Maternity care is changing, especially with the move to fund midwifery under Alberta Health Care. Women have been birthing babies since time began, and looking back in history, one can see that there have always been women there to support other women through childbirth. By the end of the 19th century, however, midwives in the United States and Canada were under threat from the very organizations they supported and shared their knowledge with. As the number of physicians grew, they began to set health care policies and protocols, laying down rules about who could practice.
The midwives found themselves in court for practicing without medical qualifications and some were accused of witchcraft. Midwives went under the radar and in some areas their skills and services disappeared completely. Childbirth became very medical as every woman came under the care of a physician or obstetrician, regardless of need. Midwives in Europe did not suffer the same problems and their relationships with physicians generally continued well. Today the majority of women in Europe will be cared for by a midwife throughout pregnancy and labour, and will never see a physician or obstetrician unless there is a medical complication that requires it.
Midwife is the early English word for ‘with woman’ and that is what midwives do. They are there to support a woman through pregnancy, childbirth and the early days as a parent. They believe childbirth is a natural process and they believe in a woman’s ability to birth her child. So with this positive change funding midwifery care, childbirth is slowly being handed back to women. But change is very often slow and it will take time for the numbers of midwives to increase to meet the needs of the women wanting their care. Yet, there is something small and simple that each and every one of us can do to empower women.
We can remember that pizza and packages are delivered, babies are born and women give birth. We all, each and every one of us, has a birthday. We do not celebrate our delivery day. So why do we continue to detract from that special process that only the female of our species can do, by saying babies are delivered?
Small Effort, Big Change
Changing one small word can positively influence how women and health care providers see a woman’s ability to take ownership of, and participate in, the birth of her baby. If women continually hear ‘delivery’ they may well start to lose faith in their innate ability to birth their baby. Karl Albrecht, German entrepreneur, said “Change your language, change your thoughts.” Childbirth is not an illness; women do not need to be delivered of their child. Women need to be supported, encouraged, to know that they are strong, to know that they can make decisions about the birth of their baby, and to know that they will be giving birth to their child.
Let us recognize that women do something very special, very natural and very beautiful when they bring a new person into this world. Let us celebrate that fact by talking about birth, not delivery. And let us not forget those babies that are born by caesarean or with help of some other form of medical intervention. Yes, they may have had a little help, but they were born too. The woman was still involved. Being born is the way a baby makes his or her way into this world, however it occurs. Babies are born because women give birth!
Originally published in Birthing Magazine, Autumn 2009, page 33.