This birth story is a thank you letter, and a wish list. It’s about my start as a new mother. I hesitated to share it, for it is about a most intimate kind of grief. But if there is only one mom out there, who finds some comfort in it, it was worth it.

Dear future moms, I’m sad to say this is not a very pretty tale. I have not the slightest wish to scare you. But looking back, there were things  I wish I had known. That as a birthing mother, I had fundamental rights. The right to give my informed consent or to refuse possible interventions on the basis of information given. To take some time, to consider alternatives, to have dialogue.

I think there is much to be gained from discussing a mother’s rights in childbirth, both for parents and professionals. We’re in this together.

Whatever the choices you make, whatever kind of birth you may wish for yourself, however you end up having your baby/ies, I wish your birth to be nothing but yours. May you -not just feel- but know you are safe, supported and cherished. May it be of the OMG-look-what-I-am-capable-of-kind. May it be a timeless moment, that takes nothing away from you, but your breath.


21 responses to glimpse

  1. Carly says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing you experience and heartfelt wishes for future mamas. Have you considering making it into a zine? Sending love.

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • thanks so much! you mean a booklet? i don’t know. i’m from belgium, i originally wrote it in dutch for the international day of the midwife on may 5th. i’ve translated it now for a english speaking friend and i’ve sent it to the activists who wrote texts and host communities that have meant a lot to me. it means so much that there are people working at change. it’s comfort to know there are people who know what is going on. also, it’s nice to see that so many from all over the world are reading this story 😊


  2. Shazz says:

    I wish so many more women could take your words and realise that they have choices (although no one tells them that they do), and I wish we as a community, culture,race could stop women being in these situations in the first place…it is so hard to empower pregnant women when there are so many unknowns lurking in their past. This is what I miss about my caseload care of families during pregnancy….the journey together, and the trust given to you when they do disclose previous harm… Once disclosed, both woman and baby can get through this journey of birth with good planning and understanding.

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • given the number of women who have experiences of abuse, it would indeed be great if birth care professionals had insights in the ways this kind of history can play up in pregnancy, birth and post partum, if basic information on the specific struggle of survivors could be part of the curriculum. but most of all i would wish that consent, choice and respect would just be the starting point for all care, for any mom.


  3. Carina de Klerk says:

    This is so touching and heartbwrenching at the same time. I was a sexual abuse survivor so I can relate to all these feelings. I was so so scared. By the end I wanted to labour naturally. My doctor said I needed a cesearian because I was 40 weeks and baby hadnt dropped. Little did I know his ca rates were over 90% and he didnt care what I wanted. I was yelled at right after they sliced me open, i got laughed at because I didnt know I had to shave, I got told I was stupid because I had old scars on my arms…. and I never felt like my baby… was mine. We lost a baby again after a year if trying. The same doctor said a year isn’t long and it wasnt a baby yet… i was 12 weeks pregnant when my baby was born, but he had died 6 weeks earlier. I got pregnant again with my rainbiw baby. It was a hard journey but I had a beautiful home birth with an amazing midwife and I worked through a lot of my past trauma. Thank you for sharing your story. You are strong and beautiful and amazing.


  4. Carina says:

    I was also a sexual abuse survivor. I was so scared when i fell pregnant…. the doctor would do an internal exam at every visit. I was terrified of people seeing me… absolutely terrified. My doctor told me at 40 weeks I needed a cs because baby hadnt dropped yet. Little did I know his c section rates were over 90% and I could have waited… nobody told me. They laughed at me in hospital for not shaving. I didnt know I had to. They laughed at me while I was crying because they couldnt get the spinal done properly and it was so sore and I was naked in front of so many people. I was humiliated. They took my baby away after just putting her to my face for a few seconds. They shouted at me right after I got out of theatre because they wanted me to turn over but I couldnt move. They shouted and threw me over onto my stomach. They said I was stupid when they saw I had old scars on my arms from suffering from major depression for many years. Old scars but they are there… It took me weeks to just be able to walk and to get up for my baby without crying from pain. I felt buchered. And then i lost our second baby after a year of trying. The same doctor. He told me a year wasnt even long and it wasnt a baby yet. My little love’s heart stopped beating at 6 weeks. 6 weeks later, i gave birth to him. I got to bury him. I later fell pregnant with my baby Caden. His name means miracle. I was scared but I was not going to let anyone bully me again. I got an amazing midwife, and had a beautiful and very healing home birth this June. Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. You are strong. You are beautiful. You have options


    • carina, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing your story. i am so sorry you had to go through all that. it’s so upsetting to know that indeed, we are not alone. so many mothers go through this on a daily basis, on what could be a wonderful, empowering and -for some- healing moment in their lives. i’m so happy you got to experience a different kind of birth when you had your rainbow baby. i really hope the issue of human rights, consent and respect in childbirth can make it to the agenda of policy makers in time to come. it’s just too important.


  5. From a midwife, mother, pregnant lady. This is the most powerful, honest, pure, true cartoon, story, your story I have ever seen. You got me in tears here. I wish you all the best and that you will always find good people to look out for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 persoon

  6. I am sitting here trying not to sob in front of my children, so I will just softly sniffle instead, and say thank you SO much for creating this. And I am so sorry that you had to 😦 After my own traumatic birth I also went on a healing journey and undertook art therapy activities similar to what you describe, and it was SO hard, and took SO much courage and strength – I honour your journey, and your pain, and your healing, and your beautiful way of expressing your path. For the past 14 years we have been supporting women healing after a traumatic birth with free ‘Healing From Birth’ meetings, and antentatal education for those wanting to birth again. Some of these women had experienced abuse as children also. There ARE more of those wonderful midwives you mentioned out there – I feel very privileged to know them, and even to be related to one of them 🙂 My sister-in-law, Debby Gould, is a trained midwife and she and I run together in Australia. We have also recently released our first book called ‘How to Heal a Bad Birth – making sense, making peace and moving on’, where we share information about the nature of birth trauma, plus tools for healing that we have gathered over the past 14 years, including some art therapy-based ones. Thank you for taking the story wider, and deeper, so others out there can gain a greater understanding of the lived experience of many women. Feel like I need to go somewhere and have a good cry – I feel very moved by your story, and grateful that I got to read it. From Melissa xx

    Liked by 1 persoon

  7. Daniela says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am a maternal rights advocate from Croatia, whose journey began after a traumatic caesarean where nobody asked me for my consent or to even participate in any decision making.

    I salute you and thank you for your journey, for this art and for taking the time to translate it. I would love to share it on our website, if you have a PDF version?


  8. A midwife says:

    I am a midwife exhausted and disillusioned by a system that doesn’t support me to care so I do it despite the pressure to conform to guidelines and the lack of time and staff and today beautiful brave woman you have picked me up and reminded me why I carry on and why I must keep going. You will never know how reading your story has been such a needed light in the darkness xx

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • please do never give up. i really believe women will never forget the way they have been treated in childbirth. even if we don’t remember your name or even your face, we will never forget you. you make a world of difference. thank you so much for caring. even if it seems small, the women you care for will tell powerful, beautiful birth stories to others. and it may inspire other mums to demand the care they are entitled to. thank you so much for your sweet message, so much love from belgium


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