One of my followers alerted me to a tweet by India Knight this weekend referring to this Times piece.
The first thing I saw was India’s tweet saying “… it doesn’t matter how your baby comes out as long as you’re both ok”. I was still on my holiday so decided to read no further, because I knew I’d get wound up and distracted from precious time with my family.
I haven’t yet met a woman who truly didn’t give a shit about her birth experience. All women want their baby to be born safely and that’s their overriding priority, but if women really weren’t bothered about how they felt emotionally about the experience this topic in the headlines wouldn’t have even arisen. So, when someone as high profile and highly regarded as India Knight publicly spouts this kind of bollocks, I get quite riled. To me, it sounds like she’s saying to women “Shut up and get on with it, you’re feelings don’t matter”. They do matter, very much.
This is a woman who’s had (I think) three babies. If she hadn’t had any I’d think “Ok, she’s speaking from a place of ignorance” but she’s actually just not thinking, not giving this issue the consideration required given her position.
Anyway, that aside … back to that misleading piece in the Times implying that the whole commitment to supporting women to birth physiologically wherever possible is to be abandoned by the RCM… it’s not. There’s just a change in language being implemented.
I’m hoping that the whole incongruity of a piece, about the importance of language, being so fallacious hasn’t escaped you! Really harmful click bate here because those headlines are what many will run with, without reading the full article so those attention grabbing headlines aren’t harmless by any means.
The piece describes the word ‘normal’ in relation to birth as being a ‘loaded’ one. How? If we’re talking about healthy women and babies then this word is the definition of what would be expected – a physiological birth. However, I tend to use and prefer the word ‘straightforward’ because the opposite of ‘normal’ would be ‘abnormal’ and I get how that has unpleasant connotations.
The argument seems to be that some will read ‘normal birth campaign’ as ‘we need to have more normal births at all costs’. Now, what I’m wondering is, if we are genuinely dealing with hoards of absolute fuckwit healthcare professionals who have interpreted the RCM’s Normal Birth Campaign in this way, then how will changing the word to ‘physiological’ change that? (To be absolutely clear, I categorically DON’T believe that’s what we’re dealing with! It makes a good headline though, granted). It won’t.
I’m also extremely affronted by the term used in the piece: ‘the CULT of normal’ a quick scan of the dictionary defines ‘cult’ as a practice regarded as ‘strange or as imposing excessive control …’ again, another suggestive use of language, inappropriately.
I do see the point that the word ‘Campaign’ may be loaded, as in ‘Normal Birth Campaign’ and so I think I quite like the new term ‘Better Births Initiative’. Here’s why – what’s going to make ANY birth better? … here’s what – being informed, respect, being part of decision making, continuity of care, environment, parents feeling confident, calm, peaceful births HOWEVER they happen. The trouble is that this isn’t always well supported in an NHS system. So, it’s down TO YOU to get all this in place, and that work is done IN ADVANCE of the day you go into labour!
These ‘Better Births’ might be with or without medical pain relief such as epidurals, of course and let’s be clear – the Normal Birth Campaign has never been opposed to these, BUT, there’s been confusion over it where ‘normal’ has been misconstrued as ‘without pain relief’ by many. I suspect the term ‘better’ will suffer exactly the same misinterpretation.
So, my overriding feeling on this change in terminology is just ‘Meh, … Whatever’. HERE’S what’s important …. For God’s sake take some responsibility! No one cares about you, your baby and your partner as much as YOU do – get clued-up! So that you’re ABLE to ask questions and have respectful discussions in an INFORMED way. Have an UNDERSTANDING of what helps labour progress and what doesn’t. Build your toolbox (BOTH of you) of self-help skills to use, knowing that you ALSO have the option of ALL the medical pain relief options if you want them!
Above all know this – where we are now, geographically and in time, BIRTH IS SAFE. We have interventions available IF WE NEED THEM and that’s great, yes? We don’t ALWAYS need them though, so it makes sense to start our education and understanding from the point of normal/straightforward/physiological until indicated otherwise.