This weekend I caught my first baby!
I’d attended a number of births before this one, first as a doula and now as a student midwife, but this was the first one where I had my hands poised ready and caught the baby as they were born.
I “caught” the baby. I didn’t “deliver” it – if anyone delivered this baby, it was the mother. It’s a simple linguistic switch that I see other (often radical) midwives doing and it’s something I try and keep in my mind. The language we use shapes the world as we experience it. and I want my midwifery practice (and the wider world I practice in) to centre the people giving birth. They are the ones doing the work of birthing the baby. In my mind, to centre the midwife and say that they deliver the baby risks disempowering the person actually giving birth.
(I went to a talk last week by hypnobirth educator Katharine Graves, and she pointed out how the first time many of us hear the word “deliver” is in the Lord’s Prayer which asks that we be delivered from evil. And then after that it’s mostly a word we hear used for parcels! It’s a phrasing left over from a world where doctors were in charge of birth as a medical process, and they *did* deliver the babies. And that’s not something I want to replicate!)
Not everyone agrees with this talk of “catching” babies. I was discussing my choice of language with my mother, and saying how I talk about midwives catching babies rather than delivering them. And she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she felt the midwife delivered all three of her babies and she did not find that language to be disempowering at all. And I am *glad* – I wouldn’t want her to feel disempowered at the time of my birth, or at any time! I’m not about to start arguing with her that it was in fact her delivering the baby, because the whole point is to empower the people giving birth – something which seems to have happened here despite her narrative having the traditional language of midwives delivering babies.
But in future wouldn’t it be better not to take that risk with the words we use? Not to hope that the people giving birth will feel empowered and centred in the process despite us telling them that we are the ones delivering their babies, the ones doing the work?