Midwife Illy Morrison knows first-hand how important it is to advocate for yourself in the delivery room. Ever since the traumatic birth experience she had with her daughter, Illy's been passionate about changing the narrative surrounding childbirth advocacy. She recently spoke candidly in an Instagram post about why women need to speak up when they're uncomfortable or in pain, and her thoughts are empowering.
"It's a lot isn't it," she wrote in her post. "It's a lot to just say 'no.' It's a lot to say 'stop.' A lot to say, 'I don't like what you're doing.' And so often, we don't. We don't say no, we don't say stop and we don't say, 'I don't like what you're doing.' The medical hierarchy and subsequent medicalisation of childbirth have made the act of saying no a form of rebellion and categorised it into a 'risky behaviour,' gaslighting birthing people into compliance."
Given her profession, Illy looks back on her labor and delivery experience often. "That's what I think about continuously when I reflect on my birth," she wrote. "I think of the times I should've said no and the times I should've said I don't like your behaviour, the times I should've demanded more or better care. Because maybe, just maybe if I had, I wouldn't have felt so broken afterwards."
"You are autonomous over your person. You give consent and you take it away. You can always change your mind."
Illy continued, noting that while she is grateful for her birth experience because it helped her get to where she is now, things need to change. "Let's normalise saying no, let's normalise saying stop, and let's normalise saying, 'I don't like what you're doing.' I say this in the context of birth but I mean it in the context of life," she shared. "You are autonomous over your person. You give consent and you take it away. You can always change your mind. And even though it may feel like a lot, it is never wrong to just say no."
Although she champions all people giving birth, one of Illy's top priorities is to ensure that Black women in particular feel confident enough to advocate for themselves in the delivery room, as Black women are more commonly affected by certain pregnancy and birth conditions, such as gestational diabetes. In the US, Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women.
"Black women are dying. Babies are being left without mothers, partners are being left to raise babies alone, and families are left bereft and grieving. This is because true advocacy isn't happening!" Illy told POPSUGAR. "True advocacy means that you will be the voice for the person in labor regardless of race, religion, or economic status. Racism is killing Black [women] and for this reason, they need to demand the care they are entitled to."
To combat this alarming issue, Illy says that medical professionals need to start listening to their Black patients. "Black people are not being listened to," she said. "They are not being heard or believed when they report their symptoms, and this often leads to a catastrophic outcome. It's not only the responsibility of Black people to advocate for themselves, white people need to advocate for them, too, and they need to do it loudly and publicly."