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Words That Heal: Cesarean Birth

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For Women's Health Providers (and anyone else that works with and loves women)

Being a care provider for women in the childbearing years is much like being a guide on a steep and rocky, yet breathtaking, hiking trip. For many women, this is new territory and you are their barometer for what is normal, their trusted elder for what to do when the unexpected happens and their cheerleader for when they make even the smallest victories. Sometimes during the daily grind of taking vitals, doing NSTs and checking blood sugars -- and about a million other things that make you an angel on earth -- it can be easy to forget that you are actually mothering these mothers not only on a physical level, but on a subconscious, soulful level as well.

Because this important role you have usually coincides with a very vulnerable window of time in these women's lives (possibly even the most vulnerable time of their lives), the words you choose to speak to them has immense power to heal, support and empower -- or do the opposite.

Many women who need emergent medical help during the childbearing years are stunned by whatever condition brings them to the hospital -- preeclampsia, premature rupture of membranes, placenta previa, etc. They are plucked from their lives and thrown off their intended path and there's a good chance that when and the way they will give birth is not what they had planned or wanted at all. After seeing so many women come and go with some outcomes good and some outcomes not so good, it may be easy for you to say, "Well, whatever it takes so that the baby and mom are healthy!" and your positive intention is for a wonderful, healthy outcome. But what we can't ignore is that for these women, they are viscerally going through a loss of control, a sudden change of plans, a shock that their baby's health (or theirs) might be jeopardized and a disruption of their family unit, among other things. You can see how simple words could have such power when a pregnant woman is in an even more emotionally vulnerable state; one that might also have other complicated layers such as fear, self-judgment, blame and shame associated with it.

It's impossible to always know what to say and to balance that empathy and compassion with the daily, arduous job-related tasks of caring for human beings. But, one simple change in semantics can have a powerful affect.

You may have become entrained in medical speak because it's necessary to do your job most efficiently and to converse with your colleagues. But for just a moment, think about these following words -- pretend you haven't been using them day in and day out and ask yourself, what mental images do they bring up? How does your body feel when you say or hear them?

C-Section
Section
Are they going to section you?
When is your section scheduled?
She got sectioned.

Now try these words...

Cesarean birth
She gave birth by Cesarean.

Did you notice a difference? If so, what was it? Did you notice a difference when the word "birth" was included in the picture? Did it feel like there was a human being -- a mother -- included in it? If so, how might a mom who is going to be giving birth by Cesarean feel differently about herself if you talked about her upcoming birth as just that, a "birth" rather than a "section?" Does one way speak to something she is actively involved in as opposed to something that will be done to her?

Those of us who work with with women around birth experiences and trauma know that seeds of birth trauma get planted when a woman feels powerless. How might the way you talk to a woman about her upcoming Cesarean birth lessen that trauma and instead instill 'empowerment? And, how might your language affect a woman who has already walked the path of the Cesarean birth? Try using this more humane language next time you ask someone about their Cesarean birth and take notice of their reaction as well as how you feel saying it in this new way. It's such a subtle, but powerful shift.

If a woman's guide on this journey (you!) speaks to her in a way that validates that she is a part of her birth -- on both a physical and spiritual level -- she has a far better chance to start her life as a newly born mother feeling strong, capable and present instead of disconnected, a victim and a failure. They may just be two little words -- Cesarean birth -- but their affect can last a lifetime. You hold this free, simple medicine in your gentle hands -- we all do -- why not use it?

Learn more about Brandy and her current classes, workshops and groups schedule at www.mothernurturedenver.com.