Tuesday, 25 April 2017

What is a 'normal' birth?

Yesterday I was attending a clinic at my local hospital and during the course of the morning I was asked about the birth of my child. The doctor asked me if I had a 'normal' birth or a section. I answered and more questions followed about my health.

It was only when I was on the bus coming home that I realised what she had said. My son's birth was 'normal' rather than a section which implied that any birth that was not vaginal was abnormal. I didn't think about this sooner because I was a little nervous about the procedure I was about to have. But later it struck me how inappropriate a word 'normal was in these circumstances. I imagined myself in the position of a woman who had delivered her child by section and how upsetting it would be to have that child's birth referred to, however obliquely as 'abnormal' or 'not normal'. I'm not trying to paint a negative picture of the doctor, she was kind, gentle and caring, nor of the nursing staff who were there, also kind and caring. I'm just shocked how a casual phrase, said without malice or judgement, could have a negative effect on any woman.

I know we all have our own tale to tell about our children's birth, that some of us had overwhelmingly positive experiences and some had not such good experiences. I have heard and read stories which have been so sad and upsetting that they have reduced me to tears. And yet we all gave birth to the babies we love, who grow into the people we love. Nobody should be made to feel that their experience of birth was less than 'normal'.

I have been lucky enough to 'meet' on the Internet some wonderful, powerful advocates for celebrating women's experience of birth and child rearing. I think particularly of Elena at http://www.frivolousmama.com/ and Teika at https://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/ . These women are such strong voices for mothers everywhere that I brought them to mind when I realised what had been said and the implications of those words. So I would like to say sorry to all mothers, whatever their birth experiences, for not challenging what the doctor said. I am sorry that I let something so casual yet so potentially hurtful pass by without comment. I will email the hospital and point out what was said and how I feel it was inappropriate. With luck they will address the issue and no other woman will have to decide whether her birth story was 'normal' or not. Because all that matters is that we have a positive birth experience, whatever type of delivery it was. 

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