Have you ever considered how you were brought up or how we are conditioned to act in social settings impacts birth?

Now, let me preface this by saying I am the stereotypyical ‘good girl’ in so many ways.

 If I am in a restaurant I don’t like to complain even when completely justified

I rang the bank the other day to discuss mortgage repayments and when they wouldn’t come to the party, I politely (or at least I hope so) told them we would be taking our business elsewhere. When I finished that call I had such a huge adrenaline rush because I was pushing for what I wanted and it had taken me waaay outside my comfort zone.

I first wrote this not long after Meghan Markle gave birth. I’ve recently come back to it when I received the following message from a mum-to-be who attended my Hypnobirthing Australia classes;

So, yesterday I had a mini tour/ob check at (hospital). The doctor was ‘friendly’ enough but definitely seemed out of the loop. Was confused about why I was there, was pretty much demanding why I’ve only been seen this far along (mentioned how I’m under (midwife led care) which he didn’t seem happy about), didn’t seem engaged or wanting to really know about my history even when I answered questions, even though all the info was right there and he had the files before I was seen.
Anyway, I had mentioned that I had been feeling a lot of pressure and from previous weeks, there had been slight issues but no biggies when meeting my gp/midwife, etc.
Anyway, he put his gloves on while I was laying down and I thought, oh yeah, just the normal belly palpating…
But nope, he said ‘alright, I’m just going to check if baby is right on your cervix and check because you haven’t been seen all this time’
I was so perplexed and just held up my hand and said, actually it’s not routine for you to do an internal and you were supposed to ask for my consent first, not just assume.
I feel comfortable saying no and if I need to have one, it would be with someone I trust and have taken the to me to explain why and ask any questions.
His face was priceless!!!! He just stared me down and I said, I’m okay with belly palpating and you can see where she is from there but nothing else, thank you.
The midwife that was chaperoning was trying to hold in the biggest smile!!!
Thank YOU for telling us so many stories and our rights over and over again, it was at the forefront of my mind as it happened and it honestly just gave me to confidence to step up and say something.
So again, thank YOU!!!


Conditioning matters

As women we are conditioned to be ‘good girls’. We are taught not to question, not to push back, not to ask for what we want. We are taught to do as we are told. And if we do go against the norm we risk being labelled as difficult, hard to work with or even aggressive.  

We are taught to consider the needs and feelings of others before our own. Now, of course, considering the needs of others is important but can become problematic when we are always doing it at the expense of our own needs.

There are times when we need to go against what we have been conditioned to.  When we need to question, to push back, to ask for what we want. There are times when we don’t have to ‘do as we are told’. And when our own needs have to come first.

And one of those times is labour and birth.


In fact, if there was ever a time to stop being the ‘good girl’ it is during labour and birth.

When women are offered something or told to do something in labour – whether it is a vaginal exam, pain relief or a certain position to move in to, we too often say yes. Even if we don’t want to. And this is where that conditioning comes in – we are conditioned to be ‘good girls’ and say yes.


It’s ok to be a ‘birth brat’


When Meghan Markle gave birth last year she was labelled a ‘birth brat’ – yes you read that right. A ‘birth brat’ for asking for what she wanted during birth.

Asking for what you want or not doing as you have been told does not make you a birth brat.

And you do not have to do what you are told during birth. Whether it is something as simple as lying down on the hospital bed or putting on the hospital gown – you don’t have to do it unless you want to. Or it can be refusing a vaginal exam or a suggested intervention. You can say no!

Your rights in birth

Among so many other rights, your rights during birth include;

  • the right to consent or refuse consent or to change your mind.
  • ask questions, ask for more information or more time.
  • having whoever you want as your support person

It is your birth and your baby – and they are your decisions to make. So make your decisions and own them! You don’t have to justify your decisions but after you make them, you will need to own them.

Still not convinced that you have the rights during your birth? The Australian Medical Association has it written into it’s maternity guidelines both as a reminder to its doctors and to birthing women.

A pregnant woman has the same rights to privacy, to bodily integrity, and to make her own informed, autonomous health care decisions as any competent individual, consistent with the legal framework of that jurisdiction.

You can read the full AMA guidelines here

The other side of being a ‘good girl’ is how we appear to others.


In everyday life women are expected to be controlled, calm and ‘well-behaved’. We are so conditioned to this that it can inhibit us during labour. It can keep us in our neocortex, or our ‘thinking’ brain, as we try and control how we behave, how we sound and how we look. The problem is birth isn’t a ‘thinking’ brain activity, it is instinctive. When the neocortex is firing, when we are busy thinking, our limbic system is inhibited, making birthing harder.


If there was ever a reason to let go of what others think of you, or what you think they think, it is labour and birth. Who cares what you look like. Who cares what you sound like. Who cares if you have gone full brazilian wax or if you a rocking an amazing bush. Who cares if you are acting differently to what you thought you would. This is your baby and your birth, so if you want to get your clothes off and go naked, do it. If you want to grunt, groan, swear or moo, do it. If you want to crawl around on all fours or just chill out, do it.


My births

My first birth was, well honestly, it wasn’t great. Why? Because I was the epitome of the good girl. I did everything I was told when I was told, even if it didn’t feel right. I put the hospital gown on. I got up on the bed and lay down on my back (even though it was stupidly uncomfortable). I took all the pain relief that was ‘suggested’. Even though I had said throughout that I didn’t want an epidural, I had one when it was suggested as the ‘anthesistist is coming around now and if you don’t do it now you will have to wait until he is ready to do it later’. I ended up having the epidural at that moment, so that I didn’t inconvenience anyone. God forbid I ask for pain relief when I want it or decline it for that matter.


My second birth was completely different because this time I had preferences and I asked that they were followed. I also had my partner on board asking that they were followed – so I didn’t have to think about it whilst in labour. However I still felt a little self-conscious about how verbal/vocal I was.


Yep, I was worried about how I sounded during labour and what others would think of me.


My third birth was one of the most incredible, amazing days of my life. Throughout my pregnancy, I was fairly determined on what I wanted. If anything was suggested I asked for risks and benefits – and I pushed back when I was told there were ‘no risks’ in having a c-section (not by my primary caregiver). I declined what I thought to be unnecessary interventions.

I made my own decisions and I owned them.

What’s more – I truly did not care what I looked like or sounded like during labour. I let go of my own expectations of what others might perceive. I just did not care! And it was so liberating – I was vulnerable and powerful at the same time. For the first time in my life, I was doing what was right for me (and my baby) with no consideration for anyone else’s perception of me.

And it was transformational!

So maybe it is time to shed the social conditioning and constraints of being a ‘good girl’ during birth- you just never know how it might turn out.


My name is Kate Vivian, owner of Bright Mums and a Mum to 3 beautiful girls. I am a Hypnobirthing Australia™ practitioner, Positive Caesarean practitioner, qualified Adult educator and postpartum doula. Having experienced a variety of birthing experiences from caesarean birth, to completely drug-free, intervention-free natural VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) I have learnt that we have options when it comes to birth. Moreover, we should be able to make our own decisions regarding our body and our babies. Bright Mums will give you the tools and techniques to make informed, educated decisions and prepare for a positive birth regardless of circumstances.

Click here to find out more about my Hypnobirthing Australia™ classes for a positive birth