I Don’t Get It – A Post About Birth Rape

The term “birth rape” is all over the internet. In fact, I did a project on this for my psych degree last semester. My instructor had never heard of it, but got quite caught up in it as my project continued on, and actually found some great info that fascinated both of us.

When I started, I believed in birth rape. I could understand how a woman felt that her birth was “taken away from her”. Since then, though, my thought process has changed. Two things occurred to me that made me rethink the way I regard birth rape.

Sometimes the “perfect birth” is a “control-freak” issue. No one should take offense to this. I know all about being a control-freak. (And some OCD tendencies, too, but that’s another topic) I suspect that my saving grace is that I’m the type of control-freak where if I can’t plan every little detail perfectly, I tend to throw my hands up in the air and “give up” (not my best characteristic). I conciously did this with childbirth – I couldn’t plan how it would go, couldn’t even attempt to. So I finally just said to myself that I gave up – what happened, happened, and that is that. Looking back I’m very glad that I had a very intelligent CNM in a hospital, as there were some hurdles along the way, but am I upset about it? Not at all. I had no expectations, so my birth exceeded what I expected. However, as a college student I had a plan, and this semester I’m finding that my plan is being foiled. I’m freaking out. Obsessing. Can’t sleep. This leads me to the belief that perhaps this is exactly what has happened with moms that feel they experienced birth rape. I’ve experienced my-planned-college-career rape. And you better believe I’m pissed! I had a PLAN, and now things are not going according to PLAN, even though I obsessed and poured my heart into this PLAN and researched more than any normal (sane) person should research (OCD), and my plan is destroyed! (Insert drama here – my plan is not destroyed, just comparable to your chain coming off your bike.) So while I understand this, birth is like nearly everything in life – you cannot predict what will happen, you cannot perfect every detail in advance. Just like you can’t predict that even though you went exactly 40 weeks with your firstborn, your secondborn that was supposed to come the week BEFORE midterms happened to go to 41 weeks and cause you to miss an exam. (No sob story – I made it up, and I accept full responsibility for my slightly crummy grade and getting pregnant while in school.) Birth is one area of life where you cannot be a control-freak, because it will only harm, not help.

Medical professionals have feelings, too. And fears. And the desire to see happy, healthy moms and babies. Sure, there are some preventative measures taken that probably aren’t necessary in every case that they are used. But doctors, midwives, and health care professionals in general don’t just do things to be malicious or mean – they do things because they have a reason. While there may be the occassional provider that is worried about their vacation, holiday, or golf game, I highly doubt that it is the majority. I know as a future midwife, if I have a baby stalling with hypoxia I will be worried about if that lack of oxygen will contribute to schizophrenia. (Need sources, I got ’em!) I also know that if I have a mom who is having a hard time letting go and convinced that she’s dying, I’m going to do what I can to help her progress. During my first birth I stalled at 9 cm for hours. Literally, I reached 9 cm about 12 hours before I had my son – and I only spent 20 minutes pushing. I was going nowhere, and the longer I went not progressing, the more distraught, tired and in pain I was, which was followed by more lack of progression. A small Pitocin drip and an epidural, and 20 minutes later I progressed to a 10 and was pushing on my own. 20 minutes after I began pushing a 9 lb 7 oz baby joined this world (practically walking and talking, I might add!). Do I think routine induction is a good idea? No. Do I think Pitocin was a fantastic tool that helped me along a bit when I – for whatever reason – just seemed stuck and was beginning to mentally suffer? Yes. Do I feel that I was birth raped by my CNM? Not in the least. I consented, first of all. (And before anyone says “but consent during labor is not fair – you are in pain and will say yes to anything”, don’t say it – I will begin a long rant as to how that mentality (lack of competency) further supports any and all theories that are based on women not being able to “handle” labor on their own because they are temporarily “insane” or suffering from hysterics. Way to contribute to gender inequality and the degredation of women!) I had a healthy baby boy. He’s brilliant. Insane, spirited and hyper, but brilliant. Did things go perfectly the way I had planned? Nope! But I can honestly say that my second birth wasn’t perfectly the way I planned either, but it was still natural, no drugs, all me. (If you must know what my issue was, I mysteriously HATED the jetted tub the second time. I looked forward to it through the whole pregnancy but when I got to the hospital I tried to sit in there and hated every second. Loved it the first time, though!) I had to let go of the control freak in me and just go with the flow and remind myself what I was there for – not to win a medal, not to have the most “perfect birth”, not to impress anyone and not to do what others expected me to do – to bring home a baby that would grow, change, learn, and join the small ranks of people on this planet that I would die for.

So really, what constitutes birth rape? Is there really such a thing? Or is it just a term used to place blame on someone when things just don’t go the way we planned? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Monica
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 08:43:44

    Very well said. When I first started hearing the words birth rape I was like how is that even possible? Especially with a c-section. You have to consent to it. Maybe a doctor might use a bit of fear in you, but honestly if he does then I doubt you would feel as if you were raped afterwords because you’ll feel like it was totally justified and saved yours and or your baby’s life. It’s usually not until a woman starts talking to other women about what happens that she says OMG, I was birth raped! I’m sorry, but when you are really raped like sexually raped you know it right away. Now I imagine there could be some cases of birth rape out there. Very extreme cases mind you not a c-section which you consented to, but a women who has a mess of interventions without her knowledge or say so which end up going terribly wrong. That is a completely different thing though than what most women are talking about. That is a woman who right after the birth is very fearful of doctors and isn’t basking in the joy of a new baby. Although, I think that happened a lot more in the early years of hospitals and doctors where they knocked a woman out and then delivered her baby. Yet those women weren’t crying that they were birth raped. Maybe it’s because they went into it knowing that birth was going to be like that back then. The term birth rape is way over used though. And I agree if you consented to it even when you were in a lot of pain then you can’t say later it’s all the doctor’s fault. Because ultimately it comes down to the fact that the doctor is not the one who put you in pain. If a sexual rape victim lays there and takes it like a good girl it’s still rape because the one who’s causing pain to her is doing it to her. That’s where the difference lies. When you are stalled out at 7 cm for 24 hours and the doctor comes in and says lets try this and you say okay because you haven’t slept in 48 hours and you’re in so much pain you can’t call that rape because the doctor did not cause that scenario.


    • Joslyn Panka Solomon
      Aug 18, 2011 @ 09:52:07

      I agree with everything you’ve said. I don’t know about all hospitals, but my consent forms that I signed were very clear, and my provider asked me before everything. When she asked me about the pit and epidural, I was in that lovely stage of birth where you’re with it for the contractions and drooling and snoring between, and I found it very hard to focus on what she was saying. But I know I said yes, I knew what my risks were because they were discussed well before I went into labor, and I felt that I made a very educated decision at the time. Things worked out VERY well, and I don’t regret it at all – even though it wasn’t what I THOUGHT was going to happen.

      Rape is lack of consent. And I know that sometimes that happens with administration of Pitocin or some other things, but I think the term is used far too broadly and aggressively.

      Besides, can you blame a doctor/midwife/provider for not wanting to lose a life? If the baby died the provider would be blamed for that, too. I personally would rather have a baby live and a mom be mad that I stole her “perfect birth” than have a baby die and a mom mad that I didn’t do everything I could – but maybe that’s the wrong approach.


  2. Bambi C
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 08:52:52

    I think you are spot on!


  3. Heather
    Aug 18, 2011 @ 15:58:48

    I think you are spot on, too. I believe it is possible to experience a rape by a medical professional during birth, but that is exactly what it would be…rape. Not some sort of watered down version called “birth rape”. (http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2011/08/woman_accusing_doctor_of_sexua.html) is rape by a medical professional in a hospital, and the women involved reported him to the police and he is going to be prosecuted. Having a c-section for which you gave your consent, even though you’d rather not have had it, is not rape. Poor customer service and curt, uncaring medical professionals are a problem, but they aren’t rape.


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