What defines a “birth”?

A closeup photograph of a dictionary entry for the word, "birth". | Ruth Castillo, Salty Mama Doula & Family Services

Birth: a : the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent
b : the act or process of bringing forth young from the womb. 
Birth.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.

Who decides what counts as a birth or not?

“Vaginal” and “natural” are often used synonymously to describe birth; instead of considering that “cesarean” would be the antonym, some people would rather use language that detaches “cesarean” completely from “birth”.  There are those who reject phrasing such as “cesarean birth” because it would normalize cesareans as a part of the birth landscape – as if 1 in 3 American births was not by cesarean.  Some people feel that since a surgeon intervened in delivering baby, that it was not “giving birth”.  Toxic thinking like this leaves some parents feeling detached from the experience of their child’s birth.

But cesareans are births.  The body still must open, and baby must come out.

So who decides what counts as a birth?

You do.

Ultimately, you define birth when you do it.  For you birth, may be a very active, all-hands-on-deck birth at home with two doulas, a photographer, a midwife and her assistants, and your family.  Birth might be a quiet affair with just you and your partner in a hospital.  Birth might even be a cesarean.

I most often use “cesarean birth” when I work with clients or speak of my own experience, but I also say cesarean, cesarean section, section, C-section, and surgical birth. Why? When I work with clients as their doula or childbirth educator, I use reflective language. Mirroring the phrasing and language my clients use gives them the power to define their experience. I want to validate that some of my clients give birth via cesarean, and that their journey and decisions are just as valid and valued.

Birth workers like myself, will always work towards encouraging healthy pregnancy and birth practices — practices that increase the overall health of all parents and infants.  When we work on a one-on-one level, we step back from philosophy and support each individual where they are.

I help people as they navigate pregnancy and birth, however that happens. I will always help them find the best practices to use for their health – physical and mental.  If my use of the phrase “cesarean birth” helps them to frame their experience of their child’s birth, then that is precisely what I plan to do.  Because language matters.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “What defines a “birth”?

Comments are closed.