give back like a feminist is, why are we trying to, you know, is are we trying to stop women from having this experience because that experience, it's all very well like saying how many people have a vaginal birth or whatever. And looking at those numbers, those numbers are pretty bad, as we know, you know, seryan rates, etc. and instrumental births everything high. But when we try when we look at the numbers of people who are actually having that kind of experience, where they feel they were listening to their own body during birth, no one was telling them what to do. They had agency they make they were doing it themselves, those numbers are tiny. And yet those are the women who report the biggest impact on how they feel about themselves and what they take forward into their future lives. I read, you know, and spoken to women whose birth stories on paper sound like they should have been very traumatic, but who feel incredibly positive and empowered afterwards. And by the same token, women who've had bad stories, which on paper sound like they should have been like textbook perfect, but who feel traumatized. So it's, it's not about framing and trauma around intervention.

And it's not about just having a natural birth. Everybody sort of touts the natural birth, whatever that means, as you know, the best birth we could have, but you can have a natural birth that feels very disempowering. That feels Yeah.

It's about how you're treated, how you're listened to how people explain things to you when things aren't going to plan. The way I say to my clients, by the end of my course is this is about like now, you know, now that you've reached the end of the course, this is about giving birth, your way giving birth on your terms. This is your birth, this is your body. This is your baby, end of story. And it's not even for me to say, Well, tell me what that looks like to you. It's for that person to figure out when they're in labor, and they're going through the process themselves.

Yeah, I think it's kind of like a two pronged attack as well, because a lot of women do want to have that natural birth experience. And it's important that we try and hold on to that idea as well. Because I feel like certainly in the decade that I've been involved in this conversation, that that is getting harder and harder for people to attain. And it's literally like the definition of it is shifting constantly, you know, to women's detriment, really, because what we really mean is the kind of birth I was talking about earlier, where you know, you You are the person giving birth, and you listen to your own body, and you do you do it naturally, because you use your own skills and energy. So, yeah, we're getting such away from that. But it's really important that we bear in mind that a lot of women do still want that experience. And they do see the videos of people, you know, on Instagram of people having that kind of experience. And they think, yeah, that looks really cool, I want to do it like that. So we want to try and keep pushing for that, because I think the majority of women want that kind of they certainly but the majority of women want to have a vaginal birth. And quite a large number of those women want to have a natural, you know, empowering birth experience. But we also need to remember that it's not for everyone. And that we also need to remember that we can improve birth across the board, you know that we can make it a more positive experience by putting women at the center of the decision making, even if it is an elective cesarean, or they want to have an epidural, or whatever are the choices they make. So it's kind of like both it's not like either, or we need to think about how can we maintain our grip on natural, normal, whatever you want to call it, physiological birth? And also how can we make sure that every woman who gives birth doesn't feel left out the conversation about what she wants and how to make it better for her.

So something happens to a lot of women when they become pregnant, and they go to that first prenatal appointment. Suddenly, they there's there's a massive shift in power dynamic when they walk in to that first appointment. And this kind of comes back to your concept of giving birth, like a feminist like, for many women, I think that that ability to feel confident in their choices to have that agency to have that authority goes away, as soon as they establish that relationship. And it's through these conversations and through childbirth education classes, and through, you know, empowering ourselves through knowledge that we can rise out of that place and start to, you know, speak more confidently and advocate for ourselves more. So can you talk to us a little bit about the actual steps a woman can take when she becomes pregnant to help have a positive birth experience?

Okay, well, I mean, I think the main thing is not to believe people who tell you that it doesn't matter what you do. You know, you don't it's it's all potluck. I think that's one of the most destructive messages that pregnant women are given today, whether it's like the relative or the doctor or the person in the pub, somebody will say to you, well, you know, it's all at the end of the day, you know, you just turn up and you know what you get what you get, and healthy babies all that matters.

Be more I could not agree with this point more I say it in these words to my clients. Many women believe their birth is predestined. And many women's providers speak to them without language. They'll say things like, well, we'll have to see how it goes. If you have a birth like that, and I'm like, No, we just don't know what will happen. Right? And that's not Yeah, it goes, You have so much more influence over how this birth will go physiologically than you can possibly believe never even mind the decisions you can make in that room as to who you're hiring to be with you. Who's going to be supporting you what techniques you'll be using, what positions you'll be in. But absolutely I agree with you. That's the first key point we must have women believe and understand that their birth isn't predestined. So now that they have so much influence, what are they going to do about it? Now that they have so much responsibility? What are they going to do about it?

Well get informed. But this is why, you know, going back to what you're just saying this is why I have always spied a feminist issue here, because women are actively discouraged from taking an active role in an experience which is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. And you know, with for example, one of the first things that they can do talking about practical stuff is think about making a birth plan. Making a birth plan is a fantastic thing to do because mainly 80% of the value of a birth plan. In the process that you go through making it, thinking about your choices, learning about the options you have, asking yourself what I want, having conversations with your partner getting informed, then you've got the value of the other 20% value of actually having a piece of paper that says, I have thoughts about this, these are the things that are important to me. So it's fascinating to me that this is an absolute crucible for negativity around women's birth experiences, I bet you've come across this people being told, oh, birth plans are completely pointless. You know, don't get yourself in a twitch about it. And even I've had things like I've noticed obstetricians having conversations, I caught them out on Twitter, once joking about birth plans, mocking them saying, you know, you can, the length of the birth plan corresponds to the length of the size, area and scar, really unpleasant stuff like that. There's no point laminating them unless you want to protect them in a hemorrhage or something. It's like really horrible stuff. But it's not an unusual attitude to mock and undermine birth plans.

That's absolutely true. In the hospital environment, there's definitely not everywhere. And not everyone, for sure. But the woman who comes in the most committed with the most detailed birth planned, is the one they bet on is first going to be having a certain section, I think that's Yeah. But your point, your point about the birth plan, development, 80% of the work and doing a birth plan, is getting the education along the way and and so much of the reason that people poopoo birth plans is because if you just download something off the internet, and check the boxes, in the 11th hour before you give birth, your birth plan is going to do nothing for you. And it isn't going to help but it's the birth plan is developed from the day you get pregnant, and it should be developed with you, within yourself, your partner and with your provider all along the way. Yeah, then that's an effective useful birth plan.

That is a really effective useful birth plan. And it's also I always say to people to make like a plan A, and then think about Plan B. And think about making necessary and plan even if you absolutely 100% don't want us azurion you know, because you know, all of these things give you agency in the moment. So you know, say I mean, the classic example being you know, you're planning to have a home birth, then you transfer so your plan B comes into play, and then maybe you end up having rosarian. So your plan C comes into play, you know, it's all of these things about in the kind of calm time of pregnancy, thinking things through and deciding what is important to you. Things like skin to skin. You know, a lot of people don't even know that they can ask for this in this area and or even in a hospital, vaginal birth, you know, but it's a very meaningful moment. For the majority of women, not everybody wants to do it. But most people find that moment when the baby comes to them. And it's a skin skin contact, you know, it'd be a really epic moment in the birth story, and a moment of bonding, and we know it has, you know, positive impact physiologically on women and babies as well. So you know, you can, that is something you can put in your birth plan, which you should be able to get or in almost any situation and circumstance, no matter what goes wrong or what goes right.

I talk about the same things with my clients as all the things you're saying that I always said, the primary value in a birth plan is the process of going through with your partner. But when you're talking about Plan A and plan B, that's also something I always say. And the reason it's so important to understand we all have this plan A and plan B, you know, may we have a plan A where we're actually aspiring toward the birth we dream of having. And Plan B, let's say is that, you know that that surgical birth that we may end up needing, but then the decision is, you know, do we want the way I view the planet is Can't we have a buffer around us like this radius around us this cushion of planet around us, because some people hire the surgeon to be the first person they're holding their hand when they're going for that natural vaginal birth. And I think that really complicates things because that surgeon always exists even beyond a home birth, you have a surgeon somewhere ready to assist you with a certain section if you need one. So I always feel like the greatest value in a plan A is how great you can make that buffer that cushion around you. So you have the space to give birth the way you want to in Plan A, but it's what it's making me think about as well as something else that I say to women is, you know, rather than if you say visualize your perfect birth, you know, then sometimes people will think oh, well, you know, I want this pool and I want the flowers here and the plant pot plant here, whatever. But I always suggest to women that if they do that they visualize how to what qualities to I want to have in in my in this perfect birth and kind of visualize that. So that you know so you might Feel like okay, what for me the idea of perfect birth is I am calm, I'm in control. You know, I'm doing my breathing, whatever. Or you might say, you know, I'm powerful, and I'm strong and I'm upright, whatever it might be take to think about instead of thinking about the trappings of what's around you what room you're in what place you're in. And I think this has been particularly helpful in the pandemic as well, because many people haven't been able to have, you know, the exact kind of place of birth that they want. Or they maybe they've been in a room with people wearing lots of peepee. And it's been a bit different energy to the kind of energy that they were hoping for. So instead of focusing on the external, think about the internal of what qualities you want to embody what kind of birthing woman you want to be.

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So let's name what you've mentioned so far, as far as how to give birth like a feminist. What are some of the ones you've already mentioned, that comes straight from your book?

Well, definitely, birth plans really features in both of my books and the birth book. There are some fantastic visual birth plan icons and lots of practical stuff about helping people to make a birth plan. But in give birth, like a feminist, I talk more about the kind of political side of it and like, you know, why are women being told not to make birth plans and why it's important that you shouldn't be deterred from that, and you shouldn't take on board those messages about everything being potluck, you know, we know that you are never going to have complete control over birth. And that's not the right message to be giving people either. But we do know that becoming informed and thinking about your choices does maximize your chances of having the birth that you want, I really believe that, and I've seen it happen over and over again. And it also maximizes your chances of maybe not having always having the birth you want but a feeling empowered. In birth, however, it sort of plays out, you know, fitting that you still know what's going on, and you're at the kind of center of things. So birth plans feature really, in both my books, and I'm a big advocate for them. I think, you know, we talked about healthy baby, not being all that matters. And I think it's really important to remind women that they matter. I think that's another of my sort of points is know that you matter. And it shouldn't have to be said really should it. But you know, I think the message, the cultural message is so powerful, and it's been so ingrained over such a long time. Now that, you know, birth is about producing a healthy baby, you know, an air you know, the whole idea of the woman as the vessel, or the rapper, if you like that can be sort of perhaps even cast aside afterwards. I don't mean literally, but you know, spiritually in a way or metaphorically. So, just to really remind women that they do matter, and that it is okay to say what you want in birth, to have a voice. It's okay to assert yourself and ask for what you need. And that doesn't make you a bad mother. You know, you can care about your baby being okay. And you can also care about yourself that you you have a positive experience. It makes you a good mother. Yeah. Because we're the one I think there is our children, and we want them to make sure that they're seen in their herd and their needs are met in their lives. Yeah, absolutely. It's really our responsibility to teach them that by example. Yeah, I was going to give you another one, which is some B that I say in my book, which is to be an adult, which kind of ties into the same thing. I think a lot of maternity care infantilizes women. In the UK, we have sporadically conversations on social media will erupt or even newspaper articles about women being called a good girl in labor, and how people shouldn't do this anymore. And it's almost becomes like Groundhog Day. I think I've seen I've heard people having this conversation before is this still happening? But that whole sort of power dynamic where the authoritative figures are quite paternalistic, nevermind whether they're male or female, but they are in that role of kind of parents and the woman becomes the role of child. So I've written a little bit in my book about transactional analysis, I don't know if you guys are familiar with that sort of part of therapy, I come from background as a therapist and put it simply, very simply, and I don't want to offend any trans transactional analysts out there. But just to take from that model, this idea that we can we basically, in our interact in our human interactions, we can play one of three roles, parent, adult, or child. And those roles are interdependent. So you can't be the parent and si be the child, and etc. So, in maternity care, I think what often happens is women will slip unwittingly, but willingly into the child role, because they'll be put there by the way they're spoken to or treated or told to hop on the bed or Be a good girl. And then the care provider will step into that paternalistic adult role. So one thing that women can do actively do to change that, and that's what I'm interested in, because I can't change the system, I can't even begin to imagine how we can do that. But so women going into the system can change what they do, and that will force the system to change. So if women go into system thinking, I know about this parent child thing that's going on here, and they decide to be the adult. And you had to do that consciously, you have to remind yourself before you open the door to the doctor's office, or the labor Ward, or whatever you have to think, remember, adults, you have to almost physically pull yourself up tall and think I'm going to be the adult in this situation. And when you do that, and it's not, you're not not always going to get it right either. And you know, it's difficult, but when you start to consciously think about it, then the other person in that interaction is going to have to play the adult too, because they can't parent, another adult, they can only parent you if you accidentally slip into child role. So you go in as the adult, and you remember, I'm a grown up woman, I have choices. And it's okay for me to say what I want. And you kind of give yourself these little pep talks. And that shatters the power dynamic. That's the idea of it. Anyway, this is the first step in what it means to have agency in your birth, you say like this is that this is the first step because I think it can be overwhelming for some women, to figure out how to empower them, empower themselves with all the knowledge, there's so much to learn out there. And there's this fine line between having agency in our birth and feeling responsible for every decision we make in our birth, we still want to lean on our care providers to some extent to help guide us to make the right decisions in birth. Yes, but if we and we can feel overwhelmed by how much we need to know, I mean, it's overwhelming as a health care provider just to keep up with everything you need to know about how to make the right decisions in birth. And but the first step is at least having the agency to be able to to be on that more adult level with your provider and say, I don't mind maybe don't know all the answers here. I don't know all the evidence in this situation, but I need you to, you know, guide me on what the benefits are of this, what the risks are of this, what happens if I do nothing like to have that adult level conversation as opposed to just being like, sure. And it should be a situation of like mutual respect, and shared expertise and shared power, we're not talking about women marching and saying you get out, I'm not having anything to do with you, you know, and kind of like disrespecting the authority, and the knowledge and experience of their care providers. What we would like, ideally is to have a situation where, you know, everybody brings something to the table and everybody understands, you know, this woman is the expert on her body, she's she can do it. I'm the expert on what to do if it goes wrong, you know, we have each have something to learn from each other. And it's a shame, you know, just listening to, to ourselves talking here, I'm kind of thinking God, isn't it a shame in a way that we even have to be having these conversations where, in some ways, it's quite anxiety provoking for women, either way, either she decides to bury your head in the sand and just go with the flow and just turn up and not get involved in any of this stuff. And then that's quite scary, because it's quite disempowering, or she has to think but what was that woman on that podcast saying about being an adult and and what were the stats on induction and and what my friend told me about making a birth plan and it's like, you know, it's that's really anxiety provoking shouldn't just be able to trust that our care provider is going to make the decision that best serves us, and this is what we need. We need true change we need for the system to be completely overhauled. You know, the system has been built for the wrong people. It's been built by patriarchy. It's been built by men. It's not been built with women's needs in mind. It's not been built with an understanding of woman's physiology. The understanding of how women's bodies work at all is still so poor, and so under researched and when are expected to go into the system and somehow navigate it, you know, and that's, I guess what my both my books are about. So I mean, I'm, I've, you know, I've been part of trying to change that through talking about what the system is and how we can navigate it. But ultimately, what I would like us to be able to throw both my books away and say, these are completely out of date, because everything's different. Now women don't have to, you know, learn about how to kind of get through this and how to sort of navigate this, this system, which isn't built with their needs in mind.

I completely agree that nothing's going to change until we the consumer, are the ones who change. And you know, what I say a lot to pregnant couples is, you're still thinking of your parents as the adults in your world. But you're going to be the one at the pediatrician appointment, potentially choosing to disagree with advice you receive, you're going to be the one who has to call the school principal, when something happens, you're the one who has to be your child's advocate. And it begins now, this is your first experience in becoming the adult in your life, the primary adult in your life and your child's advocate, it begins with birth, it's a it's really a wonderful opportunity to step into that role. I had a client call me once in mere tears in complete distress, because she and her husband decided to leave their son who wasn't born yet intact, to not have him circumcised. And her mother was so vehemently disagreed with the decision. And I was just thinking, isn't it interesting that you're in so much distress when your mother's had her opportunity to raise her children? And now it's your turn? You're feeling this distress? Because you haven't yet stepped into the role as the parent of this child? Yeah, that it's just it's in our minds, it's this experience, that we're still not the adult yet. And that's sometimes the first day we have to really claim it, it's the birth.

Yeah, I agree with that. And it's and that's maybe why birth is such a monumental epic event. Because, you know, you can't move from those one state to another like that without some kind of struggle and, and, you know, it being big, you know, it's, it's a is a big experience for a reason. And it's not easy, for a reason.

And it's and I don't, you know, I don't think we should ever worry about quote, disrespecting our providers, I think we should really just view it as a partnership, it's a, we don't need to, we don't need to respect them any more than they need to respect us, it doesn't matter that they have a degree that you may not have, it's still your body, it's still your baby. So I think it's the right relationship, when both the provider and the pregnant couple feel like they're in a partnership, like, Look, I have knowledge that I know you value, I'm going to be sharing that knowledge with you. And then I'm going to give you space to make your own decision and tell me what that decision is, and I'll respect your decision. And it can be really comfortable for both of them. And they both have that mutual respect.

It would be great if that was the way the power dynamic always played out. But unfortunately, I don't think we're there yet. And I think that's why women need to have some tools and information to navigate the system. In case they don't get the care provider who sees it that way. You know, this whole idea about, you know, the me to movement, which is interesting, I think, you know, one of the quotes in my, in my book from this really fantastic woman called Deborah Francis white, she runs a podcast called the guilty feminist. And she says something like, you know, whenever, whenever there's a me too moment somebody has kind of forgotten to ask, it's, you know, she says, it's all about empathy. Somebody in this situation has forgotten to ask, what is this like for you? And, you know, obviously, she's talking about, you know, the me to stuff we think, obviously, like, inappropriate sexual conduct, and, you know, being in, you know, touching women in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and that kind of thing. But I think it translates brilliantly into the bathroom. And they've even been initiatives in the UK anyway, where they've tried to get obstetricians to kind of generate some of the sympathy, for example, by putting their feet in stirrups and lying on their back on and having a fence strips and seeing how that feels or going through like a mocks his area, and where they're kind of on the trolley that wheeled into the theater. And you know, they have all the lights on them and all the people around them. I think, Wow, that's cool in one way, but also really do we really have to like mock it up for you to start thinking about what that's like, they
still can't scratch the surface of understand vulnerability or the feelings they can are still not giving birth. Not right. They're still not giving birth. They're not emotionally invested in it. It's not even, it's not even close. And I would hate for them to do that and think they now have a clue. Right? Because they don't, they still don't have a clue until you're in it. And just until and through no fault of their own. They just they can't because they're not in it. They're not attached. They don't have anything at stake. Like Let's try to cover one or two more before we wrap up here.

Well, another thing I talk about is thinking about other women too, because I think for some women, you know, they, you know, that they've had their babies, you know, say you've had your one baby or two babies, whatever, and it's done. So if you, you know, then you may not feel like this conversation is even relevant, you may not even be listening to this podcast. But you know, I think it's really important that we think about it as a feminist issue for so that every woman who feels themselves to be feminist and to be invested in women's lives and women's experiences, gets involved in the conversation, whether that means that they, you know, they never want to have children, or they're too young, they have, they haven't really thought about having children yet, or they've already had their babies, you know, I think it's really important that we all pull together, in the same way that, you know, it's happened with the me to movement where everybody, you know, whether it's a historic thing from 30 years ago, or something that hasn't happened to them, yet. Everybody thinks this is relevant to me, this conversation is relevant to me as a woman, because this is happening to my sisters, my aunt's my daughters, my mother, you know, even if it isn't happening to me, and I think another important thing to do is to, you know, to use your voice, if you have, you know, a lot of people who have traumatic births, don't complain, don't feed back about it. And that's another part of the healthy baby is all that matters package. Because if you're told that message repeatedly, then after you've had your traumatic birth, you sort of think, Well, you know, in fact, people might even say it to you, when you start to talk about your traumatic birth, they might say, Well, no, you know, look what you've got, you know, look in your arms, Look down, look at your healthy baby, you know, and it kind of like shuts down the conversation. So whether that actually literally happens, whether it's just kind of an internalized feeling. I think lots of people think after they've had their given birth, well, I, I'm not really going to say anything, because you know what, at the end of the day, we're all alive, and it's okay, and I'm going to move on. It doesn't just shut down the conversation, she can then feel guilty, like it's true. I have this healthy baby, what am I complaining about? Yeah, exactly. So she's, it's the selfish mother thing again, isn't it? It's like, well, if you were a good mother, then you would realize that you've got a baby. And that's, you know, that's what you know, focus on that, instead of focusing on yourself. So it's really negative message. But you know, if women don't feed back to their care providers, and say, just like with the me to thing, you know, if you don't say, actually, when you stand really close to me like that, it's unpleasant. It's not it's fun for you. It's not fun for me, you know, unless people say that, then it's unfortunately, like we say, Well, why don't people realize that it's obvious to us, but it's not always obvious clearly to the system. And the system needs to be told, you know, when you came, you know, I was thinking about my own first birth the other day, this is a really good example of it. And I hadn't thought about this. My first my eldest daughter is 13. So I hadn't thought about this for ages. So I just had this baby. And it's been quite a difficult birth my first birth I was induced, I end up having forceps. So I was, you know, pretty shell shocked afterwards. And this guy came in to take some of my blood, I can't remember why I think it was because I'm rhesus negative, but doesn't really matter why this guy came in to take my blood who had never seen before in my life, and he was so distant, and cold. And I cracked a joke. Even though I just had a baby, I was like, I almost like was trying to make him feel more comfortable, you know, trying to like, lighten the tone. I was like, trying to joke about how silly It was ridiculous, it was that I was upset about having my blood taken. Even I just had a baby and kind of like trying to, you know, lighten it up. And he just didn't smile, and he didn't engage with me at all. And I thought, I think about it the other day, and I was thinking, God, you know, the sky came into my space, my special space into my memory forever, you know, into my life, and you didn't even you know, you didn't even show me any kindness or warmth. So yeah, you know, it but he obviously didn't realize no one had said to him, you know, that, that that would be I'd still be talking about that on a podcast in 13 years time, I'd still remember him. I wish I knew his name.

They shouldn't have to be told he just went into the long line of work. Well, yeah, cuz I would like to think most of us would give some thought to that, like, this couple just had a baby, they're gonna remember this forever, and how they're treated and who smiles at them and who's kind to them. Does someone really have to say to him, just, Hey, be extra nice. She just had a baby. It's just gonna some people just don't belong in this field.

Do people really have to put their feet in stirrups in order to get some empathy for how that might feel? I mean, isn't it obvious you'd think? So, I mean, maybe we all need to raise our voices a bit and talk about these these not just the big experiences where you know, someone's going to get sued because it was so appalling, but just the small things that matter. To us, even if you just write to the care provider afterwards and say, I've just had a baby, these things were fantastic. The guy that came in and took my blood afterwards was really, you know, cold in it, and I'm never gonna forget his coldness. Fine. You know, keep feeding it back, keep saying, you know, it's not you know that it wasn't something wasn't okay. Even the small things, I think that would really help.

You remind me of a couple that took my class A couple years ago who went together to prenatal visit, and the father said to the female obstetrician, so what made you decide to become an obstetrician in your life? And she looked up wistfully and said, I've always wanted to be a surgeon. Right? So it's like, you know, you just have to think if that was her calling, then rather than thinking she's good, she's bad. She's right. She's wrong. We just have to think, is she or is she not? Right? For this couple? Is she the right partner for this couple? And in that case, she wasn't and they left and change providers. So she's right, she buddy, but as she writes for you as the rebirth, we can easily go there. Right? But you know, there are a couple who would raise their hand and say, sounds good to me. Right? So the question is, let's, let's, it certainly would be wrong for me. And I think it's a powerful story. But if we just want to make it simple, is that the right partner for you? Just like all the, all the potential life partners out there, so many are wrong for you. That's okay, they're right for somebody, but they can't all be right for you. So it's your work to figure out who's right for you.

And it's okay to, you know, to change care provider as well. I mean, I know that each the system in the states is different to here. But you know, if if you're in labor, and you know, the person who's with you is, doesn't feel right, then you know, you again, you can use your voice and say I'm sorry, I would like somebody different. And, you know, I've told women that before and they've been really surprised, like, really, you can do that. And it's like, well, yeah, because this is your birth, that's the same with turning things down. I'm not going around telling women, oh, you know, don't turn down induction turned down vaginal exams, whatever it is, but I am going on telling women that you can, you can have a voice in a suit experience, you can ask for somebody different or say, I really want that examination. Now everything's fine. I'll come back in an hour. You know, you can be in charge in that way. And it's amazes me still how that's still really shocking to a lot of pregnant women that they can do that.

So mainly On a final note, what does it look like to give birth as a feminist?

Well, you can give birth as a feminist in any setting and in any situation in in any type of birth, and make any choices that you want to make. But the key is that you are the main decision maker in the room. You're the most powerful person in the room reformed and birth is something that you are actively doing, not something that's being done to you.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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