The Mother-voice

“There are very few times in life when women are as vulnerable as they are during the birth process. It is important to not let vulnerability keep us from owning the process and being the decision makers about our bodies and our babies.” [1]

Oftentimes childbirth is misunderstood as a predictable and orderly occurrence, rather than the disorderly, unpredictable natural event it is.  Even the most prepared woman can feel vulnerable in this situation. As birth workers, we should continually strive to empower birthing women to find their Mother-voice by teaching self-advocacy skills. We can do this by providing education on the birth process and coaching effective communication skills.

A well-rounded childbirth education curriculum includes essential components pertaining to each mother, her partner, and their community.  The physical and emotional aspects of the birth process should be presented with an understanding of birth’s unpredictable nature. Medical and non-medical comfort measures need to be shared in a risk/benefit style to prevent bias. The more accurate information a mother has the easier it will be to identify her birth priorities. Knowing what she wants will increase confidence in the Mother-voice.

“…I think my own research into the birth process gave me the confidence to converse with the medical team in a coherent way. I knew what they were talking about and could talk with them instead of them talking to me.” [1]

We can teach mothers how and when to use the Mother-voice through modeling effective communication skills. Encourage mothers to practice through role playing and scenarios. Offer time at visits to ask, “What if?” questions and allow mothers to test their Mother-voice in a safe space. Teach the art of listening to learn, rather than listening to respond, as a beneficial communication skill. Remind mothers, unless there is a medical emergency, they can always ask for time in decision-making.

“I think I only felt control and participation because that is the space I created for myself.” [1]

I am grateful for the opportunity to observe the proper use of Mother-voice while attending my grandson’s birth. As a well-educated and prepared first-time mother, my daughter’s birth did not go anything like she planned. Through the whole process, she spoke directly to her birth team and medical staff. She listened as providers suggested procedures and respectfully responded. She asked for time to consider her options even when she already knew what her response would be. Thankfully, her birth was not an emergency, even with the surgical team waiting outside the door. This allowed her to pause and regain a bit of control during an out-of-control situation.  Because she was prepared, knew her desires, and practiced effective communication skills, she reflects on her birth story with confidence.

The role of birth worker extends to much more than only being present for the mother.  Through education and communication, we can empower self-advocacy through the development of the Mother-voice.


  1. Rebekah Kitchens-Carroll. Comments on her birth requested by the author. Find her birth story at:

Melanie Kitchens

CCCE, CLD, Childbirth Educator Faculty

Melanie began her work with the birthing community after raising (home-schooling) her five wonderful children. She loved studying pregnancy and mother-child bonding during these early years and was eager to share her findings with her community. Melanie is dedicated to continuing education through personal study and attending conferences on the birth process, breastfeeding, postpartum mental health, and infant care. She is thrilled to share her veteran knowledge with the future generation of childbirth educators and, through them, empower all women to fulfill well their role as mother.

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