“Psychological Rank” is a term most of us haven’t heard but have probably experienced at one time or another. I first heard a birth professional talk about it recently. The context in which I hear women complain about it most, though they don’t have the words to name it, is when telling their birth story.
Psychological rank occurs when somebody overrides your inner wisdom. Perhaps a doctor decides your birth is taking too long, he doesn’t want you to get tired, and he convinces you to get an induction even though you know intuitively that you’re doing well and the baby is doing well and you’d prefer to continue without any interventions.
In the case of my last birth, the psychological rank issue was silly, but stuck with me for a long time after. I had been eating Perfect Bars during the whole of labor. I love them! They’ve a lot of good fats and calories and other nutrients. I think they’re the perfect labor food. Somewhere around transition, the midwife’s assistant decided I needed something more in order to have enough energy to start pushing. She decided to give me some almond butter on a rice cracker. The bars I was eating probably have more of whatever she was looking for than the almond butter and rice cracker. Plus they were a lot easier to eat. Let me tell you, being stuck in the middle of a transitional surge (contraction) with my mouth full of nut butter was not a good experience. I don’t suggest it. I was so mad. I knew I didn’t want it. I knew what I was doing was better than what she offered. But I was focused on giving birth and didn’t have the capacity to fight her on it. I told her I didn’t want it but she insisted and I gave in. After that, she ended up giving me some yogurt with a bunch of honey - which did sound and feel good to me. And then it was time to push.
The problem was that she didn’t search for an option that would both fill the need she saw I was having and fill it in a way that I agreed with. She went ahead with what she thought was best even though it didn’t feel right to me. I was willing to try something other than what I had been doing. I just wanted something that felt good to me. Having my inner wisdom be overridden (even in such a silly thing as what I was going to take a bite of) did not feel good.
Actually, it felt kind of gross. It felt as if I was coerced into doing something that was against my better judgement. That is how it feels when someone pulls psychological rank on you. It is that, not the circumstances of the actual birth, that seems to cause the most trauma.
The same thing happens, on a much larger and more invasive scale, during so many of the births I hear about. Women are being forced and bullied into interventions because they don’t realize in that moment that they have a choice and end up going with whatever the doctor thinks is best. Doctors do know more about the technical side of giving birth than most women - that’s why we go to them. But they do not know more about what a specific woman’s body needs in any given moment, or what she intuitively knows her baby needs, than she does.
It’s can be challenging to fight it and stand up for yourself while you’re busy having a baby. But knowing what psychological rank is and and remembering that you are the only one who can connect to your inner wisdom and know what your body, spirit, and baby are telling you is a start.
Best wishes on your journey!
Has anyone ever pulled psychological rank on you? What happened? Share in the comments below.
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