Sunday, September 5, 2010

Women Give Birth, Pizzas are Delivered

La bella luz, originally uploaded by Danielle Lupin.

When Busca, Heather, and I met with Lynn Callister in July we had a discussion about birth language. Lynn is on the review board of several nursing journals and said that she is known for getting after writers about birth language. "Women give birth, pizzas are delivered" has become almost a mantra for her.

Of course, birth language is one of the first things hypnosis for childbirth methods change. Like the word, contraction--in reality, the body is not contracting but opening and massaging your baby down. It is amazing what just changing language can do for a mom. The new language bypasses the critical filter of the mind and the limited beliefs/knowns about birth and allows for a whole new range of experience.

In my study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I am learning about all the ways that language can reveal a person's internal structure of the world, and how, just by changing language, we can expand that structure.

One of the big problems with medical language is all the nominalizations. Linguistically, nominalization is the changing of a verb which is active in time into a noun which is static and unchanging. Words like friendship or strategy or relationship. The problem with these words is that they imply no active participation by other elements. If I ask you, "How is your relationship?" you are able to answer without accountability: "the relationship is suffering." However, change the word back into the verb form--"How are you relating?"--and see how your answer changes.

Abstract nouns cause distortion and make it seem like we have few choices. I read an interesting article by Dr. Wallace Ellerbroek, titled, "Language, Emotion and Disease" in which Dr. Ellerbroek who is both a surgeon and a psychiatrist, attempted to denominalize his own medical terminology. He states:

"I called all diseases "behaviors," in other words, things that people do...When i found a patient with elevated blood pressure...I said to myself not "He has hypertension" but "He is hypertensioning."

He found that transforming this abstract noun that represented a set of medical conditions back into a process, altered his behavior toward his patients and also changed his patients' responses to treatment in a dramatic and positive way.

So how do we help ourselves, and possibly our care providers, learn to use different language? The answer is first to identify these abstract nouns. I like the wheelbarrow test: Can I put it in a wheelbarrow? I can put my cervix in a wheelbarrow, but I can't put incompetence into it--or pain. If you can't put it into a wheelbarrow, it's probably a nominalization. You can begin to denominalize our own speech and that of our care providers just by asking questions. Who , what, when, where, why, and how, until you reconnect the abstract back into a process.

What does this have to do with spirituality and birth?

In English, the language of birth has been largely rid of spiritual underpinnings. I believe that when you change language, you can change the way people think about things, and therefore, how they will behave. If you don't believe me you can read dozens of studies on this. I read a really interesting one which I can't find now about Native Americans who don't have a word for certain colors and so they don't see that range of colors as different from those similar. On the other hand, Eskimos have 70 words for different types of snow, which allow them to perceive an amazingly wide rage of different characteristics of snow that the rest of us could not notice. In the first example, language inhibited experience, and in the second it enhanced it.

It is my desire, and I would love to invite everyone to add the divine back into birth language. It is my belief that in so doing, we will not only enhance our experiences and our options, but also bridge some of the gap between opposing birth camps, and dramatically change the process of birth.

1 comment:

  1. I like your example of "can you put it in a wheelbarrow?" That helped solidify the idea for me!



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