Have you ever felt violated at the dentist’s office? I have. It’s not a place where I ever thought I’d feel this way. And it wasn’t by some creepy old dentist trying to cop a feel either. It was by the dental hygienist, a nice young woman who had no malicious intentions.
Did I agree to this? I sure as hell didn’t.
So what did she do that was so bad?
After telling her that my top gums were sensitive, I asked that she be careful when flossing my front teeth.
All of a sudden, to my greatest surprise and horror, she placed some freezing gel onto my top gum to numb the area.
That’s right. She froze my gums.
That’s all, you say? Yes, that’s all.
And it made me furious!
I literally jumped up and yelled, ‘What did you just do? I didn’t ask for you to freeze my gums. I only asked that you be careful! I HATE that freezing gel. How could you do this without asking me first?’
Can you tell I was upset?
Who was she to decide for me?
She was very defensive and replied that all her patients like this gel and are happy when she gives it to them.
Well, I am not all of your patients, lady! Had she asked, she would have found out that I really despise the numb feeling in my mouth. And I hate the taste. She would have also learned that I would rather have a bit of flossing discomfort than a couple of hours of frozen gums!
How could she make decisions for me without asking my opinion?
Informed consent is so important – particularly during your birth.
I then had an AHA moment. If I were feeling this violated after someone froze my gums without my say-so, imagine how women must feel when they are pregnant, in labour and/or delivering their babies, and caregivers intervene without their consent.
It could be for a membrane stripping. Or an episiotomy. Or taking baby away from you right after birth for no medical reason at all.
It happens. And it’s not right.
You want to feel empowered.
Having a positive birth experience is so important. More important than many people realize. It’s not enough to have a ‘healthy baby’. The journey to having that healthy baby is just as important! I hear countless traumatic birth stories and they break my heart every time. Because it doesn’t have to be that way.
When you give birth, you want to feel on top of the world. To yell at the top of your lungs ‘I did it! It was extremely hard, but I did it!’ And you will, for the rest of your life. Trust me.
You don’t want to feel violated.
Unfortunately, that’s not the story many women tell. Too often, interventions happen without your informed consent. This is a violation.
And it has to stop.
How can you stop this?
I know it’s hard to stand up to medical professionals sometimes. We live in a society in which we give them the power over our care, over our bodies. But you know what? They are humans, just like you and me, and they can be approached. They are people with lots of amazing knowledge and we need to tap into that. We need to engage with them, to learn from their experiences and to ask them many, many questions.
You have to be informed.
My clients will all agree that this is one of my many mantras! It’s so important to know your options, to know what your caregivers are talking about.
In regards to the birth of your baby, this means that you need to prepare before your big day. How? Take a great prenatal class – preferably one given by someone who has attended many births! Read amazing books. (Not the What to Expect series. In my opinion, these are very far from amazing.) Research evidence based websites. And don’t make your choices based on other people’s stories. Write your own beautiful and powerful story.
Be part of the decision-making process.
This is how we have positive and beautiful births. Even when birth goes off in another direction. Even when our birth plan is pushed aside. Even when baby decides to be born in an unexpected way.
Question your caregivers. Engage with them. Ask lots of questions.
And promise me you’ll make sure you understand the answers and the consequences.
Because having a positive and beautiful birth does matter.
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