“My doctor wouldn’t let me go past 41 weeks.”
“My doctor won’t let me opt out of that test.”
“The hospital staff won’t let my newborn sleep in bed with me.”
It means that a grown woman doesn’t, apparently, have autonomy over her own body, and her own child. Her choices are not her own. She gets to decide from a pre-determined array of options, presented to her by her doctor or medical staff. If what she wants is not what they support, too bad — they won’t “let” her. There is no conversation; it’s simply not a choice.
This is how we treat children, who are often too immature to know what is in their best interests. It’s how we empower them and make them think they’re in control, without them actually being in control at all.
It needs to end.
Why We Need to Stop Saying “Let”
Bottom line: your body is yours. Your baby is yours, as in, a person whom you are charged to raise and make decisions for until s/he is capable of doing so on his/her own.
For some reason, when women are pregnant, it’s like we completely forget that they are actual adult humans who are capable of making their own decisions. We treat them as if they know nothing about pregnancy or their bodies, and as if they don’t deserve to be educated about it — they just need someone to make those decisions for them.
So, women dutifully call an OB, and they read all the mainstream books that spell out the dos and don’ts (without explaining why), what to expect at each doctor’s appointment that you will have, how to cope with all the tests you definitely need, and so on. They even celebrate going through all of this — it’s some kind of rite of passage.
The few women who opt out of some or all of this, by choosing alternative care, refusing tests, etc. are seen are rogue mothers. They’re doing it because they have some strange “natural mother” fetish; they’re afraid of chemicals and words they don’t understand. They’re doing it to be trendy, because it’s cool to refuse for the sake of refusing.
Is there any way we could reduce this more to a child’s level?
We offer women “options” that are not options. (Take the test now, or two weeks from now. Take the test, or I won’t help you anymore, and you know you need help! Oh, you are going to opt out and seek alternate care? You’re just doing it because all your friends are, or to spite me!)
Women are not children. They are grown, thinking adults, who are capable of making their own best decisions for their babies and their bodies. And it all starts when we stop saying “let.”
Why Language Matters
When we say “let,” that implies that someone else has control. It implies we need permission.
Ladies, you don’t need anyone’s permission to make your own decisions. This includes during pregnancy! You don’t have to do it because “it’s what everyone does” or “because a doctor said so.” You are in charge of your own body.
It’s okay to ask questions, like “Is this really necessary in my case?” or even to do your own, independent reading and say “I’m not comfortable with that.”
But of course, people think that it doesn’t work that way. That we do have to listen to doctors. All because we use words like “let.”
Our language really does matter.
Instead of “let,” try, “I chose to get this test.” or “I allowed my doctor to do an internal exam.” You allow them if anything! It’s your body; they don’t have a right to it.
You might also say, “Together, my doctor and I decided….” It’s absolutely fine (good!) to choose a health professional that you trust, consider their advice carefully, and make a decision based on your needs and their expertise. But you choose. The health professional is a partner in your care; you’re not under their thumb!
When we start changing the way we talk about pregnancy and birth, then we will stop infantilizing intelligent, grown women.
Take Back Your Rights
Don’t allow a doctor to make decisions for you.
When you’re pregnant, choose a care provider who’s willing to explain things to you, and willing to give you their advice — and wait for you to choose. If the care provider starts to say “That’s against our policy; I can’t let you do that” stop them.
“Doctor, I understand that you have a preferred way of doing things. But I’m asking for evidence-based care for my individual needs. I’m not going to submit to any test or procedure just because it’s ‘how things are done.’ I want to be able to do my own reading, have my questions answered, and make my own decisions. I’m open to working together as a team to get the best care for me and my baby. Will you be on that team? Or do I need to find another doctor, who understand that the ultimate responsibility for decisions lies with me?”
If more women stood up to doctors in this manner — not rudely, but firmly — we’d see a lot of changes happening. (And yes, there are excellent doctors and midwives out there who already do it the right way!)
Join us here at Modern Alternative Pregnancy, too. It’s our goal to help you get the information you need to make your own decisions. We won’t tell you what to do. We’ll simply share the facts, and support you in what you decide. We’ll give you the tools you need to discuss your options with your care provider to get the best care. You can subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and get your FREE Newborn Decisions Chart, which walks you through all the “typical” hospital procedures, why they’re done, and risks of getting/refusing them — so you can make truly informed choices!
Do you think we need to stop saying “let?”
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