What Makes Women Warriors?

According to Wikipedia “A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class. According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings. The first literal use refers to “a man engaged or experienced in warfare.” The second figurative use refers to “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”

So I want to consider when a woman is in labor- how does she become a warrior? I love the phrase “warrior woman.” I feel the way we carry ourselves through our journeys of adversity we become warriors. But for the sake of this blog, I want to explore the aspect of labor and birth.

A woman who shows “great vigor, courage or aggressiveness” in labor and birth… hmmm. Does a woman have to birth naturally- without any pain medication to be a warrior? Nope, I don’t think so. Is she more of a warrior if she goes natural while being induced with labor augmenting drugs? Perhaps she may think so, but nope I don’t think it is a competition. But women make it a competitive arena. Just share with another woman that your intention is to try to go without pain medication and she will tell you how ridiculous that is- making you feel like it is an insurmountable feat to try to do so. But find a woman who did give birth without medication and she will tell you that you do get a prize for doing so… and she will explain how easy her recovery was, how well breastfeeding went, etc. But this is not always true.

We had a client who took our classes and hired a doula and planned an pain medication free birth. But due to some past issues, her labor as it unfolded brought up a lot of stuff she thought she had dealt with, but had not. Her labor was hard and unmanageable and she chose to get an epidural. Was she a warrior? By all means she was! With her second birth, she planned on getting an epidural in her labor and did so. She had a great second birth. Was she less of a warrior? Nope, I don’t think so… She figured out what she needed and worked through that which she could, and chose the labor that was right for her.

My daughter chose a homebirth with her son. When people heard she was doing so, they commented on how brave she was. She then would ask where they were giving birth and when they named their hospital, she would tell them no they were brave! She did not feel comfortable giving birth in the medicalized birth arena. Was she more of a warrior? I feel her battle would have been more difficult if she had gone to a hospital. She was a warrior in her labor the same as the first mom.

I have written about doing the next best thing- when your options or choices change in your labor- it is about being flexible as things arise. But being a warrior to me is more about not allowing yourself to be bamboozled and manipulated. It is about asking questions and then finding the answers that are right for you.

I received a call recently from a woman who was seeking doula support for a hospital birth where her care providers were midwives. But in their prescribed birth plan- the only one you are allowed to have- where you check items… it stated that you should only choose natural birth if you could control yourself. Hmmm… what does that mean? I do not think a woman in labor needs to act in some prescribed way that is considered in control by those who are supporting her. She should feel free to move and make sounds that help her in her labor. This group also stated that they would be the ones who decided when you may need labor augmentation and they would decide how it is administered. Wow- so does the woman give up her autonomy in her decision making about her body and her birth? When did informed consent get thrown out of the door? This same practice does not “allow” a mom to go past her 41st week of pregnancy although the ACOG says that she is not past due until her 42nd week.

I do appreciate that this information is handed out early in your pregnancy so you can decide if this is the way you want your labor managed.

Warriors- what should our battles be? We do not need to fight with care providers when we are in labor. We need to battle our fears ahead of time- not in labor. We need to fight fatigue and do the work of labor , and those around us need to be on our team- our comrades in the battle!

I love the scripture in Exodus 17 “Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.” As a doula, as a friend, as the care provider, as the nurse…this is our role with a woman in labor.. to hold up her hands so she will be supported even when tired…

I love this quote by Laura Stavoe Harm,”There is a secret in our culture- it is not that birth is painful, it is that women are strong.” We need to find that vigor and courage that we are made to have in labor. Being courageous is what makes us warriors. Having the courage to keep looking if the place and provider is not the right one for us; having the vigor to drive farther away to get those if they are not in our neighborhood. We need to have the courage to look within ourselves and determine the path we want to follow. But part of that determination must be with informed consent.

And we need to take ownership of our decisions.For instance you can not decide to get an epidural and then complain about the side effects you may have from them- as if someone made you get that epidural. You can not stay with your care provider and then in labor when they are not supportive complain that they are not on your team.

Warriors are made by battling through adversity- finding the truth for yourself- and having courage to move forward. It is not about a prescribed way to give birth- it is about making it your own!