Listen to Mothers: The Need for Change in Hospital Births

Listen to Mothers
Photo credit: Amanda Furgiuele

They didn’t listen.

Sometimes I watch my birth videos with my children (or I guess I should say, my ‘just after birth’ videos since births can’t be filmed at our hospital). And every time I’m sad. Deeply, deeply sad.

Because a few years removed from my births, I see the bigger picture…I watch and hear for myself the backwards nature of modern hospital birth. The condescending messages from staff who try to mask their agenda with sing-songy voices. None of them listened. And me in my vulnerable state…me, weak from a long, hard labor…me, an educated, strong mother…I just nodded and said “yeah” in agreement out of exhaustion & fear. I didn’t want them to be mad or upset with me because they had my baby, my precious everything, in THEIR hands instead of her being in MY arms.

After my second daughter was born I had to ask for her to be handed back to me three times. Three times. Even my husband asked for her to be given to me. We were polite. The baby was fine—no distress, high Apgar scores, crying loudly for me. And I was stuck in bed while they stuck a thermometer up her butt within the first five minutes of her life.

I feel like all they wanted was numbers so they could establish her in the computer as a patient. There was a total disconnect on their part from the spiritual event that had just taken place. I happen to know that the nurse and OB attending me are not mothers. Maybe that has something to do with their detachment. Maybe it doesn’t. Even now I try to justify their actions and make up excuses for their dismissal of my request to hold my baby. It still doesn’t change the fact that I’m sad about that birth. I can see my sadness in the video, too. Sadness where there should be elation.

That same daughter (now three years old) doesn’t want to watch her birth video anymore. When I asked her why, she said, “because they are being rude to the baby,” that “they need to give that baby to her mom” because “that baby wants her mom, she’s crying for her mom.” She should know…she IS the baby in the video.

Was it all bad? No. The one OB did allow the umbilical cord to go white at my request, where other OBs at the hospital will not. And, all in all, she was more patient than most. The nurse did say “Happy Birthday” to my daughter at one point, which was nice. And my baby was eventually placed on my chest. We were both healthy. There is something to be said for that.

The point is, a mother shouldn’t have to ask for her healthy child to be given back to her even once within the first moments after birth. Mothers should be heard, listened to, and respected. We shouldn’t ever be made to feel like we can’t make hospital staff mad—even through educated discussion—because they can make our life hell if we do. They shouldn’t have that kind of hold over mothers (or any patient).

I was made to feel threatened 3 times over—not because of the whole “can I have my baby back?” incident, but through the entire duration of each of my hospital births. Everyone is expected to tip toe around the hospital staff so we don’t get upset them. There was absolutely a “know your place” kind of vibe that, in my opinion, shouldn’t even be there. Birth is big…for the mom, not the staff. We should be accommodating mothers, not hospitals. We should be honoring birth for what it is: a sacred transformation when a woman becomes a mother, the day a mother meets the biggest love of her life, the creation of a family.

I have a request: listen to mothers.

And mothers, please speak up. Talk about your births. Talk about what you need. What you needed. Who listened. Who didn’t. Ask for the change we all know is needed in modern hospital births. Speak the truth of your experience so that other mamas can feel empowered to make the changes we so desperately need.