And no, I'm not talking about your mother tongue or the first language(s) you teach your baby.
I'm talking about the way your midwives, doctors, care providers and doulas speak to you. The way we speak to you, about you, and with you regarding your birth is critically important. Why? Because it demonstrates how much we respect you, how much we care for you and that we see you as a person rather than a medical case.
Inclusive language outside the birth world is no new topic. It uses vocabulary that avoids exclusion and stereotyping and is free from descriptors that portray individuals or groups of people as dependent, powerless, or less valued than others. It avoids all sexist, racist, or other discriminatory terminology. And now it is time to make sure the language we use with birthing people no longer insinuates that they are dependent, powerless or less valued as well.
Below are some common phrases heard during pregnancy or during childbirth, and next to them is a more empowering, positive, respectful option.
The patient refused... The patient declined...
Failure to progress Slow labour
Poor obstetric history/High risk Medically complex
Painful contractions Strong contractions
Failed VBAC/induction Unsuccessful VBAC/induction
"You're only 3cms" "You've dilated to (an amazing) 3cms"
Dr. ______ is delivering my baby I am delivering my baby and Dr. _______ is caring for me
Cesarean section Cesarean/Belly birth
My doctor made me/I had to... I chose to/We felt it was the best decision...
False labour Tune-up/Practice labour
There is an entire other subtopic of language that I haven't touched that reflects respectful gender pronouns/terminology and who chooses to identify as a parent and how. However, this is such a great start and please note that some of the suggestions above are actually for you/me/us. We can describe the contractions to be strong/intense/powerful rather than painful and it is OUR job to listen to when we say "They made me..," or "I had to..." and see whether we take accountability for what happens to our babies and our babies.
"From time to time my colleagues would ask me, ‘does using different words really matter? We don’t mean harm and what we do is more important than what we say. We have enough to worry about!’ But my answer was (and is) it does matter. Because what we say and how we say it, influences what we do. If we are mindful of the language we use (i.e. facilitate not teach, share instead of educate) we are thinking about the relationship we have with women and families and our actions will reflect that. Being with, not doing to. It doesn't take much effort, and needs no extra resources."
And slowly, as our language changes, so does our thinking. And as our thinking changes, so does the world around us.