What’s all the fuss about using the word empowered anyway? My take on why it creates a flap every now and then, and the reason why I use it in my business.
The word empowered has been flung around seemingly relentlessly, and particularly by people in industries associated with self help, self development, birth, and anything to do with women. The overuse and misuse of this word has resulted in it loosing its shine and meaning, for many. I’ve witnessed birth worker’s deliberately and vocally distance themselves from this word because of its bastardisation. In 2016, I very intentionally chose this word as part of my business, and the reason why is very personal and deeply connected to my own birth experience.
I don’t use the word empowered in relation to birth flippantly. The conflation of the word empowered alongside birth images that are certainly not (in my opinion) images of women in their power, exercising bodily autonomy makes me uncomfortable. Glorifying highly medicalised birth with women on their back in stirrups, with gloved hands at the vagina feels like it has stripped the word ‘empowered’ of what the essence and true meaning is.
I chose the word empowered, because my own birth experience, a deeply personal event, left me feeling disempowered. I got caught up in the medical system. There was instances of disrespect, coercive, threatening and bullying “care”, note: this behaviour was perpetrated by just one individual, a stranger Registrar who was involved in my care for a short time, but at a very critical time, when what I needed, at my most vulnerable was the opposite. THIS is why I felt disempowered and like all the preparation I had done, was futile. If I could say it in another word, the feeling was DEFEATED.
When I decided to become a Doula, and was settling on a name for my biz, I chose Empowered Birth, because I was drawing on my own lived experience. Had I walked away from my own birth with different care that was respectful and honouring then I may have felt empowered, not disempowered. There were big lessons for me which I drew from this about using my voice and demanding care that was respectful, something I wasn’t able to do at the time. My birth taught me how over my entire life I have often failed to advocate for myself, express my needs, desires/wants, and have handed my power away. Some big and powerful realisations and awareness, that I learned the hard way.
The power, or empowerment comes from within. Not from a doula, or birth mentor/coach, or a course, the right information, or knowledge, it comes from within YOU. A childbearing woman may already be familiar with this inner power, or perhaps finds her way to expressing it during a pregnancy journey, or even at birth, for some, it’s after, and it’s ongoing! A work in progress. Power/empowerment is not something we source externally, if we do, it’s not authentic and it just doesn’t stick.
A Doula/birth mentor can encourage you to tune into and tap into this power from within, your instinct, your inner knowing, your primal cellular wisdom. It’s something we’re programmed to forget and socialised to give away as women/girls.
As a doula, birth mentor, I don’t sprinkle the empowerment dust around you and you magically get the birth you want. Nope. I am not that powerful. But you are. I believe in you, so you can believe in yourself, your power, your deep knowing. I hold space for this powerful you to express and embody your birthing wisdom. Together we nurture and cultivate your innate knowing. The reason I have been so drawn to the Birthing From Within philosophy and am now studying with them to be a Certified Childbirth Mentor is because of a deep knowing and reverence for the deep dive within and the potency that this holds.
Also, sidenote: in a kinesiology session years ago, the word that came up which encapsulates my whole life theme was “POWER”! And then, a couple of weeks ago when I had a session on my gene keys, which are drawn from human design, my life theme again, POWER, this is just my vibe. That’s it, that’s why I use this fucking awesome word in my business – it’s my word, OK! And, it’s my life lesson, the lesson I have needed to most embody in this lifetime.
I’m glad I finally got this off my chest as every time I hear/see another birth worker roll their eyes at the word empowered/empower/empowerment I have an inner reflex that is activated. We can make the word cheap and valueless by suggesting empowerment comes from something external, or that someone empowers you, or we can honour the innate individual power that you have within, and hold space for you to tap into your power. This is how I imagine and use the word empowered.