“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!