When I arrived at the hospital to give birth to my third son, I was escorted to my room, stopping every few feet to work through long and painful contractions.
The nurse kindly showed me the gown hanging on the hook in the bathroom.
I disrobed and kindly declined. I didn’t care who saw me naked. The room felt hot, and I was getting ready to shove a baby out of my vagina.
Other people’s comfort level with me roaming my room nude was the least of my worries.
My midwife drew me a bath, and I worked through more contractions. The nursing staff didn’t even try to coerce me into getting out of the bath to start an IV or meds because I clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
If I wanted to be in the bath, I was going to stay in the bath. If I wanted to walk around naked, I was going to walk around naked.
This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo — and they could tell.
With my first son, I was grasping for modesty as nurses, doctors, and select family members swept in and out of the room. I think I had one gown in the front and one in the back so my butt wasn’t exposed.
I was mild-spoken and did as I was told. I felt awkward when they had to break my water or check my dilation.
I was so worried about everything outside of myself that I ended up having a horrible birth experience.
I was catering to the desires of strangers above myself. I was bossed around and decisions were made for me.
There were so many unnecessary interventions, I could cry just thinking about it.
I don’t want to demonize hospital staff, but they can tell when you’re unsure of yourself in the delivery room and they’ll bulldoze the hell out of you if you let them.
Do you know what tells them you mean business? Standing around naked and not giving an eff.
I even got a Brazillian two weeks before my due date. You don’t mess with a woman that comes into labor and delivery sporting a freshly waxed vagina. That woman is a warrior.
When I wanted an epidural at nine centimeters, you best believe I got one.
When the anesthesiologist tried to give me an attitude while telling me we didn’t have much time, I didn’t ask him to wait for my contraction to pass. I told him through clenched teeth, “You will wait.”
I wasn’t about to be bullied in the delivery room again.
I was the one giving birth; I needed to be in control. I wanted to own my experience, rather than having it own me.
I did what felt comfortable to me. I gave myself permission to be primal and strong, to shove this baby out of my vagina on my own terms.
If that meant that a slew of hospital staff saw me in my birthday suit, so be it.
When my son was finally born in the middle of the night and placed on my naked chest, I felt empowered and amazing.
I wouldn’t change a thing. And I damn well wouldn’t cover-up.
Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer whose writing has appeared on Early Mama, Child Mode, MindBodyGreen, Role/Reboot and Mom.me. Visit her website for more.