Thoughts About “Let”

“The effort to separate the physical experience of childbirth from the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of this event has served to disempower and violate women.” –Mary Rucklos Hampton

Related to my recent birth consumer post, I wanted to write a little bit more about the word “let.” One of my strongest birth-related pet peeves is the use of the word “let” when applied to birthing women. Women and providers and even doulas and CBEs often use terminology like “well, they let me get up for a while and walk around” or “my doctor is going to let me go to 41 weeks” or “the nurse let her get off the monitor for about 30 minutes” or “my husband won’t let me have a homebirth.” I do not like this phrase because of the “victim” mentality I feel like it conveys—-that women are passive and things are being “done to” them and they have no power of their own. I feel like it removes autonomy and empowerment and women’s control over their own bodies and births.

I often remind people that birth is not a time in a woman’s life when she should have to fight for anything. I also like to gently remind clients that no one can “let” them do anything. With colleagues, I occasionally have to clarify or explain my perception of the term as disempowering. Though in the end, sometimes I need to let (!) it go and realize that some people are perfectly satisfied with the term. And, I also have to acknowledge that the word DOES accurately describe many women’s experiences-—they are “let” or “not let” to do things even if I think it should be different and think they should have more power and control during their own births!

8 thoughts on “Thoughts About “Let”

  1. “Let” bothers me too. I went to 43 weeks with my first (a planned UC homebirth) and I get “They let you go to 43 weeks?” ALL THE TIME. I always ask, “Who is this ‘they’?”

    By the way, “they” also “let” be eat and drink when I wanted, labor and birth in the position I felt comfortable in. “They” “let” me go 44 hours in labor and never broke my water (born in the caul!). That’s because “They” is “I.” I cringe every time I hear a pregnant mom say “They” and “let” in the same sentence.

  2. Amen! I have a friend who tried to defend hospital birth on my facebook page by pointing out that she had a wonderful OB who was even going “let” her baby room in with her and “let” her have some foods while in labor!

    Let’s turn it around, women! These people work for us. It is our birthing moment, they are our babies. How about we “let” these doctors be a part of it?

    (Of course, I don’t want that either but TETO I suppose).

  3. I totally agree with the comments above. The nurses had complete control over me during birth. . And would not let!!! Me make any decisions for myself during birth. I would have complained afterwards but the whole process was to traumatic i was glad it was over at the end! They would not let !!! Me have any pain relief even though i begged for it. .apart from paracetamol until i almost past out! I screamed for so long in pain that i was about to pass out and new midwives took over. Women need to have more control over how they feel and what pain relief is offered. I suffered far too much.

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  5. What if women started saying
    “I’m going to let you check me now”
    “I’m going to let you check my baby’s fetal heart tones now”
    “I’m going to let you in my birth room now”

    I have the same problem with the word “deliver” the only one delivering a baby is the mama!

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