By Sian Hannagan

Our Editorial.
Mar 2016

As Autumn folds away summer and we move into longer nights, we take this magazine issue to reflect on more challenging aspects of birth, including loss and trauma. There are some heavy going articles in this issue and you may want to prepare yourself before diving into some of the more difficult pieces. Go in prepared to hear the challenging stories that are so often stifled in birth culture or used to scare and manipulate birthing women. We felt it was important include these topics because the voices of women who experience birth trauma and birth loss are so often hijacked or disregarded. We want to acknowledge this and give space for these narratives to be told in their own way.

For true choice, it is vital that women have agency through all birth experiences, including the hard ones. We recognise that hearing these stories facilitates healing for many women and allows them to meet these difficult spaces on their own terms.

While we talk about agency and empowerment, I want to raise an issue that has been bugging me for some time. Through our birth experiences, the language we use matters. This is exemplified by how the medical terms used in gynaecology and obstetrics are often negative in nature, and this language carries through to our birth culture. Many birth preparation classes take time to re-identify this language into more positive and affirming terms, and this matters on a number of levels. Words have the power to colour our perspectives and our reactions.

So, in that vein – when it comes to birth and what women do in birth, we have to stop using the word ‘trend’. Trend is a minimising word, a word that compares important parenting decisions to the latest hot colours in fashion or the latest skirt length. That is to say, that when people tell women they are taking part in ‘the latest birth trend’ that they are doing something that has little value. It implies shallowness and vanity. However, when it comes to birth, we need to recognise that all decisions women make, no matter how minor they feel to others, have value. They have worth. Birth ‘preferences’ are not a choice between caramel and chocolate – they are key elements of an individual woman’s birth, and they have great impact on how those women experience birth.

The experiences we have and the decisions we make in birth are vitally important. I argue that the way in which we experience birth is one of the key experiences in life that will profoundly impact the birthing woman and the baby she births. Why then do we intentionally use language which robs our self-determination and undermines our agency? It needs to stop, and we need to stop accepting it.

And this concept goes deep. When we examine what is viewed as a ‘trend’ we see that universally it is a term applied to parents, and women in particular when we undertake parenting which sits outside of fairly tightly prescribed boundaries. Seen most often when we move away from accepting external guidelines or stepping outside of the commercial parenting model. In birth we see women and their voices are consistently marginalised. Birth plans are mocked or ignored, we are told to manage our expectations and comply with hospital or DHB policy. This is done through the narrative of the demanding, entitled woman, who cannot be trusted to make reasonable, informed decisions for her and her baby.

Sian Hannagan our Acting Editor

Home Birth Matters

Volume 2 Issue 2

Published continuously since 2013

ISSN 2422-9946

Editor: Sian Hannagan

Advertising and Editorial enquiries: