When giving birth - Romance or Rape?
by Jenny Hatch
I believe that modern medical childbirth shares a striking similarity to sexual abuse. I would suggest that many women respond to their hospital birth experiences the same way that victims of rape or molestation respond to having their bodies trifled with by those who have power over them.
The trauma and powerlessness I experienced during my first birth was similar to accounts that I have read of molestation and rape.
I want to emphasize that the terrible thing that happened to me was NOTHING compared to what many women experience. All things considered, my first birth was a total triumph, especially when considering the fact that I gave birth at a huge teaching hospital in Michigan which was the regional high risk hospital where all of the high risk women in the Detroit area were sent AND after the birth I learned this hospital had a 50% C-section rate. I gave birth with no drugs, episiotomy, internal fetal monitor, or epidural. I went into labor spontaneously on my due date after five days of pre labor during which we had three runs to the hospital before I finally stayed the fourth time to give birth. I share this negative experience to illustrate that even when a natural birth occurs, defilement’s can happen which leave the mother enraged, powerless, and feeling “raped or molested”.
I was twenty at the time of my first birth. I had read both of the Bradley books on natural childbirth. Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley MD and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan and Peter Rosegg. I read each book three times and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do during the labor. I also was prepared to say NO! to fetal monitoring, vaginal exams, and drugs for me and the baby.
The fourth time I went to the hospital, I was sent to triage alone, to see if I was dilated enough to be put in a labor room. Naked on the cold hard table, covered by a thin sheet.....waiting....freezing.....alone, I dealt with a number of contractions by myself. After a long time, two people entered the room. A female “doctor” and a young male “intern”. At this point I would like you to imagine that these are just a couple people off the street and not almighty doctors and ask yourself if their behavior in any other forum would be considered criminal.
The female shoved her fingers up my vagina. She didn’t look at me. She didn’t talk to me. She didn’t ask my permission. I was having a contraction when she did it and the exam was painful. Then the man took his turn. He shoved two of his fat fingers into my body and began digging around my cervix. He was inside of me for a long time and when he pulled away his hand he declared to her “dilated to three”. She said “no, she was a two”. Then he again put two fingers into my body without saying a word to me and started reaming my cervix with his nails. While he was in there I began having another contraction and started moaning. They noticed and the female put her hands on my abdomen and started pushing on my belly. She told the male to put his hands on my lower abdomen to learn what a contraction feels like. I was freezing, my back was completely cramped in pain, and I quickly realized these people were using my precious laboring body as a teaching tool, without my permission. I looked at them both - they had still not acknowledged my presence - and said “Don’t you EVER touch me again while I am having a contraction.” Later I learned that when couples sign paperwork to be admitted to the hospital, especially teaching hospitals, they wave all their rights. At home Paul and I had labored for hours alone, he was very effective in keeping me warm, hydrated, and comfortable by rubbing my back in that fabulous Bradley back massage. We had been so excited to greet our child.
At the hospital I felt backed into a corner, completely vulnerable and alone. When Paul came into the triage room after about 30 minutes I started to cry. I was just so cold and my back hurt and I was thirsty and felt so violated. I just wanted to go home. But that was the beginning of my seven hour fight to have a natural childbirth.
The anger and feelings of defilement from this experience stayed with me for a long time. In some ways they are still with me.
I had been a virgin when I married, and had only one vaginal exam from a trusted Family Doctor right before my marriage. My OB had only given me one exam during my whole pregnancy and this hands off approach was greatly appreciated by both my husband and me. Husbands get very territorial when they see some other man messing around with their wives bodies. When a husband watches another man or women touch or cut or massage their wife’s perineum, some have feelings of rage and anger. This is normal and justified.
For days after the birth all I could think about was this man - the intern - his cold dark eyes, his fat fingers digging around in my body. When I tried to articulate this to Paul, or my family, they would brush it off saying things like “you have this great baby, well, it was a teaching hospital, that’s how childbirth is, get over it, etc”.
I really couldn’t explain what I felt and why I was so upset.
As a young girl of 9 or 10, I had a few males in my life attempt to trifle with my body. I was not very effective in sticking up for myself. As I entered my teens the many men and boys who expressed an interest in my body were effectively brushed away with words. Once I had to elbow a young man in the nose to convince him to keep his hands to himself. The bloody nose I gave that sixteen-year-old was nothing compared to the violent rage I felt towards my perpetrators during my first birth. I wanted to kick and bite and scream. I am not one for extreme violence, however, I felt as violated as any victim of molestation.
Interestingly enough, later on I had no problem with my carefully selected doctors checking me for dilation. They were kind men and one woman - generally advocates of natural birth, and we shared a mutual respect. It was simply the cold assumption that my body was there for the taking during my first birth that really made me feel used and abused.
You may ask, “How then are doctors to be trained if they cannot learn on women in labor?” I honestly don’t care. Just stay away from me and my body. I plan to NEVER have another vaginal exam - from anyone. My body is mine and my procreative parts are for my husband and breast-feeding babies. Unassisted childbirth solidifies the marriage bond because it protects the couple from interfering hands which may leave the Mother feeling raped and the Father feeling like killing the attacker. Instead society expects Father to thank the guy that abused his wife, shake his hand, and pay him $7,000.00.
Note that I have not delved into the soul damage that occurs with episiotomy, cesarean, internal monitoring, the powerlessness of epidurals, and the detachment from husband and baby which occurs when the mother’s body is interfered with during labor and birth.
I believe the feelings of rage I experienced from fifteen minutes of violation are multiplied in some women with each procedure, each intervention, and each cut of the body.
This rage is confusing to the mother as she simply wants to enjoy her new baby after the birth, but instead finds herself projecting her rage towards the people who least deserve it...Her Husband and Baby. This undercurrent of anger bubbles to the surface often during the months after birth leaving husbands feeling defensive, guilty and panicked over what has happened to their wife since the baby arrived. Men on the other hand, deal with their own feelings of defilement as they play over again and again in their minds the emotional baggage which is present when one pays thousands of dollars to someone who tortures his wife and child in front of his eyes. It is these couples who get the most angry when they learn of unassisted childbirth. So much emotion bursts forth that many of these couples divorce or separate or have other problems from remembering what they experienced during their birth and wondering how parenting would have been for them had they retained their sovereignty. The memory of the hours of torture and needles and “speed things up, slow things down”, the tease of manipulating labor, the blood and pain of the episiotomy, the fear of the cesarean, the money, the baby that is blue and not breathing. They wonder how different parenting would have been for them, if they had been able to have a quiet family centered home birth.
Because birth is a sexual event, it might be helpful for men to imagine how impossible it would be for them to engage in any sexual activity in a hospital birthing environment.
The hormones a woman needs to open the cervix and expel the baby are the exact hormones which allow her to achieve orgasm.
If a man was asked to produce some semen, the way a mother is expected to produce a baby in a hospital delivery room, surrounded by nurses and doctors, hooked up to monitors, poked and prodded and hurried along or slowed down based on the needs of the staff, and finally when someone else decided he just didn’t have what it took to produce that semen, and he was then hurried to surgery where his testicles were forcibly opened and semen taken from his body for “failure to progress” or some other such nonsense, that is sort of how it is for some women when they give birth in a medical environment.
Husbands and fathers -claim your sovereignty! Keep your wives home! Protect them! Nurture them! Feed them well!! And when the time comes, gently and romantically birth your sons and your daughters with your lover...alone, you can do it with Heavenly Father’s help!
and Jenny Hatch welcomed their fifth child, Benjamin Johnson Hatch into their
home on October 25th, 2002 after a six hour unassisted labor of Love. Jenny
achieved her goal of not having one vaginal exam during her pregnancy, birth,
and post partum. Benjamin was 9 pounds, 8 ounces and the family has been
enjoying the spirit of joy he has brought into their home. Picture taken
November 1, 2002 – one week old.*
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