I have a degree in Speech and Language Pathology and have always been interested in how we speak/communicate, the words we choose and how we use them.
My ears hurt. Day in and day out, I hear words and phrases that upset them: the doctor who delivered my baby; the midwife who did my birth; I lost my mucous plug — just for starters.
Doctors do not deliver babies – at least they are not supposed to deliver them. The mother of the baby is supposed to deliver her own baby – the woman’s body delivers the baby – that is, unless the doctor delivers the baby by pulling it out with forceps or sucking it out with a vacuum extractor or with the use of Pitocin, which blasts the baby out of her body. Midwives do not “do” births – they attend them. And you didn’t “lose” anything – you noticed your baby gel, which formed that day and which is then released, alerting you to the fact that your body is getting ready to give birth.
The words we use and the way we describe our choices around birth speak volumes about our beliefs and often give us clues as to how the birth itself will “play out.” Over the years, I have spent countless hours listening to women talk about where they are going to birth, what care providers they have chosen, and how confident they feel about having their babies naturally. Based on a wide variety of factors, I often predict with great accuracy – and with no small measure of sadness – those who will end up having cesareans. I observe their reactions and their body language when I made a few key statements which also adds to the information I find myself gathering naturally (without meaning to) – it has become a part of my nature to make these mental notes/predictions — a sort of radar about birth outcomes that I know many other midwives also have.
This birth radar is completely different than, and not related to, the knowledge that many obstetricians develop about their clients. They KNOW that most of their clients are going to end of being sectioned — and of course, they can make the decision to cut without any justification whatsoever. With a cesarean rate approaching fifty percent ( and higher in some institutions), we all know that the women who go to see doctors have one foot on the operating table just by choosing to birth in hospitals with traditional obstetricians. And this is not about arrogance – or needing to be right; in fact, I am absolutely delighted in the rare situations when I find out that one of the women I was concerned would become a cesarean statistic actually births vaginally (not always naturally, though, for sure).
Most recently, I was at a dinner at which there was a woman pregnant with her first child. She was very bubbly and very excited about birthing naturally. I asked her if she was going to birth at home, and she said, no, not for this baby, as it was her first – she was going to use midwives in the hospital and then, assuming everything went well, which she was sure it would, she would perhaps have her next baby at home. I asked her if she would be willing to read a book that I knew would be helpful to her and recommended Ina May’s Guide to Birth. When I left this gathering a little while later, I told the friend I was with that this woman would have a section. My friend was surprised and commented that this woman seemed committed to birthing without drugs. I learned from the woman who had hosted the dinner that the pregnant woman did in fact have a cesarean, was upset about it, and in fact had asked for my number and hoped that we could talk before she has her next baby.
Yes, of course we can.
And of course, as I’ve said, it isn’t difficult these days to be fairly accurate when predicting a cesarean, since just about everyone ends up having one- and the women who don’t often have miserable births and sometimes wish they had.