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  • Writer's pictureHolly Clayburn

The Problem With Birth E2: Modesty In Birth

This is the transcript for episode 2 of The Problem With Birth podcast. This script is intended so that even those who are hearing impaired can still enjoy and benefit from our podcast. Please be aware that this is basically the "rough draft" copy and hasn't even evaluated for spelling/grammar errors.

Hey everyone, welcome to an all new episode of The Problem With Birth. I'm your host Holly Clayburn and in this podcast series I will discuss issues that need a radical change in the birth world, present evidence based information, tell birth stories, give tips, answer questions, and work towards educating and empowering my listeners. Today we are talking about ways that you can keep your modesty while giving birth! This topic is kind of funny for me to talk about since I am the polar opposite and one of the least modest people... But this is a topic that is definitely important, and one that even though is opposite from my personality, I completely understand. Birth is such an intimate space, but it's also where you're surrounded mostly by strangers and that can make even the least modest people uncomfortable. You're already in pain, and working towards bringing a child into the world, the last thing you should have to worry about is being gawked at. Too often are people told that modesty goes out the window when you give birth, and this week, that is The Problem With Birth.

So one thing that I've heard over and over again is that you just need to leave your dignity and modesty at the door when you give birth, but that is 100% untrue, and I'm really sick of hearing it. Your comfort is so so important and if you don't want to be on display for the world then, you don't have to be! You do not have to just lie back and let everyone get a look at you, regardless of what you've been told. People say all the time "oh they're a medical professional, they've seen thousands of naked bodies, it's no big deal." Which is true FOR THEM, it's no big deal to them, but when it's your naked body, it can be a huge deal to you. Your comfort level, and modesty should be respected at all times. It is your body, and you get to decide who sees it, and what happens to it. It is a super common misconception that modesty and birth don't mix, but they really can. It's important to have a medical team that respects your wishes, as well as a support team who can help to convey your wishes, and work to keep you covered. People also might tell you "oh it's just one day, just a few moments, it's for your baby, etc, etc, etc. Well, screw that advice because it's terrible. On the first episode I covered how comments like that can really mess with people during labor, and how very very very important it is for the birthing person to be completely comfortable and at ease during this time. Things that bring you anxiety or make you uncomfortable can have a lot of negative impacts on your labor, like stalling it, increasing pain, or creating a traumatic experience. So instead of just dealing with your discomfort for a day, make sure that the entire process is about making sure you're completely in control and relaxed.

One of the first thing that you can do to maintain your modesty is to minimize the people in your birth space, and I think this is so important. The more of an "audience" you have, the harder it is to achieve any privacy. Birth isn't a spectator sport so unless someone is an active part of your birth team, then in my opinion they don't need to be there. If you do have a lot of visitors though, then just let your nurses and other team members like your partner or doula know that you don't want anyone in the room when you are discussing plans, getting a cervical check if you opt to have them, get up to use the restroom, or anything else that might expose you or make you uncomfortable in front of others. Your nurses won't have any problems asking others to leave, so that you don't have to. I have also held up sheets and blankets to shield my clients in case anyone were to walk in, or so that their children could stay in the room but not have a view of stitches being administered, or other things that they didn't want them to see. When youre considering who you want to be around while you labor and possibly even deliver, I would definitely keep in mind that even the most modest people have completely changed tunes while laboring. MANY end up completely naked because of heat flashes, or aversions to anything touching their skin. So be sure to surround yourself with those who you will be comfortable with, no matter what happens. Don't be afraid to say no and put yourself first. Your comfort takes precedence over anyone's feelings. If you don't want an audience when giving birth, don't have one. This is one day that you get to be 100% self centered, and not feel bad for it.

A birth skirt is another way that you can maintain modesty. A birth skirt can be any kind of loose and flowy skirt for you to labor in. I recommend skirts over shorts for easier access to the bathroom, so that you can walk around and feel free without being exposed, and so that if you have cervical checks done it easier so you since you won't have to strip and redress.

Speaking of cervical checks, you can also limit or completely decline them. Having a stranger's hand up your vagina is not only uncomfortable, but it's also not even necessary, and is a good way to introduce bacteria. Your cervix isn't a crystal ball and can't tell anyone how quickly your baby will be born. You can walk around for weeks dilated to a 4 before labor begins, or you can go from a 1 to a 10 in an hour. If you are having a hard labor then hearing that you aren't as far dilated as you want or expect can also be extremely discouraging. If you do decide to have cervical checks, then you can specify that only one person may perform them, such as your provider, or a specific nurse that you are comfortable with. You can also have a blanket covering you during the check, and remove anyone else from the room that you don't want in there.

A lot of people don't realize that they are the one's who are completely in control of what is going on, and who is in their room, including medical staff. A lot of times medical students, resident doctors, or nurses in training will be brought along to learn, but you can completely decline their presence. You don't have to have anyone in that room that you don't want. Make it clear that you don't want numerous people in and out, that you don't want students, residents, anyone in training or otherwise uneccesarry staff to come into your room. In addition to limiting the number of personnel, you can also specify if you don't want any male staff in your room if that is something that makes you uncomfortable.

A lot of providers have you start pushing as soon as you reach 10 cm dilated, but this definitely can create circumstances where you're on display for hours. Just because your cervix is fully dilated, doesn't mean that your baby is ready to come out. Your baby can still be at a high station, which is just where in your pelvis that they are. If you wait for your baby to come down on their own, vs working hard and pushing them down for hours, you will greatly minimize how long you push for. You definitely don't have to have anyone in your business or be uncovering during pushing though. You can have blankets draped over you while you push, and/or have people stand by your head or behind you while youre pushing if you want their presence but not want them to have a view.

Not pushing on your back is also a really great way to minimize feeling like youre on display. There are many ways to give birth, and even though on your back is the most common, it's not even the most effective. You can give birth on a birthing stool, on your hands and knees, standing, squatting, or kneeling captain Morgan style. If you're wearing a birthing skirt then you're already covered, you can also have someone hold a sheet or blanket up for you, have your bottom totally covered by draping a sheet or blanket over you. You can even totally eliminate anyone being in your space by catching your baby yourself.

Once the baby is born, that's not the end of potential uncomfortable situations. You'll need to get up and use the restroom shortly after birth. You will no doubt be at least little bloody, sore, and typically need help to get there. Having everyone removed from the room, or not yet brought in is ideal for giving you privacy during this time. You can opt to wear depends versus those bulky and insanely large pads as well. Not having to fiddle with a pad and adjust it every time that you move, or worry about it moving over and causing any leakage is peace of mind that I recommend to everyone, modest or not.

One little snippet that I do want to mention for people who have never given birth, and aren't sure what to expect is that after birth a nurse or your provider will need to push on your uterus to check the amount you're bleeding. This is called a uterine massage but don't let the name fool you because it's not relaxing. It is uncomfortable but definitely necessary to make sure that you aren't hemorrhaging. This can still be done as modestly as possible though too. People can be removed from the room, only one person is needed to do it, unless a second opinion is warranted, in which case they should ask your permission first, and you can still be mostly covered while this is going on.

If you want to do immediate skin to skin with your baby then you can buy a bra that has a front closure so that you can remain covered until baby is born, but still have easy access. You can have the baby placed on your chest, then cover you both up with a blanket and undo your bra to remove the layer of clothing.

There really are very few circumstances where your comfort and modesty can't be accommodated completely, and I would say that it would be in any type of true emergency.

In any circumstance though, dignity is something that should NEVER be compromised and definitely not something that you should ever feel like was lost. Birth is intimate, full of bodily fluids, bowel movements, and sometimes cuss words... but it should still always be respected. Tell your family, friends, birth team, and medical providers that you are very modest and would like to have a modest birth. If A N Y O N E tells you to wave goodbye to your modesty then wave goodbye to them. Seriously. If anyone tells you to leave your dignity at the door, well leave them at the door. You are a person who deserves to be heard and respected. Modesty isn't always easy, or convenient and standing up for yourself definitely isn't easy but having a support team who understands how important it is for you is essential. While discussing this episode with women I know, they recounted tales of their births and how they weren't aware modesty was an option and suffered because of it. Many of them had way more people than they wanted present, others had people walk in at very personal moments, and all of them had parts of their birth they wished that they could change, and plans to ensure they were respected the next time around.

Whether you are modest or not, I always encourage everyone to make their birth plans and goals clear from the get go so that all friends and family know what to expect, and hospital security isn't called while you're in labor... It's not fair to yourself to have to fight people who don't want to leave because they feel entitled to be there, or to have someone present only because they guilted you. If you set boundaries early on, and make it clear that your decision isn't negotiable then it can make your birth experience a whole lot easier. Your birth experience is just that, YOUR experience. If you aren't good with boundaries or upsetting people then I promise that your providers don't mind being the bad guy. They work for you, and it is their job to ensure your safety and your comfort. Another option is to simply forego letting anyone know that youre in labor, and this is an option that is becoming more and more popular. Instead of inviting a three ring circus to visit you, or welcoming a barrage of update questions, you can simplify it all with a baby is here announcement. Waiting to make that announcement once you're settled, and up to answering questions or allowing visitors can relieve a lot of stress and avoid potential drama. There is no time limit to set on when you have to let people know, either. Enjoy it for as long as you want. I tried to convince my husband to wait at least a week before we announced the birth of our daughter, I was mostly joking but the thought was definitely appealing. Instead we didn't tell anyone that I was in labor except my birth team...Which was huge. We had 2 midwifes, 2 photographers- one taking pictures and the other taking video, my two sisters, our two boys, my niece, and a partridge in a pear tree. Kidding but it totally felt that way. Also I should add for those side eyeing me through the speakers, I totally did say earlier that birth isn't a spectator sporting if they aren't an active part of your team then they shouldn't be there, so you're probably wondering why the hell I had a fleet of people at mine. 2 midwives are self explanatory, the videographer is also a doula and I wanted a video, the photographer is a long time friend and I wanted pictures and video and didn't mind two people being there to do them separate. My sister's played HUGE roles in supporting me through birth. They were there physically, and emotionally for me. We also weren't sure that my husband would make it in time since he was coming from the rig 6 hours away, so one of them was there even when he couldn't be. It was also important to me to have our sons present for the birth of their sister, and my niece just kind of happened to get drug along since she was with my sister when she was called in. My birth team was definitely large but they each played a vital role, and that is what you want when you're choosing who you have supporting you. Our daughter was born at 8:56 PM and no one else was notified until midnight, then we started making calls the next morning. We only told our immediate family and friends first and had them come visit one at a time to meet her and find out the sex. It was so fun making everyone wait to find out we had a daughter until they got to our house. Everyone else found out when we publicly announced her arrival 2 days later on Mother's Day. It was absolutely amazing having that time where it was just us, and we didn't have to worry about anyone else. So my recommendation just based on personal experience is waiting until the baby is born to start letting people know. That was definitely my best birth experience. It could definitely also have A LOT to do with the fact that I got to sleep in my bed immediately afterwards and anyone who asks me what I liked best about my home birth, that's what I tell them. Seriously, sleeping in my own bed was worth it's weight in gold. Anyways, the point of this story is my experience with waiting to tell people. Sure it hurt feelings, and even though modesty wasn't my reasoning behind it, I still had to do what was best for me and my birth experience.I didn't let anyone guilt me into letting them be there just because someone else was. My team was absolutely perfect the way it was and I wouldn't change having them there.

No matter what options you choose, any options, you need to make those decisions based on yourself and no one else. I hope that I have proven to y'all that modesty in birth is possible and given you modest folks hope for your birth. Even if you aren't modest, I hope that this podcast was encouraging for you, and made you realize that you can give birth with your dignity in tact, that you call the shots, and that it's okay to put yourself first. It's not selfish to want to be respected and to privately enjoy the birth of your child.

For far too long we've been told the lie that we have to lie there on display like a slab of meat to be perused over. We've been told that there isn't a possibility of modesty, and that we can kiss our dignity goodbye, and that is The Problem With Birth.

I hope that y'all enjoyed this weeks episode. As always please subscribe, share it with everyone you know, rate 5 starts on apple podcast, and let me know your thoughts. If you have a birth story you want to share, a question you want to ask, or have a topic to suggest then you can do that on the website at You can also message me on instagram or facebook through my business page, which is East Texas Birth Co. Be sure to tune in next week while I discuss an all new topic on The Problem With Birth.

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