Propaganda Words: Why would you say that?!


I hear a lot of people talking about how it’s all about choices, about options. I hear a lot of conversation and rallying cries of ‘freedom to choose’, whether it’s about abortion or birth choices or end of life care.  

What I don’t hear much of is words designed to offer those options without bias. I hear doctors saying that home birth is ‘playing roulette’, advocates of home birth talking about being ‘filleted’ or ‘torn open’ when they have a C-section.

All of those words are especially designed in our culture to be frightening! If the goal really is to provide a wide, full range of options, why do we say we ‘get’ to have an epidural or we ‘have’ to have one?

It’s come to my attention because I’m pregnant with twins. People walk up and ask when I’m going to schedule my Cesarean- and when I say I’m not scheduling one, they give me a doubtful look and ask why I’m willing to jeopardize my baby/life/health/convenience/lifestyle.

Why would you ask that? (Not even mentioning how rude it is when strangers ask these sorts of things anyway…)

I believe in a holistic birth. That means I believe that a woman has the right to whatever she chooses- and she has the right to choose based on complete information. That means that whomever is providing the information has no bias for or against the choices.

It’s the right to have home birth explained completely- not just presented as either a terrible risk or the only ‘real’ option if you -actually- love yourself/your baby/women.  You have the right to know that sometimes, a C-section is necessary for the health and survival of your child- but you also have the right to know that it’s not always the best choice just because your baby is breech or you’ve labored for a few hours longer than your doctor is comfortable with.

It’s the right of every woman to the birth experience that is not traumatic, not frightening. And I don’t care if you’re having a fully medicated, epidural, planned C-section or a natural, un-medicated birth at home in a tub. It’s the right to come out the other side of this experience feeling respected, honored, and well cared for- NO MATTER WHAT CHOICE YOU MAKE.

It’s also the right to be educated without propaganda words being thrown around. You should never be in a position to make a decision because you’re afraid of what happens if you don’t. You should never have a c-section just because you’re scared of what happens if you don’t have one. Or an IV, or an epidural, or a home birth, or a water birth.

No decision should be made in fear- and propaganda words are fear words. They’re words, phrases, particular ways of saying things that are designed to make you frightened of what ‘might be’.

My midwife, at my first birth, actually had the nerve to ask me while I labored in the bath, “Now, do you want to have a safe birth?”

What sort of question is that? No, I want to do this while I bungee jump off the roof. Of course I do! But what those words were designed to do was instill a fear in me that if I didn’t listen to her, I would not be having a safe birth.  Those were propaganda words designed to make me afraid and pliable. I didn’t deserve to have that fear instilled in me for what is already a huge, stressful (although not necessarily a frightening or traumatic) experience.

Propaganda words are sentences like “Having twins at homebirth is like playing roulette with your life and your children’s lives”; “Having your low-risk birth in a hospital is dangerous because of the number of interventions that are routinely administered there.”; or “Well, you can -try- that…. But I don’t know why you would willingly take that risk.”

Any of those sentences says “Be afraid.” It says be afraid of hospitals because they’re cold and uncaring and won‘t listen to you. It says be afraid of homebirths or midwives because you could die and nobody could save you. It says “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

No wonder women go into labor so worried and frightened.

Yes, you are a glorious body, designed to do precisely what you’re doing. You labor and you deliver, because that’s what you’re made for.

But yes, sometimes bad things happen, and you do need a doctor.

Neither of these things changes that you have a choice. I have read hundreds of birth stories recently, in preparation for my own birth. What I see are women who have birthed at home and had transcendent, glorious experiences. I also see women who’ve birthed fully medicated at hospitals and had the same glorious experiences, who came out so happy they chose what they did. I see women who revel in their C-section, knowing that they made the best choice for them and their children.

I also see horror stories of mistreated women in hospital who were ignored or lied to. I also see those stories (and lived that story) with midwives. I have read stories about homebirths where the mother had a crisis and was rushed to the OR. I have read stories where a mother decided to birth at home and decided that she didn’t want that experience, she became upset or afraid, she wanted a hospital.

What I see as a recurring theme throughout all the stories of beauty and joy and pleasure in birth is respect. A home birthing mother is respected and her wishes are honored, and she finds her inner sanctity and births. A mother in a hospital is not forced into interventions she is not comfortable with, but chooses (of her own free will!) to have pain relief- and she has a beautiful birth. A mother in crisis knows that she needs a c-section for her child’s life and makes that choice not out of fear but out of love for her unborn infant- and she has no regrets.

When birthing decisions are made in love and respect and not out of propaganda and fear, the birth experience is glorious and beautiful.

So lets try to avoid propaganda words, shall we?


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