Erin - posted on 09/08/2010 ( 70 moms have responded )
This article popped up on my FB newsfeed today, and I thought it would spark an interesting discussion.
The phrase has been circulating on midwife and childbirth blogs for several years, but is starting to gain force. Here's how a blog devoted to the topic, Birth Trauma Truths, describes it:
A vulnerable woman, who is powerless to leave the situation, is at times held down against her will, has strangers looking & touching at private parts of her body, perhaps without appropriate measures being taken to acknowledge her ownership of her body or to preserve her comfort levels. Perhaps she has fingers or instruments inserted without her consent, and sometimes against her consent, invading and crossing decent boundaries. She is fearful of what is happening to her and perhaps for the wellbeing of her baby, and receives no reassurance that either she or her child are ok. That is a violation, no matter how you look at it. Even IF this treatment is given with no malice and the intent of attempting to assist her with birthing her child, there is NEVER a reason to forgo common decencies that will enable her to maintain a role in the birth, some autonomy over her body, to be involved in the decision-making, to be informed about what they want to do BEFORE they do it.
It also angers those who don't want to see rape associated with a natural and profound experience like giving birth to a baby. One blog cites a commenter who had a visceral response to a comparison of "as long as you and the baby are healthy" to "at least he didn't kill you":
It is NOTHING like a rape victim being told they are lucky to be alive! Your baby did nothing wrong.. when someone is raped it is a crime, it involves malice and perverted behaviour. Your baby needed to get out, and you needed it out. That doesn't even compare!! I am saddened by the fact that some women actually feel this way. As i have never, and never will. i DIDNT put my hand up for a cesarean, but it definitely isn't the worst thing that could of happened to me or baby.
There are a lot of really thoughtful comments in the thread below.
So how do you feel about the word 'rape' being associated with birth trauma? I think it's important to point out (as some did in the comments) that the medical practitioners intentions are not what leads to the use of the word. Those who talk about birth rape are not suggesting any sexual gratification on the part of birth attendants, but rather the bodily autonomy that is sometimes overlooked during hospital birth.
I'm actually torn on this issue. While I believe birth trauma is very real and can have a lasting impact on both mother and baby, regarding it as 'rape' just makes me cringe.