Inclusive

CW// birth trauma – If you are active on the birth side of social media, you have likely seen the viral video going around titled, “Violation of Consent”. In case you have not seen it, it’s a short clip of a fresh baby laid on their parents stomach. The baby appears reactive and making noises. Instantly, you can see multiple nurses’ arms reach into view and vigorously rub the baby. The parent’s face looks quite shocked. The parent pleads, “Can you just stop for a second?”.

One of the nurses responds, “No, we need to stimulate her, we need to get her crying and mad!”  The nurses continue rubbing the baby, and one appears to even pull the baby’s hair with the blanket. Baby continues fussing and crying. The nurses, without consent, unbutton and pull down the parent’s gown and place the baby on their chest, cover the baby with a blanket, and then finally step away. You can see this video from @sacredbirthdoula on Instagram.

My Personal Story of Consent

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a baby being cradled with a parent's hand on their head with a very light pink background with peach water color circles and gold glitter accents

I find the video so incredibly disturbing. It was so hard to watch to see the parent’s face and the pleading to go absolutely ignored.

There’s also only gloved hands in the screen, completely all the way around the parent, which makes me wonder where the birthing support person is.

Perhaps the hardest part for me, is that when I gave birth to my second child, I was in a similar situation.

I was in the hospital instead of the birth center I’d planned on because I had preeclampsia and cholestasis which led to a 37 week induction.

I went to the hospital knowing exactly what I was and was not okay with. I had a birth plan which was hung in the room and reviewed by each nurse assigned to me and the OB.

I emphasized to each nurse (as they came on shift and replaced the previous), that I did not want my baby to be stimulated after they were born.

I wanted my baby laid on my chest and if they needed extra support, then I wanted to be the one to do it. I was so adamant about this. It was so important to me.

As in birth, things don’t typically go according to plan. Once the OB ruptured my membranes, I roared from being not in labor to nearly transition (the time from 8 centimeters to fully dilated).

While I was dealing with incredibly intense contractions- I was at the maximum dose of pitocin without pain medication and my baby’s heart rate started plummeting.

Nurses and doctors rushed into the room, helped me from the birthing tub I was using for pain relief, and back to the bed. We tried different positions to bring up his heart rate.

second push he came out and was put on my chest. I was so immensely overwhelmed with what had just happened. I had my eyes squeezed tight and was trying to catch my breath and bearings. My tiny baby was not immediately responsive. Here’s the difference in my experience and what had happened in the video. My baby was not responsive and floppy, while the baby in the video was.

My baby also just had a concern about heart rate. Now before they did anything, the nurse I had shared my wishes leaned close to me and said, “Emily, now I know you don’t want us to rub him, but is it ok if we give him a little extra support?” I said “yes”. The nurse knew my wishes, (I think she could likely tell I was still transitioning myself and not capable of doing what I said I wanted anyway) and she asked for my consent. 

Birth’s a Vulnerable Time; Transformative vs Traumatic

Watching the video breaks my heart for the parent. It’s so hard to see someone being rough to your baby, regardless of the reason. The baby was clearly responsive from the beginning.

They heard her request. Assuming they would have still followed their training and then heard her ask to stop, they could have had several options for proceeding.

They could/should have immediately stopped. If the baby truly needed the stimulation, then they could have coached the parent on how/what to do.

Birth is such a transformative experience for parents. We need to create an environment that supports them and their knowing and will propel them to parenthood with a belief in themselves. Treating parents like “providers always know best” is not going to create that outcome. 

I have seen wonderful, consent filled hospital birth experiences. I have also heard horror stories like these that will stay with the parents forever.

If you have the financial ability to, please hire a doula. Find someone that will be on your side and be your fierce advocate. Tell them the things that you want and don’t want.

They will be your teammate and are not in the same vulnerable position as you may be when you just went through the birthing experience.

If you can’t afford to hire a doula, then make sure your birthing support person is ready to be your advocate and knows your wishes.

Postpartum Essentials - a line art drawing of a mother and father cradling each other and a newborn on the father's shoulder with a beige background with green water color circle and gold glitter accents

Talk about it in advance and write it down. Unfortunately, we are in the position where we can’t always assume that being in the hospital means that we will be fully supported. Take care to prepare and find the people that will be on your side.

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