birth support · Doula observations

Why Birth Language Matters

I believe very strongly that language effects our perception. One word can change the entire message. For instance, the example of inserting the word “only” into any part of the following sentence– “She said she loved him.” It changes the emphasis which changes our perception of what is happening.
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It fascinates me, this little language trick, at least until I notice it doing harm. I see it on forums discussing birth. A word like “let” often leaves my stomach churning. I’m guilty of using it too, but I’m working on changing the way I speak. My midwife didn’t just “let” me eat during labor. She encouraged me to do whatever was the most comfortable to me and empowered me to make that decision. When hospital policy didn’t “allow” it, she found a way around that policy to help me keep my agency.

In the end, my language helps me take ownership of my experience. Was the baby delivered or caught by my midwife? Was I delivered, or did I give birth? HypnoBirthing is known for some of the “funny” language it uses about birth, but when the actual language is examined, it comes down to our perception of what the word means. Does surges or contractions  sound scarier? Contractions definitely sounds more clinical. What about pressure waves? It sounds much less painful to me than uterine contractions.

In this same vein, I want to quickly address the way I discuss cesarean birth. It is cesarean awareness month, and there are so many different ways to talk about it. I use the term cesarean birth, or occasionally surgical birth, because I still remember the knot in my stomach when I heard a family member of a laboring woman say, “Well, I just hope you don’t have a C-section, because then you didn’t really give birth.”

No.

Cesarean birth is birth. It’s harder and often more traumatic than vaginal birth, your recovery time is longer, and it gives you more obstacles. But in the end, it’s still birth. A mother is still made, and a baby is born.

We need to watch our language. We need to be mindful. This whole blog post was sparked by an article I read. It’s got some good information, but the tone was so “up-in-arms” and it spoke in so many absolutes that I had a hard time reading it.

What is your favorite “birth language”? What’s your least favorite?

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