There are women around us who experience disrespect, manipulation, or even violence at childbirth, and their wishes for the course of birth are largely evaluated as exaggerated demands on medical staff. Things that would be unacceptable in everyday life are accepted as normal practice in childbirth.
he cascade of events that takes place during childbirth is memorized in each woman’s subconscious and it affects her whole life after childbirth: in her family, the relationship with her partner, and in society. It is hard to accept such feelings for those around a woman and they rarely acknowledge that her childbirth was a traumatic experience.
Posttraumatic stress disorder
is a disease that has been seen as a consequence of a serious traumatic event in a person’s life, e.g. war, a car accident, death of a close person, torture, or sexual abuse.
We have never associated such a serious disease with birth that is generally perceived as a dangerous but still "the most beautiful" experience in the life of a woman. Although doctors know about the changed behaviour of women after childbirth, they often refer to it as postpartum blues, which is associated with increased levels of hormones in a woman’s body. In addition, a woman and her child look healthy after birth, so it is difficult to believe that the woman is experiencing pain and perceives childbirth as a traumatic experience. Sometimes a woman herself cannot recognize what is really happening to her, and that negatively affects her everyday life.
Melody, Stella, and Lucia are three women; each of them has her own view of life and has already given birth.
Melody got pregnant at the age of sixteen and her first childbirth ended with a C-section. Doctors did their job, but without any cooperation with Melody. Bad communication, disrespect, and violent behaviour was what she remembered from the childbirth.
Her second childbirth was vaginal, but the attitude of the caregivers remained unchanged. The events that she experienced during childbirth left her with lasting deep pain. Before her third childbirth, she responded to the touches and work of the healthcare workers during examinations in a confused, even aggressive way. Fortunately, the assisting midwife correctly assessed her behaviour and mediated the contact with Penny Simkin, a therapist and doula. Thanks to their meeting, Melody’s life changed, and she started dealing with her trauma.
Stella was looking forward to her first, longed for child. The birth was progressing without complications until she arrived at the hospital. There, she had to face rude communication, an effort to speed up her delivery, and the disrespect of her birthing plan, which culminated in an episiotomy that she did not agree with.
The cascade of medical interventions led to the violation of her integrity and the first manifestations of trauma: nightmares, blaming her partner, and depression. After Stella was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she decided to file a complaint to the hospital. The negative attitude of the management of the hospital and their inability to address this situation resulted in a lawsuit that was the only possible solution for Stella in the given moment.
Lucia has had two childbirths and, despite the complications encountered, she does not see them as traumatic. She is currently pregnant and very much looking forward to the third child with her husband.
Lucia has a relaxed view of life and understands birth as an event that women have been experiencing since time immemorial. Nothing exceptional happens in her life until the due date approaches. The pressure of time makes the tension between her and the medical staff culminate, and Lucia’s pregnancy becomes a struggle for her dream natural birth.
Three stories of women in the film UNSEEN are complemented by three births. Through them, we are given the space to immerse ourselves into the birthing reality in Slovakia and Denmark, and to understand the events that Melody, Stella, and Lucia have faced. The door opens to understanding the complexity of the topic of birth trauma and the necessity of changing the attitude of the health care system and society toward a woman as a mother. We see the need to create a space for change and to preserve a woman’s fundamental human rights.
Stella Marie Valentová
United States of America
Martiniak follows Stella, who decides to sue a hospital after enduring disrespect, manipulation and violence.
Film sa dial akoby so zásahom zhora. Moji protagonisti a protagonistky mi absolútne dôverovali a do cesty sme dostávali presne to, čo malo byť vo filme.
Na začiatku tejto cesty som si ani nedokázala predstaviť, akú trasu prejdem.