Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Words Might Break Your Birth

We've all heard the little singsong quip:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!"

When it comes to pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Something about these bonding, vulnerable times can take careless, rude or even harassing remarks and turn them into sharp weapons that slice deep. A wise mama will pay careful attention to the words she has received over her lifetime and the words she received during these special times.

Today, I heard from two separate people about two separate pregnant mamas, and both times made my blood boil with anger. The situations are "opposite" in terms of beliefs and birth choices and yet that doesn't matter when it comes to a mama and her birth!

The first one involved a mama friend of mine who is choosing a non-emergent and perhaps unnecessary c-section, but it is a repeat c-section after 3 others and none of my business, nor does it call for my judgment, if for no other reason than lack of specific information. At any rate, it seems to me that 3 c-sections including a crash is far different from a scheduled c-section during a randomly healthy, first time pregnancy.

Well, our mutual friend disagrees, and allegedly spent some time and effort browbeating this pregnant mama about how bad the MRSA rates were around here, how scary it will be, how she is Catholic and more c-sections mean limited pregnancies, etc etc. This conversation wasn't informational, it was strong arming. I was so angry I could barely speak.

THEN. THEN. Another woman starts talking to me about a mutual friend, a first time pregnant mama who is overweight. Telling me she said to this very pregnant mama, "You are eating so much junk food, you are going to get sick, and make the baby sick, and you will never be able to push your baby out!" Again, couched behind so-called helpfulness. I sat there, speechless, my heart pounding at the satisfaction in this woman's voice. I thought about that mama, wondering if she was crying, wondering if she was looking at her food and cursing the feeling of hunger, cursing her body, cursing her pregnancy.

The conversation triggered me, transported me back to one of the first mamas I ever helped. She had a block when it came to breastfeeding. Lots of reasons popped up, but the energy I was feeling didn't make sense to me. Finally, I was able to connect with her, and she was able to connect within herself, and while sobbing we got to the crux of the matter. Turns out when she was starting to go through puberty, she had an abusive father who I effing kid you not, pointed at her newly developing breast buds and told her "They are pointed inwards. You are defective and will never breastfeed."

A moment in time, carried deep inside her heart, stopping her even as an adult.

Careless words, slicing deeply. LEAVE THE MAMAS ALONE! You don't EVER, EVER EVER. EVERRRRRRR beat down a pregnant woman. EVER. Them's big fighting words on my turf. I don't care if you have statistics on your side. Or experience. Or education. You don't EVER put down a mama when she is preparing for birth (or laboring). You have a brain, use it. You can find a hundred and one other ways to positively share information, or to empower and inspire a mama on her journey. If you're not lifting her up, then shut the hell up.

If you are on your parenting journey and someone ever pings you with damaging words, don't haphazardly wave them away or let them roll off your back. Look at those words directly. Find some way to tangibly wash them away. Address them quietly from within, or even by talking about them aloud. Or they will simmer in your brain!

Even if you think the other person is rude, or wrong, or not worth a thought from you, something about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding makes those words echo over and over again, like energy that can't escape. Get rid of those words. Consider this practice a top emotional priority for your parenting journey!

How is this done? What can you do?

Here is one example. My children were all large babies and I was pretty small, so the look was probably a little more obvious than even regular pregnancies with regular bellies. When people would remark to me, "Wow, you're huge!" or "Your baby is going to be a pain to get out!" or even worse things such as, "I can't believe you'd try to birth at home, look at the size of your belly!" and "You're never going to walk again after giving birth!" and a million other related rude things, I would gently press on my baby and think inside:

You are the size you need to be, Baby. 
You are the right size for me. 
I love your size and your growth. 
You are happy, healthy and growing well because you are nourished. 
We will do this just fine.

To those mamas above, who were beaten down with words, what affirmations might heal and empower?

We are doing what is right for our journey.
This is the way I choose to birth.
My body is communicating clearly what kind of birth it needs.
You are being born the way you need to be, Baby.

My body can deliver nutrients to you, Baby.
Pregnancy and birth is not about a number on the scale.
I love how you clearly ask for what foods you need.
My vagina works whether fat or skinny or anything in between.

Again, I cannot stress how important it is to take this process seriously. (And really, affirmations are powerful for everyone, not just during mothering experiences). If you feel silly or awkward, find a private time to do it. Start small. Don't develop anxiety thinking of sweet or poetic things to say. You can be brief and blunt. Just DO IT.

What are your affirmations? Write them down, post them on the bathroom mirror, sing them in a song...whatever you do, weave a rich orchestra of powerful, positive, empowering words for you and your baby.
© 2012 Guggie Daly


  1. So well stated.....perhaps an imperative LIFE.LESSON for (hopefully) ALL parents to teach their children!!!
    It really does *sting* when some body makes senseless remarks....Aha..yet anothwr use for Duct Tape.
    Living in the United States.Land of the Free...does not constitute Saying Anything you tactlessly think of!!!
    As Guggie said, YOU HAVE A BRAIN...USE IT!!!