Why One Mom & Her Doula Are Calling C-Sections 'Belly Births'

The pair want to empower moms who gave birth to their L.O.s by C-section and squash social stigma around the delivery method.

c-section delivery
Photo: Shutterstock

No matter how much you plan for the birth of your L.O., it can be nearly impossible to know it'll actually play out. Jordan Grissom, a mom from Long Beach, California, didn't foresee needing a C-section, but when she was a week overdue, she was induced. Having progressed to 9.5 centimeters, her midwife discovered that the baby was breech, and discussion turned to having an emergency C-section.

"I remember being so scared," Grissom told Babble. In fact, her nerves kicked up so much that after an ultrasound determined the baby was not breech after all, Grissom's midwife concluded that she had returned to just 6 centimeters dilated. The birth team suspected that fear around a C-section had actually lead to the regression, and given the circumstances, the team decided on moving forward with the C-section.

Thankfully, Grissom ended up delivering a healthy baby girl by emergency C-section. Her daughter, Amelia Ray, is now 15 months old, and when Grissom tells the story of how she welcomed her into the world, she calls the process not "C-section" but "belly birth." Grissom says the term is helping reframe C-sections in a way that empowers women who may feel like they missed out on the physical experience of giving birth.

“To me, the term ‘belly birth’ is exactly what a C-section is,” explains Grissom. “You’re birthing your child through your belly. There are many women who feel as though they’ve failed by having a C-section, and that’s just not the case. Using the term “belly birth” pushes the point that we, too, have given birth. It’s just more inclusive.”

She tells PopSugar that the term also "sounds less procedural," which "pushes the point that we too have given birth."

And Grissom isn't the only mom passionate about changing the language and negative feelings that may swirl around giving birth by C-section. Her friend and doula Flor Cruz, a mom of four and childbirth educator from Long Beach, California told Babble that she uses the term “belly birth” regularly with her clients, too.

“I find it serves as a bit of healing for families who had a belly birth,” she explains. “It connects them on a deeper level to the birth. ... Changing the outlook on belly births starts with how we speak about them. The term ‘cesarean’ or ‘C-section’ is what we say to describe a major abdominal surgery; [it] doesn’t respectfully pay homage to everything a family endured to get their baby here safely. ‘Belly birth’ connects the mother more to the baby instead of the connecting her to the surgery aspect. It reminds the mother and others that a birth happened, not just a surgery. It humanizes the mode of delivery and puts the family right back into the driver’s seat."

The term may also strip away social stigma, according to Cruz who told Babble, "We have a bad view in society that giving birth via belly birth isn’t really giving birth. I’ve heard some people call it ‘cheating.’"

No doubt hearing messages like that can cause many moms who delivered babies by C-section to grapple with feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. Thankfully, replacing the term "cesarean" or "C-section" with "belly birth" seems to have a truly healing effect, in Cruz' experience. She shared, "I’ve seen it take a woman from saying ‘cesarean’ or ‘C-section’ in a sad tone to saying, ‘I had a belly birth’ in a tone filled with love, pride and conviction. It’s helped women come to the realization that they did indeed give birth. Belly birth IS birth." Cheers to that.

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