Words are important. Words are especially important when you're pregnant or giving birth. Subtle messages given by a care provider or a family member, both verbal and non-verbal, do a lot to either boost or dash your confidence in your body, your birth, and your mothering.
We midwives meet people who have been told their "hips are too small," or that their body is too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too (fill in the blank) to give birth naturally. The cesarean rate in the US, which is way above what it should safely be, gives the message that about 1/3 of women need surgery in order for their babies to be born. Really? Seriously? How can that possibly be?
When giving birth, confidence in the process is essential.
Grey's Anatomy (perhaps not the best source of pregnancy advice) recently had a storyline where a woman was laboring in the hospital. She had a labor that had a long latent (early) phase. The doctor commented that she'd been in labor a "long time" and would need a cesarean. Mind you, the woman was at 4 cm, which even ACOG guidelines state is not active labor! We get these fear-based media messages all the time. It's supposed to be good for ratings, right?
How might a midwife approach someone who had a "long" latent phase of labor? We'd give her ideas for comfort measures, help to relax and sleep, and we'd praise her for her progress. The conversation with a midwife would likely go something like this: "You're doing great! The early phase of labor is usually the longest part, and you've already gotten to 4 cm. That's wonderful!"
So, if you were a woman having a "long labor," what would help you? Would the suggestion of a cesarean fill you with confidence, or would it make you fearful? Would the midwife's encouragement help you see that what you're experiencing is normal? Of course, we all know the answers to those questions. You're much more likely to have a positive birth experience if the people around you are encouraging you and reassuring you through the process.
Midwives infuse confidence in their conversations with you:
"You look so beautiful and healthy."
"You're so strong, and you're doing great! Labor is intense, and you're doing such a great job working through your labor."
"You and your partner are working together so beautifully."
"VBACs (vaginal births after cesarean) are my favorite births. I love that moment when the mom says 'I did it!'"
"You are so prepared. I love that you always come with a list of questions for our visits."
"Your body knows just what to do."
"Your baby is thriving on your milk."
"You are a wonderful mother."
"This is totally normal."
We're your cheerleader, your fan club, your champions! We want you to love your experience and love mothering. We want you to have the experience you have always dreamed could be possible (because it IS probable, not just possible).