Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan: Putting Power in the Hands of Women
By Rebecca Schiller
As CEO of Birthrights, a human rights in childbirth charity in the United Kingdom, I spend a lot of time listening to women telling me of their experiences in pregnancy, birth, and as new mothers. I hear about the wonderful things that happen when they were treated with respect, offered equal chances to access expert, safe and compassionate care, and valued as trusted, expert members of the team.
Sadly, I also learn about the damage that can be done when maternity provision is discriminatory or inaccessible and the frightening and unsafe care women can receive when they aren’t treated with dignity and respect. Birthrights works to ensure that all women matter in childbirth and to understand and raise up the voices of those women most at risk in their maternity journeys.
Yet many women come to us after their babies are born wishing they had known more about their options and rights, realising that the way they prepared for motherhood had hindered rather than helped them and needing much more emotional support than they had realised.
Becoming a parent is about so much more than heartburn, crowning, breast pumps, impossible goals and narrow representations of success. It is about huge leaps, amazing opportunities, difficult circumstances, adventures, laughs, tears and the unexpected in bucket-loads. It’s about our whole lives.
I think we’ve been preparing for motherhood in some strange and unhelpful ways. Getting ready for having a baby is often reduced to a one-dimensional, goal-orientated exercise, complete with a contradictory barrage of opinions, too many ‘must haves’ and ‘must dos’ and the promise of a perfect birth, baby and parenting experience at the end.
Out of my frustration with this focus on a very idealised version of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and a failure to equip women to meet the wonderful, complicated realities ahead, I decided to write Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan: A revolutionary guide to pregnancy, birth and the week that follow (published by Penguin Books, 3 May).
The book is a guide to becoming a mother that puts the power firmly in women’s hands. It won’t tell them what size of fruit their baby resembles week-by-week, but will cover the huge shifts happening in their relationships, body, work and emotional lives right now, giving them practical tools, tips and real stories to help them make a plan that is uniquely theirs yet flexible enough to accommodate whatever pregnancy, birth and life might thrown at them.
I’ve only included unbiased, non-judgmental information and there’s a firm focus on women’s mental health and wellbeing, how they can get to know more about their rights, tools for making decisions and tips on how to get those around them to support and listen to them.
My hope is that it will help women expect care that puts them first, care-givers who really hear them and respond to their needs with respect and a system that understands and promotes equality. I want to give them tools to ask for these expectations to be met and then continue to work with midwives, doctors, grassroots campaigners and policy makers to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.