Friday, September 21, 2012

Women Hold Up Half The Sky

‚The Freedom in a country can be measured by the freedom of birth.‘Agnes Gereb

Last night I went to see the world wide premier of ‚Freedom Of Birth‘ – a movie that any woman and man supporting a woman in childbirth should watch. A movie that slaps it right into your face that childbirth is a human rights issue. And after it has slapped you in the face, it stabs you into your heart. At least this is what happened to me.

Meet Agnes Gereb - the subject of the documentary. She is a Hungarian obsetrician and midwife and international homebirth expert. She was taken into custody Oct 5, 2010 after a woman had gone into unexpected labor at Agnes' birth centre. As I understand it, Agnes had advised this woman to give birth in hospital but the woman rejected the idea and happened to go into labor during a class at Agnes' birth centre. There must have been some trouble because Agnes immediately and rightly decided to call an ambulance. With the ambulance that took the labouring woman to hospital, the police came to arrest Agnes. The reason? Reckless endangerment of life committed in the line of duty. The woman gave birth to a healthy baby and was soon discharged from hospital.

Three months after Agnes was jailed the European Court of Human Rights established under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention that any woman has the right to choose where to give birth. (case of TERNOVSZKY v. HUNGARY) Agnes Gereb was freed but is still under house arrest!

This is Hungary! In the year 2012! A member country of the European Union since 2004! REALLY!!!

I deeply care about women's rights in childbirth. And it pains me that I don't see enough women really care about it. Or don't realize they should care. Or at least don't show that they care.

I'll quote Dr Nancy Salgueiro - the Ottawa woman who you might have seen give birth live on camera 11months ago. She is also a childbirth educator and women's advocate (and chiropractor). In her talks with women she finds that:

Women are given misleading information making them feel as if procedures are necessary when they are not. - Induction or Oxytocin anyone?

Women are being told they are incapable of birthing their own baby and must trust in a system that does not support normal birth. - Ever been told during check-ups that your baby is large, maybe too large for you to birth vaginally?  I hear stories like that ALL THE TIME.

Women are being forced to birth in institutions because of lack of access to birth attendants outside hospitals. -We are lucky in Gatineau to have the Maison de Naissance but I felt like I won the lottery when I landed a midwife there to give birth to Elise outside the hospital. Ottawa residents are lucky to have quite a few midwifes and many homebirths. But not enough! Ontario is going to get 2 birth centres though. So there is a shift happening. Slowly but surely.

Women are abused and assaulted by procedures done to their bodies without consent and even after consent is withdrawn
- Too many nurses, doctors and student nurses check how dilated you are? You just accepted it and realized later how much you disliked that? I gave birth in a Ottawa hospital to Joshua. It was an easy birth without any intervention and I didn't have a single tear. My vagina felt pretty good actually. Yet, I remember having to turn my naked butt to at least two nurses (one was a student, I believe) who checked for
hemorrhoids. I felt uncomfortable to say the least. And 5 years later I still think about it. So, yes, I feel kind of violated! My midwife who cared for me after Elise's birth in Gatineau never felt the need to look at my perineum because she knew from the birth that I didn’t have tearing and she knew I would tell her if I had some trouble down there. After all I know my body best. Not to mention the fact that most women are automatically supplied with oxytocin at Ottawa hospitals. I didn't believe it but an ex-hospital nurse at last night's talk said that she cannot think of a single case under her watch where oxytocin was not given - with or without consent. I still find it hard to believe actually.

Women are being told they have no choices and must comply with medical orders or be threatened that their child may be taken from them. - I don’t know about a case in Ottawa but looks like Nancy does.

So women here in Ottawa are being violated and discriminated against under the Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. We just have to start owning this! This room last night was half-full. It should have been packed! Too many women do not know the facts about the effects of interventions on the outcomes of childbirth. Too many women do not know that a C-section is major surgery and does come with risks. We can't just wait for the system to change and hope that one day doctors will give us truly informed choice. I totally believe that change has to come from the top. But I believe just as much that change has to be iniated by you and me first. After all, Women Hold Up Half The Sky!

Check out the Informed Choice Coalition and come to the next screening on October 12.

If you had a traumatic birth experience and feel ready to work through it, there is the amazing Julie Keon with her Making Peace With Your Birth workshops.

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