We screened the film Freedom for Birth last night at the CHOICE: A Birth and Baby Film Festival.
Wow, what a powerful film and powerful night. After the film we had a panel discussion with the audience. When asked, about 50% of the audience felt their rights had been violated in birth. Many women felt forced to consent to procedures they did not want.
The panelists included a lawyer, a midwife, and a nurse.
Danielle, former labor and delivery nurse explained what a typical birth is like here in the hospital. She explained the assembly line and the pressure to be sure birthing was efficient. Get the women in and baby out was the focus. Through her entire nursing experience, she did not recall a single woman who did not have synthetic oxytocin administered at some point during labor. She explained how disheartened she felt coming home knowing she was not able to support women they way she envisioned as a nursing student. She shared how she felt the pressure from her coworkers, head nurses, and the hospital protocols to push along birth and present interventions as necessity instead of choice.
Betty-Anne, midwife, explained how the system has taken its toll on the experienced midwives and the change she sees in the profession as new midwives have less exposure to the variations of normal in birth. She shared her experience in Hungry meeting midwife Agnes Gereb. She also explained some of the fallacious arguments used by obstetricians as to why they oppose home birth in places like Hungary and the USA. She also discussed the challenges midwives face when they want to support a women’s right to choose in a system that doesn’t.
Mante, lawyer, explained the definition of informed consent. She also explained a person’s the right to refuse medical treatment as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada. “The right to refuse unwanted medical treatment is fundamental to a person’s dignity and autonomy.”
A special guest showed up, Marianne. She had a home birth in Hungary with midwife Agnes Gereb. She explained the system of birth in her home countryand how she was treated by a system that did not support her choice of birthplace.
It was a great night followed by “drinks,” I had water and a salad, at a local pub. Among the conversation was how do we get this message out to the younger women, those who haven’t had kids yet, those that don’t know they are doomed to have their rights violated in birth of they don’t educate themselves about their right to bodily autonomy. We said we need to start having the conversation with more women.
So we shut the pub down at 2am and on the way out I asked my server if she had kids. She said “No.” I asked if she thought she might want to one day. She said “Yes, I think so.” So I asked what her thoughts were about giving birth. “She said “Terrified!” I told her I that all these women she saw here all had home births. I told her natural birth isn’t scary and that we all loved our births. She seemed surprised to hear someone say anything positive about giving birth said thank you for the tip. I hope one day she will look into her birthing options and know that she has the right to birth how she wants, where she wants, and with whom she wants.
In the meantime, we need women like her watching the film Freedom for Birth. Women need to claim their freedom before they are violated themselves. No more women should ever be forced to have their dignity and freedom compromised in birth.