DON’T leave your dignity at the door!
When I was pregnant with my first baby the statement ‘leave your dignity at the door’ haunted me.
It seemed to be the constant topic of staffroom conversation when birth came up. Seasoned mums would give each other knowing glances as they chuckled that you must leave your dignity at the door when you birth your baby.
This filled me with absolute dread. It brought images of legs spread, crowds of people and lack of control.
Have a look in the dictionary and the word dignity means ‘The state of being worthy of honour or respect.’ So this God-awful statement is implying that women have to leave their self-respect behind when in labour.
This seemingly harmless birth cliché is actually highly damaging to women and their experiences of birth. It tells women that they should hand over control and power to others and suggests feeling disrespected in labour is the norm. It’s not!
Now, I’m not saying there won’t be any nudity! There are midwives in Yorkshire that have seen more of me than I’ve even seen of myself but indignity it wasn’t. And this is coming from someone who has perfected the towel drop and run on my very rare visits to the swimming pool!
I have given birth three times. I always felt respected, I always felt I had choices and not once did birth make me feel undignified!
It may be true that you might lose some of your inhibitions whilst in labour, but this is very very different from loosing dignity. Yes your health professionals might see lots of you. Hell, you might even poo yourself but you might be totally ok with it in the moment.
Now I’m not saying that there won’t be women who did feel that labour was undignified, there sadly will be. But it does always have to be the case.
It is the responsibility of your health care professionals to make you feel dignified in labour. Your feelings of respect and dignity should be at the forefront of your care, however your birth goes. This is a Human Right. If you are not supported in this way then this must be challenged by your birth partner.
It can be useful and comforting to know that you can maximize your feelings of dignity by…
– Putting thought into where you want to Birth your baby. Choose an environment where you will feel comfortable and at ease.
– Focusing on all the things that you can control: lighting, music, breathing e.t.c. And ultimately choosing who you have there. Consider carefully who you have as your birth partner and who is present in your birth space. Request privacy whenever you want/need it.
– Knowing that decisions about your body and your baby are made by you! Ask questions about any suggestions that are made for your care and feel happy with any decisions that you make, knowing that they were informed ones. This is your body and your baby!
– Birthing in positions that you are comfortable in, positions that are going to make things easier for YOU and only you. Very rarely is birthing on your back the most comfortable position and lets be logical here- it isn’t going to make getting a baby out any easier. And from a dignity point of view, I’d have definitely felt less dignified lying on my back!
So know that this crappy cliché is damaging! It breeds fear and sets our standards low.
Don’t leave your dignity by the door! Bring your dignity with you, embrace your birthing power and know that this is going to be amazing!
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