With this title, I could say a lot about how those who are attending a woman in pregnancy, labor, and birth can affect her with what they say and how they say it. And that’s true–what one says, and how people talk, to a laboring woman can encourage and motivate her in her work (labor), or it can discourage her and even slow down her labor, or lead her to choose an otherwise unwanted intervention or even a C-section. I have heard many stories of women who were just completely deflated when their doctor told them, “You’re just not dilating. I think we need to accept that you need a C-section.” Some of these women had not even been in labor very long, but felt defeated, and like their bodies were defective. Yes, words are powerful.
However, this post is not going to dwell on that–although it is important to understand, and as a laboring woman to surround yourself with people who are encouraging and positive (husband, mother, friends, doula, midwife, doctor, nurse). Labor can be a bit like a marathon, but when you run a marathon, all along the way are people cheering you on. They don’t run a step for you, but they make it easier for you to make it to the finish line. Imagine running a marathon and taking hours to finish those 26 miles, and having the entire course either empty of all well-wishers, or having only a few people scattered here and there, and all of them with worried looks on their faces, as if they were afraid you were going to have a heart attack at any moment. Words, facial expressions, and presence are powerful.
As you are pregnant and getting closer to labor, there are other words that are powerful. You may have memories or events in your background that trigger certain emotions when words or phrases are used. This can be to your benefit, if you consciously connect positive emotions to key words and phrases. It’s perhaps a little Pavlovian, but this can be a ringing bell to your subconscious to think about that beautiful vacation you had, or that peaceful paradise of your imagination. Words can relax you.
But in the birthing world, certain words convey or detract power. For example, I do not use the word “deliver” when talking about birth, unless it is necessary. To me, when a doctor “delivers” a baby, the woman is passive. No; women birth their babies. This is the way it used to be said all the time–that a woman delivered her baby. That is, that she brought forth her baby of her own power. When birth became medicalized, and women were routinely anesthetized for birth, and a typical birth involved a large cut of the woman’s genital area and dragging the baby out by its head (otherwise known as episiotomy and forceps), the doctor did truly “deliver” the baby–that is, he brought the baby forth out of the woman. Currently, even though most women do not have C-sections (yet), and most births are still spontaneous (that is, the baby is not pulled out of the woman by forceps or vacuum), it is still said that the doctor delivered the baby. No; the woman birthed her baby. She delivered her baby; the doctor just caught it. Yes, words are powerful.
Here is another powerful phrase that makes you look at things just a little bit different. It is said by a fellow childbirth instructor, Desirre Andrews, “you are hiring a catcher with medical expertise IF needed and renting a room.” Oh, yes. Words are powerful!