Can Emma and her family just receive respectful loving care?
When bad things happen, we lose trust in people. It happens a lot. It happened to Emma. The world seems to me to be full of people who take advantage of other people because that is the way the system works. It can be sadly true in families when partners or children are abused by those exerting control and power. The results are devastating. The medical system is bigger than a family, but like a family it reflects the power imbalances of society and those in power frequently see the need to exert control over those not in power.
Emma experienced both family and system abuse. But she is a woman who creates her own supportive world. She found David and they have made a loving family. Resilience is winning.
Luckily we are sensitive people with agency. We can create families with loving relationships that reflect mutual respect. It is harder with the medical system. I work outside the system as much as I can. If I want to have a mutually respectful relationship with women in my care, I can do my best to help make it happen.
Four years ago, David and Emma decided it was time to have a baby. Emma became pregnant quickly and both were very excited. Emma read everything she could right away. She planned every detail of the perfect birth. She didn't like what she experienced in the medical system. Her beliefs and her mistrust in its insensitivity brought David and Emma to the decision that unassisted birth was right for them. They were elated at the thought that they could do without the system. They could trust in each other and in their God and give birth miraculously and perfectly in their own way.
It was a long but normal labor. but when baby Jemima was born, all was not well. Medics were called. The system tried to save her but without success. The unfathomable tragedy of losing a child struck Emma and David. It shook them deeply. It humbled them greatly. How can you go on living when that happens? Day after day. One moment at a time.
David and Emma tried to find their center. Their beliefs were intact. Their love remained. Time passed.
They made another baby. This time, humbled, they approached the medical system: "We submit". They submitted. The pregnancy was normal but the medical system was jumpy. What had happened last time? Emma was treated as a potential unexploded bomb. She was informed that she would need to be induced early "just in case". Emma submitted. She underwent a 4 day pitocin induction without any pain medication and baby Rachel was born with the assistance of vacuum extraction and a large episiotomy. She was whisked away and breastfeeding was difficult. Emma and David had a healthy baby. They made a loving family. But the system had not treated Emma, David and Rachel with the respect that they deserved.
So when they planned for the birth of baby George, they tried again. They looked for a way to give birth and still be respected, to not be rushed, to be treated with confidence and not with fear. Emma was already 32 weeks along when she transferred to my birth center. She was still looking for sensitivity and hoping to find it. We welcomed her confidently. "Of course you can have the care and the birth you deserve" I told her.
Emma had a glorious belly and baby George kicked and grew just the way we all had hoped. As the due date approached we grew in confidence and pleasure. The due date came and went. Normal. A week later, no George. Normal. Two weeks later, no George. Normal but we needed to confirm that all was well with a sonogram and an assessment of George's heart rate over 20 minutes. So Emma went over to Dr Peterson. We were still confident and hopeful. The sonogram showed low fluid (very common 2 weeks past the due date but potentially concerning) and George had been sleeping solidly through the heart rate assessment and had not shown any long accelerations on the monitor. It seemed like definitely time for George to make an entrance. I called Dr Peterson "We will try and get her labor going naturally. If it doesn't work can we call you for help?" Dr Peterson agreed to help. Emma was already 3 cms dilated. A third time mother at 42 weeks and 3 cms dilated, of course I could get her labor started. But it did not prove easy.
Emma worked all that day and night. Contractions came...... And then they went. George's heart sounded perfect but he did not want to come out. Whatever we did, we could not get labor to happen. I am not a fan of the medical system. Emma and David did not trust the medical system. But we needed them.
Emma cried. She bargained for more time. She resisted. She submitted. It was painfully the way it had to be.
When we arrived at the hospital, although labor and delivery was very busy, Charlotte, Emma's nurse acted like Emma was the only laboring woman there. Emma and Charlotte had a conversation. Charlotte reviewed Emma's printed birth plan without rolling her eyes. She answered her questions respectfully. Dr Peterson gave Emma choices. Emma expressed her needs. This was the way a system was supposed to work: people communicating, listening to each other, in the service of each other and not the system itself.
Emma labored the rest of that day and most of the night and gave birth to George triumphantly. She felt ecstatic, just the way she was supposed to feel. George's birth was more than a healthy mother and a healthy baby. That was at its vital center. But George's birth was part of a process in which caring people provided loving support. Emma was listened to. Emma felt that the system contains sensitive loving people. Hooray!