Trusting Women Means Always Trusting Women


I felt that I had made my peace when it came to my decision to choose a repeat c-section over an attempt at a vaginal birth after a cesarean.  But now I’m realizing that although I may have made my peace with it, I have by no means said all that needs to be said.

I read every comment on the post, and frankly I was somewhat shocked by the number of people who stated that although my choice was the proper one for me, they needed to “clarify” statements I made to ensure I didn’t somehow improperly sway others into thinking a repeat c-section could ever be a better option than a VBAC.

There were a lot of assumptions made about my previous birth, including one that my induction wasn’t medically necessary (it was, I was very much overdue), or that my care team rushed to a c-section to finish a long labor (untrue, I actually begged to stop labor three hours earlier, and was told to keep trying until the baby’s heartrate hit a point where it could no longer be ignored).  

But the thing I really found surprising about the comments is that although nearly everyone “congratulated” me for making the right choice for myself, there was a ruling attitude that if I did make the right decision, it was a one time situation that could not be applied to anyone else, and that I should almost apologize should other women consider the same option.

It’s an issue that Pam touched on beautifully when she discussed her plans to have a hysterectomy.  We consider ourselves to be a pro-choice community that believes women should have bodily autonomy, and that medical decisions are best left between the woman and her doctor.  Yet when faced with something outside of the realm of abortion, all of our advocating for choice goes right out the window.

Many people, not all of them in the comments, responded to my post by sending me links to complications from c-sections.  Regardless of the page, they often listed infection, excessive bleeding, possible impairment of future fertility.  They cited the risk to future children I might plan to have, or mental impacts to my relationship with this child, including

Emotional well-being: A woman who has a c-section may be at greater risk for poorer overall mental health and some emotional problems. She is also more likely to rate her birth experience poorer than a woman who has had a vaginal birth.

Mother-baby relationship: A woman who has a c-section is more likely to have less early contact with her baby and initial negative feelings about her baby.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I trust my doctor.  I trust the decisions he and I have made together about my birth, and know that a planned c-section is our healthiest option, both for myself and my child.

And I trust Pam, and Pam’s doctor, and I know that her hysterectomy is going to be the best decision she ever could have made for her reproductive health and well being.

I trust every woman who has tried to decide between a repeat c-section and a vaginal birth, because what woman would entrust her own care, and the care of her new child to medical professional that is more interested in planning his or her schedule than ensuring patients’ health?

When you state that a woman may somehow be coerced into choosing an unneeded surgery under her doctor’s orders, how is that any different than anti-abortion activists claiming that woman are being coerced into abortions they didn’t really want by reproductive medical professionals?

If we are going to trust women, we have to trust them in all situations.  Being pro-choice means allowing women to choose the medical care they need with the input of a doctor that they trust.  And we can’t assume that just because they made a choice we may not approve of, they were somehow misinformed or wiled into a “bad choice.”  Otherwise, we’re falling into the same “women are too weak to decide for themselves” rhetoric that the anti-choice have been leveling for decades.

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  • plume-assassine

    Thanks for writing a follow-up response. You really hit the nail on the head. All of this reminds me of a conversation I had the other day about an acquaintance of mine (who chose to have a scheduled c-section.) Someone asked how long she had been in labor, to which I responded that she had actually scheduled a c-section. The person replied, “How unnatural!” and someone else said, “I didn’t know they would even allow you to do that!”

     

    It’s incredible how judgmental and insulting some people can be about women’s reproductive & pregnancy choices, even when abortion isn’t involved at all!

  • freewomyn

    Well said

  • beenthere72

    Have you watched any of Real Housewives Atlanta on Bravo lately?   One of the women is pregnant and is apparently lying about how far along she is (because how dare she have become pregnant before her wedding!) and is demanding that she have induced labor as soon as the baby is OK to come out.  She doesn’t want to wait until natural labor.   All the other women *gasp* with disbelief that she would do such a thing.

  • prochoicekatie

    I’ll admit that my first thought was how selfish the decision to be induced early was for the woman described.

    And then I realized that I’m not her. And she could have other reasons that I don’t know about for choosing to induce. And that it really, truly, could just be a selfish choice.

    AND THAT IT’S STILL HER CHOICE. I cherish the ability to make a selfish choice. We all make selfish choices. We all care about our happiness and our comfort. We would not question a man who did something to make his life easier, more comfortable, or planned around his schedule, even if it inconvenienced another person. He has a right to act in his best interest.

    I am sure that you and Pam are making the best choices for yourselves and your health. However, it would not make your choice any less valid if your reason was based in part or in whole not on your health but instead your comfort, your schedule, your appearance, etc.

    Trusting women to make the best choice for themselves and/or their families also means allowing someone to make a choice for a reason that you don’t find meaningful. Because it’s their body, their life, and THEIR CHOICE.

  • kinsd

    It’s great that you feel like you can trust your doctor, but actual informed consent is a real issue in the obstetric world and comparing people who acknowledge that reproductive justice is a liitle more complicated than “choice” to anti-abortion crusaders is really unfair. The lack of empathy and overabundance of priviledge in that attitude are what have soured a lot women on our movement.

  • shewho

    That would be crazy. Women are as confused as anyone else.

    I’m pro-choice because it’s a woman’s body, therefore her decision. Period. If anyone interprets that to mean that I think women will always, or ever, make good choices, well, you haven’t asked me. Women don’t have the right to chose because they’ll do a good job at it. They just do.

    So I may think a woman has made a lousy choice to have children, or not to have children, or to have MORE children, or to stay home with children, or to not stay home with them, or whatever. And my being pro-choice does not restrict me one WHIT from saying so, or from bringing info on it, in an effort to get other people to see it my way. If my amazing eloquence changes someone’s mind, well, awesome. That’s not disrespectful of women, OR of choice.

    Good Lord. Where does it stop? Not specific to birthing choices (because no one but a complete idiot endorses ALL birthing choices) but as regards behavior. For me, I know scads of women who can’t even imagine the word ‘trust’ being associated with the word ‘doctor’, so you’ve already excluded a bunch of choices that women make, probably without intending to. Language is imprecise. But not everything is a good idea. 

    I’m sorry you felt lectured, because that really sucks. But the response to anti-choice bullying isn’t some limp form of universal warm fuzzies. And I’m not giving up carrying signs because “they” carry signs, or ceasing to point out that women make decisions based on LIMITED understanding and options, if I feel that’s germane. I don’t accept the comparison on such shallow grounds.

    Choice isn’t because we’re all that. It’s because we are. 

  • arekushieru

    I think you completely missed the point….   She wasn’t referring to those who bring facts to the table, facts that she’s agreed to listen to and may not have been aware of.  Under any other circumstance it’s purely a form of coercion and that is *not* ProChoice. 

    Sorry, but to paraphrase you: no one but someone who is aGAINST choice  DOESn’t endorse all birthing choices.   I kinda think the clue is in that last word you, yourself, used in that phrase.

  • shewho

    I got the point. I don’t accept the comparison.

    People responded to her original post saying “Statistically, Caesarian birth carries the risk of…” That bothered her, and she felt that that response was similar to the response of anti-choice people who point out the downside of abortion. 

    But she’s not endorsing “choice” when she explains that her close relationship with her doctor and concern about insurance coverage contributes to her decision to plan a section. She’s saying, “I’m not making an irresponsible choice, like some woman who doesn’t get pre-natal care. I’m living in a world of limited choice, and doing the best I can.” People pointed that out. I thought they pointed it out with sympathy, but it wasn’t MY womb as the topic, so I’m sure I read it differently.

    We get into this. We get into “We’re endorsing safe choices, which are…” We say, “Those politicians are against abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.” And we MEAN by that that forcing a child who was raped to have the baby is worse than forcing a woman who can’t be bothered to use birth control to have a baby. That’s a judgement. That’s judging the circumstances of the individual cases. People do that.

    People also judge other choices. They say, “How could you risk your child by having  he/she in a hospital/at home.” They say, “How could you risk your child by having/not having vaccinations.” It’s not a judgement only if you pick the contrary side. It’s a judgement either way.

    No one gives that up when they decide they’re pro-choice, and it wouldn’t be reasonable for them to do so. In this piece Robin wishes that people would get off her back, and I completely support and understand that. The part I differ with is the implication that we, as “the pro-choice community” lose our agency to criticise the reproductive choices of other women, or, Goddess Forbid, “trust them.” 

    As I said, I’m not pro-choice because I trust women to make appropriate choices. (In this case represented by knowing their bodies, talking to their doctor, trusting their doctor, considering their reproductive history, thinking about their finances…) Nope. I go into it figuring that almost no one will make ‘good’ choices but I affirm their right to make them ANYWAY.

    That doesn’t mean I’ll shut up about it. :D

  • faultroy

    I love your comments and it really resonates with me personally, but it really is not accurate.  For one thing, because there is another life form involved we both know that ones personal choice ends at the tip of another person’s nose.  And in the case of reproductive choice society can and does make the ultimately call. You cannot for example take drugs even though you are hurting only yourself, and you cannot take your own life–under the law, suicide is considered a felony–if you fail you can be prosecuted.  If you are too out of the mainstream, you can and will be “hospitatlized” for your own good, and maybe even given a lobotomy–for your own good of course.  If you are a child, and you have a cancer, and you and your parents choose not to obtain treatment–for whatever reason, the state can and will step in and force you.  So the argument: “My Choice, My Body,” is a great mindlessly ignorant thing to say since 1) it is not true, and 2) it, like everything else in life it has limitations.  The real conundrum is where to draw the line.  Society is stilll wrestling that question.  Because of your excellent post, it’s obvious you understand that women have been actually far more instrumental in limiting women’s reproductive rights than men have.  The inept, incompetent and poor critical thinking skills of the Feminist leadership has put women in far more danger of continually loosing reproductive ground than anything that men have been doing.  You have such outstanding critical thnking skills that I hope you go beyond the sound bites and really analyze the ramifications of your comments.  The feminist movement needs a much better class of feminists than they have had to date.  For women to have a real choice they have to critically evaluate all options, choices and their concomittant ramifications.  Just because a woman has a vagina doesn’t necessarily mean she speaks for all women.  The first step is to recognize that almost everything you read nowadays is tainted with a self serviing agenda.  The Second step is to critically evaluate all information to see how it conforms to established beliefs and realities. The third step is to recognize duplicity, hypocrisy, dishonesty and misinformation because you ARE INFORMED and are able to make a choice that is right for you.

  • squirrely-girl

    you cannot take your own life–under the law, suicide is considered a felony–if you fail you can be prosecuted.  If you are too out of the mainstream, you can and will be “hospitatlized” for your own good, and maybe even given a lobotomy–for your own good of course.

    Just FYI – This would depend ENTIRELY upon where you live. Not all states have criminal code dealing with matters of suicide and attempted suicide any more. Similarly, frontal lobe lobotomies are incredibly rare nowadays and a person would be much more likely to be administered electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and even then only as a LAST POSSIBLE RESORT. We don’t just shock and remove sections of people’s brains anymore… no matter how “out of mainstream” they are :/

    The third step is to recognize duplicity, hypocrisy, dishonesty and misinformation because you ARE INFORMED and are able to make a choice that is right for you.

    Well, at least you’re promoting choice, eh? :)

     

    I love having feminism mansplained by teh menz. 

  • prochoicekatie

    I read “trust women” a different way. For me, trusting women to make their choice means trusting them to MAKE the choice. The outcomes of which they will deal with, and I will not. I trust them to make the choice that they think is best for themselves. There are subjective realities and objective facts to every choice. We may weigh each of those differently. An objective fact might be that caesareans are more or less expensive based on your particular provider. A subjective reality might be that cost is *high* or *low* on your list of considerations.

    Of course, I still believe that most women will make the choice that is right for themselves. Most (I didn’t say all) women are active agents in their reproductive choices. Most women do not regret having a child or not having a child. Most women seem to be happy with the choices they’ve made, so I have to assume that I can in fact trust them to make the right choices.

    You have every right to provide additional information that you think the individual may not have. And I get wanting to give advice, particularly if you disagree with someone’s choice. But at least we can agree that it IS the woman’s choice.

  • prochoicekatie

    The greatest thing about his statements is that I’m sure we’re about three seconds away from hearing that making choices for mentally unstable individuals (and pretty seriously so, if we’re considering ECT or lobotomy) and making choices for women is pretty much equal. Women are obviously of feeble-mind, especially if they’re about to make a choice we don’t agree with.

    Secondly, the whole other life form thing is kind of ridiculous. I am not required to factor anyone else’s wellbeing into my other medical choices, so why would this one be any different? The cornerstone of the pro-life position rests on the fact that the pregnant woman is NOT in fact a unique or different situation. THey sat it’s a person so it’s murder. Actually, if it’s a person, then it has the same rights as the dying cancer patient in need of a bone marrow transplant, the car accident victim immediately in need of blood, or the homeless man outside the foreclosed property. These people may need shelter or biological sustenance, but they can’t demand – and the law cannot require – that any other specific person give it to them. The fact that I don’t have to donate bone marrow doesn’t consider that I am the only one in the registry that is a match, or that I am healthy enough for the task. It is MY BODY AND MY CHOICE. So despite faultroy calling that statement wholly ignorant, it seems to work just fine for me.

  • prochoicekatie

    Also, drug laws don’t have anything to do with one’s body. You are charged with posession. Not ingestion. By law, it’s not illegal to take drugs, it’s illegal to have them.

    I don’t know of any recently prosecuted suicides, do you? If it’s still on the books, it’s basically a blue law.

    Lastly, children are minors. Women are not, despite the fact that we apparently are still wholly uncapable of making the right choices for ourselves according to some in this dicussion. Women and men can reject cancer treatments. And do.

  • crowepps

    You have every right to provide additional information that you think the individual may not have. And I get wanting to give advice, particularly if you disagree with someone’s choice.

    I also get “wanting to give advice…if you disagree with someone’s choice” but I disagree that those person’s have “every right” to provide additional information.  It really, truly is NOT any of their business.  If the person who needs to make a choice is ASKING for advice, fine, but there shouldn’t be an expectation that she will TAKE that advice, or even that she will report back her ultimate choice.  Once she has announced that her choice is made, going on and on because you disagree with that choice is not only intrusive but disrespectful.

     

    It takes it right back to the ProLife argument of “but they wouldn’t be making the WRONG choice if they really UNDERSTOOD what they were doing!”

  • kinsd

    Most (I didn’t say all) women are active agents in their reproductive choices. Most women do not regret having a child or not having a child.

    I think the problem arises when we don’t take a closer look at why some women aren’t active agents in their choices. Too often in discussions like this it seems like everyone is perfectly happy to say, “Well most women know exactly what they’re getting in to so let’s not look to closely at where there might be problems — those privileged women who were happy with their outcomes might think we don’t trust them!”

    I have met many, many women who did not feel they were giving true informed consent in the context of their birth experience. There are women all around the world whose choice to have children was taken away from them without their consent. Those are injustices that need to be addressed and prevented in the future.

    Again, I think the comparison to anti-abortion loons is really what irks me about this post. The problem with what they’re doing is that they want to LIE to women about the effects of abortion. Actual informed consent in the context of abortion (or childbirth, or tonsilectomy) is totally appropriate and if was taking place with any regularity in doctor’s offices and delivery rooms, people on the internet probably wouldn’t feel the need to give unsolicited advice.

  • crowepps

    Actual informed consent in the context of abortion (or childbirth, or tonsilectomy) is totally appropriate and if was taking place with any regularity in doctor’s offices and delivery rooms, people on the internet probably wouldn’t feel the need to give unsolicited advice.

    Both agree and disagree — first, the idea that “people on the internet” are the only source for the “person” to whom they are giving the advice is a stretch, as is the idea that the “person” actually has a real and honest need for that advice AND is providing “people on the internet” with an accurate and unbiased assessment of the problem.

     

    I spent a little time participating on Yahoo Answers and eventually gave it up as a waste of time because it was so obvious that the majority of the questions were being posted by kids who were just making stuff up.  It’s kind of a shame, because there were also real people on there who really needed support dealing with real problems, but they tended to get lost in the “hee hee hee my question is about SEX” nonsense from 12 year old boys.

     

    The internet is also pretty unique in that most people are anonymous and those who feel battered with unwanted advice at a particular site can just disappear from view if they get annoyed by proselytizing.  Of course, people who are identified here and maintain a consistent presence don’t have that option, but I would imagine they’d also have developed pretty thick skins.

     

    Last, I think the idea that “people on the internet” are CAPABLE of doing informed consent is a real stretch.  They are not doctors, the information that they are offering may not be accurate, but instead may reflect their own biases and trigger points.  I am in no way saying that nobody has anything worthwhile to contribute, because I personally have gotten a great deal of excellent information here, but as the internet is presently structured, anything I hear from other INDIVIDUAL anonymous posters is going to be evaluated from a starting position of skepticism and I’d recommend the same posture to everyone else.

  • squirrely-girl

    I also get “wanting to give advice…if you disagree with someone’s choice” but I disagree that those person’s have “every right” to provide additional information.

    I’m always curious if these people shove their noses in all aspects of other people’s lives… or just the abortion issue. I mean, do these people troll car lots of manufacturers they don’t like to give “additional information” to people shopping for cars? Do they troll supermarkets criticizing items people are buying?

  • squirrely-girl

    I also get “wanting to give advice…if you disagree with someone’s choice” but I disagree that those person’s have “every right” to provide additional information.

    I’m always curious if these people shove their noses in all aspects of other people’s lives… or just the abortion issue. I mean, do these people troll car lots of manufacturers they don’t like to give “additional information” to people shopping for cars? Do they troll supermarkets criticizing items people are buying? Do they criticize others’ clothing choices (I mean, God apparently had something to say about blends)? 

     

    Or is their only real issue the “dirty womenz?”