Please don’t let anyone tell you that what you went through was silly or insignificant, or that you should just get over it. Worse still, please don’t tell yourself this. Because it wasn’t.
Let me tell you a story. My client came to me because she was angry. Since the birth of her child she had been unable to control her anger, it had started erupting inappropriately, like a geyser spewing boiling hot water, unexpectantly and violently. It was scary for her, she never knew when it might go off. It was scary for her husband. It was upsetting for them both. She knew it was affecting her marriage and it was getting worse. She didn’t know what to do.
When we unpicked the birth, she had a very emotional response to this part of her labour. They wanted to cannulate her. She didn’t want it, she argued, she said no, she said she didn’t view it as an emergency, she did everything she could to resist. They did it anyway. They said it was policy, they said it was required, it was just in case, they needed to do it. She said she felt ‘ignored, powerless, helpless.’ She said it had felt like an ‘assault.’ She said that she didn’t think they could do this if she hadn’t consented. Beneath all these things, there was the fear of what else they were capable of doing.
And there was something else. Something that she didn’t know about, and something her ‘caregivers’ couldn’t have known about. Something from her childhood that triggered her strong feelings about this.
Not abuse, just everyday situations we all experience as children. As we delved deeper, she remembered situations where she had not felt listened to, had felt alone, powerless, where her wishes had been ignored.
These feelings were still there inside her and were triggered when she was faced with this situation in labour. Naturally enough she was angry, but there was no outlet. All the anger from this situation, all the anger that had been buried from her childhood, got stirred up to the surface. Every now and again it would break through, like a pressure cooker trying to let off steam.
Please know that if this is happening to you, there IS an explanation for it, it’s just a case of finding it. You don’t have to feel embarrassed, ashamed or scared of your behaviour, just because it may seem illogical or even silly. You don’t have to pretend it’s not happening, or try to suppress how you are feeling. There is a cause, and there is a way of fixing it. (We speak to the child you and make sure they have expressed everything and are feeling better. We then speak with the adult you and make sure you have expressed everything and are feeling better.)
Also care-givers, please know that the moment you don’t listen or you disrespect someone in your care, is the moment you tread on their stories. The stories from their childhood, the stories they may not even know are there. You stir them up and provoke reactions. You cause distress that neither you nor your ‘patient’ may understand, you cause emotions that may persist long after the event has passed, emotions which may not seem logical and which you therefore dismiss as silly or inappropriate.
Was this is ‘little’ thing? No, I don’t think so. The woman did not consent. The aftermath and the unpicking of it was not simple, it took time, money, courage and heart-ache. But this as least is simple. The woman did not consent. So please, don’t do it: not in her best interests, not because of the policy, not because you feel you should or someone told you to. Just don’t do it. Actually, you can’t do it, it’s called assault. Not only that, but you have no idea where the consequences will lead.
Rachel Weber is a former midwife who now specialises in birth story debrief and healing. She is passionate about improving maternity services for women. She can be contacted on 07717 471 584 (UK), or via her facebook page.
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