As a self-proclaimed wordsmith, I love language and the deeper-thinking behind our use of common words and phrases. I am deeply affected by words, and Julia's awareness of how language shapes and defines a woman's experience of birth is spot-on. Women can choose the words they feel when describing their births -- as birth professionals, we have a responsibility to use proper, universal terms which present little-to-no bias.
When I meet as a doula with my clients for the first time, one of the first questions I ask is, “What does your ideal birth look like?” Often, those who hire a doula are looking for a certain type of birth, and clients answer, “I’m going for a natural childbirth,” or “I’m wanting to go all-natural.” The term “natural childbirth” is also thrown around frequently in the doula community.
I’m hoping to never hear it again. Does that surprise you? A doula who doesn’t believe in natural childbirth? What kind of doula doesn’t want her clients to have a Natural Childbirth? Hang with me, let me explain why I never want to hear this term to describe childbirth again.
NATURAL IS NON-DESCRIPT What exactly does “natural” mean? I’ve seen this term describe vaginal birth, un-medicated birth, intervention-free, “naturally induced,” spontaneous (non-induced) or unassisted birth (not being attended by a medical professional).
Society is scared of the Word “Vaginal.” Vaginal. Vaginal. VAGINAL! See, it’s not so hard. It’s not a dirty word, it’s a part of a woman’s body! Let’s call it what it is. When I work with clients during their prenatal meetings, we use the correct words to describe their bodies, intentions, and desires for their birth. Here are some words that can clarify what you really mean:
One word during childbirth can affect the entire tone for a family. One of the most profound things I learned in my doula training was the power of language. My trainer introduced idea of changing the language of cesareans from “sectioned” or “C-section” to “Cesarean Birth.” At the time, I thought it was a rather unimportant change, but once I started using the term Cesarean Birth, I started to feel the impact of recognizing that birth isn’t a procedure that is done to you, but a life changing event where families are active participants.
I feel as birth professionals that language is extremely important. The term natural childbirth, then, implies that there is unnatural childbirth. If there is unnatural childbirth...what is that?
THE TERM NATURAL CHILDBIRTH SETS A MOTHER UP TO FAIL IN LABOR OR TO JUDGE HER OWN BIRTH Early in my doula career, I had a client who wanted a natural birth. For her, that meant un-medicated. This client started to have soaring blood pressure, and the option of an epidural was mentioned. (Epidurals can have the side-effect of bringing down blood pressure. Fun fact, that’s why you also are given fluids via IV at the same time.)
I sat, and listened to this mother as she labored and mourned the loss of what she really wanted, an un-medicated delivery. We processed how high her blood pressure was, and talked about her goals. Eventually she decided her ultimate goal was to have a vaginal delivery, and that an epidural could potentially improve her health enough to achieve that goal. She bravely accepted the intervention, knowing that it could help her along the path to her baby. That mother was NOT failing at childbirth, she was exceptionally brave, empowered, and informed.
THERE ISN’T A WRONG WAY TO BIRTH Guess what? No matter the way it happens, your baby will be born. You will be a mother. You may have the ideal birth you planned for, you may birth via a different plan that unfolded in labor. That’s okay. It’s also okay to have various emotions about your birth story. It’s okay to be thrilled about it, it’s okay to feel despair or loss from it. A Happy Healthy Baby and Mother is NOT all that matters. It’s okay to have mixed feelings, because your experience also matters.
FIND A VILLAGE TO SUPPORT YOU Mothers often find that a birth professional, a doula, can help you navigate your birth while keeping your hopes in mind. Doulas are an amazingly supportive, loving, and accepting. We listen to your hopes for your ideal birth and support you while you prepare for the big event. We will get to know you and your family. Doulas will not just support natural birth, we support YOU. We will help you form a Plan A, B & C, so no matter what your birth brings, you will be supported! Our goal is for your family to experience an informed and empowered pregnancy, birth, and postpartum time for your upcoming new addition.
Julia Schetky is a Birth Doula specializing in high-risk births and families expecting twins or tripletsl; she is also a Bereavement Doula. Her passion is supporting families prenatally. Julia's main goal is to make sure that each birthing mother feels she is well prepared for birth. Julia helps families know what to expect, and how to adapt to any new directions a birth may take them, so families feel prepared, no matter how their births unfolds. She is the current Chair of the Vancouver, Washington-based group, Do It All Doulas, where their motto is, "It takes a village...let us be yours!"
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)