Violence as a public health issue is a real thing. Young men being gunned down is a public health issue just as much as failure to inform a mother on the best way to prepare for birth, both result in the mortality of, particularly, black children, young men and mothers. Violence stems from fear so what is society exactly afraid of when it come to the womb of black and latinx mothers?
The cause of so many horror stories from United States labor and delivery room outcomes stem from a series of obstetric offences that fall under the larger obstetric violence umbrella. Obstetric violence can be described as any unpleasant and non consent, or coerced act against a mother during prenatal visits, in labor and delivery, and postpartum. The mulitfaceted spectrum of violence shows up in many instances such as:
-A mother's request not being honored or ignored during and after labor
-Redirecting a mother's request, so that it meets the need of anyone other than her.
-When a mother is constantly being offered an epidural during birth without receiving information about the high probability of long term effects on a mothers back.
- Unneccessary utilization of any surgical equipment outside of an emergency (i.e. mothers being sold the idea that scheduling a cesarean for the best aesthetic but do not tell you that the epidural is required to have a cesarean).
-The improper education on how to utilize a breast pump after birth.
-Being discouraged or flat out opposed on the idea of having a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) (2nd birth and on).
-No education on any birth related terminology.
And the list goes on...
Obstetric violence occurs too often leaving mother's feeling traumatized and disempowered during a time they should be feeling the greatest joy of their labor of love. In my experience of violence, carried out in the form of being rushed when one hour skin to skin was requested, proved to play a huge role in my son being unable to latch on within his first hours of life. I almost gave up in the hospital due to pressures by staff and my mother saying that my son looked dehyrdrated and undernourished and that I had to stick a formula bottle in his mouth before he died, essentially. This added pressure, following my pushing him out, along with him not latching on, only exacerbated my self doubt as a care giver to the point of tears. Yet, right in that moment, my son rejected the bottle! He would not open his mouth as I cried in surrender and shame, for I had been pushed to the edge. Pushed by hopsital staff, physicians, and family. But HE REJECTED THE BOTTLE. Shortly after he began nursing like a champion. I was glad (an now impressed) that he hadn't rejected me and clearly felt the instinct to latch on. He simply needed time. But not every mother gets loucky to understand, witness, or experience this. Many mothers feel powerless because they, along with society, are taught to view providers as authoritative figures and mothers in labor and delivery are often victimized and even coerced into this unhealthy dynamic during childbirth. Providers are not doing a good job creating safe space for mothers because they are focusing on numbers and getting to the next mother. Without the necessity to utilize surgical tools hospital do not get as much funding.
The shame associated with our black bodies stems from historical systemic violence. The physical and sexual abuse we've encountered throughout colonialism and patriarchal dictatorships of, for example, having been ripped away in many cases from our young only to play the role of wet nurse to our master's children or being experimental subjects to our "authoritative figures" strongly plays into the dynamic of our labor and delivery room scenes. Subconsciously, our current mistreatment in the delivery rooms is endured because we feed into this false narrative of deficiency and not being enough as women in this patriarchial system. Imagine the level of self doubt felt women of color. During segregation we were not even allowed in the delivery and this worked to our advantage because many people of color resorted to midwivery. Once integration occurred racism followed into the delivery room and hospitals that serviced a majority of people of color were not well resourced. Simply pointing out the disadvantages.
But coupled with poor resources and being subjected to violence during the founding of this nation women of color are easily targeted and this needs to be eradicated. In my humble opinion the fact that 1 out 4 black mothers dies in child birth or gives birth to a pre-term or low weight child goes beyond genetic disposition (epigenetics). Violence shows up in oppression that breeds toxic stress no matter the socioeconomic status. Keeping individuals miseducated drastically decreases the chance to make informed decsions and restricting society from exploring and knowing our bodies perpetuates this oppression.
In what ways were you misinormed about the birthing process? Outside of labor and dellivery when have you felt powerless when going for a doctors visit?