A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Why 'belly birth' is the new way to describe C-sections

Cesarean section. Two words that come together to form a surgical term that is sterile and pretty emotionless. That's why some mothers say it's a poor way to describe one of the most emotional experiences possible.

There is power in language, and some women say there is a two-word phrase that much more accurately describes the experience. They call it 'belly birth.'

Yes, C-sections are surgery, but when we describe them in surgical terms we erase the fact that they are also a form of birth. That's why Flor Cruz, the birth doula behind the popular @badassmotherbirther accounts, counts herself among the women who are renaming and reclaiming birth experiences that happen to occur in operating rooms. She says the surgical nature of the term "C-section" perpetuates the idea that such births are not "real" births

"We take away the celebrating of a birth of a baby and mom's hard work because the stigma cues us to immediately frown," she tells Motherly. "It screams 'medical procedure' and does not prioritize that a birth happened. 'Belly birth' includes birth. It speaks positively."

Jordan Grissom, a client of Cruz's, understands first hand the power of reframing a birth experience through language. In 2016, after 20 hours of labor she was advised she would need an emergency C-section to deliver her daughter. Prior to that day, a C-section wasn't on Grissom's radar. She hadn't really thought much about it when planning for her birth, as she didn't want to put it out into the universe as an option. Suddenly, the birth experience she'd expected was no longer an option, and that was terrifying.

"I was wheeled into this bright room. No one was talking to me. It was freezing. My husband had to wait outside. I was absolutely terrified," Grissom tells Motherly. "I was so scared and it was my doula, Flor, who came and told me, 'you know what Jordan? You need to look at this as a belly birth. It's not a failure, it's still a birth. Just because you're not birthing your baby vaginally doesn't mean you're any less of a mother or that your birth is any less of a birth.' That was really what got me through my belly birth and it really empowered me."

Cruz says she first started using the term 'belly birth' occasionally few years ago, recognizing that people can be "triggered positively or negatively by words" and that saying belly birth is a lot "gentler, kinder, [and] inclusive" than saying C-section.

"I didn't use it very often up until around a year ago. I started using it more heavily and purposefully once I realized that a big reason why I felt so down about my own belly birth was that I was calling it something that felt so cold to me. The word 'cesarean' or 'C-section' felt like just a procedure. It wasn't connecting me to the fact that I gave birth. I started plugging it into my vocabulary vigorously," she explains.

Cruz wants other women to be able to skip the disconnection she felt and embrace their births from the get-go by using celebratory terms, because "a large amount of families have belly births." Indeed, a recent Instagram poll by Motherly found about 41% of participants had experienced a C-section.

According to the CDC, almost 32% of all births in America are C-sections. In Canada, the rate is just under 29%, and the UK sees a similar rate. With this kind of birth being so common, there should not be a stigma, say advocates.

Cruz and Grissom suggest changing the language so that birth is recognized first in a woman's experience. The surgery is secondary to the welcoming of a child and is certainly not an indication of failure. Depending on the medical circumstance, there are all kinds of things that can be done to help women own their birth experience, even if it's different from the one they'd initially imagined.

Many hospitals now offer the option of clear surgical drapes (instead of the standard opaque blue) to allow women to witness the moment their child comes into the world. When combined with peaceful, or mother-assisted delivery techniques, this is often called a "gentle C-section."

"You can ask for a maternal assisted delivery where you see the birth and pull your own baby to your chest. You can ask for skin to skin immediately. You can ask for no severing of the cord, delaying clamping of the cord or milking of the cord. You can breastfeed immediately. You can bond on another level. You can call it a belly birth," Cruz explains.

As Cruz says, there is power in language, and by renaming and reframing their experience, these mothers are taking back their power and empowering the mamas who will follow.

You might also like:

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

You might also like:

There's a lot of concern these days about what is in our food. It's totally understandable if parents are a little worried, given the headlines we've been seeing in recent weeks. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a call for better food regulation, and there's been a spate of food recalls this summer, for everything from crackers to a cereal linked to Salmonella infections.

And now breakfast cereals, in general, are in the food safety spotlight, not because of Salmonella contamination, but for something that is found in food much more often—glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto's weed-killer, Roundup.

The Environmental Working Group (a non-profit funded in part by support from companies like Organic Valley, Stonyfield Farms, Earthbound Farms, Dr. Bronner Soaps, and Beauty Counter) recently released the results of independent laboratory tests it commissioned on breakfast cereals, examining them glyphosate, the chemical that was at the heart of a recent lawsuit in which a California jury found the weed-killer Roundup caused a school groundskeeper's cancer.

What the report found

According to the EWG, 31 out of 45 cereal products tested had higher levels glyphosate than some scientists would like. It's 'some' because regulatory bodies are divided on what level of glyphosate should be considered safe.

California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment suggests a much lower level of exposure than the federal Environmental Protection Agency does, according to the EWG, and while California lists the chemical as "known to cause cancer," the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared the substance only a "probable carcinogen." Numerous other national and international agencies have reviewed glyphosate and haven't found it to be a human health hazard.

The EWG says it is though, citing California's classification of the chemical and the recent jury verdict there.

Family favorite cereals like Cheerios, Quaker Dinosaur Egg Instant Oats, Great Value Instant Oats and Quaker Old Fashioned Oats tested too high for the EWG's liking.

But the EWG's safety benchmark for glyphosate levels in cereal is 160 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency's limit is 30 parts per million. The folks at Health did the math, converting the parts per billion to parts per million, and found that "even the highest concentration found in the new EWG report—1,300 ppb, or 1.3 ppm—is still in line with what the FDA announced previously, and still lower than the EPA's tolerable threshold".

As Slate's science editor, Susan Matthews, writes, "the EPA threshold [for glyphosate], which was set in 1993...is 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (140 milligrams per day for the average adult). That's the reference dose that's considered safe to consume daily throughout a lifetime. None of the foods tested by EWG passes that threshold—they don't even come close."

What the cereal companies have to say

CBS reports Quaker issued a statement saying it "proudly stand[s] by the safety and quality of our Quaker products. Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are significantly below any limits of the safety standards set by the EPA and the European Commission as safe for human consumption," and that General Mills told CBS News its products "are safe and without question they meet regulatory safety levels. The EPA has researched this issue and has set rules that we follow."

The Guardian quotes a Kellogg's spokesman as saying: "Our food is safe. Providing safe, high-quality foods is one of the ways we earn the trust of millions of people around the world. The EPA sets strict standards for safe levels of these agricultural residues and the ingredients we purchase from suppliers for our foods fall under these limits."

In a statement emailed to multiple media outlets, EWG President Ken Cook called the responses of Quaker and General Mills "tone-deaf" and disappointing, and calls on the companies to "take the simple step of telling their oat farmers to stop using glyphosate as a harvest-time desiccant on their crops."

What parents can do

If you are concerned about glyphosate in your child's cereal, you can find oat-based food that don't contain any in the organic aisle. The EGW says none of the 16 products made from organically-grown oats contained levels above its safety benchmark. A few of the organic brands did have traces of glyphosate, but not at levels the EWG is concerned about.

And as Matthews points out in her coverage for Slate, the EWG's report "was simply published to the internet, rather than in a scientific journal or after peer review," something parents should consider when deciding whether or not to remove Cheerios from their child's breakfast menu.

You might also like:

This week many parents were left questioning the contents of their cupboards when new information from Consumer Reports sparked a flurry of headlines about heavy metals in packaged baby food.

Parents are understandably worried after learning cadmium, lead, and inorganic arsenic are present in those little jars and pouches, but the Chief Scientific Officer for Consumer Reports, James H Dickerson, tells Motherly the study was meant to inform citizens, not freak us out.

"Don't panic. The issue is a chronic exposure issue, not an acute exposure issue," he explains. "Chronic exposure means long-term exposure over months and years of repeated exposure. Acute exposure means a single time, or five times or 10 times of exposure, consuming these foods would lead to a risk. That's not the case at all."

The report

Consumer Reports tested 50 popular ready-made baby food products for heavy metals, and every product had measurable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead. According to Dickinson, what makes those test results worrisome is that 68% correspond to elevated levels of potential risk for cancer development, neurological problems or respiratory problems.

That doesn't mean that your child is going to get sick from eating a jar of baby food, but it does mean that, in some cases, (like with sweet potatoes or rice-based cereals and baby snacks) parents should serve the foods in moderation, and mix in other kind of grains, veggies and protiens as much as possible.

"Having a variety goes a long way to help mitigate this issue and ensure your children grow up happy, healthy and safe," he tells Motherly.

A call to action

Consumer Reports is calling on baby food manufacturers to take a long hard look at their supply chains when making food for growing babies and kids, in addition to stricter policies and controls to prevent contamination during the manufacturing process.

"If they are very vigilant about making sure the food they source already has very low levels of these heavy elements, that goes a long way to increasing the probability that the final product, the final food ends up having low levels," he explains, adding that Consumer Reports also has some ideas for the FDA.

"The first one is to set very clear goals for manufacturers to have absolutely no measurable levels of the heavy elements in any baby food, any toddler food at all. That's an ambitious goal, so to help manufacturers get to that goal, we'd like the FDA to set very clear benchmarks along that pathway to that goal and then enforce those benchmarks," Dickerson explains.

"Lastly, there are currently pending, agreed upon guidelines that the FDA is considering that we would like them to finalize by the end of 2018," he notes. Those guidelines would limit the amount of inorganic arsenic acceptable in infant cereal and fruit juices.

In a statement emailed to Motherly an FDA spokesperson explains: "Toxic elements are naturally occurring so it is not possible to remove or completely prevent arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from entering the food supply, but our goal at FDA is to limit consumer exposure, especially in children, to the greatest extent feasible."

The FDA says it welcomes the data from Consumer Reports and "will review it in its entirety to further inform our efforts in reducing heavy metals in the food supply."

What we can do to reduce the risks

Manufacturers and regulatory bodies are aware of the issue of heavy metals in baby foods, and thanks to Consumer Reports, now a lot more parents are, too. While we can't control how fast changes come to the way baby food is made, we can control the menu at home.

"Our recommendation is for balance, balance, balance," says Dickerson. "What that means is that you should feed your children a balance of grains, a balance of fruits and vegetables, a balance of proteins."

In short, one serving of jarred sweet potatoes or a rice-based baby snack isn't going to increase your child's risk for cancer development, neurological problems or respiratory problems, but eating those things all the time could, so mix up the menu. It not only reduces your child's risk of exposure to heavy metals, but exposes them to new foods and textures, too.

You might also like:

Store-bought baby food is a staple for a lot of busy parents, but new data from Consumer Reports has everyone talking about what's in those jars, along with the purees.

According to Consumer Reports, which tested 50 popular ready-made baby food products for heavy metals, "every product had measurable levels" of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead.

The headlines may seem shocking, but we all actually ingest arsenic in some form, because, as the FDA explains, it's naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants. That's why many foods, including grains (especially rice) and fruits and vegetables contain arsenic. It's also why many snack-type foods like bars, cookies, crackers, crisps, puffs, and rice rusks tested particularly high for heavy metals "generally because of their rice content," Consumer Reports notes.

As FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell said when the results of a similar study was released last year by the Clean Label Project, "it is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food."

Just because heavy metals are detectable in baby foods doesn't mean our children are going to get sick, but manufacturers should be aiming for the lowest level of heavy metals possible. Consumer Reports did find that 16 of the products tested has such low levels of contamination that daily servings should not be limited. This suggests "that all baby food manufacturers should be able to achieve similar results," notes Consumer Reports.

Gerber's Lil' Entrées Chicken & Brown Rice With Peas & Corn, Beech-Nut Organic Peas, Green Beans, and Avocado pouch, Gerber Graduates Puffs Strawberry Apple Cereal Snack and Happy Baby Organics Purple Carrots, Bananas, Avocados & Quinoa pouch were among the baby foods that can be served multiple times per day without concern over heavy metals, according to Consumer Reports.

However, about 68% of the products tested didn't just have measurable levels of heavy metals, but worrisome levels, and 15 of the foods could pose potential health risks to children who eat just one serving per day, so Consumer Reports suggests parents limit kids' intake to half a serving.

For example, "all the samples of Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes, Earth's Best Organic Sweet Potatoes, and Gerber Turkey & Rice had concerning levels of lead," Consumer Reports notes.

Here's what parents need to know:

Most of the products tested are from the two largest baby food manufacturers in the U.S., Beech-Nut and Gerber. Baby Mum-Mum, Earth's Best, Ella's Kitchen, Happy Baby, Parent's Choice (Walmart's store brand), Plum Organics, and Sprout were also tested.

According to Dickerson, eating these baby foods doesn't mean a child will get sick, but it may increase their risk for health problems. Genetics and exposure to heavy metals from other sources (like lead paint or contaminated water) also play a role.

The companies producing the baby food tested (including including Sprout, Gerber, Beech Nut, Baby Mum Mum, Parent's Choice, Happy Baby and Plum Organics) responded to either Consumer Reports, Good Morning America or both, stressing the importance of safety, supporting the guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and some did note that that heavy metals can be naturally occurring.

Sign the petition

Consumer Reports is calling for government action on this issue and has set up a petition for parents to sign, asking the FDA to set a goal of having "no measurable amounts of cadmium, lead, or inorganic arsenic in baby and children's food and "limit inorganic arsenic" in certain foods by the end of this year.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.