Winning the Battle, Losing the War in Birth

I'm about to state something that isn't new news. Are you ready?

There is a huge focus these days on natural birth.

Brilliant! Right? No.

Every Doula's front page of her website is on how to support you in a natural birth, every article is about how to have natural pain relief. Don't get me wrong, I often come off as one of those raving, naturopaths myself. As a Childbirth Educator, I teach my clients about Evidence-Based birth, which does often suggest that natural is better for mother and baby outcomes. But what are we accomplishing by accident, in the meantime? What message are we subconsciously drilling into the minds of mothers?

I just got off the phone with a grandmother who called me, looking for a Doula for her daughter. She mentioned to me that her daughter had past terrible birth experiences, but not because anything was innately wrong with the birth, rather everyone in the room came out feeling distraught. They had this image of what getting through birth would be like, and when it didn't go that way, they were failures, in their own eyes. Their focus was on getting through, because no one wants to live in the agony. But when you focus on surviving, often you forget about thriving. And that's where it can all go wrong.

What Mothers often don't realize is they won't necessarily remember the pain of labor, but they will remember how that pain made them feel. As humans, we naturally forget the exact feelings of contractions, and often seem to have a foggy memory of what exactly went down in the delivery room; but one thing we don't forget is how we felt after the fact. Disappointment, abandonment, failure. These are words I hear very often. And they shape our whole experiences, which shape our whole futures as mothers. Are we really doing favors for women if we tell them they are hurting their babies by taking epidurals? That they should hurt themselves, instead of their babies?

Even the way we phrase things, like saying "Thank G-d it wasn't a bad birth, like G-d forbid, I didn't have a cesarean..." What does that imply about cesareans? That they can only be bad births? That they can only be births that are traumatizing and painful? What does it tell those mothers who needed a cesarean? Who's lives were saved by one? Or mothers who spent hours upon hours in difficult labor only to be wheeled into an operating room? That they didn't give birth? That they shouldn't be admired for all they went through for their baby?

I'm not saying don't educate, or be educated, I'm just saying this is something I hope to take on for myself as change I make when talking about birth. Let's talk about Mother-Centered-Birth. So we can win the battle and burst through victorious in war also. Let's talk about how to speak positively about birth, so that mothers come out feeling they did the best they could, no matter their choices. It's a big change, but we need to start small. As doulas and birth workers we need to each commit to changing the way we think about birth. Give mothers their choices back, so they can thrive. When we make them feel guilty over the choices they made, that's just another way of taking away their power, and actually, taking away their choices.

So here I am starting. I'm guilty. And I hope to improve. I'm committing to positive talk, surrounding all birth.


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