Why I Fight For The Birth Rights My Mother Never Had

We’re living in a time when women should be able to control what happens to their bodies, but that isn’t always the case.

My mom still gets mad when she talks about the birth of my older brother, even though it’s been many years. Her face gets red and her hand gestures get bigger and bigger before she reaches the climax of a giant sigh and falls into a look of despair that you never want to see on your mother’s face. She always fights back tears and says, “Well, at least you have one brother.” She doesn’t talk about it often because it ends with her locked in her bedroom for the rest of the night.

You see, I was supposed to have two older brothers. Twins. But due to the doctors insisting that mom didn’t need a C-section for their birth, the second one died during labor. My mom insisted that she wanted to have a C-section when she started to go into labor, just in case. The doctors used their professional knowledge and said that there were no indications that she needed to have one and that it’d be fine for her to have a natural birth. Obviously, they were wrong.

It’s not fair to my mom that because of their choice, she had to go home to a nursery with two cribs and only fill one. It’s not fair to my brother that my mom inevitably gets emotional every year on his birthday because she still thinks about the son that she lost. You never truly get over the loss of a child.

Half of general surgeons and OB/GYNs have been sued two or more times. These medical professionals are more likely to be sued than physicians in other specialties. Negligence during childbirth is one of the most common forms of medical malpractice, and this is not OK. It’s true that doctors usually know what they’re talking about, but they do so many births that it’s possible for them to look over something or just operate on routine.

We’re living in a time when women should be able to control what happens to their bodies, but that isn’t always the case. We’re still fighting for the right to have easy access to STD testing, birth control, and abortions. Access to these services shouldn’t even be a question in this century, nor should it be a problem for us to have a birth plan that we want to follow. With the Internet at our fingertips, women are capable of doing the research and figuring out an ideal birth plan.

Yes, complications could change how our birth plays out, but women should at least have a say in how everything ideally goes. A woman should be able to choose whether or not she has a C-section, provided she’s done all the research on risks and benefits. Doctors have knowledge, but women can also feel if something isn’t right. Women should be able to make that known to their doctors, and their concerns should be taken seriously. Doctors have to listen to a woman when she talks about the things she’s feeling in her body and consider what she’s saying during this vulnerable time.

The fight for women’s rights is at a crucial point right now. It’s time for women to have more of a voice for their bodies and the moment of birth. Seeing my mother go through this makes me want birthing rights to be at the front of this fight. Mothers shouldn’t have to go through the loss of a child due to negligence.

Mothers aren’t the only ones affected by this problem. My father stuck with my mom throughout all of this, but the loss of a child can disintegrate a marriage. Families shouldn’t be ripped apart due to a doctor’s insistence that he or she knows best. A relationship shouldn’t fail due to the decisions of medical professionals during childbirth.

Though I wasn’t around or old enough when my mother was going through the initial impact of the loss of my brother, I still see the effects years later. I see the times that she shuts herself away, and I know that she still keeps old ultrasound pictures in a shoebox in the back of her closet. She loves my brother and me with everything she’s got, but there’s a part of her that still misses the baby boy that she never got to meet. Her pain and his death simply shouldn’t have happened.

Holly Whitman is a writer and journalist, originally from the UK but now based in Washington DC. You can find more of her writing on her blog, Only Slightly Biased, or on Twitter at @hollykwhitman.

Other Links: