8 Reasons Why I Never Call A Birth A "Delivery"
The first time I ever dropped an f-bomb on live radio, I was about six months along with my son and the host asked me if I was expecting a delivery from the stork.
"F*ck the stork," I replied, pregnant with righteous indignation, staring into his cis, male, uterus-less eyes with more than a little resentment. (Thank goodness for satellite radio, where you can pretty much say whatever you want.) "We do all this physical and emotional labor, making and giving new life, all for some lazy-ass birds to take credit?" I never call a birth a “delivery,” because all jokes aside, the suggestion that babies are delivered to biological parents seriously offends me, especially now that I’ve been pregnant twice and given birth once.
Typically when something is delivered, the person receiving the delivery is totally uninvolved in the production of that thing. The exact opposite is true in the case of birth. Birthing parents make new people from scratch. We soldier on through often grueling physical symptoms; endure the indignities of having another person live in your body; frequently survive the heartbreak of pregnancy loss; bear the anxiety that surrounds the uncertainty about the health of our future children, and, of course, weather the brutal and beautiful experience of labor and birth.
To be clear: not doing those things doesn’t make a non-biological parent less of a parent. But given those facts, it’s wholly inappropriate for the people attending a birth (be they doctors, nurses, midwives, or anyone else) to take credit for what is fundamentally the birthing parent’s work. Yet that’s exactly what happens when a doctor swoops in during the last hours of a pregnancy and claims s/he has “delivered” a baby.
On this site, I’ve occasionally written about labor and birth under an editor’s headline that includes the word “delivery,” and I confess that I cringed every single time. I truly cannot stand that word in this context, because as a teacher, a writer, and an advocate, I understand that words mean things, and the words we choose to describe our reality matters. The language we choose shapes how we think about things, and how we think determines how we act. “Delivery” is language that erases the serious mental, emotional, and physical labor of pregnancy and childbirth, and credits the care provider with the work the person giving birth does.
“Delivery” is language that makes people think it’s OK to tell a pregnant person to “just put the baby up for adoption” if they don’t want to continue their pregnancy, like pregnancy and birth are just minor details they doesn’t really have to worry much about. After all, if they’re just waiting on a delivery as opposed to, you know, making a brand new human, then spending hours or days of grueling labor pushing that human out or getting it cut out of them, followed by weeks or months of grueling recovery — and possibly mourning if their child is born dead — then it’s no big deal to forward their “delivery” onto someone else if it turns out it’s not what they want.
Few “deliveries” fundamentally transform a person’s life and how that person sees and experiences themselves. But every person who has ever given birth is transformed by that experience, for better and for worse. No one should be forced to embark upon that kind of transformation, or have the fact of that transformation erased like it was nothing.
Because there are still people out there who foolishly, offensively believe a pregnant person is a “host” (and, terrifyingly, other people out there who are actually willing to vote for such people); because our bodies continue to belong to us even after we become pregnant, and thus we are the only ones who deserve to make decisions about what happens to us during birth or at any other time; because it’s damn past time for us to reclaim our agency during pregnancy, birth, and every other part of our lives; because too much of what we do is taken for granted; and for plenty of reasons like the following, I do not and will not call a birth a “delivery.”
Because Babies Aren’t Pizzas
Seriously people: think of the other things that normally get "delivered" every day. Pizzas, greasy takeout food, packages, mail, flowers, and... brand new human life? One of these things is not like the others.
Because The Stork Isn’t Real
Well, storks are real, but they don’t have sh*t to do with human infants. Please, let's kill the baby-delivering stork imagery once and for all. Storks have nothing to do with human reproduction, which (usually) happens after people have sex (insert faux gasp and theatrical pearl clutching here), get pregnant, and give birth.
Instead of clinging to myths and images that try to erase sex, labor, and birth from human life, let's all just be grown-ups and talk honestly about how that stuff all happens, 'kay?
Because Labor Is Called “Labor” For A Reason
Labor means work, y'all, and as virtually anyone who's ever been in labor will tell you, it is hard work. It's certainly nothing like waiting around for the FedEx guy to show up. Treating what comes after labor like a "delivery" totally doesn't do justice to the work involved in that process.
Because “Delivery” Makes It Sound Like Someone Else Is Getting Something For The Person Giving Birth...
If you went to great effort to make someone else a gift, but then they carried it across the room and proudly said they "delivered" it, you'd probably be a little irritated. Multiply that irritation by a few thousand, if you'd like to know how I feel about every "human interest" story about how a father "delivered" his and his female partner's baby in an unexpected place.
News flash, pseudo-journalists: that dude had an orgasm, then (quite bravely, to be sure) assisted his partner during a very big moment in their lives several months later. But let's be clear: she did the hard work. Write your story accordingly.
...But No Matter How A Person Births, Nobody Is “Giving” Them Anything
When a pregnant person has a caesarean birth, people often try to give credit to everyone else but them. But caesarean births are not exceptions to this "births are not deliveries" rule. Regardless how that baby came out, whomever grew that child — and endured the postpartum recovery afterward — is the one responsible for that birth. Nobody gave or "delivered" anything to them.
Because It Makes It Sound Like Health Care Providers Are Doing A Parent Some Kind Of Favor…
When my ex-OB-GYN started talking about what things would be like when she or one of her colleagues "delivered" my baby, I'd feel my blood pressure rise. She was so glib about it, like I was basically an afterthought to this whole process; just there as decoration while the experts "did birth" to the middle third of my body, as opposed to a whole person about to have the most life-changing experience of my life. Yeah, no.
...And Centers Their Perspective, Instead Of The POV Of The Person Giving Birth
Once I decided to replace my OB-GYN, “I’m going to[/I’d like to] deliver your baby” became red flag language for me when I was interviewing new care providers. That language makes the experience all about them, when it's not. It's not about their convenience, or their values, or their beliefs, or their wants. No matter what kind of provider you choose, whomever attends your child's birth should be there to contribute their knowledge and skill to keep you and your baby safe and healthy, not to feel important and in charge at your expense.
Because “Delivery” Trivializes The Miracle Of Birth
The random items I order via Amazon Prime are deliveries. My wine club shipments are deliveries. My son is a miracle, a miracle I made. Yes, people give birth every day, but birth is an amazing, awe-inspiring, hard-fought victory each and every damn time. It deserves to be honored as such.