She was labelled “unco-operative” – in her labour, just afterwards and the label remained the following morning on the ward round. The 24 year old girl looked up coyly with her baby nestled into her as the label was sung over her head as we, the doctors and nurses, looked down on her, clicking and shaking our heads. “What a nuisance.”
I was at her labour. I know what happened. I know why they chose this label. But I also understand birth. I understand what a labouring woman needs – for her own self and for her physiology and labour to proceed. I did not see an “unco-operative” woman. I saw a lady in labour. I acknowledged her primal needs.
My heart tore open when they slapped her thighs to keep her still with their fingers inside her telling her to push, before her body was ready.
My soul shattered into millions of pieces when they shouted at her for messing up the recycled paper from the sterile delivery sets which lay under her catching the fluids from her labour.
My inner self dropped when they kept calling her names, becoming more panicked and irritated when her feet kept falling off the lithotomy sides because they were not tightened and kept swinging around and there were no straps.
This episode revealed to me, that hospital midwife and doctor training have very little, if any, true understanding of the physiology of labour. They do not understand what will help a mother in labour and what the mother needs. They do not understand how labour hormones function and have no appreciation of their importance. It was a very rude reminder.
She was not un-co-operative. She is not a piece of property to manage. She was primal in her labour as every woman should be. She knew what she needed and she needed us to leave her alone. Her body shouted this even if her voice was quiet.
In my opinion this lady was abused. She was disrespected.
Simply – there are many other respectful, nice ways of managing situations, of speaking to people. In heightened circumstances raising our voice and shouting is not helpful. Using firmness with love, gentleness with strength and basic human respect will go much further for everyone.
But she is only an example of many that happen like this.This label is thrown around often when women do not comply in full surrender to the needs, actions and decisions of the nurse or doctor. Perhaps they vocalise too loudly. Perhaps they are trying to get off their backs or change position. Perhaps they have previous trauma or abuse and our finger inside pushing at their cervix is bringing it all back.
She is NOT UNCO-OPERATIVE. She is a Woman. She is Primal. She is Beautiful. She must be respected.
She is giving BIRTH.
Leave her alone. Give her some respect. Speak to her nicely.