My Babies Were Taken:  Why Language Matters

April is Cesarean Awareness Month.  This post is my experience with cesarean birth and how my views and feelings changed by simply changing the language I used to talk about it. 

My twin babies arrived into the world at 38 weeks, 1 day.  I took extreme care of myself, because I was hoping for an unmedicated birth.  I knew the longer they stayed inside me, the better chance I had.  This was my last pregnancy.  It was my last chance for the rite of passage I was hoping to experience.  My first child was an extremely long labor.  After 30+ hours, I was still only 6cm dilated.  Since I had been awake for 50 hours at that point, I opted for an epidural to get some much needed sleep before it was time to push.  Even though everything ended well, I already knew the changes I would make for my second baby:  I would take a childbirth class geared toward unmedicated births,  I would use the Vanderbilt Midwife practice, and I would hire a birth doula.

Fast forward 2 years and I found myself pregnant again, and I was ready.  Except there was just one thing.  I was pregnant with twins.  At my very first midwife appointment, I was informed that the midwife practice couldn’t attend multiple births.  She referred me to an ob/gyn who actually used to work with the midwives, and would give me the best chance at the birth experience I wanted.  Unfortunately, the main stipulation for a vaginal birth, by any doctor in Nashville at the time, was that Baby A needed to be “head down.”  Wouldn’t you know it, both babies ended up being breech.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was scheduling my babies’ birthday.  After months of preparing with Hypnobabies, I was “sectioned.” 

It was my only option.  My babies were taken at 38 week, 1 day.  Taken.  Not born, not birthed, not even delivered.  I always used the word taken.   That is what it felt like.  I had no say in the matter.  I knew a c-section was best, but still, nobody around me seemed to care about my loss of birth experience.  I was healthy, my babies were healthy, and nothing else mattered.  I was not allowed to grieve, because somehow, that meant I didn’t care about my babies’ well-beings.  Ultimately, the feeling of loss I had over this birth contributed to my delayed postpartum depression 10 months later.  

Today, I feel differently about my birth.  I still wish things could have gone as planned, but my grief is gone.  In 2014, almost 4 years after by babies were taken, I was training to become a CLEC (Certificated Lactation Educator/Counselor) through the UC San Diego Extension.  Our very wise instructor, Gini Baker, said something that changed my view almost instantly.  In an aside, she mentioned, “We need to stop saying that a woman had a section, and instead say cesarean birth.  We don’t section women. We section grapefruit.  If we want women to connect with their birth, we need to change our language.”  With those simple words, my views about my birth changed.  I stopped telling people I had a c-section.  I had a cesarean birth.  My babies were born at 38 weeks.  And yes…I birthed my babies. 

I applaud all women who give birth, no matter what method is needed or chosen.  As a postpartum doula, it is my pleasure and part of my role to listen to my clients birth stories and give them permission to process it in whatever fashion they need. 

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