Birth has a script. Birth has a language. Sometimes it is prescribed, stale, redundant, and, at times, limits the laboring woman’s ability to discover her own experience, in her way, with her own words. As a doula, I’ve noticed that there’s a language of birth – a “birth script” – in most US hospitals. It’s time to recognize that a birth script exists. After ten years attending births, I could write the script, transcribing the lines I’ve heard at hundreds of other women’s births. The script doesn’t change. It is as if only one mother birthed one baby.
At DTI we’ve been talking a lot about being change makers. We’re excited that we are reimagining a new paradigm for doulas, not only in the way that we teach doulas, but also in the way we mentor and train doulas. I believe language is one very simple, very powerful way for doulas to change the culture we witness, and challenge the scripts we hear, during medicalized birth. So let’s get specific.
See how many of these lines you recognize. Remember, this is a random collection from hundreds of births in the US:
“Ok, honey. That’s the way. Good girl.”
“Little, stinker. He just won’t budge. Some babies are just stubborn.”
“Ok, push my fingers out. Right there down in your bottom. Push like you’re making a big bowel movement”.
“Chin to chest, elbows out, curl around your baby, and hold your breath 1…2..3…4…and again…No, not like that. Don’t let your breath out, hold it. Ok, try again.”
“This is a strong cocktail to take the edge off.”
“You don’t have to be a warrior. There’s nothing to prove here, honey.”
“Yep. She’s in labor. Wow, that looks painful!”
“I know this is hard but just think about your baby. You want to have a healthy baby, right?”
Here’s an alternative to this birth script:
“Yes, that’s exactly it. You are such a strong woman.”
“Your baby is intelligent. Let’s support and trust him.”
“Yes, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure. Push in your own way.”
“Your body knows how to push. Go with it and do whatever feels right for you.”
“Pain medication can be used to help you get some rest when you need it. Let’s continue to support your birth vision, one step at a time.”
“Women are amazing. Make whatever choice is best for you and your baby.”
“Wow, you sound great! Labor is hard work and you’re doing it!”
“Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling. You’re experience is important too. Your baby is safe and is receiving the best care.”
What birth scripts have you come across? How do you think the culture of birth would change if we started using different narratives?