1. Ask questions. About everything. Literally everything. “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? What other options do I have? Are there any risks with doing that? What else can you do instead?” Ask questions about where you birth, when and with whom. Ask what the evidence is and if there is any contradicting it. Learn about levels of evidence and recommendations in pregnancy. Know your hospital’s policies on induction, monitoring, appointments, home visits, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, support people, bed sharing, everything. Read every one. And learn the difference between policy and evidence.
2. Birth at home. On your turf. This is probably the closest you will come to completely disrupting the system. When you invite your midwife in, it is in your space, according to your rules.
3. Say no. Without justification or explanation. (You know, there is no legal requirement for you to give a good enough reason for refusing something?)
4. Be difficult. Don’t sit down, stand up. Let them sit. You have the power, you take the higher ground. Tell them to wait when they knock on the door, and if they come in unannounced send them out again. Reclaim your space and your privacy. This is your body and you choose who sees it. Be that “bad patient” the one who takes their time, who waits until they are completely sure to make a decision. If your appointment isn’t long enough ask for another one. If that’s not enough ask for another.
5. Move beyond the binary thinking. It isn’t public v private, midwife v doctor, home v hospital, vaginal v. cesarian. There are a million different possible ways your birth can go. I guarantee there is always a third option. It is possible no one has thought of it yet. It is NOT possible you only have 2 options. This kind of thinking makes people very easy to control. Tailor your care to your needs. Be in the centre of every decision. All of you. Not just your uterus and the life it contains, but your hopes, dreams & identity including spirit and emotions.
6. Prioritise your needs above your baby. You matter. You matter because you are a person in this world and your experience and decisions matter. You matter just because of you. It is also good to know that no one in this world will love and care for your baby more than you will. So make sure you are ok, because if you are ok you can make sure your baby is too.
7. Make decisions based on your feelings. The maternity system is obsessed with data. There is a risk for everything, Every choice has a number. And sometimes those numbers are really important. and sometimes they are arbitrary. It is ok to make a decision or not make a decision based on how you feel. This is just another kind of knowledge.
8. Never ever ever start a sentence with “Am I allowed to…?”. Try “I want to”. Or even “I am going to”.
9. Know your power. learn your rights. Get a doula. Collect the people around you that hold you up. Don’t allow anyone in your space that keeps you small. That is your mental space as well as your physical space. You are so powerful. You have not just created but also gestated a baby inside you. Your body is amazing. Don’t let anyone make you feel anything less.
10. Change your mind. If it feels like things are spiralling out of control or even gently heading in a direction you don’t feel comfortable with and you want to get off the train. Get off. Shut it down. Try something else. You DON’T have to do anything just because you said you would. You have no obligations to anyone but yourself. And I mean only yourself. Not you and your baby (see 6). Change your mind whenever you damn feel about it.
Jen is a midwife and mother of five. She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely privileged to be working alongside women and their loved ones during this time.