All this recent press about Jian Ghomeshi has brought up a lot of conversation about rape culture, violent sexual behaviour and very importantly, consent.
While JG has not been charged for any of these accusations (yet), the amount of woman he has been accused of violating is growing by the day. It’s pretty clear that these women are victims and I hope they are finding peace and strength in this difficult time.
Who knows why it took the CBC so long to cut it’s ties with JG, but in many people’s opinion (which I kind of agree with ) it’s because he was their breadwinner. Why didn’t woman who endured his sexual comments and unwanted physical contact say anything? My guess is partially because they knew that he was an ” important” public figure and that they likely wouldn’t get very far in a “he said/she said” situation at HR.
If anything good can come from this situation it’s that it has struck up a conversation regarding respect for woman’s bodies and consent.
Alright Nici, this is a doula blog. Why are you talking about this?
I want to start off by saying that this is not a stab at Doctors. I’ve had many great experiences with OBs, but I have also witnessed some upsetting and disrespectful acts done by doctors and I want to discuss this so that you can make choices for your body that you are comfortable with.
Globally what would you say are the most respected professionals? There was an “occupational prestige” study done which showed physicians to be at the top of the “Ladder of social standing”. If you’re interested in this study check it out.
As a society we hold Doctors very high up (as we should in my opinion). So it makes complete sense that we don’t question Doctors’ actions more often. We are lower than them in social standing so why would we think it’s ok to tell them what to do with our bodies?
Well….because it’s your body. Your sacred space. Your world.
When you register to give birth at the hospital, you sign a lot of paperwork stating that you put your life and your baby’s life in the hands of your doctor. Every doctor has a different way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean that you agree with their practices. Something we tend to forget is that Doctors are working for us, not the other way around.
What I’ve witnessed and heard from my clients were not acts of sexuality, or abusive intent. What I have witnessed are non-consensual medical acts, roughness and disrespect for woman’s birth preferences and their bodies. Why do these things happen? Who is to say for sure. But my opinion is that it is at least partially due to the social standing of a Doctor, impatience and poor communication.
As an example, a Doctor does not need your consent to give you an episiotomy. In the moment you generally don’t feel it, and the argument is that it will just be upsetting for the birthing mother in that moment if you tell her. If it’s between a life and death situation for the mother or babe, I’d say that these actions are justified. However, this is generally not the case. Women need to be informed about medical acts or physical changes that Doctors are making to their bodies. Point blank. Or Physicians need to establish future consent in prenatal appointments.
I believe that we are afraid to ask questions of our Doctors and challenge their actions because of their social standing. Kind of similar to this awful situation with JG. Giving birth isn’t something that we do regularly or have a lot of experience with, therefore we just assume that whatever is occurring is necessary. Women come to me after an appointment or their birth and ask me why the Doctor hurt them in this way. To which most of the time I have to say, “I don’t know”. Maybe there is something I am not seeing. I’m not a Doctor, but I do speak English and know when someone is asking for consent. I’m sure that the Doctors have justified their acts in their mind, but if more women talked these actions through with their Doctors and let them know the affect it had on them, maybe doctors would change some of their practices. It also may be a good step in the healing process for these women.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of the hurtful and unprofessional acts that I have witnessed. Instead, I want to talk about what you can do if you are going to be giving birth or have already suffered from non-consensual acts while delivering your baby or a traumatic birth.
CONSENT. This is a powerful word and it is very recognized by Doctors. While preparing your birth preferences you can explain acts that you do or do not consent to under the circumstances that no one is in danger. State that you do not want anything physically done to you without your consent first. Make sure that you give a copy of your birth plan to your doctor. If you would like, you can even get them to sign a copy.
What if my Doctor is not the Doctor who will be delivering my baby? Bring a copy of the birth preferences with you in your hospital bag. Give a copy to the Doctor and ensure they read it. It is important that your birth partner be aware of your wishes so that they can tell the Doctor if you are unable to. Be aware that a Doula can not speak for you at your birth, but they can remind you or your partner of your wishes so that one of you can convey the message yourself.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault this is something that you should bring up with your care provider and birth team. Tell them about your trigger words and places you do not wish to be touched. Birth is empowering but also very delicate. It can bring hard times to the surface. This is a very courageous way of setting your birth up for success.
If you’ve had a traumatic birth experience, luckily there is a lot of help out there for you. Women’s mental health in the postpartum period is becoming more and more recognized as something that needs to be treated delicately and efficiently, which is great news.
What can you do for yourself? Here are a few ideas that can assist with self healing.
-Talk about it. Talk about it with your partner, your close friends, your doctor, moms groups, etc. Let people know how this has affected you physically and mentally.
-Take a bath. Add healing and cleansing properties like calendula, comfrey, rose water and limes. Think about where you are feeling your physical or mental pain and imagine it going away with the bath water.
-Write a list of things that you want people or your doctor to say to you about your birth. Give it to someone special, have them look you in the eyes and say them to you.
-Write a letter (angry, happy, however you want to convey your message) to the person that hurt you and rip it up or burn it.
-If you’re near a body of water, write down your fears and regrets about your birth on stones and thrown them in the water. You can also do this with paper and burn it.
-Have a mother roasting ceremony where you are celebrated and warmed for giving birth in whatever capacity that was.
-Write your birth story for yourself. the way you experienced it, for yourself.
-Think about when you felt strong during your labor and birth. Associate it with colours, songs, images, items and surround yourself with them.
You are strong and powerful. You are important. Your body is important. Physical pain can lead to mental pain, physical scarring can lead to mental scarring. Our birth experience doesn’t just stay with us until we are done healing or when our babies are teenagers. It stays with us forever. In a way it defines who we are. Lets open up the communication between Doctors and Mothers. Make sure all your questions are answered and all your preferences are acknowledged. Speak out if you feel you are not being respected.
Your loved ones are are here to listen and help you heal.