Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will forever hurt me…

Author: Bethany Meakin ~ What is said to a labouring woman and how it’s said, can not be unheard, or taken away.
May 27, 2023
Your body feels and processes every word that is spoken.
The tone and volume of each word is as powerful as the word itself

A labouring woman has the potential to repeat negativity to herself over and over and over again, even if a thousand wonderful encouraging words, phrases and affirmations have been said to her. She will remember that one negative comment.

This is called ‘Negative Bias’

"So why are you here?"

I was supporting a couple to birth after a Cesarean this week with my doula hat firmly on;

The connected couple had laboured at home for as long as possible; the decision was being made to head into hospital to provide an additional layer of emotional safety.

well-educated, well prepared couplebirthing within a continuity of care model.

They were told that no one from their known team would be on shift until early morning – this threw a spanner in the works, but the couple accepted this as part of the process and continued to labour at home, they decided it was time to go to hospital knowing that they would be met by unfamiliar faces for some time… they were prepared for this birth challenge.

After navigating triage and assessment they were met by a gentle softly spoken midwife nearing the end of her shift, she used encouraging words, and clear communication to run through the hospital policy with TOLAC.
The birthing woman understood the options, declined the immediate routine assessments, opting to settle into her new environment (the birth suite bathroom). Space and privacy were granted, the declining of assessments was noted, the exchange felt respectful and honouring of the woman’s informed decisions.

Everything felt good.

A few moments later a Doctor appeared, (an unfamiliar person, in scrubs, with a mask) and proceeded to question the couple about declining the routine procedures, her exact words, after re explaining the hospital policy for TOLAC were:

“So why are you here, why have you come to hospital?”

The Tone; incredibly condescending and jarring.
The Words; layered with judgement, coercion and disrespect.

This combination resulted in the labouring woman scrambling to explain herself, to justify her need to be in hospital to seek validation for her experience. It was bloody obvious that she was in ‘good labour’ she was labouring hard. She was struggling to find relief in her body, to find a space in the bathroom to cope with labour.

The Doctor immediately realised that her words had fallen out of her mouth poorly, she tried to rein them back in but it was too late.

We need to remember that our words have power, they can be encouraging and supportive, but poorly placed sentence or word can derail a woman. “The human brain has a natural tendency to give weight to (and remember) negative experiences or interactions more than positive ones. Psychologists refer to this as negative bias”
This is why in the sea of positivity this woman brought up the negative comment as soon as she began to reflect upon her experience.

Overall the birth was incredible, powerful ‘successful’ and on her terms! The family are now blissfully deep into adjusting to life as a family of 4

Negative Bias

‘She will remember that one negative comment’

A labouring woman has the potential to repeat this negativity to herself over and over and over again, even if a thousand wonderful encouraging words, phrases and affirmations have been said to her…
The negativity will also conger up emotions that will sit in her body as a memory, this memory will remain for many many years. When listening to a woman debriefing her birth experience(s) she will often recall the way she was made to feel and the specific words that someone said to her especially when these words were unkind.

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