24 Jun ‘The most important thing now is a healthy baby’ and other birth world adages. Part 2.
‘The most important thing now is a healthy baby’ and any other variations that refer to the importance of the health, safety and wellbeing of baby are probably the most widely used phrases from the maternity world. Unfortunately there aren’t many parents that I support who don’t hear this at some point during their interaction with care providers. Sometimes it is not necessary to wait until birth to hear this as it can be heard a various stages of pregnancy too.
I always find it strange that this statement is delivered to so many folk at various stages of their parenting journey. Is it that care providers think that parents need reminding? Do they think parents occasionally forget how dearly loved, cherished and nurtured their babies are and that they need to be reminded of how important the health of their baby is?
Or is it the case that these words are so clearly, nose smackingly obvious that they have another subtler meaning and subtext?
And before I get started on that subtler meaning why in this day and age of technology and medical advancement do we have to choose?
Why can’t mums and babies health be of equal value?
As a birth doula I hear this phrase usually in a particular context and situation. It usually follows mums a request, plea or question about alternatives or options to a particular guideline or procedure.
For example a mum might say: ‘do I have to wear this restrictive monitoring?’
The care provider will say: ‘what’s most important now is a health of your baby’
So the subtext is ‘we need you to do as we say because the health of your baby is paramount here and your own personal wants are putting baby at risk’
This could also be heard as ‘please do as we say without question or regard for your own safety and comfort. Your needs are unimportant you are merely a vessel carrying precious cargo.’
This statement also introduces the idea of risk and danger to parents in the birth room. We know that fearing for one’s own life or the life of someone close to us is a determining factor for a traumatic birth experience.
From a mother’s perspective the meaning is twofold; firstly your baby could be at risk if you don’t do what we say, secondly your needs, and comfort are unimportant.
So not only are these words too often used to coerce but they also have the potential to frighten parents too.
What could the alternative sound like?
A conversation of collaboration and support:
Mum: ‘do I have to wear this restrictive monitoring?’
Care provider: ‘we would like to monitor your baby’s heart rate because of xxxx. This is what our guidelines suggest. Once we have 30 minutes of reading we can unhook you. Or we can find a mobile unit to monitor you for your comfort.’
As long as there is fear in the birthing room then too many people (parents and midwives alike) will experience labour as a frightening event. We owe it to each other to leave fear at the door and reflect this in the language that we use.
To learn more about what can contribute to a traumatic birth experience and how to avoid this go to www.traumaticbirthrecovery.com