Just under seven years ago, I found myself strapped to a bed in a strange place. I was all alone. I was hungry, thirsty and scared. Because I was strapped to the bed, I was unable to reach the glass of water that had been left there, and the hot chocolate someone had kindly made for me had gone cold long ago. I literally could do nothing more than count down the time until I would finally have someone by my side. Listening to the clicks and rhythms of the machines around me was forcing my eyelids to droop and the only thing preventing me from falling asleep, besides the pain, was fear. Pure, cold fear. The same fear I feel still now. On those days where it all comes back in floods, like flashes of searing white hot reminders. On those days where the smallest of tasks seem enormous and the shortest of to do lists threaten to drown me. On those days where I am nothing, apart from what happened to me that day.
The fear is still real. The humiliation, the regret, the self loathing. The pain, the sorrow and the shame. It is all still so real. And I don’t know if it will ever go away. But what I do know is this. I am not the first person to have suffered a traumatic birth, and I will not be the last person either. There are lots of women like me, and some for whom it is yet to be. But mistakes keep happening. Things keep going wrong. Women keep on taking the brunt of poor care, lack of compassion and overstretched budgets. I personally have nothing but respect and admiration for the midwives who worked with me that night; they were amazing. And I am grateful to them for the snippets of kindness and care they showed towards me. Sadly, I know the same isn’t true for all women, and I also know that many struggle to have their voices heard.
Why is that? Why, when my voice matters just as much yours does, am I being told I should not speak out? I should not share my story. I should not write about my experience and how it has impacted my life. Still. Today. Seven years on. Had it been a car crash that had attempted to destroy my life, would it be more acceptable for me to talk about it? Would you then be more willing to listen and take action to make the roads safer for fellow drivers? Would you then be more open to discussing the flaws of cars and what car makers can do to make them safer?
Why, because I haven’t already suffered enough, should I hide behind a cloak of shame because of something that happened to me? Something I share because I need to. And because I know that somewhere out there another woman will read it, connect with it, and just possibly feel a little less alone. A little less to blame. A little less abnormal.
When we try to silence women we’re sending them a clear message. Your voice doesn’t matter. Your feelings do not matter. YOU do not matter.
We have to fight this. We have to stand up and make people listen. We have to remember that our voices matter. My voice matters.
Just under seven years ago I was strapped to a bed and I was alone. I was scared. I was struggling. I couldn’t speak up, I couldn’t fight and I couldn’t even believe that my baby would make it to the end of the nightmare. I needed you. I needed you to speak up. I needed you to help me feel less alone.