Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who "delivered" your baby?

Am I the only one who is annoyed when people talk about OBs (or less commonly, midwives) "delivering" babies? I mean, don't get me wrong, I realize that OBs and midwives have important jobs in being guardians of safety and will sometimes necessarily intervene with tools, techniques, or even surgery for the betterment of mom and/or baby. I'm not denying that or minimizing that. Here's the thing: the birth belongs to the mother. Besides that, the mother (usually) did all the work in getting the baby out. The bulk of the time, nurses or OBs will periodically check in on a laboring mother, but it's not uncommon for an OB to show up literally in time to put on gloves, catch the baby, and sometimes stitch the mother back up if a tear (or worse: episiotomy) has occurred. The OB and nurses were not there for continuous labor support (most of the time).

Who really delivered that baby? And what definition of "deliver" are we using? I pulled out my trusty Webster's Dictionary, 10th edition, and it had 6 definitions of "deliver," each with several sub-entries.


1: to set free < and lead us not into temptation, but ~ us from evil -- Mt 6:13 (AV) >

2 a: to take and hand over to or leave for another: convey <~a package>
b: hand over, surrender <~ed the prisoners to the sheriff>

3 a (1): to assist in giving birth
(2): to aid in the birth of
b: to give birth to
c: to cause (oneself) to produce as if by giving birth < has ~ed himself of half an autobiography --H. C. Schonberg>

4: speak, sing, utter <~ed their lines with style>

5: to send (something aimed or guided) to an intended target or destination < ability to ~ nuclear warheads >

6 a: to bring (as votes) to the support of a candidate or cause
b: to come through with: produce < can ~ the goods >

I remember reading in a book (Readers: help me? Where did I read this? A Henci Goer book?) an interview with an OB who openly admitted that the only time when he felt that he actually DELIVERED babies was when he performed cesareans. That was worrisome to me. It smacks of ego. Are there power situations at play if highly trained surgeons want to feel as though they are *doing* something "productive" at a birth (whether or not the interventions were medically necessary)?

It seems that, in America, the term "deliver the baby" is used with definitions 1: and 2: above, when I'd like to see the term used more the way it is in definition 3:. Even within definition 3:, I'm not sure I can agree with "aiding" or "assisting" with a birth as being the same as "delivering." I was a doula at my sister-in-law's birth last month. I think that she would say that I "assisted" and supported her birth even though I performed no medical services and did not catch the baby. Could I take credit for "delivering" her baby? Absolutely not! The mother *delivered* her baby.

We had an accidental unattended home waterbirth with our 4th baby. Let me clarify: we were planning a home waterbirth (our third), but we were planning on the midwives getting there in time. My husband caught the baby. It irks me when people ask incredulously, "So your husband delivered your baby???" Well, no. He caught her. It wasn't hard. I did all the work!

What do you think, readers? Does this have to do with the difference between being an active participant vs. a passive participant in our births? Who "delivered" your baby? Who SHOULD claim credit for "delivering" babies? What about cesarean births vs. vaginal births? Should there be a difference in who claims credit for the delivery? Are you bothered by others taking ownership of or credit for your work, or is it just an insignificant matter of semantics? What does "deliver" mean to you? "To give birth," "to catch the baby," "to set free," or "to take and hand over to or leave for another"?


  1. One of my pet peeves as well. And even though I had a section, I don't think anyone "delivered" my baby. I totally enjoyed my pregnancy and didn't need to be "delivered" of it.

  2. Well, Amber, even if we're a party of 2, we're not alone! Good to know!

  3. I also dislike the term deliver, and always use birth instead. Catching a baby is not a big deal at all. I like what you told me Sarah, that a trained monkey could do it! While we wouldn't trust our newborns with monkeys, the mother and anyone else nearby can catch a baby. I've thought about planning to catch any more we may have myself as it got a little tiring that my husband told all his buddies and everyone else that he delivered our last baby. Actually he caught the last 2, but there was no other attendant present for the last. It was actually very intimate and special for our last to be birthed into daddy's hands with only a big brother watching, but he really enjoyed the admiration from his buddies like he really did something spectacular. He was calling himself Dr. I said what about me, and he replied that he did need a patient. :) He's always does crack me up.


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