Feminist Rage: An Exercise In Positive Thinking

I am angry person: I grit my teeth, I get upset over everything. I am female.
Sometimes I turn it into action, sometimes I feel very, very helpless. I admit it, it also turns into me eating chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. (Considering my girth, that is not good.)

1496687_10152428963507051_1254786264933995980_nCurrently, the thing driving me up the wall are the stories that RODA, the parenthood, birth and breastfeeding oriented NGO that I am occasionally part of (in order to quell the rage), is publishing on Facebook. The terrible, terrible stories of abuse, verbal and physical, women are subjected to when giving birth in a hospital in Croatia. The tag is #prekinimosutnju (#endthesilence).

End the silence, because hospital staff rarely get reported. Because women almost never talk about it. Because in Croatia they tell you that the most important thing is that your child is alive (if not entirely healthy in all cases, but that’s another story) even if you cannot piss or shit like a normal person ever again or if there were complications that resulted in your uterus being extracted. And women believe them.

It’s true, in a manner of speaking. After a birth at a Croatian hospital one is unlikely to want to ever repeat the experience, even if they get to keep their uterus. Birthing mothers here get to be called vile names, threatened, abused, restrained, given medication without being told, vaginally examined, left alone for hours on end, ridiculed. To think I was angry as hell when one of the doctors used my first name without introducing himself first or asking permission to use it, asking me how I was. I am spoiled. I have no horror birthing story. Mine went better than I ever thought it would and in the most notorious of Zagreb hospitals.

But reading thru the experiences of all these women has left me shaken, teary and sooo enraged. Not one of the hospital staff is ever held accountable. Outdated and unnecessary procedures on women giving birth in Croatian hospitals are routinely performed. When challenged about it, most will say “because this it the way we do it”. This particular answer was given to me as a reason for a mandatory shaving before childbirth that is one of those routine procedures. (I wish all of them were so benign).

Having had a child I have often wondered in the last five years why not have another. And why I did not decide to have one sooner. These stories have reminded me how much I feared to give birth in Croatia. Not because I fear giving birth but because I am in no condition to have a home birth, even if it were not illegal in Croatia. Nor do I have the financial means to go do it someplace civilized. Where the way we’ve always done it is not the alfa and omega of obstetrics’ practice and women are treated like human beings.

RODA has always proved me wrong when ti comes to the ability of Croatians to change. RODA’s relentless work actually changed a lot of things in Croatian hospitals that allowed for my own experience not to be one of the horror stories. (Well, that and a bit of luck.) I hope they can do it again. So the positive exercise is not mine. It is theirs.



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