Thursday, December 8, 2011

Assault in the name of birth: Why are we supposed to be ok with this?

The term "birth rape" has come up several times on internet blogs and message boards over the last few years. Apparently it is quite controversial since a lot of people often associate the word "rape" with sexual assault.  This topic came up on a debate board I used to frequent while I was pregnant with my 5th baby.  The discussion got pretty heated from both sides of the coin.

At the time I couldn't really say that I personally had been a victim of birth rape, however, I could empathize with women who felt that this had happened to them. My argument really was that if this is how a woman felt about her experience then it really isn't anyone's place to even question how she viewed her experience. I wasn't exactly the majority on that debate and many were either offended , mad, angry, well you get the idea.

As I said I never had been a victim of any type of assault in the name of birth ( or at least never felt that way)........until my 5th baby's birth. The next part of this blog is something I wrote on paper about 6 weeks postpartum after the first sexual encounter I had with my husband post pregnancy. It is somewhat raw and disjointed so bear with me on that:

My 5th baby was a planned homebirth VBA2C which transferred for a hospital birth after 30 hours of labor and no progression past 7 cm. My initial birth-story was written fairly soon after her birth and I had not yet processed the entirety of it all at that time.

When the nurse came to check me the last time before I gave birth she found that I was almost fully dilated with a small anterior cervical lip. She suggested that maybe I push through the lip on my next contraction and she would attempt to push the lip out of the way. I have had this done before because I seem to always have a cervical lip left so it wasn't a foreign idea.

Looking back on it now it seems really strange that she never removed her fingers from my vagina. It was pretty awkward at the time for me to sit there with this strangers hand in my vagina for 2-3 minutes. I want to mention that neither one of the times I had a midwife do this did they ever have their hand in there in between my contractions. I was in labor-land though and not really at a point mentally that I would have said anything actually.

A contraction begins and I begin to push as she attempts to push my cervix back and over the baby's head. I have to say that I have never in my life felt such excruciating pain. It literally felt like she was ripping my vagina and my cervix in half. And this was WITH an epidural. I begged her to stop. I asked her 4-5 times to please just stop. My midwife even stood up and said can you please stop and she did not cease.  I had an epidural and could not really move that well to get away from her but I do remember that I tried to scoot myself up further on the bed away from her. I was no longer even pushing. I had stopped the minute the pain began. The more I tried to move away the harder she pushed on my cervix. At the time I never  considered birth rape as a way to describe it. Maybe it was hormones or labor, or just the relief that she finally stopped.

It wasn't until my husband and I were intimate for the first time postpartum that it really hit me how violated I felt by her actions. The first sexual encounter after birth is sometimes a bit uncomfortable.  I had also had a small skid mark so I expected to have a little bit of discomfort the first time. What I wasn't prepared for was that the stinging feeling I had felt to take me back to my birth. My husband and I have always had a very healthy intimate relationship, however after it was over I could not stop associating the sensation I had during the act with the sensation of violation from my birth.

I felt sick to my stomach. I cried. He didn't know that I was crying but I was. Because now I understood how a woman can feel as though she were raped during her birth.I only hope that more awareness can be brought to the this topic of assault in the name of medicine.

This was a very raw account because I wrote this immediately after we were done while he took a shower. At this time I would like to add a few things.For one thing I have had my cervix pushed away before without pain meds and it NEVER hurt like it did this time. I want to say that I really feel as if this nurse did this to me on purpose because I was non-compliant. Meaning I refused all interventions outside of the epidural. If you haven't read the original birth story check it out now:  3rd VBA2C  The conversation that was had with "peter parker" ( the asshole doctor) was had in front of this nurse. She busied herself in the room for the sole reason of listening to what was said. It wasn't until after I gave birth that I really saw signs that she was not happy with me. She was almost angry that my birth was a successful VBA2C. She was very rude to my midwife who was trying to stop them from cutting the cord (as was my husband) and she was just plain mean all the way around. The only joy to be found in the room about my birth was myself, my husband, and my midwife. Everyone else seemed beyond pissed off that I once again gave birth the way I wanted to. Point being it seems that she did that to me as punishment for not being the good little patient and following all the rules.

I also want to just touch on the anatomy here. The organs used for birth are the exact same ones used for sex. For someone to tell me that I am not allowed to feel violated after telling someone to take their hand out of my vagina is just wrong. I told her no! I begged her to stop. She was HURTING me and she did not listen to my or my midwife's request to stop. I was assaulted. I was assaulted to the point of it affecting my sex life with my husband. When is it going to end? Why are women supposed to just put up with this kind of treatment because the person assaulting them has some medical title? Better yet why are we supposed to be silent about it?


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Love and healing to you xx

  2. I had a very similar experience with an ob who held both of her hands inside me for almost two hours. I thought at the time that that was just what happened when one is having a hard time pushing. I wanted to kick her in the face and run away, but felt that I couldn't. I wish I would have known I could have told her to stop. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Very moving story ... I have not been through labour yet (32 weeks with my first) but I can relate to how you feel about being violated ... it is not for anyone but the woman involved to say how a situation felt to her ... much love x

  4. Very often at a birth we have held the cervix out of the way through several contractions in order for the baby's head to descend and keep the lip from returning. HOWEVER.... we ALWAYS explain to the mother what we're doing and why, we ASK PERMISSION to do it and if she says to stop we stop IMMEDIATELY. So, while I understand why she left her fingers in your vagina through several contractions... it does NOT excuse her behavior. I am so sorry this happened to you. It's unconscionable.

    1. Just wanted to clarify she only did this through ONE contraction. She kept her hand there after giving me a cervical check while I was not having a contraction. Either way when I asked her to stop she should have and didn't.

  5. wow. That is so raw! And true! For some reason, the moment you become pregnant it is acceptable for any number of strangers to put their hands in your most intimate of places! With my first I was a teenager, and when my doc said he was going to allow a male med student to examine my cervix, I really didn't feel the confidence to say no. Then with my third, a nurse decided to do a stretch as I was overdue. No "how about we do this" just "righto, legs apart." It was excrutiating. I'd had them done before, and always the midwife had tapped my upper thigh, said exactly what she was doing as she did it, and it never ever hurt. This woman ripped me apart it felt like! I understand that there is a need to examine whats going on up there, but come on! In labour with my third, I had a vaginal ultrasound, a midwife, a nurse and an obstetric surgeon all examine me vaginally. I fail to see how anything past the midwfie was necessary.

  6. my last ob, a muslim no less, gave me a cervical check (i was pregnant w/ my 3rd, 1st trimester)and told her she was hurting me. she told me that i needed to "be quiet" because "you are givng me a hard time, not me giving you a hard time" then she said, "this is my office you do what i say" uhhhhhh i wanted to boot her in the face but instead i spread the word of how bad of a dr she was and never went back... i hate that bitch

  7. This brought tears to my eyes.. never having realized that I was a victim myself. Until recently I thought that doctor knew best and I was just not dealing properly with the way birth is "supposed" to go... being forced into pitocin, pushed to have an epidural, being manhandled by nurses. thank you for being brave enough to share. <3 love and healing to you, maybe one day I will follow