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“Don’t act like that, otherwise your child will die”

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“Don’t act like that, otherwise your child will die”

A mother protects her child. It is a basic instinct, however it may actually manifest itself. If an expectant mother does not act as the specialist staff requires of her, this can be very provoking for unempathetic people.

Midwives and doctors have very powerful professions. As bad as it sounds, in most cases these professionals can have a major influence on the actual outcome of the birth. This can be good or bad. If you have a midwife in front of you who hardly responds to the woman giving birth and shows little empathy, it quickly happens that she resorts to other means so that the woman “obeys”. She may even threaten an expectant mother about her child’s health. Rather, she not only threatens to do so, but also blackmails them into taking a specific action, saying that otherwise it would be her own fault as a mother if her child dies. I hardly know a woman or mother who would not conform and obey under this pressure.

Accusing a mother during painful contractions in an inhumane setting that if she doesn’t act as the hospital staff think is right, her child will die is blackmail. In no case is blackmail in the delivery room benevolent, sensible or conducive to birth. The only reaction to such statements is pure panic and fear. And what happens when a woman giving birth becomes afraid, let alone mortally afraid, for her child? The body goes into absolute emergency mode and blocks everything else and thus any naturalness that would promote birth.

Threats in the delivery room: not uncommon

As unbelievable as this sentence “Don’t act like that, otherwise your child will die” sounds, it is a sad reality. The first time I heard this statement while attending a birth as a student at the time, I was perplexed. I stood there in shock and just thought to myself: “Excuse me?! How can a professional say something like that?” The impact on the woman as she lay despondent in the delivery bed stayed with me long after this service. Unfortunately, the delivery room in which I worked at the time was often violent. A few midwives and other specialist staff have tried to work differently. According to positive professional ethics, humane and on an equal footing. But every single woman, every single mother with her child who receives such sentences is one too many.

Here is a situation that a mother experienced and told me from her perspective:

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“I had been alone in the delivery room for a while. But then the midwife came to me again and felt for my cervix. She probably didn’t really have to feel anymore, because she just looked and then said: “You’re having your child now.” I was on my four-legged position on the bed at this point. I didn’t even think about leaving this position when the midwife suddenly told me very briskly that I should lie down on my back immediately. I declined because giving birth on my back was out of the question for me. She said to me: “Now you don’t feel like that. You have to cooperate, otherwise your child will die.” I was paralyzed. The next moment the doctor and a student came into the room and all three grabbed me and laid me on my back. My pain became so much worse at that moment than before.”

Professionals who abuse power are well aware of how powerful this threat is to a vulnerable woman in labor. They know that when they focus on the child, they awaken the most primitive and alarming instincts in a woman.

Often the mother’s natural intuition is attacked

I notice again and again in the postpartum period how profoundly such psychological abuse can affect young families. It doesn’t have to be specifically the sentence mentioned that is burned in, it can also be any other threat related to the child and their well-being. In many cases, these statements attack the mother’s natural intuition. Especially with the first child, everything is new and unknown anyway, and you tend to question yourself quickly, but after such an invasive experience, some women notice that they no longer trust themselves at all in their being and assessment of themselves as a mother. It often seems to me as if the women have been given the feeling deep down that they first have to learn what it means to want good things for their own child and to make decisions accordingly.

“A living child is not enough”

If you meet people in the first few days of the postpartum period who say: “Be happy, your child is healthy,” it makes the psychological game perfect. It signals to the new mothers that the actions and statements of the abusive staff were legal, because otherwise the child would no longer be well.

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A living and seemingly healthy child is not enough. It cannot be the basis and the decisive evaluation criterion of good obstetric care that mother and child survive. We no longer live in the Middle Ages. There are significantly more factors that play into appropriate and, above all, humane obstetric care.

If we had so many concerns about the well-being of our children and simply wanted them to be born healthy, then we would promote a 100% abdominal birth rate (cesarean section rate). But that is not and will not happen under any circumstances, because it is not the best thing for mother and child to be pushed into the operating room in advance and to avoid nature.

It’s about more than just survival. It’s about physical integrity, emotional and loving bonds that are built. It’s about laying the foundation for the start of life, and that needs more goodwill, more attention, more community. All of this is what makes a birth safe. In this way we promote birth. We will not achieve any progress in birth if we continue to blackmail our pregnant women and expectant mothers with their own child and deprive them of any self-determination. We force our women to “give birth” to their children. We force them to think differently, to be afraid and to panic.

Just if you take a closer look at the word “birth” you will notice a strange feeling spreading in your stomach. Do we really want to “unbind” our children from us? Do we start forcing them to be independent at birth? Isn’t this also a sign that we don’t properly perceive the needs of our children at birth because specialists try to push us in one direction with such terms and statements?

I am aware that for some it seems very far-fetched that a term like “childbirth” can have such effects and attack the very existence of our children. In my opinion, however, it is often the small and subliminal messages that we give to ourselves and our unborn child.

Words and sentences like “date of delivery”, “delivery”, “I’m going there to give birth to my child” keep coming up. Our children want to be born and retain a lot of bonds and build even more.

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We must not play mother and child off against each other

None of our unborn children think “I want to be delivered by my mom.” Here, too, we are already putting emotions and words into our children’s mouths about what is good, right and socially acceptable. But our newborns are completely dependent on their parents after birth, and that’s a good thing. We must stop viewing the birth of our children as the clinical delivery process that it has unfortunately become. Our children want to live, experience and feel and be who they are. The same goes for our mothers. You shouldn’t be given the feeling right from the start that you don’t know what your child needs. A mom’s intuition and gut feeling are unique and need to be nurtured.

We must not pit mother and child against each other, whether it is expressing the birth of one another or blackmailing the mother with her baby’s life during birth.

These abusive professionals are the ones who turn our mothers into their own worst enemy. They use the unborn child to build up pressure and thereby exceed all boundaries, not only those of the mother, but also those of the child. If our unborn and newly born children could speak for themselves, I am sure that none of them would agree to their birth being used to blackmail their own mother. This approach not only has to do with unprofessionalism, but simply with inhumanity.

“The birth still resonates with me today.” It is sentences like these that make it clear to us what an enormous responsibility and what a great privilege it is to be able to accompany births, in whatever form. Women giving birth are and may be vulnerable. This is a process of becoming a mother that was designed by nature. Mother and child are a team and it is precisely in this sense that the setting and interaction must be promoted.

Note: This book is an excerpt from “I, midwife, accomplice: My commitment against violence in the delivery room and for safe obstetric care”, published by Goldegg-Verlag.

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