As midwives, we often comment on the type of birth someone has had…Did she have a ‘normal’ delivery? At the Naked Midwives, this got us round to thinking about the language we use when discussing childbirth, labour and the effect our words can sometimes have on women and their expectations.
If a woman has a baby in a relatively short period of time and does so with little pain or discomfort, midwives can be heard to say, ‘oh Imogen did so well, her first baby in four hours….’. But really, the woman who has had a long latent phase, then decided on the option of more pain relief and maybe had a forceps or ventouse delivery after days – yet is still smiling? Has she not done equally as well? Of course, but the language we use can sometimes dampen this which for some women, can lead to a sense of failure.
Midwives will freely use the word ‘Normal’ in relation to childbirth. But really, if you’ve not had a baby before, do you even have a ‘normal’? We all have different body types, different pain thresholds and medical history unique to each and every one of us. So, it stands to reason that every birth will be different and what is one woman’s ‘normal’, maybe completely different from someone else’s. However, it is important to remember that for the medical term of reference there has to be a way of differentiating between a vaginal delivery, an instrumental delivery and a caesarean section, but surly the word ‘normal’ has no place within these categories… but it does and it’s used on a regular basis!
Every birth needs to be celebrated regardless of the type of delivery and whilst this is often the case, many women feel cheated or this sense of failure if they don’t have this magical ‘normal’ birth. Are we as an institute of maternity care contributing to this with our choice in language? Whilst we would all like to give birth in a comfortable beautiful setting with a short, pain free non-invasive delivery this is not always the case! Yes, some women may take longer to birth than others, some may take longer to recover from birth and some may even take more time to come to terms with being a parent for the first time…that is their ‘normal’. From a personal experience, I have had three caesarean sections, two emergencies and one planned so that is my normal…not a drop of ‘normal delivery’ in my birth experience!
It is our choice at The Naked Midwives to aim to stop using the word ‘normal’ in relation to birth after all………what is ‘normal’.
Please share your experiences and thoughts with us in our comments box or get in touch if you are an expectant parent and have any questions for Alex and I.