A little thing (not even worth recounting) happened on the school run this morning, that got me to thinking about how - unless we're mindful of this - other people's 'stuff' can affect us.
When I was a 19 year old psychology & counselling student, we were doing some sort of group exercise in class. In response to something long forgotten, my teacher - a formidable woman - said to me:-
"Don't give away your power".
Perhaps I was doing that very British thing of apologising or giving way unnecessarily - I can't really remember. But the phrase stuck with me.
I wrapped "don't give anyone your power" around myself this morning... But I wondered how it could be worded positively, and in the 1st person, as an affirmation...
'I keep my power' ?
'My power is mine' ?
In childbirth one often enters into systems of healthcare that are historically patriarchal in nature.
A mother from Italy recently contacted me to say that her midwives repeatedly asked her to remove the headphones she was using for hypnobirthing (for seemingly no good reason) and she felt very disrupted.
Why do we give away our power?
The instinct to comply with the instructions of a doctor, midwife or nurse is part of western culture, I suppose. We're told to be good patients, to do what we're told - they're the experts. They hold the power. This is why phrases like "we don't let you", "we don't allow you to..." persist.
Yet it is OUR birth, not THEIR birth. They have their own 'stuff' to deal with (pressures from managers, risk management, sometimes low staff morale, burnout and bullying), but we can decide to hold onto our own power.
Denying us our autonomy puts us in a vulnerable position. It is not good care. Caregivers should always take as much time as possible to carefully listen to us, understand our needs, explain our options and set out our choices in a neutral, unbiased way.
It is this good standard of care that can make the difference, however a baby is born.
Holding onto your power doesn't mean ignoring professional opinion. It just means insisting on being treated respectfully. During birth, good midwives and birth partners (possibly including a doula) can 'hold the space' for you - making sure that you have an active (rather than passive) birth experience, no matter what path your journey takes.
It is your birth. Keep your power.