17 important phrases to say if you're being mistreated while giving birth

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[Editor's note: This article contains phrases to use in difficult situations, which may be triggering for women who have experienced mistreatment in labor or birth-related or sexual trauma.]

We recently shared the findings of a study published in the Reproductive Health journal that found that one out of six women report being mistreated in labor. The study authors wrote that mistreatment comes in the forms of "loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help."

This study broke our hearts. Your responses to it enraged us. So many women commented that they had experienced mistreatment during their births. In an effort to start to make things better, I have created this list of phrases to use if mistreatment becomes a part of your story.

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But before I do, a disclaimer: I fear that by providing you with phrases to say, there is an implication that the onus of respectful care is on you. It is not. It is the moral and professional obligation of those caring for you to treat you well, and failure to do so is their deficiency, not yours.

With that in mind, here are 17 phrases to say if you are being mistreated in labor:

1. "It is really important to me that…"

Whether or not you have written a birth plan, your desires for your birth are incredibly important—don't hesitate to communicate them to your team. So often providers get caught up in the routine of how things usually happen, that we don't think to ask what specific requests you might have.

A few examples might be:

  • "It is really important to me that you help me do immediate skin-to-skin with my baby if it is safe."
  • "It is really important to me that you remember that my mother developed preeclampsia during her labor, and I am worried that I will too.
  • "It is really important to me that you use ze as my pronoun."
  • "It is really important to me that you keep the room as quiet as possible."

2. "We haven't met yet. Who are you?"

Hospitals are busy places, with many people working in them, and it is very possible that you will feel this during your birth. Every person that enters your room should 1. knock and 2. introduce themselves. If they don't, ask who they are and what their role is.

And, if you do not feel comfortable with their level of skill (i.e., having a student nurse place an IV in your arm), you can decline their care.

3. "Is this evidence-based?"

Brace yourself for an upsetting statistic: It takes an average of 17 years for new medical findings to make their way into clinical practice.

Now, this isn't all bad—certainly we want to verify new findings before implementing them, especially when they are big changes. But there does tend to be a "this is how we do things" approach in medicine, which means people receive care based more on "what we've always done," and less on what the research says we need to change.

If your provider tells you they think a certain intervention is necessary, it is okay to ask why. Try this:

4. "Please explain before proceeding."

You may not love receiving tons of medical details, and that is, of course, completely fine. I had a client recently who tends to faint when blood is discussed. But do know that you can ask for explanations for all tests and procedures if you want them.

In addition to the questions above, try asking: "Please give me an overview of the steps you will take during this procedure."

5. "I need some time to think about this."

Labor is intense, and often in the heat of the moment, we say yes to something that we later wish we hadn't. It is perfectly fine to ask for a few minutes to process what you've just heard and decide how to feel about it.

If things are emergent and require immediate action, your provider will let you know.

6. "Please call the translator."

Translator services are almost always available for people that speak languages other than the one being used by your provider. Unfortunately, so often providers will think, "Oh, this is just a quick thing. I don't need to call the translator service for this."

They do.

According to LEP.gov, "All recipients of federal funds and all federal agencies are required by law to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to limited English proficient persons." And yet, a 2015 study found that over 65 percent of hospital patients who had limited English language proficiency had no documented usage of translator services during their stay.

If a language difference is preventing you from fully understanding what your provider or nurse is saying, you have the right to insist that translator services be used, every single time they speak with you.

7. "This makes me uncomfortable."

It is okay to send a loud-and-clear message about the behavior that you don't like.

Some examples might be:

  • "It makes me uncomfortable when you tell me that I am not doing a good job just pushing."
  • "It makes me uncomfortable when you ignore my partner, who is sitting next to me."
  • "It makes me uncomfortable when you laugh at my birth plan."

8. "I'd like to discuss this in private."

You are entitled to confidentiality throughout your birth. If someone starts asking you personal questions or disclosing personal information in front of other people, you can remind them of your right to privacy, even if it results in an inconvenience such as finding a private room to speak in.

9. "Please lower your voice."

You should not be yelled at during your birth. Not ever.

10. "Please ask for permission."

I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard providers say, "I am going to check your cervix now." In other words, "I am going to put my fingers in your vagina now."

This is not acceptable in any circumstance, birth-related or not. Your cervix, your vagina, your body.

Instead, the conversation—not demand—should start like this:

"I'd like to do a vaginal exam to assess whether your cervix has dilated since we started Pitocin. Is that okay with you?"

11. "You do not have my permission."

If someone bypasses the request for permission, you have the right to state outright that they do not have your permission to proceed.

12. "I'd like a chaperone in the room."

One of the primary people who taught me to be a midwife was a man (male midwives are also called midwives). Every time he did a pelvic exam, he requested that a female staff member come into the room to serve as a witness, to help the patient feel more at ease.

You can request this—and not only if the provider or nurse is a male. If you feel that one person on your team is particularly problematic (for any reason, including the tone in which they speak to you), you do not have to be alone with them.

13. "I would like another provider/nurse to care for me."

If your provider or nurse is not treating you respectfully, ask for someone else. It may feel awkward, but remember that you are the customer here. You do not have to "deal with" someone who makes you feel uncomfortable.

14. "I am calling 9-1-1."

This one is reserved for situations where you feel that the care you are receiving is putting your health or life (of that of your baby) in danger. If you are reporting dangerous symptoms (difficulty breathing, severe headache, severe abdominal pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, the urge to harm yourself or the baby, or something else that is very concerning to you) and being ignored, call 9-1-1.

15. "I'd like to speak to the patient advocacy department."

Most hospitals have a patient advocacy department to support patients in understanding their rights. Ask to speak with them if things start to feel off.

16. "I am making an appointment with a therapist."

If you were mistreated during your birth, you may experience emotional distress afterward. Mama, you do not have to go through this alone. A therapist can help you process your experience so that it does not continue to cause you pain.

17. "I'm calling my lawyer."

In addition to emotional support, you may find that you would like to take legal action.

It is my sincere hope that you will not need a single one of the phrases. But mama, if you do, I cannot emphasize enough that it is not your fault and that you are not alone.

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"Spring forward, lose sleep." That's how parents tend to think about the start of Daylight Saving Time, when the clocks spring forward one hour at midnight, and we all lose an hour of sleep. (Sadly, there are no exemptions for the already-sleep-deprived.)

With the start of this year's Daylight Saving Time around the corner on Sunday, March 8, 2020, most of us are preparing to set our clocks one hour ahead as we “spring forward." Thankfully, this means the days will start to feel longer with more sunlight, but it also means another shift in your child's sleep schedule.

The good news is, there are ways to minimize the effects of the time shift and help make the forward leap into spring a smooth transition for the entire family.

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Try these 5 "spring forward" tips to help kids adjust to Daylight Saving Time without losing sleep.

1. Prepare by going to bed earlier the night before

Truthfully, the concept of shifting bedtimes can feel a bit like rocket science. So, to keep it simple I recommend going to sleep earlier the night before—that way the household still wakes up feeling rested.

Some people recommend doing this for several nights before, moving bedtime earlier and earlier, but honestly I have seen this cause more confusion than good. If you focus on the night before, they still get the same amount of sleep as they normally would on the night the time change happens since our bodies naturally will wake at our normal time.

Much like traveling to a different time zone, it is going to take some time for your internal sleep clocks to adjust regardless of how prepared you are. Going to bed earlier to avoid overtired little ones is a good idea in general.

2. Encourage light during the day and darkness for sleep

Our body's internal sleep cycles (also called our circadian rhythms) are regulated by lightness and darkness, and heavily influenced by our environment. This is why many of us wake up when the sun rises and start to feel sleepy shortly after the sun sets (although many of us go to bed way past sunset).

You can help your child's 24-hour sleep cycle by exposing her to light first thing in the morning and making sure that her room is dark during naps and for bedtime. If your child's bedtime is on the earlier side, it may get harder to put her down as the days get longer, so blackout shades might be a good option in this case.

3. Keep routines consistent

As we enter a new season, schedules and activities can tend to feel a bit chaotic, and your children often experience the impacts of this the most. Even with the time shift, it is still important to stick closely to your current routine, only making minor changes if possible.

4. Try to be patient with your kids

As we all know, the effects of sleep deprivation impact the entire family. Children are just as confused about the time change as we are, and although our bodies will eventually adjust naturally, some have a harder time than others. If you notice meltdowns become a bit more frequent after the time change, try to remember that lack of sleep could be the culprit. I encourage you to set aside more quiet time and maybe even an extra nap while you all try to adjust to this new season.

5. Invest in an Ok-to-Wake! clock or another device that can help keep sleep on track

This is a great option for eager toddlers who are used to getting up and running into your room in the morning. Having a child-friendly alarm clock that turns green to indicate it is time to get up can make a big difference to a child trying to adjust.

The great thing is, if you already have an early morning riser, the time change will actually help to shift those early morning wakings to a more manageable time!

Your children are more resilient than you might think so try not to worry too much about the impact daylight saving time will have. Our bodies know what to do, and sometimes the best thing is to just go with it and hope for the best! You've got this.

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Have a strong-willed child? You're lucky! Strong willed children can be a challenge when they're young, but if sensitively parented, they become terrific teens and young adults. Self-motivated and inner-directed, they go after what they want and are almost impervious to peer pressure. As long as parents resist the impulse to “break their will," strong-willed kids often become leaders.

What exactly is a strong-willed child?

Some parents call them “difficult" or “stubborn," but we could also see strong-willed kids as people of integrity who aren't easily swayed from their own viewpoints.

Strong-willed kids are spirited and courageous. They want to learn things for themselves rather than accepting what others say, so they test the limits over and over. They want desperately to be “in charge" of themselves, and will sometimes put their desire to “be right" above everything else.

When their heart is set on something, their brains seem to have a hard time switching gears. Strong-willed kids have big, passionate feelings and live at full throttle.

Often, strong-willed kids are prone to power struggles with their parents. However, it takes two to have a power struggle. You don't have to attend every argument to which you're invited! If you can take a deep breath when your buttons get pushed, and remind yourself that you can let your child save face and still get what you want, you can learn to sidestep those power struggles. (Don't let your four year old make you act like a four year old yourself!)

No one likes being told what to do, but strong-willed kids find it unbearable.

Parents can avoid power struggles by helping the child feel understood even as the parent sets limits. Try empathizing, giving choices and understanding that respect goes both ways. Looking for win/win solutions rather than just laying down the law keeps strong-willed children from becoming explosive and teaches them essential skills of negotiation and compromise.

Strong-willed kids aren't just being difficult.

They feel their integrity is compromised if they're forced to submit to another person's will. If they're allowed to choose, they love to cooperate. If this bothers you because you think obedience is an important quality, I'd ask you to reconsider. Of course you want to raise a responsible, considerate, cooperative child who does the right thing, even when it's hard. But that doesn't imply obedience. That implies doing the right thing because you want to.

Morality is doing what's right, no matter what you're told. Obedience is doing what you're told, no matter what's right.—H.L. Mencken

So of course you want your child to do what you say. But not because he's obedient, meaning that he always does what someone bigger tells him to do. No, you want him to do what you say because he trusts YOU, because he's learned that even though you can't always say yes to what he wants, you have his best interests at heart. You want to raise a child who has self-discipline, takes responsibility and is considerate—and most important, has the discernment to figure out who to trust and when to be influenced by someone else.

Breaking a child's will leaves him open to the influence of others who often will not serve his highest interests. What's more, it's a betrayal of the spiritual contract we make as parents.

That said, strong-willed kids can be a handful—high energy, challenging, persistent. How do we protect those fabulous qualities and encourage their cooperation?

Here are 11 tips for peaceful parenting your strong-willed, spirited child.

1. Remember that strong-willed kids are experiential learners.

That means they have to see for themselves if the stove is hot. So unless you're worried about serious injury, it's more effective to let them learn through experience, instead of trying to control them. And you can expect your strong-willed child to test your limits repeatedly—that's how he learns. Once you know that, it's easier to stay calm, which avoids wear and tear on your relationship—and your nerves.

2. Your strong-willed child wants mastery more than anything.

Let her take charge of as many of her own activities as possible. Don't nag at her to brush her teeth—ask "What else do you need to do before we leave?" If she looks blank, tick off the short list—"Every morning we eat, brush teeth, use the toilet, and pack the backpack. I saw you pack your backpack, that's terrific! Now, what do you still need to do before we leave?"

Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to be oppositional. Not to mention, they take responsibility early.

3. Give your strong-willed child choices.

If you give orders, he will almost certainly bristle. If you offer a choice, he feels like the master of his own destiny. Of course, only offer choices you can live with and don't let yourself get resentful by handing away your power. If going to the store is non-negotiable and he wants to keep playing, an appropriate choice is—

"Do you want to leave now or in 10 minutes? Okay, 10 minutes with no fuss? Let's shake on it....And since it could be hard to stop playing in ten minutes, how can I help you then?"

4. Give her authority over her own body.

"I hear that you don't want to wear your jacket today. I think it's cold and I am definitely wearing a jacket. Of course, you are in charge of your own body, as long as you stay safe and healthy, so you get to decide whether to wear a jacket. But I'm afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won't want to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in the backpack, and then we'll have it if you change your mind?"

She's not going to get pneumonia, unless you push her into it by acting like you've won if she asks for the jacket. And once she won't lose face by wearing her jacket, she'll be begging for it once she gets cold. It's just hard for her to imagine feeling cold when she's so warm right now in the house, and a jacket seems like such a hassle. She's sure she's right—her own body is telling her soso naturally she resists you. You don't want to undermine that self-confidence, just teach her that there's no shame in letting new information change her mind.

5. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules.

That way, you aren't the bad guy bossing them around, it's just that "The rule is we use the potty after every meal and snack," or "The schedule is that lights-out is at 8 p.m. If you hurry, we'll have time for two books," or "In our house, we finish homework before screen time."

6. Don't push him into opposing you.

Force always creates "push-back"—with humans of all ages. If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push your child into defying you, just to prove a point. You'll know when it's a power struggle and you're invested in winning. Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your child always sets you up to lose what's most important—the relationship.

When in doubt say— "Ok, you can decide this for yourself."

If he can't, then say what part of it he can decide, or find another way for him to meet his need for autonomy without compromising his health or safety.

7. Side-step power struggles by letting your child save face.

You don't have to prove you're right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them. But under no circumstances should you try to break your child's will or force him to acquiesce to your views. He has to do what you want, but he's allowed to have his own opinions and feelings about it.

8. Listen to her.

You, as the adult, might reasonably presume you know best. But your strong-willed child has a strong will partly as a result of her integrity. She has a viewpoint that is making her hold fast to her position, and she is trying to protect something that seems important to her. Only by listening calmly to her and reflecting her words will you come to understand what's making her oppose you.

A non-judgmental—"I hear that you don't want to take a bath. Can you tell me more about why?"

You might elicit the information (as I did with my three year old Alice) that she's afraid she'll go down the drain, like Alice in the song. It may not seem like a good reason to you, but she has a reason. And you won't find it out if you get into a clash and order her into the tub.

9. See it from his point of view.

For instance, he may be angry because you promised to wash his superman cape and then forgot. To you, he is being stubborn. To him, he is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because he is not allowed to break his promises to you, but you broke yours to him.

How do you clear this up and move on? You apologize sincerely for breaking your promise, you reassure him that you try very hard to keep your promises, and you go, together, to wash the cape. You might even teach him how to wash his own clothes so you're not in this position in the future and he's empowered. Just consider how would you want to be treated, and treat him accordingly.

10. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment.

Kids don't learn when they're in the middle of a fight. Like all of us, that's when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off. Kids behave because they want to please us. The more you fight with and punish your child, the more you undermine her desire to please you.

If she's upset, help her express her hurt, fear or disappointment, so they evaporate. Then she'll be ready to listen to you when you remind her that in your house, everyone speaks kindly to each other. (Of course, you have to model that. Your child won't always do what you say, but she will always, eventually, do what you do.)

11. Offer him respect and empathy.

Most strong-willed children are fighting for respect. If you offer it to them, they don't need to fight to protect their position. And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood. If you see his point of view and think he's wrong—for instance, he wants to wear the superman cape to church and you think that's inappropriateyou can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit.

"You love this cape and wish you could wear it, don't you? But when we go to services we dress up to show respect, so we can't wear the cape. I know you'll miss wearing it. How about we take it with us so you can wear it on our way home?"

Does this sound like Permissive Parenting? It isn't. You set limits. But you set them with understanding of your child's perspective, which makes her more cooperative.


By Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.

This article was originally published on AhaParenting.com

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I'm usually that girl who shells out for premium leggings, and I still think they're fun as a treat, but I've now bought these so-called "compression" leggings in multiple colors. And since 74% of you told us in a recent Instagram poll that you live in leggings, we hope this practical hot tip can help make #momlife a little easier for you, too.

So why compression? While we'd never advise going to extremes, we're not opposed to a little help keeping everything in place. To be clear, this isn't about hiding—we're all for celebrating our bodies (and especially our bellies) at every stage. But adapting to an ever-changing shape can be distracting, and a little extra support around the stomach and hips can feel amazing after birth and help you focus on what's important.

What these $20 leggings have on even my most expensive pairs is that they are thickmeaning they don't snag in the wash, sheer out when I squat, or (heaven forbid) rip when I bend over. Their durability makes them perfect for both household chores and high-intensity workouts. They're also warm, making them well-suited for transitioning between seasons. And once your wardrobe fully changes over, the same brand makes compression shorts that are equally comfy.

Homma Premium Thick High Waist Tummy Compression Slimming Leggings

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As for the whole compression thing? Once they're on, I honestly don't notice anything but how flattering they are when I catch my reflection in the mirror. The 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex blend keeps it tight without feeling, well, too tight. Think of the compression like a gentle hug, or a guardian angel that just wants to bless your curves all day long. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order another pair.

$19.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."

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According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

[This post was originally published May 17, 2019.]

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