Apparently, I have a very narrow pelvic opening.
I’ve always been a curvy girl with wide hips, but apparently my pelvic opening — you know, the area that a baby is supposed to fit through when you give birth — is on the narrow side. The very narrow side.
I had no idea about this my entire life. When I had my babies, I worked with a wonderful duo of midwives. Upon first meeting and examining me, they noted my itty bitty opening. In fact, they conferred with each other about it, because they had concerns that it might make it difficult for me to give birth.
But they never told me … well, that is, until I had already successfully given birth twice with that narrow little pelvis of mine.
And I thank them for withholding this information from me to this day.
Let me explain. For some women, having a narrow pelvic opening can indeed make childbirth more difficult. It’s called cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) — when the mom’s pelvic opening can’t accommodate the baby’s head size, because of size or positioning. It can cause “failure to progress” labors, or stall labor entirely.
The thing is, true CPD is rare, often misdiagnosed and can cause undue stress for moms and babies. As my midwives explained it to me later, you can’t really know if CPD will be an issue for a women until she actually goes and tries to give birth.
Telling her off the bat that this might be the case for her can set her up for failure, which is why my midwives withheld this information from me. They knew it was just a hunch and that the delivery have gone either way, so they didn’t want to plant the seed of doubt in me before I had actually tried to give birth —which was really smart of them to do.
But I think healthcare providers still have a long way to go when it comes to making childbirth a more empowering experience for women.
Despite the narrow measurements of my pelvic opening, I was able to give birth to my boys fairly easily. I did notice that I had to push for a very long time with my first baby and with my second baby, I had to push on all fours in order to get him out. But I was surrounded by encouraging voices, I felt safe, strong and most of all, I never once doubted by body’s ability to give birth. (It was also undoubtedly helpful that my babies were on the small side, with small heads.)
I know that for some women, CPD is a real thing. I am so grateful that modern medicine exists to help birth the babies that can’t get born naturally. And I also think that women should be informed of whatever medical observations their providers make that are likely to have an impact on their birth. I’m NOT saying we withhold medical information from mothers.
Yet I also think that we too often set up mothers for failure by over-diagnosing them, misdiagnosing them, telling them that their bodies are unlikely to work or that their bodies will likely fail them. Obviously there's a fine line here, and no one is saying that women shouldn’t be kept safe.
But I think healthcare providers still have a long way to go when it comes to making childbirth a more empowering experience for women. Choosing how — and when — to present information to them and giving them space to birth on their own terms whenever possible are all things that should be emphasized much more in maternal health.
I was blessed with healthcare providers that made me feel safe, strong, and like the beautiful birthing goddess I was and I'm thankful for that. And I'm also eternally grateful that they chose their words wisely.