Is respect and dignity during childbirth only for royals?

By Kalina Christoff

On Monday, July 22 at 4:24 pm local time in London, UK, Kate Middleton gave birth to the royal baby.  It was a perfect, natural birth and it went exactly according to her birth plan.  Medication free, her labour sailed through beautifully in a private delivery suite, with four midwives watching over her.  A team of obstetricians and paediatricians observed the birth, but respectfully kept their distance and avoided interfering with the process by standing behind a glass wall.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 7:13 pm local time, Kate emerged from the hospital, glowing with happiness and radiating dignity.  She showed her newborn to the public and the press who had been waiting behind a fence, respectfully and politely, to catch a glimpse of the baby.  She held her newborn tightly, close to her body, as she waived to the crowd.  Then, as she handed the baby over to her husband, prince William, she checked that William was holding the baby correctly and instructed him confidently, “Mind his head.”  William, respectful of Kate’s competency as a mother, followed her instructions closely.

Photo credit: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Photo credit: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Hours later, on Wednesday, July 24 at 11:00 pm local time in Vancouver, Canada, a seven-month pregnant woman took a walk in the local park, perhaps to cool herself down after another long hot summer day.  A building nearby was being demolished.  Maybe it was the noise from the demolition, or maybe it was the heat of the summer, or maybe it was because the woman was pregnant with twins, but she unexpectedly went into labour and gave birth to the first twin in the park.  A man saw the birth, panicked, and ran to the police officers who were directing traffic at the demolition site, saying, “A woman is giving birth in the park!”

The police officers rushed to the woman. They saw her holding a newborn.  They approached her.  She refused their assistance and told the police to go away.  The police did not.  She tried to walk away from them, while holding her newborn baby.

Then the police officers noticed that the birth was still ongoing.  “Are you giving birth to a second baby?” the officers asked.  “No, get away from me”, the woman insisted.  According to the police, “She then paused for a moment and a second baby appeared.”

Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, Canada, where a woman gave birth to twins

Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, Canada, where a woman gave birth to twins

The officers saw her holding both her babies tightly, close to her body.  Too tightly, they thought, too closely.  So, according to the official police report, “The officers moved in.  Two of them stood behind her and held her arms, grabbed her fingers.  Two other officers moved in from the front and put their hands underneath the mother and scooped up the babies and were able to grab the babies as the mother’s grip was released from the babies’ heads.”

In other words, four police officers held the woman down while they forcefully wrestled the newborn babies out of her arms, just seconds after the woman had given birth to them.  A scene very different from what I imagine Kate Middleton’s childbirth was like.

What really stands out in Kate’s story is the respect everyone showed her during the birth — from the crowds of paparazzi politely standing behind the fences, to the specialist medical teams politely standing behind a glass window.  Giving birth left her with newfound dignity and a sense of competency as a new mother — competency so touchingly acknowledged by William in the exchange of the newborn baby between them.

But what about the rest of us, non-royals? How often can we, ordinary non-celebrity women, expect to obtain respect and dignity during childbirth?

The mother of twins giving birth in the park certainly didn’t get any respect from the police officers who rushed to “assist” her, against her will.  They were quick to dismiss her competency as a mother and forcefully took her newborn babies away from her.  She didn’t emerge from giving birth with newfound dignity. All her dignity was taken away, together with her newborns, as the police restrained her, put her on an ambulance stretcher and took her to a hospital against her will and despite her repeated refusals.  Their explanation? The woman had a history of mental health issues, the police announced.

Mental health issues? Does that really explain their behaviour? About half of the world’s population has, or has had in their lifetime, some mental health illness.  That’s every second person.  Does that mean that half of the world’s women — those with “mental health issues” — should be declared unfit as mothers and have their babies taken away from them immediately upon birth?  Surely not.  But then why did the police act so disrespectfully towards the mother?

Maybe the police quickly classified her as a “bad, unfit mother” because she managed to give birth in a park, by herself — and, shockingly to them, refused their offer of “assistance”.  In a culture that believes women cannot possibly give birth without assistance, this must have come as a brutal shock to the police officers.  Our modern view of a “good, responsible mother” is one who readily and gratefully accepts all kinds of medical “assistance” in the form of oxytocin drips, epidurals, repeated vaginal exams, Caesareans, forceps, vacuums, episiotomies, and all kinds of other invasive and often unnecessary medical procedures.  Birthing women’s competency as mothers is often judged solely based on their level of compliance with these procedures.

But surely, even shocked police officers in a “chaotic situation” should at least consider the possibility that a woman has the right to refuse assistance — especially when she seems to be handling the task of giving birth unassisted so well.

Or maybe the police behaved so disrespectfully towards the mother because she made the mistake of living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, also known as “Canada’s poorest postal code”.  Maybe simply living in a poor area makes a birthing woman unworthy of respect in the eyes of police officers?

I wish I could say that if only this woman hadn’t had the misfortune of giving birth in a park and being “helped” by police officers, if only she had made it to a hospital and been attended by adequately trained medical personnel, she would have received the respect every birthing woman deserves.  But I can’t.  My own hospital birth experience stops me.

I didn’t have any of the disadvantages this woman had.  Yet, I had a horribly disrespectful birth that left me feeling violated and deeply traumatized.

I didn’t make any of the “mistakes” this woman made.  I chose one of the more affluent areas of Vancouver to live in.  I had a stable, well-paying and well-respected academic job.  I didn’t mistrust doctors; on the contrary, I respected and highly valued the medical profession, including obstetricians.  I didn’t have any mental health issues and I didn’t go into premature labour.

But none of it made a difference. When it came time to give birth, the medical staff treated me with utter disrespect and violated some of the most basic rights I thought I had as a human being.  It started with my prenatal doctor performing a non-consented membrane sweep on me, to my surprise and shock, at 38 weeks of pregnancy.  It ended with me being coerced into a medically unnecessary forceps delivery performed, without my knowledge, by a trainee resident who simply needed a chance to practice forceps extraction.

I didn’t emerge from giving birth with newfound dignity.  I emerged with post-traumatic stress disorder.

And as to my sense of competency as a mother, that started being questioned by medical staff in the delivery room, as soon as I “failed” to immediately comply with their recommendation for forceps.  Once the questioning of my competency as a mother had started, it got carried on by nurses in the post-partum room, then by my own husband at home, and then by my entire extended family as I was struggling with the trauma of being repeatedly violated and unnecessarily separated (albeit ‘only’ for 15 minutes) from my newborn.

My son and I, holding a sign at a Birth Rally

I deeply sympathize and identify with the woman in the park.  In somewhat different life circumstances, I could have been her.  And in many ways, three years ago in November 2010 when I gave birth, I was her.

I deeply sympathize and identify with all the women, rich and poor, professional, homeless, or stay-at-home moms, who were disrespected while giving birth to their children, whose dignity was taken away and whose competency as mothers was questioned because they didn’t comply, they doubted, they showed a capacity to be independent thinking human beings even as they were giving birth and dared to question the opinions of those around them who weren’t giving birth.

Respect and dignity during childbirth is not just for royals.  It’s not just for the celebrities of this world, or for those women who show unquestioning compliance to anyone who decides to “help”, be that a medical professional at a hospital or a security guard at a shopping mall.

If we are to call ourselves a civilized society, we need to guarantee respect and dignity for all women during childbirth, regardless of what choices they make during childbirth and in what circumstances they give birth.

Our society cannot yet, and will not for now, guarantee this respect to birthing women.  Which is also why we cannot consider ourselves a civilized society.  We do not respect birth, do not respect life, do not respect those who are creating new life.

What would it take?

In my opinion, it would take new laws.

In the current legal vacuum on women’s human rights in childbirth, police officers and medical staff are too quick to conclude that they can do anything to a woman, as long as they believe it is for the baby’s good.  They don’t have to have evidence that it is actually good for the baby, they just have to believe that it is.  And they don’t have to consult the mother before they do it.  They don’t even have to find out what she believes.  The existing laws that are used to justify such interference, and the lack of laws specifically regulating women’s human rights in pregnancy and childbirth, legally allow and condone such actions.

This situation is wrong.  It is unacceptable.  It gives all the power to anyone who may want to interfere with the birth process, whatever noble or misconceived reasons they may have, and it takes away all the dignity and human rights of birthing women.

We need a radical, broad transformation when it comes to human rights in childbirth.  We need to guarantee, through explicit and newly created legislation, that it is the birthing woman who always comes first, that her rights over her body and over her unborn baby are always to be respected first, even when others believe that something different from what she is doing would be better for her baby.  And even when others believe that she is endangering her unborn baby by her behaviour and choices.

But how will we get there?

50 Responses to “Is respect and dignity during childbirth only for royals?”

  1. Claire Bullows August 3, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    By coincidence we’re starting a campaign in the UK for maternity rights after some heartbreaking stories have been posted on Mumsnet. I think it sounds like this is something that needs international attention, it doesn’t seem like anyone is putting mums first.

    • Kalina Christoff August 3, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      I agree, Claire. I think it would take organized international effort and creating new international legislation as well, possibly through the UN. Back in the 1980s when women were trying struggling to have domestic violence legally recognized, the organized powerful international lobbies at the UN that started the international legislation that made “domestic violence” a legal phrase and officially, a violation of human rights. (Until then, it was a non-existing problem, something that the states claimed they couldn’t do anything about because it was a “private” matter within families).

      We need to do something similar for obstetric violence and the recognition of women’s human rights in childbirth. It will definitely take organized, international, massive efforts!

  2. Leanne Lawson August 3, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    You cannot be serious. Oppenheimer Park is also known as needle park, located in the lower East side of Vancouver. Have you ever been there? I would not suggest you take your kids to the playground there anytime soon. Actually, there is probably not a playground there at all, but you will find plenty of drug dealers, open prostitution, using crack addicts, and of course, a smattering of intravenous drug users, plenty of practicing alcoholics and yes, some very mentally unstable people. If the police took these particular newborns, I would have to bet that it was to protect them and to get them safely to the hospital. You have deliberately misled people by citing this particular example. What should they have done? Leave the premature newborns to the mercy of the dangers known to run Needle Park?

    • Helen Oyintando Ilitha August 3, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Nowhere in the article does it state that the woman or the babies were in any danger. I’ve had natural births, one unassisted, and the last thing you need is excitement or anyone getting in your face whilst you are trying to listen to your body. A bit of respectful distance, maybe call for medical standby assistance just in case. But no woman should be wrestled to the ground and her new babies ripped from her hands. That is psychotic behaviour

      • Leanne Lawson August 3, 2013 at 10:19 am #

        Ever been to Oppenheimer Park? Do you think the author perhaps misled you by NOT telling you that the woman in this example was almost certainly in great need of mental health assistance herself? I don’t believe I even remotely implied that I was against natural childbirth. However, there is absolutely NOTHING healthy or natural going on in Oppenheimer Park (aka Needle Park)! Without a doubt, the police would have had to intervene. Even they generally avoid that particular hell on Earth.

        • Kalina Christoff August 3, 2013 at 10:57 am #

          Leanne, this woman lived near the park. Are you saying she is under no circumstances allowed to go in it for a walk — and if she does, the police is free to detain her, just by virtue of her being in this park?

          So anyone who walks in this park automatically loses their rights and can automatically be detained by the police?

          You seem to put all your faith in what the police is telling us about this case, but have no interest in what the woman’s side of the story might be.

          How come no one from the media ever tried to interview the woman, tried to get her side of the story? How come she has automatically become a non-entity, while the police officers are all-powerful gods? Aren’t we all just human beings, with potential to make errors and, yes, the potential to suffer mental health issues?

        • melissa hodges August 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

          Yes, I have. In fact I live nearby in a housing co-op. I’d like to ask you the same question.. Have you ever been? In the last 5 years? Things have changed there a lot in the last while. Its no longer a “needle park” and instead is a vibrant community park. One of the “benefits” of the 2013 Olympic games is that Oppenheimer park was closed for almost a year while the city worked with the community and made a plan to make is a space for all residents of the area. Then and now http://www.straight.com/news/neighbours-decry-oppenheimer-park-closure
          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oppenheimer-Park-DTES-Communities-Back-Yard/104214341469

    • Kalina Christoff August 3, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Leanne, it sounds like you have been to Oppenheimer Park. Imagine that when you were there, you happened to be 7-months pregnant and gave birth unexpectedly in the park. Does that suddenly make you suspect as a mother and unworthy of respect? Does the fact that you happened to be in this park at that time give permission to the police to do whatever they want with you, including “help” with the birth despite you explicitly stating that they should leave you alone? Does the bad reputation of the park automatically give the police permission to forcefully cease any newborn away from you, perhaps because they don’t like the way you’re holding your newborn?

      You say, “If the police took these particular newborns, I would have to bet that it was to protect them and to get them safely to the hospital.” So, are we never to question what the police do? Do police officers, by virtue of their uniforms and status, have automatic authority in matters of childbirth, but the mother who has just given birth has absolutely no authority?

      When women tell their stories of having been through obstetric violence and disrespect during childbirth in hospitals (see the multiple stories listed on our website: http://www.humanizebirth.org/birthstories/ ), people often respond like you did, saying: “If doctors did that to you, I bet they were doing it in order to save your baby.” Again, the assumption is that the doctors always knows best, and the mother doesn’t.

      These assumptions is what I’m questioning in my post. And beyond questioning, I’m claiming that they are wrong. I believe we should revise our assumptions radically. It is the mother who should be the primary decision maker in matters of childbirth, and her right to be such primary decision maker should never been taken away as nonchalantly and unquestioningly as the police did with the woman in the park.

      • Leanne Lawson August 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

        I do not question that women have been disrespected during childbirth and I certainly do NOT grant the police or medical professionals some sort of omnipotent status to do as they please at any time, childbirth or not. In fact, I challenge them continuously and am not afraid to assert my rights with them or anyone else. My point is that you have chosen a poor example. Should emergency personnel not intervene then, when there is clearly a crisis? I would have to speculate that the pregnant woman in question needed help. There are no other kind of people in that park except unfortunate souls needing attention or those trying to help them. There are not to many happy little mothers to be, strolling along eating healthy snacks for the babies in that particular park. This was undoubtedly not a woman prepared or capable of handling this situation on her own. Use a better example – a woman capable of making healthy choices for the babies.

        • Kalina Christoff August 4, 2013 at 11:23 am #

          Leanne, first of all, it is not at all clear to me that there really was a crisis — until the police turned up, that is. Giving birth in and of itself isn’t a crisis — but it is very often perceived as such by our culture and those who aren’t giving birth. You don’t seem to be allowing the possibility that the police officers themselves caused the crisis. Unlike you, I allow for this possibility and in fact consider it likely. This is why I believe the example is a good one.

          Also, I believe this woman may very well have been capable of making what you call “healthy choices for the babies”. She was getting prenatal care from Vancouver Coastal Health and she had a birth plan. That sounds pretty capable and responsible doesn’t it?

          But the point of the post is that even if she wasn’t, that’s not why she was disrespected. She was disrespected because women giving birth — regardless of their choices and capabilities — are never immune to disrespect and abuse. You want examples, and that’s great. We have plenty of stories of obstetric violence and disrespect/abuse suffered by women who were perfectly “capable of making healthy choices for their babies” published on our website:
          http://www.humanizebirth.org/blog/category/birth-stories/

          • isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 8:08 am #

            Besides, the manner in which the police “helped” her was totally wrong as well. They could have done it in a better way if they HAD to.

    • isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 7:56 am #

      the police were already there, they could have just stayed by and protected her. And they didn’t have to rip the babies out of her arms.

      • Viola Payne August 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

        Yes, exactly Isis.

        It’s really disheartening that so many people fail to see why the police’s behaviour was problematic. Four cops forcibly restrained a woman, wrestled her to the ground, and removed her babies from her. Only the most extreme of circumstances would justify the use of this level of force in my mind, which certainly wouldn’t be met in this case. Even if the mother was too unfit to care for her children this approach was way too heavy handed. It’s so easy to rationalize – until it happens to you. And we all think it would never happen to us, until it does.

  3. Leanne Lawson August 3, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    And what the hell do these the “royal” people have to do with any of this?

  4. John Wilwerding August 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    I’m the rare man who empathizes this white washed social violence, as someone traumatized by childhood corporal punishment including forced nudity by my mother. The context and reason given for invading a persons body whenever it is done without the consent of the person to whom it’s being done makes little difference in creating the sense of violation, humiliation, and trauma. Domestic violence that harms people for a lifetime has many claimed helpful faces, some strangers, some family, all claiming to being doing it for the persons own good!

  5. Cristen Pascucci August 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Love this: “In the current legal vacuum on women’s human rights in childbirth, police officers and medical staff are too quick to conclude that they can do anything to a woman, as long as they believe it is for the baby’s good. They don’t have to have evidence that it is actually good for the baby, they just have to believe that it is.” Great article, Kalina

  6. OkieSteve August 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Fortunately both of my chldren’s births were relatively trouble-free – except for my son arriving backwards in Sw. Sofia Spital in Warsaw. However instead of forceps or C-section the staff just said “Push!” and it was A-OK.
    My second child was born in America. After hearing stories of unnecessary C-sections, her mother went online and found a medical consent form for her OB to sign clearly laying out the conditions and consent needed for any out-of-the-ordinary procedures.
    The question turned out to be moot, Judyta Ilona Browne arrived in the normal fashion with her big brother advising, “Don’t worry Mommy, it’s only a baby.”

    I don’t know how it would work in Canada, nor how effective these kind of forms are, but it’s worth looking into.

  7. Kathi August 4, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    An excellent commentary, Kalina. This article is deeply resonating with me following a recent birth I attended. Where is humanity going? Where will we be in the not-so-distant future if we continue to treat new life and the life of women with such disrespect, and lack of humanity and dignity at the most vulnerable, spiritual moments in our lives?

    Feeling just raw; ripped open this morning.

    • Kalina Christoff August 5, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      Kathi, thank you your support and for all the work you do. I know exactly what you mean, because sometime I too get to a place where I feel as though change is impossible and things are only getting worse. But all we can do is keep doing what we do and keep working for a change. What it will take a a broad culture change — and cultural changes take time and happen gradually. All we can do is not give up and try to be a (small) part of the change.

  8. Kalina Christoff August 4, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I would love to speak with this woman and get her side of the story. I don’t have a way of contacting her, but one of my hopes in writing this blog post is that she might decide to contact me and tell me what happened from her perspective. Humanize Birth would be glad to publish this perspective (evidently no media outlets are interested in doing so).

    I would also love to speak with the police and get their perspective — although their perspective was very clearly and loudly aired through multiple media channels and police press conferences. Humanize Birth is planning to start a dialogue with the police and first responders in order to raise issue of how they deal with births that may occur unexpectedly and how they treat birthing mothers in general. There is a lot of prejudice and assumption in our culture that needs to be overcome when it comes to birth.

    The mother in the park almost certainly new she was pregnant with twins. She was receiving prenatal care from Vancouver Coast Health and had a birth plan with them. It’s highly unlikely they would have missed the fact that she was pregnant with twins.

    You say “she needed help. Period.” — as though this is a fact, and not simply your opinion. The police officers saw that as a fact too, not as their opinion. This is the problem when it comes to respect in childbirth — we need to respect the opinion of the birthing woman first, and need to have laws that guarantee this respect. Otherwise anyone who finds themselves at the scene of a birth (or even those who do not, but read about the scene of a birth), suddenly start trusting their opinions as those they are facts — and disrespecting the birthing mother’s opinions.

    • Mel August 7, 2013 at 1:08 am #

      As both a Police Officer and a mother of a beautiful 9 month old boy (who by the way would have died or had severe oxygen deprivation without medical intervention) I find this a critically one sided story where you are making wild assumptions and jumping to conclusions with no information other than what was broadcast on the media (which in my experience is almost always wrong).
      I cannot see how walking around immediately after the birth of twins is healthy and natural and in fact extremely dangerous, both for the babies and for the mother. Also I know all of my local ‘troubled’ women and if I felt that I had to intervene for the sake of the babies then I most certainly would. As I said to my midwife before and during the birth – I have no birth plan because it’s not about me, it’s about my baby and I want to do whatever is best for him.

      • Kalina Christoff August 7, 2013 at 11:28 am #

        Your statement that as a Police Officer you would readily use a *feeling* that you had to intervene as a justification to intervening in a birth, illustrates beautifully and tragically the problem with disrespect towards birthing women.

        Our current “emergency measures” laws would allow you to do that, and I’m sure your training as a Police Officer would encourage it. Unfortunately, neither our laws nor your training would encourage you to stop and reflect before intervening, on how by intervening you may be violating the birthing woman’s human rights (and possibly creating huge trauma for her and for her baby). That is why we need new legislation, and new training procedures for Police Officers.

        Birth is not just about a baby. It is about the mother, first, and then about the baby — legally speaking, physiologically speaking, and psychologically speaking.

        Legally, because until the baby has been fully born, the mother has human rights just like any other human being, while the baby is not yet a person legally.

        Physiologically, because the baby’s physiological well-being during the birth depends directly on the physiological well-being of the mother.

        And psychologically, because a baby’s future mental health will depend directly on the mother’s mental health, and that can be deeply disturbed by unwanted interventions during childbirth.

  9. Simone Valk August 5, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    What I don’t get is: how did the police get the babies? They were still on the cord. I can imagine the police having gloves, but I don’t think they have cord clamps and scissors ready. So how did they handle this? If they really took the baby’s away like this they pretty much have pulled the attached placenta out, causing perhaps some major bleeding.

  10. James3D August 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Brilliant article about issues that are rarely given fair treatment in the media. Thank you for presenting this so clearly Kalina.

  11. Clarly August 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

    Good lord, how self-indulgent this article is. The issues it raises are very important, in regard to a woman’s rights during childbirth, but they are overshadowed by the intense rhetoric and spin given to the anecdotal evidence used in support of the argument.

    The woman who gave birth in the park gave birth TWO MONTHS early. She then proceeded to grip her newborns around the neck. She is known to police. She suffers mental health issues that were likely contributing to her behaviour, and despite your neat little statistic about “half of the world’s population has, or has had in their lifetime, some mental health illness”, the large majority of mental health issues would not result in irrational behaviour like this woman’s.

    Balance is the key to getting your point across. Mission failed.

    • Kalina Christoff August 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Clarly, it is the quick and uncritical labeling of this woman’s behavior as “irrational” that I’m questioning in the post. Mothers are automatically labelled as “irrational” if they try to refuse offers of assistance or interventions during childbirth — regardless of whether or not they have “history of mental health issues”.

      Doctors often hold babies by their head and neck, with one hand, as they deliver them by C-sections and then, as they are showing them to the mother. No one questions them or calls them irrational for that.

      The way the police reported on this — and notice that their story changed several times over the days after this incident — heavily implied that the mother was trying to smother her babies. But the police never actually said that — they just conveniently let people draw this implication. Conveniently for the police, in order to have their otherwise unacceptable actions towards this woman be readily accepted by the public.

  12. Hush August 7, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    My visceral reaction is this is all unspeakable horror. :( My more logical one is.. it is all unspeakable horror.

  13. Kalina Christoff August 8, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Thank you so much for speaking up on behalf of the local residents. I couldn’t agree with you more. We are all human beings, with our faults, addictions, and mental health issues — and we all have the right to always be treated as human beings and have our human rights respected. Regardless of where in Vancouver, or anywhere else in the world, we live in.

  14. Kalina Christoff August 8, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    And, according to what our patriarchal culture brainwashes us into believing, that automatically makes you a “good mother” and make me a “bad mother”. This reasoning, however, doesn’t hold when you examine the physiological and psychological facts. Ignoring yourself and your physiological and psychological needs while giving birth makes your baby more likely to go into distress and suffer during the birth. It also makes you less able to take care of your baby after the baby is born. So, in effect, it makes you not as good of a mother as you could have been if you hadn’t ignored your own needs.

    Our culture is quick to draw and either-or adversarial relationship between the mother and her baby. It’s either the mother, or her baby — one has to be sacrificed in order for the other to be well. That is a faulty, patriarchal reasoning. Mother and baby are one complex entity, they are one physical being. What is good for the mother, is always good for the baby.

    • Mel August 10, 2013 at 2:26 am #

      Clearly you are fixated in what you believe and will not accept other views especially from anyone in any position of authority in an Oppositional Defiance Disorder type mentality. I just hope that you teach your child to research everything and make their own reasoned opinion and that they can trust others.

      • Kalina Christoff August 10, 2013 at 10:32 am #

        Mel, if I understand correctly, you are a police officer. That means you are not in a position of authority to diagnose anyone with any mental health disorders. (The authority for such diagnosis belongs to clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, not to police officers.)

        Your “diagnosis” is a beautiful example of the societal/legal problems I highlight in my post, including the fact that police officers such as yourself are legally allowed to “diagnose” those who disagree with them as “suffering from mental health disorders” and are then allowed to forcefully detain/hospitalize them based on this “diagnosis”.

        • Mel August 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

          I haven’t diagnosed anything if you actually saw what I said and simply suggested that your feelings were along the same lines.
          I think you just need to stop reading far too much into things and making overwhelmingly massive leaps to a conclusion that doesn’t exist.
          This whole debate started from a media article that was most likely factually inaccurate from the start and you have constructed what happened in your own head. I do not pass judgement on the women involved or the police involved but will leave it to the independent police authority and medical panels which this incident will obviously be critiqued by and leave it to people who know what they are talking about rather than backyard bloggers.

          • Kalina Christoff August 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

            Mel, I did read your post carefully and just re-read it. You may want to do the same. There is no mention of any “feelings” in your previous post; instead, you describe my actions in terms of clinically disordered “type mentality” because I refuse to automatically accept the police’s version of events and indeed I question it. Thank you for providing an excellent if rather sad example of how a police officer’s thought process may lead to fast and sweeping negative conclusions about the “mental health” of people who disagree with them.

            It is not at all obvious to me that the incident in Oppenheimer park will be critiqued by any “independent police authority” or “medical panels”, as you suggest. I don’t know which country and city you live in, but in Vancouver, Canada, where I live and where this happened, the police itself has a troubled history of abusing civilians and being sued for it. Unless there is a lawsuit against them by the woman who gave birth in the park (something I doubt; she probably has more than you or I can imagine on her hands right now), there will be no investigation into this matter and no critique of anything in their behavior. The police will not want to release admission of any wrongdoing unless they are forced to do it by courts.

          • Mel August 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

            I don’t live in Canada but here we have the Independant Police Conduct Authority and numerous medical review panels that look over any complaints made to them. I can only assume that any first world country has some form of complaints system as I know of four other countries that do for both police and medicine.

            If you like I can pass my thoughts on your ODD type issues by my parents who are a forensic psychologist and a Gestalt therapist. But don’t worry, you clearly just made the assumption that I knew nothing about psychological issues because of my profession. Assumptions are easily made without all the facts. This discussion thread is exactly that.

          • Kalina Christoff August 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

            Mel, just like you, I also assumed that any first world country has some form of complaints system for medicine. That was until I started my own complaint process here in Canada about what happened to me. Now that I actually have first-hand experience with the complaints process, and have also been in touch with dozens of women who have been through similar complaints process in many other first world countries, I don’t have to assume anything any more. I just know: When it comes to childbirth, the complaints process that exists doesn’t work. All the mechanisms for complaints exist to protect the medical personnel, not the women who have been mistreated.

            As to your thoughts on “my ODD type issues”, I would be delighted if you could pass them by your parents. They will, I hope, tell you that no one who is actually trained as a psychologist would make any conclusions, statements, suggestions, or diagnosis about another person’s mental health, without first conducting an in-depth, hours-long, in-person, clinical interview with the person in question.

            It is clear to me that you know a little bit about current mental health labels and categories. But let’s keep in mind that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, especially when applied without much humility and self-doubt.

          • isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 8:02 am #

            She has ODD because she disagreed with one authority figure one time? Doesn’t it have to be, like, a long term thing or something? And she’s not disagreeing just for the sake of disagreeing, either, so it’s not an accurate diagnosis.

      • isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 8:01 am #

        Oppositional Defiance Disorder doesn’t exist. It’s a label for people who have good reason t oquestion authority, so they can be shut up and not listened to.

    • isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      I agree. Typical patriarchal competitive thinking.

  15. Kalina Christoff August 8, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    As a feminist, mother and women’s rights activist myself, I would have treated this woman as a human being, with all the respect I would treat any other human being. I would have tried to avoid making highly subjective dehumanizing judgments towards her such as her being “mentally unstable” and would never hold the fact that she was giving birth alone to twins outside in the park against her. There are many things that are out of our control, such as when and how we give birth. But something that *is* in our control is that we treat each other as human beings. Always.

  16. melissa hodges August 8, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Yes, Opp I agree and live nearby too… This is Oppenhimer Parks Facebook page. Doesn’t look like a “needle park” to me either https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oppenheimer-Park-DTES-Communities-Back-Yard/104214341469

  17. MaryBBBB March 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Wow – that was an amazing article. I had a similar experience over 20 years ago, still wondering why and what I could do to prevent it happening to other women, especially my daughters.

    Sick system, sick medics carrying out procedures without consent, very sick outcomes for mothers and babies. Thanks for sharing such a traumatic experience – hope you are recovering.

    • Kalina Christoff March 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      Thank you for your understanding and support. A huge part of the recovery from birth trauma is receiving validation from other women who understand. I am personally so glad that awareness of birth trauma caused through actions of medical personnel is growing. Maybe soon it will reach a threshold that allow us to effect a real change.

  18. isis1769 August 6, 2014 at 7:57 am #

    She didn’t know she was going to give birth then. It happened suddently and without warning.

  19. Carol February 2, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    Lucky royal ladies. Most of the royals have normal and wonderful birth experiences. It is just part of the ROYAL treatment… reverence, respect. They get the best of all worlds, including when giving birth. No wonder they do not have c sections and are glowing after birthing.

  20. Rich April 14, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    What does it cost to have proper insurance for your sailboat.
    Zac has learned leadership in non conventional ways and
    I suspect that he will achieve his Life’s Work in an out-of-the-ordinary way.
    It is a burr under my saddle, a spur in my side, I am learning to harness it and take it for a ride, like
    a bucking bronco, riding out of the tight pen into an expansive field.

  21. Kaur March 24, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

    I have recently become acquainted with this woman- the one who gave birth to the twins. So I can confidently state that I am familiar with the situation and her. And I would be remiss if I did not point out that, in your post, your criticism of the police handling of the situation is sorely misguided. This woman was holding her newborns by their necks. They would have been dead had the police not intervened. She is quite mentally ill and that could partially explain why she lost custody of her other two children as well (she was prostituting them). While I am sure you have valid points about wealth and access of different types of healthcare, including more progressive birthing techniques, please do not use this story as an example.

    • Kaur March 24, 2016 at 11:58 pm #

      One more thing- this woman does not wish to be identified and calls herself Anonymous. She also admits she was an active narcotics user at this time.

  22. Sue June 12, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

    Are you out of your mind?? You really think it’s safe to give birth PREMATURELY very PREMATURELY to TWINS in a dirty park at 11 at night ALONE? Thank God the police were there, I’m sure they saved the lives of those babies. Being born at 28 weeks gestation is very dangerous in a hospital with a NICU but holy crap you think it’s okay to do it in a park?? I think too many women are more concerned over the delivery vs healthy baby. I know I was and now I have a brain damaged 16 year old who can’t even use the toilet on her own. I have to think if I had just had the friggin c-section she wouldn’t have all these issues. You can spout off all you want cuz you have a healthy child. You’d be singing a different story if your child had a TBI or died because you had to have the perfect birth.

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