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….


  1. Molly wrote:

    Love it! It is very apt. I have written a couple of blog posts myself about about the inadequacy of language for pain–how weird that we only have one word, used to describe anything from having a splinter or stubbing your toe to giving birth or to getting run over by a train…

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  2. Amy Drorbaugh wrote:

    Amen! Good Luck new Mommy!

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  3. Kolleen wrote:

    Comparing my 3 hospital birhts to my 1 at home birth I would say my home birth was not only a better experience it was a much less *painful* experience. I was younger and at least theoretically healthier for the first 3 but the home birth was easier and far more natural…my body did all the work. I was so worried about not having an epidural…now I’m beginning to think the epidural made the 1st 3 longer births!! And *pain* is definately not the right word…I like your term MUCH BETTER Stephanie!!

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  4. Noelia Waldo wrote:

    Vita Mutari!! I can’t think of any other word that better describes birth!

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Janet Field wrote:

    This is STUNNING! So glad Noelia shared it with our Hypnobabies Instructor group. You have a beautiful writing style and a perfect message. As a woman who is about to become a first-time grandmother, I so appreciate the sentiments you express and will share them with my family – everyone who will listen 🙂 How do I share your blog via Facebook and Twitter??

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Dawn Dalili wrote:

    I expected birth to require every bit of my strength and courage. It did. It also required softness: a letting go of expectation and a willingness to be. That, for me, was the transformation.

    I have found motherhood requires the same strength, courage, and softness.

    Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  7. What a beautiful way to describe birth! Thinking back to my own birth experiences, I think this term is very appropriate. Both of them indeed transformed my life and helped me grow in so many ways. Thank you for offering a new, beautiful way to describe how birth feels and is experienced.

    Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  8. Kathy wrote:

    Love it!

    Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  9. Rebekah C wrote:

    I think I love this post. Beautifully put and well described. The pictures at the end bring back happy and fulfilling memories. Vita Mutari is now part of my vocabulary!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  10. Danielle Daniel wrote:

    Great Blog! Very well thought out. Rob and I laughed after the physical therapist story. Thank you for sharing your pictures too! U look just beautiful!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink
  11. Jodi wrote:

    Wonderfully put! I always have people asking me if it hurt…and not knowing exactly how to respond to that.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  12. Wonderful post! Difficult to explain a state of mind and how language can re-frames things.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  13. Cherise Sant wrote:

    I am SO glad you wrote this post! A beautiful way to put into words what is SO needing to be expressed. You are creating communication and understanding with the power of your words. VITA MUTARI.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 1:01 am | Permalink
  14. Tangie wrote:


    Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  15. This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! I came here through a link in a comment to a recent blog post I wrote asking the question… Why do we use the word Labor and what can we use instead. A reader suggested I read this. Vita Mutari!! OMG!! I so agree I so agree!!

    Friday, September 10, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink
  16. Kathy in SD wrote:

    Thank you!!! I tried to find words to describe the intense, all-encompassing sensations that I had during the labor & delivery of my second child. No one believes me when I tell them that there was no pain. Intense? Yes. Powerful? Extremely? Painful? No!!
    Thanks for finally giving it words.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  17. Rachel R. wrote:

    This made me laugh in recollection. After two beautiful home births, I had some contractions around 30 weeks this time ’round that felt like more than Braxton-Hicks contractions, so we went to the hospital to get checked out (to see if the contractions were *doing* anything, or if they were just “there”). While there, the contractions kicked into high gear – feeling just like when I was in full-fledged labor with my second daughter. I remember the doctor asking me, on their pain scale of 1-10, how painful the contractions were, and looking at me like I had three heads when I said “2”! lol There is just such a difference between “intense” and “painful.”

    Honestly, the worst part of that whole situation was that it felt so *wrong* to be fighting against those contractions instead of working *with* them. (We’re at 39+ weeks now, though, and ready to work with the contractions this time so we can have a baby “for real.” 🙂 )

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  18. Andrea Sz. wrote:

    It is so true. I like these words. I was terrified of pain before I had my twins, because everyone talked about pain. But when the time came I was relaxed and accepting. As labor progressed I didn’t feel “pain” but it was intense. Now when I describe pain when for example I dropped a huge rock on my finger or cut my hand, I would say having babies is nothing compared to these. I.e. having babies does not hurt. Birth is not injury, it is a normal part of life. Injuring a body part does hurt. There is a big difference and language should reflect that.

    Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  19. dnc wrote:

    I love this. I’m 35 weeks pregnant and this is just the motivation I needed. I’m linking this to my blog immediately! thanks so much for posting.

    Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  20. Brittany wrote:

    I have had 3 Babies, One at home, and am planning my 4th to be an Unassisted Home birth. I’m 37 weeks! All 3 times, especially during transition/crowning, the PAIN was so Intense, so Severe, I always wondered if I was going to die. Looking back now, I realize that I allowed myself to succumb to fear and doubt. Now I know though, If you know and believe that the intensity of labor is accomplishing a specific job, and trust it instead of fight, or worse, Fear it, then it’s not a pain, but truly the most intense Vita Mutari ever experienced! And it’s amazing.

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 1:20 am | Permalink

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. NHBS › CERVICAL EXAMS: WHO NEEDS THEM? on Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    […] tells us what it has done! You might get to 4cm with absolutely no extra pressure and feeling no vita mutari (if you don’t know what that means, please see my blog post titled “vita mutari”) – and […]

  2. Vita Mutari « Woman to Woman Childbirth Education on Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

    […] by Kathy Thanks to Diana, I have come across a new blog that I am sure I will love. In this post, Vita Mutari, which translated from Latin means “life transformation,” she discusses the difficulty […]

  3. What is Vita Mutari? « Enjoy Birth Blog on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    […] first post I read by her was titled Vita Mutari which means life transformation and it is what she wants to call pressure waves now.  Because who […]

  4. NHBS › Birth of Baby J! on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    […] happy away as they got more intense.  She labored with her doula for hours, surrendering to the Vita Mutari and enjoying the freedom that the birth pool she had set up in her bathroom gave her as she floated […]

  5. Cervical Exams: Who Needs Them? | on Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    […] tells us what it has done! You might get to 4cm with absolutely no extra pressure and feeling no vita mutari (if you don’t know what that means, please see my blog post titled “vita mutari”) – and […]

  6. Should you have a cervical exam? « misskalypso on Monday, March 14, 2011 at 1:18 am

    […] tells us what it has done! You might get to 4cm with absolutely no extra pressure and feeling no vita mutari (if you don’t know what that means, please see my blog post titled “vita mutari”) – and […]

  7. Stretchmarks. | a rambling journey through on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    […] as it was prepregnancy. I care that I’m going through a life transformation–a “Vita Mutari” and my transition phase feels wayyyyy too short. Even though I am in favor of walking […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *