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“What else can I do?” – Isabela Madrigal

Okay so it’s about time we talked about Encanto! Firstly, love it and can’t get the songs out of my head. Secondly, yes yes yes to all these strong female characters!!

I love all of the characters and each one probably deserves their own blog post but I’ll start with Isabela’s story because it did get me thinking and I wanted to share those thoughts with you.

Isabela has spent her life until this point doing what everybody expects of her, maintaining the “perfect” exterior and never colouring outside the lines. She is a classic people-pleaser and of course on the surface seems to have it all, until she falls apart and reveals how shit it is to live like that. The line “so much hides behind my smile” rings loud and clear for a lot of us. Within her song she realises that if she does create something that is imperfect or not what is expected of her, it actually feels amazing! This one revelation spirals quickly and she realises that there is no limit to what she CAN do and that she no longer needs to please everybody, just herself. This is HUGE! We could all do with a dose of not giving a fuck about what others want from us.

It got me thinking about a lot of women we meet who are engaging in the maternity system not because they want to, but because they think it’s what they should be doing and it will make everyone else around them more comfortable. They may not have even considered whether this IS something they want to do or not. Sometimes these women take a stand on one thing, maybe it’s a growth scan they know they don’t need or a test for something that wouldn’t actually change any of their plans. It feels good to say “NO” to something that isn’t serving you! For a lot of women though, it feels like they are pushing it each time they say no, and that maybe they should say yes to some things just to keep everyone happy. But here is the thing, women who continue to only say yes to things that serve them and say no to everything else come out of birth feeling powerful and thinking… “what else can I do?”. They often go on to do other things their own way! They no longer do things just to please other people, but do things because they know it is right for them. 

The maternity system can often feel like an opt-out system that you have to go through, but that you have some degree of choice along the way. Often these choices are presented as ‘intervention A’ vs ‘intervention B’ which gives the illusion of choice without actually presenting all of the options. However, the maternity system is actually the opposite. It is an opt-in system which means that every interaction you have with them is on your terms. You have no obligation to engage AT ALL if you don’t want to. So there is no limit to how much you can say no. You are not pushing your luck, you are not being awkward or difficult, you are not asking for the world, you are simply deciding which parts, if any, you want to opt-in to. Once you start making those decisions for yourself instead of feeling funnelled down a certain path, you will start to wonder “where is the limit here?” (there isn’t one!) and “can I just do what feels right for me in every other situation in life?” (yes and you absolutely should!).

We know that the patriarchy can’t handle women who know and trust themselves and make their voices heard, women who are not reliant on the systems built by and for men, so when women come out of birth feeling fucking amazing and invincible, it threatens the patriarchy. The women we know who have given birth outside of the system, or on their own terms, have gone on to question all of the other bullshit we are told in life and this is where real freedom happens. It can feel overwhelming for sure to question everything, but this is where our power lies.

Figure out what YOU need, what YOU want and make it happen. Then ask yourself, “what else can I do?”.

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