Cut here?? What not to say to pregnant or laboring women…

The Rebirth blog is having a “blog carnival” with “what what not to say to a pregnant or laboring woman” as the theme. When I read the theme, two personal occurrences immediately sprang to mind:

After my Blessingway ceremony with my first baby, all the guests got into the pool (it was August). I changed out of my Blessingway finery and came out in my cute little two piece bathing suit with my big, pregnant belly leading the way. One of the Blessingway attendees looked at me and at the brown “linea nigra” line on my belly and said, “What’s that line mean? Cut here!” and laughed. I was appalled! And at my Blessingway too! I will never forget how it felt to hear something like that on my special day.

Less bothersome, but something that undermined my confidence in following my instincts was when I was laboring with my first son. I said I felt ready to go in to the birth center, but my doula suggested I take a shower first (and relax). When I went in to the bathroom to do so, I heard her say to my mom and husband outside the door, “first time moms always think they need to go in too soon.” I am a people-pleaser and it took a lot for me to come back out of the bathroom (without taking a shower) and say, “no, I want to go to the birth center now.” We went (and I was 10 centimeters dilated when we got there). I felt like I had super-amplified hearing during labor and heard everything that people said even though they thought I didn’t (eyes closed, very inwardly focused). This was one example of several similar occurrences during my first birthing.

I also thought of an experience of one of my birth class clients. As she was pushing and the baby’s head was crowning, her doctor said “I wouldn’t rule out a c-section just yet…”

One of the reasons that I actually called this blog “Talk Birth” is because I have a special interest in the language of birth and the impact of the lexicon of birth on pregnant and birthing women.

The experiences above and the theme in general reminded me of a quote I really liked from an article I read recently:

“Since beliefs affect physiologic functions, how women and men discuss the process of pregnancy and birth can have a negative or positive effect on the women that are involved in the discussion. Our words are powerful and either reinforce or undermine the power of women and their bodies.”–Debra Bingham

10 thoughts on “Cut here?? What not to say to pregnant or laboring women…

  1. Oh, yuck. That was horrible!

    I truly believe in the power of words, it is so important to think about what we say, especially during birth when moms do HEAR everything. I think they do have super hearing!

  2. Thanks for sharing this – I’ll never forget when I was pushing with my first baby having the doctor say ‘Hmm that’s odd…’ Not on par with what was said to you but not reassuring to a first time mother…

  3. The “first time moms always think they need to go in too soon” stereotype was very much at play in my daughter’s birth as well.

    One of the things I liked about the hospital I had her in was that they minimised the number of sets of fingers in my vagina. The labour nurses didn’t do cervical checks for the midwife clients. I happened to check in right at the midwife shift change so at this stage, nobody had given me a cervical check. So, you’ve got a woman, 41 weeks pregnant, coming in to the hospital saying she’s in labour. No cervical information. This is right as she’s putting me on the monitor for the initial 20-minute strip, so no monitor information either. What does that leave in order to determine labour status? My behaviour and my subjective experience. Well, what to do with those? Dismiss and trivialise them, of course!

    The nurse put her hand on my belly and said “I’m feeling some uterine irritability. You need to drink more.” (no, those are contractions, you moron). I was having a hard time lying down and staying still during contractions, so she said “If you’re having such a hard time now, how are you going to handle the pain later?” It turned out there was no later. I was 6.5cm dilated and had the baby two and a half hours later.

    We asked for a different nurse later. Not for these kinds of comments, but for trying to put in an internal monitor without my consent, and then trying to scare us when we refused it.

  4. I had issues with communication with my first birth. A midwife who thought I was having issues and a pushy doctor who came in later.

    My second birth? The midwife was lovely and completely positive. I was so much more relaxed.

  5. Wow – re: the Blessingway comment – that’s really something.

    I also love your end quote and think it’s so true. As a former high school English teacher and a life-long reader & word lover, I totally agree.

    I forget where, but I read something very similar to this quote about parenting – that as parents our words are so important, that they act as a mirror to show our children who they are (or who they are perceived as)…

  6. One of the things I truly loved about my (hospital, OB attended) birth was that when my daughter was crowning and the reason for her late decels became apparent — she had an occult partial prolapse of her cord, it was around her neck and a loop was up over her crown — the OB said not one frightening word. She went white as a sheet, mind you! But all she said, in a mild, soothing tone of voice, was “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to make the first cord cut here, before she’s born. Dad, you’ll be able to cut the cord down later.” She cut the cord, urged me to push very hard on my next contraction, and delivered my daughter with Apgars of 9/9. I didn’t even know there had been a complication until her one-month checkup.

    If only they could all be managed so well.

    • I love and admire the skill that good practitioners have at keeping a straight face and calm voice in the face of complications–no stress and anxiety comes through, just doing what needs to be done without freaking out the parents in the process. some of them are really good at it!

      • Yeah, this was an exceptionally good OB and an exceptionally good hospital. I didn’t understand the movement away from hospital birth until I really realized how unusual my experience was in so many ways. (Of course, I’m still thinking about an FSBC for my next birth!)

  7. Pingback: Wordweaving | Talk Birth

  8. Pingback: Tuesday Tidbits: Speaking Birth | Talk Birth

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