Beautiful words, aren’t they? I have always found Latin to be quite beautiful – but I’m going to officially adopt these words and pray that some day they become at LEAST as mainstream as the Greek term “Doula”.
Language is so very powerful and it’s often taken for granted. George Orwell knew this to be true…in fact, it was one of the MAIN points of his very famous novel “1984”. Language is not something that we just use to communicate casual thoughts to each other, it has the unique ability to gain power and strength even when it appears to be subtle – that’s the insidious nature of language, and what makes it so dangerous.
What in the WORLD does this have anything to do with midwifery?? TONS! Need examples of language being subtle but dangerous? Log on to any pregnancy/due dates/childbirth chat online and you will liberally see examples. You have to look…listen…translate…but I promise that it’s there.
“Is your doctor going to let you go past your due date?” (translation: your doctor is in control over what you are allowed or not allowed to do)
“You are 38 weeks along? How far dilated are you?” (translation: have you found out if your body works? Does it work?)
“I was 5 centimeters, so the doctor had to break my water.” (translation: my body is broken and needed help – and not only was it not something that *I* had any control over, but even my DOCTOR had no control over it because he HAD to.)
As a midwife, my language is very VERY different than you might be used to hearing. I don’t have “Patients” because those who hire me aren’t ill…I have clients because I’m dealing with healthy people. I don’t make or let anyone do anything as they are the boss and responsible for their own choices, not me.
Which brings me to a very important question that I’ve actually been asked numerous times…”Is labor as painful as I’ve heard”. (Alternatives are: “How painful is labor?” “what does it feel like?” “How do you deal with the pain of labor?”) I always respond to this question with hesitation.
When I was in physical therapy after I injured my knee, my therapist learned that I’d had homebirths. He asked about the “pain” of labor and how I dealt with it at home. My answer, as it usually is, was, “It’s not PAIN as you think of it…my knee was pain. Birth is powerful, but it’s not the same as the pain you experience in life where something is wrong with you.”
His response was, “Then why do women scream?” Heh…you have to love television, right? So I told him that I rarely see women “scream” in labor….but that yes, some women are very vocal and make lots of noise. So he asked why they would make so much noise if they weren’t in pain.
So I told him, “Some women are very loud and make lots of noise during love making…you wouldn’t say they were in pain, right?” Interestingly, he stammered and walked away and the conversation was over.
So I was asked today again about the pain of childbirth…and again I expressed my frustration that what we feel in labor with our babies is “intense”, “incredibly huge”, etc…but that I don’t believe that there is a word in the English language to express what it feels like, as it’s totally unique to anything else you will ever feel in your life. It demands full attention of your body, your mind, your soul….it is one of the few experiences we have that transcends the physical and is all encompassing, taking everything you have and everything that you are….only to have you emerge on the other side transformed, changed permanently – you will never be the same. Sometimes you have a really difficult experience and you come out the other side feeling beaten down, feeling weak and dealing with the consequences of the negativity for the rest of your life. Other times you will emerge with an entirely new respect for yourself, your body, your strength…you will suddenly see yourself as the amazing person that you are!
Which (finally) brings me to these two words…my new favorite words. I think I will start using these words from now on when someone asks about what labor feels like or the pain of giving birth…. VITA MUTARI!! Labor feels like “mutari”….the contractions will grow and you will feel Vita Mutari …the vita mutari will grow in intensity….as the mutari increases, you may vocalize or call out…
VITA MUTARI – the literal translation from Latin to English is “Life Transformation”. That is the closest thing I could think of the feeling of labor/birth…what you are feeling isn’t pain, it’s life transformation. Is it dramatic? You bet! I think it should be!
So from now on, if I use the term Vita Mutari (or “the mutari”), I hope you understand what I mean. Language is powerful – birth is powerful – and I think that the language should be more accurate. I don’t believe “pain” is accurate…it’s not a powerful enough word to describe the feelings of birth.
Now I’m off to get myself ready to be called to the home of a client of mine who started feeling contractions last night and mutari this morning….