Image via Danielle Hobbs

So, it’s cesarean awareness month and the doula world is ablaze. Some twit posted in a professional group I’m part of that using any phrase except “cesarean section” to describe the very same is pointless. And, like Robin seeing the Bat signal from across town, doulas swooped in and schooled the shit out of this misguided person. She eventually ended up deleting the post altogether (so much for a nifty dialogue and learning opportunity), but it pushed my buttons so much that I’m here, on my blog, writing about it. Because when the going gets tough, the tough crack their knuckles and get behind their keyboards, right?

Cesarean Awareness Month

Anyway. Why is it important that people get to refer to their births the way they want? Because language is powerful. Given that it’s cesarean awareness month, there are a lot of stats and memes going around in the birth world about how we should be working to lower the c-birth rate, about how many “unnecessary” cesareans are being performed every day, and about how doulas magically lower the rate. (PSA: it’s not magic, and I can’t prevent you from giving birth surgically, but I can help you have a positive experience regardless of your birth outcome, and/or help you recover.)

Making changes for the future is awesome, but we also need to talk about the people who are giving birth via cesarean right now, and supporting their experiences. You can’t tell a mother who pushed for 8 hours and then got wheeled into the ER for an emergency cesarean that she didn’t give birth. Or that she somehow took the “easy” way out. You can’t tell the mother who desperately wanted to try to have her breech baby vaginally that it was her fault she couldn’t find an OB who was trained in vaginal breech birth. And yet, here we are. Why is it that, so much of the time, mothers are the scapegoats for things that are so far beyond their control it’s dizzying? It’s the same thing with breastfeeding! But that’s a topic for another blog post.

Your Experience is Birth

We definitely should lower the c-birth rate. But you know what won’t help lower the cesarean birth rate? Shaming people who give birth via cesarean. And, conversely, using the words that families want isn’t going to somehow convince OBs to perform more surgeries. So, in summation, I’d like to invite anyone who pleases to call their birth whatever they like: belly birth, cesarean birth, surgical birth, c-birth, cesarean section, abdominal birth… Because when someone does the incredible work of creating, carrying, and nourishing a life for 40 weeks, there’s no way they should be denied the honour of calling their experience birth

Bonus: in case you’re interested in how we can work towards a lower cesarean birth rate, here are some ideas:

  • Cover doula services under MSP so that all families who wish to have doula support can (and, ahem, provide us with a living wage please)
  • Institute evidence-based hospital policies
  • Encourage hospitals to adopt the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • Provide more funding, hospital privileges, and educational opportunities for midwives
  • Train OBs to support vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and vaginal breech birth
  • Give parents access to better, more comprehensive prenatal education
  • Build and fund birth centres