The language we use around pregnancy, labour and birth is so important. I hear how some women talk about their birthing journeys and it makes me so sad. Every problem or complication is attributed to the woman. There is no “standard” language that shows the level of influence that hospitals and care providers have on the birthing experiences of women and their (sometimes) responsibility for traumatic outcomes. So here’s some phrases I hear a LOT and here’s some alternative phrases which may be more appropriate.
Failure to Progress: Did you have a caesarean for failure to progress? I prefer to say that I “failed to labour according to hospital policy”. Many women also refer to this as “failure to wait”. I like that as it puts the blame squarely where it belongs - with the OB who doesn’t want to wait and see what will happen. A “normal” labour is often a lot longer than hospitals allow for – women can labour for days with no problems to themselves or the baby or complications can occur within minutes of labour beginning. As always – recommendations should be made based on the actual health and wellbeing of the mumma and bubba…and the clock doesn’t actually give us any information about that!
Inadequate Pelvis: Was your caesarean due to an inadequate pelvis? Or was it due to an inadequate care provider? If your care provider asked you (or forced you) to labour and try to birth while lying on your back then I’d say it is far more likely that you had the latter. Your pelvis is most probably perfect.
Delivery: Was your baby delivered? Seriously…Is your baby a pizza?!? Babies are birthed, by their mothers! They are not delivered by other people. If your care provider is lucky they may be allowed the honour of catching, but don’t let them steal the glory – YOU did the work mumma!
Induced for post dates? Or induced for scared care provider? While risks do start to go up the further “overdue” you get it is always worth remembering that up to 42 weeks is considered “normal” and it is completely and totally reasonable to wait until 42 weeks and beyond before even discussing induction. It is not okay for your care provider to push you into induction because of their fears. Other people’s fears have no place in your birth space. As always recommendations should be made based on the health and wellbeing of mumma and bubba – the calendar is also NOT a source of information about this.
Evidence based care? Or fear based care? As with the above point a lot of care provided is based on your care provider’s fears rather than evidence. This means that they are likely making recommendations based on their own previous (bad) experiences rather than your current health and wellbeing. Repeat with me: Other people’s fears have no place in the birth space and all recommendations should be made based on the health and wellbeing of mumma and bubba – your care provider’s previous clients are also NOT a source of information about this.
Midwifery care? Or obstetrical care, provided by a midwife? In a hospital it can be tricky to find true midwifery care. Not because (most) midwives don’t want to provide it, but because your birthing journey is usually being supervised by an OB, regardless of who is doing the “hands on” care. In hospital settings, if something outside of “normal” comes up, the OB will be the one providing advice and deciding if you should be “allowed” to have a midwife care for you – within whatever constraints the OB sets up, of course.
Woman centred care? Or hospital policy centred care? Hospitals have policies. These policies seem to be largely designed for the benefit of the hospital. I’m not suggesting that hospitals shouldn’t have policies – consistency and guidance for care providers is important in ensuring that women can receive quality care. And it is also important that hospitals and care providers have some legal protections. But policies ensure that midwives and doctors treat everyone the same way. They don’t acknowledge that not everyone needs the same care. A good way to find out which type of care your care provider gives is to ask them what policies they will be wanting you to follow and what happens if you decide you’d like to do something differently. Again, recommendations should be based on the health and wellbeing of mumma and bubba – Hospital policies also don’t provide any information about this.
Did you have epidural pushed on you for “maternal pain and exhaustion”? Or for “wriggly woman who won’t lie still on the bed”? Or for “lack of support leading to increased pain sensations”? First birth I fell into the second and third categories. Midwife started trying to convince me I needed an epidural before I felt any pain. But the monitor kept having issues with me moving around. And I had no support whatsoever – midwife told my partner to sit on the other side of the room, so he only felt comfortable getting close to me when she was out of the room. I was encouraged to lie on the bed and not once encouraged to get up. So I had an epidural when some support would have been a much less risky option.
So next time you are talking about your birthing journey, have a think over the language you use. If some of these are applicable to you, see what a difference it makes to your story to use alternative language. I’d love to hear some stories using alternative language! Let me know if you have any other alternatives you like to use.