{new #OutsideTheMomBox post} Expanding bellies, empowering steps

I read this article via NPR recently about inductions declining. Which is of course, a good thing so yay, but I was struck by the language in the title, the content of the article and the comments. 

Here's what I mean-

  • "fewer women are having labor labor induced earlier," - title
  • "There has been a major effort in the past several years to reduce the rate of early elective deliveries." - first sentence of story
  • "the overall drop in induction rates may be fueled by doctors cutting down on their use of elective early induction as awareness of its potential hazards has spread." - middle of story
  • "It's important that women who have a real medical reason for delivering early aren't scared off from doing that, he says. But for everyone else, he advises giving the baby an "extra edge" of those last few weeks." - end of story

Fascinating how in the title the blame for early inductions seems to be dropped squarely on mom, "fewer women being induced earlier", but the credit for this shrinkage in inductions goes to doctors and hospitals. The massive effort on behalf of childbirth educators, the March of Dimes, birth doulas, even women themselves, to lower the number of inductions goes completely unmentioned. 

To me, this seems like such a typical example of the double standard that we place on women, a double standard that can be especially challenging for pregnant women. Pregnant women are just trying to do the right thing for themselves and their baby/babies but pregnancy can be a vulnerable time. Everything you know to be true of yourself and your life is changing or will change. At what other point in our lives is this the case? So it feels crappy even to me, a non-pregnant woman, to read an article like this. The message seems to be: don't get induced but if you do, it's likely your fault.

The reality is so much different. Everyday I hear stories from new moms about their birth story and all too often a part of that story is not feeling heard or respected. Whether that's the mom who says that she was induced because she was "too small" to deliver vaginally or the mom feeling traumatized because of what one nurse said or by the med students in the room. The list goes on. I will never forget the new mom who told me, "I wish that I had been told that I could be a bitch in the delivery room." And by this she meant, someone who would be relentless when it came to questioning what was happening and saying exactly what she wanted. This mom didn't feel as if she had that power. Many of us in the exact same place, scared and uncertain, don't either.

One problem is that most childbirth education classes, especially the larger ones that are hospital-based, offer very little in the way of practical tips or coaching on how to respond or deal with hard conversations. Such as when your ob asks about scheduling a csection when you're hoping for a VBAC. Or how to find out how long your ob's practice usually lets women "go" if they are an "older" mom. Or what your options are if progress has slowed. These can be hard conversations! While the topics are introduced, ways to address them with your provider usually are not. More traditional childbirth ed classes offer outstanding, current information but not a lot of support beyond the facts. Even the chairs generally suck! So women may end up feeling more informed but sometimes not any more empowered with real tools in which they can advocate for themselves, in the moment, than they did before the class.

So, lets not throw the pregnant mom under the proverbial blame bus with articles like this. All too often the medical professional in charge is the one wielding the magic wand of decision-making power. Instead let's move toward the use of inclusive, empowering language when it relates to pregnant women so they are part of the conversation...and not just in title alone.

Starting in September, I will offer a multi-week, weekday evening, "traditional" (for couples) Lamaze-based childbirth ed class for expecting parents. Among the usual topics (stages of labor; pain theory; non-pharma pain management; labor support, etc.), I will also include coaching around how best to advocate for yourself in the moment, how to challenge your ob, how to ask better questions, how to make your voice heard, etc. If you'd like to be emailed when registration opens or for more details, click here to head to my contact page. As always, thanks for reading. To leave a comment, click the bubble icon below.