There has been much ado surrounding the language of breastfeeding being normal and usual versus the best for baby and mother in great thanks to Diane Weissinger. It is so valuable to recognize that while we all desire to be the best, we often hit the normal everyday averages in life. We are comfortable reaching a goal that seems more attainable. Best or better can feel so far out of reach where average and usual seem quite in reach most of the time. None of us generally want to be below the average or usual. Thus the language of the risks of NOT breastfeeding is so vital.
I would like to see the same type of language revolving around pregnancy and birth as well.
In the overall picture here is the usual occurrence: Ovulation leads to heightened sexual desire, which leads to sexual activity, which leads to pregnancy, which leads to labor, which leads to birth, which leads to breastfeeding…..
So how do we look at language as an important part of our social fabric and belief systems surrounding this process?
Let us look at contrasting statements of what is often heard and how a positive point of view can be adapted.
Pregnancy is: a burden, an illness, an affliction, a mistake, something to be tolerated……
Pregnancy is: a gift, wonderful, amazing, part of the design, someone to grow…..
Labor is: scary, worth fearing, the unknown, unpredictable, painful, to be avoided, to be numbed from, to be medicated, to be induced, out of control, unfeminine…..
Labor is: what happens at the end of pregnancy, hard work but worth it, manageable by our own endorphins and oxytocin, an adventure, not bigger than the woman creating it, to be worked with, worth be present for, is what baby expects……..
Pushing and Birth are: terrifying, physically too difficult, only works for women who are not too small, short, skinny, big, fat, young or old, responsible for pelvic floor problems, out of control, horrible……..
Pushing and Birth are: what happens after dilation completes, to help baby prepare for breathing, bonding and feeding, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, able to occur in water, standing, laying down, squatting, on hands and knees, often most effective when a woman is given the opportunity to spontaneously work with her baby and body, not always responsible for pelvic floor issues, amazing, hard work, worthwhile, sets the finals hormonal shifts in motion for mother and baby……
Is it really BETTER? I say no. It is usual and normal.
- Spontaneous labor is not better – it is the expected usual occurrence at the end of pregnancy.
- Unmedicated labor and birth is not better – it is what the body mechanisms and baby expect to perform at normal levels.
- Unrestricted access to movement, support and safety in response to labor progression is not better – it is the usual expectation to facilitate a normal process.
- Spontaneous physiologic pushing is not better – it is what a woman will just do, in her way.
- Spontaneous birth is not better – it is what a mother and baby do.
- Keeping mother and baby together without separation is not better – it is what both the mother and baby are expecting to facilitate bonding, breastfeeding, and normal newborn health.
Denying the norms and adding in unnecessary interventions, medications and separation is creating a risky environment for mothers and babies. Thus increasing fear, worry,and even a desire to be fixed at all costs.
Perhaps even worse, an atmosphere has been created where the abnormal has become the expected norm and the normal has become the problem to be eradicated.
Bottom line, our language matters and will help shape for the positive or negative the future of birth.