It’s time to reject the natural childbirth paradigm as manipulative, unhealthy and deeply anti-feminist

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Yesterday I drew an explicit parallel between the way that the fashion industry wields the body image issue to induce insecurity and thereby sell clothes, make up and diet aids and the way that the natural childbirth industry uses an idealized image of birth to induce insecurity and thereby sell midwife and doula services, homebirth and a myriad of books, tapes and DVDs.

Over the past few decades everyone from individual women, to physicians, to feminist scholars has come to grips with the fact that the fashion industry sells a view of the female body image that is unhealthy, unrealistic, and deeply toxic to women’s self-confidence. They sell the image that thin women are better, more popular, happier and an ideal to which all women should aspire.

Similarly, the natural childbirth industry sells a view that women who have an unmedicated vaginal birth are better women, better mothers, and an ideal to which all women should aspire. Now is the time time for everyone from individual women, to physicians, to feminist scholars to come to grips with the fact that the natural childbirth industry sells a view of birth that is unhealthy, unrealistic and deeply toxic to women’s view of themselves and their confidence as mothers.

It has ever been thus in the natural childbirth industry. The philosophy of natural childbirth was created originally by old, white men to convince women that their primary function in life was to stay home and bear as many children as possible. It is perpetuated by women midwives, doulas, childbirth educators and lobbyists whose income depends entirely on convincing women to judge themselves by the function of their body, not the product of their minds or the content of their character.

The natural childbirth industry, like the fashion industry, situates a woman’s worth in her body. The natural childbirth industry, like the fashion industry, implies that women who meet the ideal (unmedicated vaginal birth or a size 2) are happier, better and widely admired. Women who don’t meet the ideal are unfeminine, unhappy, unadmired, and, in the case of the natural childbirth industry, bad mothers to boot.

But women who are a size 2 aren’t better, healthier or superior in any way to women who wear a different dress size. Similarly, unmedicated vaginal birth is not better, healthier or superior in any way to childbirth with pain relief, interventions and even C-sections.

The life blood of the natural childbirth industry, like the life blood of the fashion industry, is guilt and the inevitable by product of both is self-hatred. Women are convinced to buy fashionable clothing and expensive make up, to starve themselves and submit themselves to the ministrations of plastic surgeons in order to assuage the deliberately induced feelings of guilt and self-hatred.

Similarly, women are convinced to buy the services and accoutrements of natural childbirth, to endure agonizing pain, and submit themselves to the ministrations of poorly trained, deeply manipulative midwives, doulas and childbirth educators in order to assuage the deliberately induced feelings of guilt and self-hatred.

The image of the female body promoted by the fashion industry is manipulative, unhealthy and deeply anti-feminist. The image of childbirth promoted by the NCB industry is manipulative, unhealthy and deeply anti-feminist.

Women should reject both.

  • itry2brational

    “Deeply anti-feminist”? So, no “true” feminist would choose NCB? What does a true feminist/Scotsman believe?
    You claim the NCB “industry” is anti-feminist. MRAs are anti-feminist. But, these two groups don’t resemble each other in the slightest. I think your understanding of one of these groups/terms might be deeply misguided.

    The fact is, the NCB movement today is an almost entirely feminist-run endeavour. Feminists are earning PhD dissertations by utilizing feminist theory and pedagogy on the child birth sphere.
    One must be in complete denial to claim NCB advocacy is anti-feminist. If anything, those feminists have a better claim to being ingrained and founded in feminist theory than you. They are using the terms and theories in their arguments and even scholarly papers. You do not offer an alternate feminist theory to refute theirs. You don’t use feminism, feminist theory or its many specialized terms to fight or correct -their- so-called “anti-feminism”. In fact, you do even less than an MRA in debunking this “anti-feminism”, you merely say/claim it without demonstrating it with “real” feminist dogma. Maybe you should work with an MRA to debunk “NCB feminism”?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      That’s like saying that Playboy Playmates are feminists because they’re all women and some even claim to be feminists.

      Female biological essentialism is always anti-feminist because it assumes all women are the same and that all women should be judged by the function of their bodies.

      • itry2brational

        Playboy Playmates are not writing “PhD dissertations by utilizing feminist theory and pedagogy on the child birth sphere” or starting blogs that reach millions of women and have successfully shifted their views into the mainstream. NCB advocates are and have.
        They are more successful than you(and others) because their usage of -feminism- is more appealing. They have successfully coupled feminism’s dual-edged empowerment/victimization message with the NCB rhetoric. They are more successful because feminism is far more mainstream than skepticism. “Woo” isn’t the driving factor in the spread of NCB.
        Besides, saying that “woo” is what entices women into NCB circles is actually insulting to their intelligence. Saying -feminism- is what is enticing women into NCB circles is actually rational, even or especially from the woman’s standpoint…she has been convinced she is a victim and that NCB will be a way for her to empower herself and take back some control over her life.
        Feminism also offers a warm embrace and a shield from criticism when their choices result in bad outcomes. How many times have you been called a misogynist for your criticisms by a NCB advocate? Too many to count. -You- are THEIR “anti-feminist”. And since virtually -every- feminist, including you, equates feminism with “woman”, that makes you anti-woman.
        Feminism offers women what they have always wanted, their own specialized knowledge base which trumps all others. It also offers women’s special/intuitive/”non-rational” ways of knowing, now embodied in dissertation papers spanning topics from “birth rape” to general NCB.

        Not all feminists online are NCB advocates but virtually all(if not all) NCB advocates online -are- feminists.

        • Young CC Prof

          What makes a feminist? Is it enough to be a woman who discusses issues of concern to women and claims to be feminist? I don’t think so.

          I see nothing feminist in a movement which ultimately promotes biological essentialism, and which judges women not only by their power to produce children, but by their ability to do so without medical intervention. I see in that the handmaidens of the patriarchy, claiming the mantle of feminism from mothers who would turn over in their graves if they knew what their daughters were writing.

          • itry2brational

            Do you think “a woman who discusses issues of concern to women and claims to be feminist” is an accurate representation or summary of when I say:
            “using the terms and theories in their arguments and even scholarly papers” and “earning PhD dissertations by utilizing feminist theory and pedagogy on the child birth sphere” and “successfully coupled feminism’s dual-edged empowerment/victimization message with the NCB rhetoric” and “now embodied in dissertation papers spanning topics from “birth rape” to general NCB”? I don’t think so.

            Nor did I ever say or imply that a person’s mere proclamation to be an xyz is enough for the rest of us to recognize said person as an xyz. Quite to the contrary. Like I said above, its what they do, say and write.
            Most of the more popular and influential NCB bloggers and advocates today are not biological essentialists to the extent and degree that both you and Dr. Tuteur are representing.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          Sorry. Simply calling yourself a feminist does not make you a feminist.

          • itry2brational

            Sorry. Simply calling others anti-feminist does not make them anti-feminist and -you- a feminist. Nothing in my comment alluded to people simply calling themselves a feminist.
            “Childbirth has been hijacked by radical feminist theorists…”
            “…the NCB movement today is an almost entirely feminist-run endeavour.”

            Care to compare and contrast? The NCB movement has -always- been driven and controlled by feminists…from its very origins to today. Neither the passage of time nor transitioning from one wave of feminism to the next will change the fact that…they were and all are various forms of feminism.

            Radical feminism is still feminism. We don’t consider a radical extremist Muslim or Christian an anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. Radical extremists of most ideologies are typically rigid fundamentalists. They are fanatical and obsessively devoted to the ideology. Zealots. Uncompromising and unwilling to change their view. As it regards feminism, I see this from both sides. Its the most common denominator across the board.

  • ngozi

    There is a discussion below about being a size 2/4 and the exercise and diet (or lack of those things) associated with being that size. I always have to remind people that a clothing size or weight doesn’t mean anything if you have no idea how TALL the person is. A size 2/4 is very different for a woman that is 5’2″ than a woman that is 5’8″ tall. I am right at 5’8″ tall. Believe me, you do not want to see me get down to a size 2 or 4. I am a black woman living in the South (USA). I’d have people snatching me off the street trying to put me in the hospital!!

    • MLE

      Yes! I’m 5’10″ and the smallest I can ever remember being was a size 8 in high school, and even at that “average” size I was asked if I had an EDO on more than one occasion. Now after 1 kid, I’m a 10 and still feel pretty slim. I cannot imagine the torture I’d have to put myself through to be a 2/4.

    • Amy

      Even height doesn’t tell the whole story. Build matters, too. I’m not even 5 feet tall. In a size 4, I look and feel great and get a lot of compliments on how I look. If I go down to a size 2, people start asking me if I’ve been sick. When I exercise and remember to eat right, I actually gain weight.

    • InvisibleDragon

      Clothing sizes for women are all about vanity/marketing. Change all the size 12 in your line to size 10 and watch the sales mount. Then make that 10 an 8. Rinse, repeat. It also has to do with FIT. A woman with a DD bra size is not going to fit the same as a B or C, even with the same band size. Whether your figure is hourglass, straight, top-heavy or bottom-heavy also determines your fit. I’m one of those “big-boned” people that everyone sneers at, except that I AM big-boned. I am off the old insurance charts for weight and height. In my 20s, my doctor told me to either wad the thing up or use it for a cat toy, because with my height (5’11.5″) and the size of my hands (9 inches around my knuckles) and feet (size 12, baby!) I would never weigh less than 175 without being ill. …hmm, end of rant, I guess… I just HATE when people assume that weight and dress size is the be-all, end-all.

      • Trixie

        I’m kind of jealous that you’re a 12. They’re a bit easier to find than my current 11.5s!

        • InvisibleDragon

          Oh, the dreaded half size! You poor thing! After my son was born I somehow eased up to a 12.5. I actually found some at Nordstroms’ Rack. Heh. Pay full price for designer shoes?! O hell no! My mother would spin in her jar…

          • Trixie

            Yeah, I’ve spent most of my life in half size purgatory, first as a 10.5 before kids, then briefly as an 11 after the first, and now what is probably a permanent 11.5 after the second. Wait, going up to a 12 is a totally legit reason to bring another child into the world, right?

          • InvisibleDragon

            Well…I wouldn’t, but I suppose one could try. (I love my kid, but never wanted a second one.)

          • Young CC Prof

            Actually, sometimes people’s feet get bigger from time alone. My feet grew about half a size in my late twenties, for no apparent reason. There’s hope yet!

          • Trixie

            I sort of hope not, as they seem to have grown mostly through my formerly high arches falling. Hello, plantar fasciitis. The current paleo barefoot shoe as cure-all woo really irritates me. Or else I just don’t trust feet enough.

          • Mishimoo

            It’s okay, I don’t trust feet either. I need decent arch support in shoes, otherwise my knees play up and I roll my ankles too much.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I’m a 7.5 to 8. I know I shouldn’t whine, but my problem is that the store is always out of my size. The curse of the average sized person.

          • InvisibleDragon

            Those are about *the* most average sizes. I always wondered why buyers never seemed to order enough of those. There would be loads of sizes 10 and 5 at markdown time.

          • Trixie

            I haven’t seen a 7.5 since I was 9!

      • Mer

        I agree, I’m one of those big boned ones as well, with very broad shoulders and big feet and hands. Muscle mass is never taken into account either, I carry a lot of muscle of my large frame which makes me look thinner than the number on the scale suggests. I kind of feel like a tank sometimes, next to my willowy sister in law.

        • InvisibleDragon

          I’m just plain weirdly built. Big feet, big hands, tall, but narrow shoulders, long waisted, but short torsoed and hips that are still non-existent. I used to have a good amount of muscle, until the back injury and the shoulder surgery. Thank dog my mother was a seamstress/tailor, or I’d have spent my life in jeans and tshirts, mens too.
          It makes me crazy that men can buy pants by waist and inseam and shirts by neck and sleeve. What makes them so all that and a cookie?

    • Gene

      I’m almost 6′ tall. I had a boyfriend in college who swore I couldn’t weigh more than “a buck-o-five” (AKA: 105 lbs). I was thin and he couldn’t imagine a woman weighing more than that. In HS, I was 125 lbs and people accused me of being anorexic (or bulemic, after seeing me eat – I was neither). I was once measured for a costume in school and told the seamstress to make sure to add 12″ to the length. She said, “Oh, I have your measurements”. I grabbed my friend who had the same bust/waist/hip measurements and said, “Yeah, well we measure the same and I am a FOOT TALLER”. She added twelve inches. My sis (same height, thinner than me) was once asked if she planned to lose weight before a wedding since her dress size was a 5.

      I HATE women’s sizing. Designers think women hit 5’7 and then get wide. I wish they did everything the same as men’s (waist/inseam). I can’t ever find long sleeved shirts or coats that fit. Grumble…

      • Lindsay Beyerstein

        I hate women’s sizing too. Particularly the assumption that if you’re under 5’4″ you want to wear sailor suits and pastels instead of normal clothes.

        • MLE

          On the flip side, I am always wandering into the petite section of j crew because everything in there is adorable, and then coming to the sad realization that I would need one pair of pants for each leg.

      • fiftyfifty1

        You remind me of a woman I went to medical school with. When we sat back to back on the floor we were the exact same height. But when we stood up she was 8 inches taller. Her legs just kept going and going and going, while I have the limbs of a corgi. I am toward the tall end of the petites height range, but even so have to shorten the arms and legs anyway.

        But my problems are nothing compared to that of my best friend growing up: 6’2″, well over 200 pounds and size 14 womens shoes.She was this size by age 12.

  • Ellen Mary

    It is important to note though that rejecting NCB does not make Cesareans ‘feminist’ or Epidurals. Just like Abortions can be feminist choices or deeply anti-feminist women’s rights violations (forcible, in China, or at the hands of parents & partners), OB/GYN technology can be used for both feminist & anti-feminist ends. No one would call the situation in Brazil feminist, nor are deeply misogynistic ideas that vaginal birth ‘ruins vaginas’. Some of the first Cesareans were performed because the life of the baby was determined to be MORE important than the life of the mother, initially by the Catholic Church.

    • Ellen Mary

      I even see the upsetting ‘watermelon/lemon’ analogy below. I pray I do not see hotdog/hallway, the logical next step. The tricky part of childbirth is getting the baby through the PELVIS, not the vagina. These type of analogies really represent a total misunderstanding of female physiology.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Well, vaginal childbirth did actually ruin my vagina. And the first time I heard the “hotdog/hallway” analogy I laughed in recognition-except that I had to add the detail that in my case the hotdog actually couldn’t be thrown down the hallway as it would be stopped by the large piece of furniture (my prolapsed uterus) that blocked the way. And that then I had a poop accident in my pants.

        I wish I had been living in Brazil.

        • fiftyfifty1

          And in my case, it wasn’t tricky at all getting my baby through the pelvis. Apparently I have a very ample pelvis. For me the problem was ALL about the vagina.To believe it is all about the pelvis, while ignoring the soft tissues, represents a total misunderstanding of female physiology.

          • theadequatemother

            I agree. Why are we NOT “allowed” to talk about the effect of childbirth on female soft tissues? IMHO this doesn’t get enough discourse and there is something I find very anti feminist about the party line of trying to convince owmen not to worry about the effect the process of birth could have on their bits, this is more biologic determinism plain and simple.

          • Jessica S.

            There’s a lot about feminism that confuses me, and I guess I’m talking more about feminism as a modern, marketable concept than it’s true form. If I want to be worried about my vagina being ruined during delivery, why is it anti-feminist to do so? I’m not going go around telling everyone else they have to be worried about it too. Doesn’t seem right to be told I shouldn’t believe such things.

          • Mishimoo

            “If I want to be worried about my vagina being ruined during delivery, why is it anti-feminist to do so?”

            The presumption seems to be that you would be concerned about keeping it pristine for A Man, which is not acceptable according to some feminists. They seem to not grasp that avoiding pelvic floor damage is something that women can and should be able to chose for themselves, as it impacts on so many aspects of life outside of sex.

          • Mariana Baca

            And even if it only affected her sex life, it still woould not be antifeminist. A woman’s sex life is also important. People act like only the man is interested in sex or is the only one affected by changes in a woman’s sex organs.

          • Jessica S.

            Amen!

          • Lindsay Beyerstein

            As a semi-professional internet feminist, I’m here to tell you that concern for the wellbeing of your vagina is 100% feminist-approved and anyone who tells you differently is being weird.

          • Jessica S.

            Woo-hoo! I figured as much. :)

          • so angry

            Because nobody, including doctors, cares if a woman’s vagina and future sexual pleasure are ruined by childbirth. They care a little about the effect that will have on her husband, but none at ALL about the effect it will have on her personally. We’re supposed to just be happy and grateful to have children.

            Yes, I am very angry and bitter about this.

          • Dr Kitty

            I’m so sorry you feel that way.
            You must have encountered some very unpleasant people.

            Fiftyfifty1, the adequate mother and I are all Drs.
            Some of us do care, very much.

          • araikwao

            Is it inappropriate to ask you to share a bit more about what has happened? I’m a med student considering obstetrics after I finish, and I’d like to be able to understand better. (I think I’ve sustained a bit of damage myself after my big-headed macrosomic son, but clearly nothing like you are describing). Feel free to ignore or rebuke me harshly if you’d prefer not to :)

      • Dr Kitty

        I take it you haven’t watched a fourth degree tear being repaired, fitted a ring pessary or tried to do a speculum exam on a woman with severe cystocele and rectocele?

        Bad things can happen to pelvic floors and perineums in childbirth.

        You’re right, babies get stuck in the pelvis, not the vagina, but that is only because soft tissues stretch and tear and bones don’t.

        If your pelvic floor has been weakened to the point you can no longer use tampons, I would imagine PIV intercourse might have lost some of its former charm for you AND your partner, and no, sometimes Kegels aren’t enough to fix the problem.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I take it you haven’t watched a fourth degree tear being repaired,

          It is on my schedule for the weekend…

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Please see my comment yesterday.

      Empowerment is manifested in the ability to make choices, not in the choices we make.

    • so tired

      The feminist stance should be that a woman can choose an elective c-section if she wants one. That would go along with other feminist beliefs about control of one’s own body.

  • Francesca

    Hi Dr. Amy and everybody in the commentarium, I’ve been lurking this great blog for months, and this is the first time I comment ( I apologize in addvance for occasional english language mistakes, I’m italian and living in Italy). Over here homebirth is regulated much more strictly than in the USA, and the whole health system is very different, as every woman can give birth for free at the hospital. Anyway I know many a mother who believe in the same “woo” of NCB, attachment parenting, breastfeeding etc., like natural is good and not-natural is evil (my sister for instance was all into lotus bith). This whole nature cult stuff makes me freak out, I have to say, and I agree that it is all deeply anti-feminist. Therefore I would like to point out that the analogy with the fashion system has one flaw, in my opinion. And it is this: no magazine or tv show ever dared to maintain openly that if you don’t starve yourself to look like a model, or don’t conform yourself to certain beauty canons, you are morally worse than women than do. They may persuade you that if you don’t you will be less happy or less successful , but they don’t get to say that you are morally inferior. Whereas NCB people actually believe and say that if you undergo interventions, epidural, induction, let alone CS, don’t breastfeed into toddlerhood, vaccinate, etc., you will actually damage your baby, deprive him/her. I think this is what makes these ideas so hard to unroot: many women actually want to do their best for their kids, and positively believe that NCB and all that stuff is the best. (Boy, was I lenghty!) Thank you for your attention :-) Francesca

    • fiftyfifty1

      I agree, there is an added layer of moral shaming to the NCB movement that is not there in the fashion industry. While people with obesity are sometimes shamed morally (e.g. the sin of gluttony) women who simply are unstylish and out of fashion with their hair or makeup or have a “dumpy” but not obese figure are not shamed from a moral standpoint. Actually women who are too into fashion are sometimes shamed for the sin of vanity.

    • anion

      Benvenuto, Francesca!

      And you are absolutely right about the added moral element. No one implies that a mother who doesn’t wear makeup or the latest clothing is setting her child(ren) up for a lifetime of failure and stupidity and pain, or is deliberately ignoring “what’s best” for them.

    • araikwao

      Great point, Francesca, I agree

  • prolifefeminist

    One of your best posts ever, Dr. Amy!

    The idea that NCB is “feminist” is so profoundly ridiculous that I hardly even know where to start. When I find myself reading mothering.com posts…page after page of dramatics about how devastating and tragic it was that it was an evil OB who touched the baby first (c-section), or how the baby had her heel “slashed open over and over” (heel stick), or how they “gave in” to an epidural, I just want to stand up and yell “GET A GRIP!!”. Seriously, is this supposed to be what it means to be a strong woman?? Does being “feminist” mean flipping out when things don’t go the way you wanted them to? Massively over-dramatizing every single thing that was hard? Does being a woman mean that you’re too fragile to handle disappointment, fear, or hardship like an adult? Because it sure seems like the NCB crowd wants and needs a pass to act like giant whiny babies when they don’t get what they want.

    I’m not talking about women truly being treated poorly or disrespectfully – there’s no excuse for that. I’m talking about women who go into hysterics because the pediatrician ordered glucose testing on their home birth transfer macrocosmic baby, or because their nurse had the nerve to insist on an IV during their TOLAC. It’s just so…juvenile. And the NCB movement is the gasoline on the fire and they just keep fanning the flames…

    • Busbus

      Yes – I couldn’t agree more.

      • prolifefeminist

        You and I seem to have a lot in common, Busbus. You’re a former home birth mom with a big family too, right? I seem to relate to a lot of what you write.

        • Busbus

          Yes, I also had homebirths. But only two kids! :-)

          • prolifefeminist

            Ah, well, so much for my memory! ;-)

            I love reading the comments on this blog. I’ve learned so much here, and it’s been a refuge from all the manipulative NCB garbage that’s stewing out there.

          • Busbus

            Yes, I agree – the comments are just as important as the articles. It’s a great community here, everyone!

            And while I’m really pro-choice, I always enjoy reading your posts, plf!

          • prolifefeminist

            Thanks, Busbus – I enjoy reading your posts too. There’s so much we can all learn from each other (and so much common ground too, I think!).

          • Busbus

            Agreed. :-)

    • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

      Does being “feminist” mean flipping out when things don’t go the way you wanted them to?
      I think they’re confusing being a micromanaging control freak with being truly empowered.
      It’s a mark of weakness not strength, and it speaks to a lack of real world authority and professional success.
      They’re clumsily appropriating (and misunderstanding) the methods and mannerisms of empowered women.
      The NCB movement is a cargo cult in every sense.

      • Jessica S.

        Excellent!

      • prolifefeminist

        Very well said, Miko! I think you’re right on the mark.

  • Beth

    My devotedly feminist mother about Natural Childbirth. “So as a woman I’m supposed to measure myself by the way I choose to push something the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon? Are they trying to set us back into the strong age?”
    Everyone has a reason for believing as they do, and most of the time I find very little fault with the other’s beliefs, but this time I’ve just got to wonder why women have fallen so hard core into a set of beliefs that are killing our children. I’m sorry I don’t find that empowering, on the contrary I find that insulting.

    • Young CC Prof

      My mother was a follower of the original NCB movement back in the 70′s. She didn’t quite get why I was Fed Up. Then I got her to really start reading some of what they were selling.

      Her reaction: “But, these people are crazy! Home birth after Cesarean? Of course they’re losing babies, I’m surprised they aren’t killing mothers! That isn’t natural childbirth, it’s crazy!”

      • prolifefeminist

        My mother was a follower of the original NCB movement too – she had two home births in the 70′s. What drove her to choose home birth was receiving some pretty awful, disrespectful treatment in the hospitals she’d given birth in previously. Things really were quite different back then – a lot of US maternity wards were extremely paternalistic and a far cry from what most are like today. I think that there was a much-needed backlash against the way birthing women were being treated, but it eventually spun way out of control. Maternity departments in many (most?) US hospitals are practically spa-like now. Yes, there will always be some crappy OBs and cranky nurses, but by and large maternity care has become WAY more patient-centered over the last 40 years or so.

        So what began as a backlash, with women demanding better OB treatment, has now somehow grotesquely morphed into an entire industry devoted to making mothers feel that their worth is determined by how they give birth (and how they feed their babies, and whether they vaccinate, and whether they wear their babies, and, and, and…). When I talk to my mom about the way it is now, she’s shocked at what “NCB” has become. It’s gone WAY beyond advocating for patient rights and respectful treatment.

        And of course, the fact that we even have the luxury of expecting whirlpools, soft lighting, flat screen TVs, and medical personnel with pleasant bedside manners is indicative of just how safe hospital birth has become. You don’t give a damn about whether your doctor has a nice bedside manner when you’re lucky if you can even get a doctor, any doctor, to help you. Soft lighting isn’t really on the top of your list when you’ve just traveled for hours to get to a small hospital and you have your emergency c/s by the light of a single bulb because the hospital doesn’t have power 24 hours a day. Safety is something we take for granted – we are spoiled beyond belief in the USA! Yet still, the NCB movement trashes the maternity care system and tries to convince women that they are better off giving birth outside of it.

        • KarenjJ

          Mine was too. Not enough to do a homebirth, but enough to get depressed and stay depressed about her c-sections.

          • prolifefeminist

            There’s an interesting point, Karen. I wonder if your mom’s depression over her c-sections would have been counted by NCB advocates as caused by the c-sections, rather than caused by being implicitly told that she was a failure for not delivering vaginally. One of the things cognitive therapists do is help people to have realistic expectations, so that unmet unrealistic ones don’t trigger a depressive episode.

        • araikwao

          Yeah, my obstetrician said something similar to me, along the lines of “We’re pretty good at keeping babies alive now, so it’s all candles and music and stuff now”

      • OBPI Mama

        My mother was also a follower of the NCB movement. She had one of the kids at home (my dad delivered him) and the rest naturally in the hospital. She went to my homebirth. And then she went to 4 of her other grandkids medicated, hospital births and then she was like, “What the heck was I thinking? Why did I put myself through 7 painful, natural births???? What was the point exactly?” She totally would have had epidurals if there were do-overs.

        • Young CC Prof

          To be fair, 30-40 years ago, the options for pain medication were a lot more limited. Twilight was out, and everyone knew that administering any sedating drug close to the actual birth could potentially cause problems in the newborn. Epidurals existed, but they weren’t as good, evidence of safety was less thorough, (As in, many things that are now NCB myths were believed by actual experts) and many hospitals didn’t even provide obstetric epidurals. If I was delivering in the late 70s or early 80s, I’d probably try to have an unmedicated hospital birth also.

          • Trixie

            Yeah. I think it was a more reasonable choice back then, although probably still not as safe as hospital birth for low-risk women.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            This is the difference. I think we can all agree that the hospital experience may not have been as pleasant, and was downright problematic in lots of ways.

            However, it was still SAFER in the hospital.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            There was a period when it was safer to give birth at home than in the hospital. At that time, the years had 18 in front of them. Hospitals became safer by the early 20th century, though I’m not sure of the exact date of when things turned around.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I don’t even know if it is fair to say that it was safer at home. The problem was that hospitals just weren’t available.

          • Trixie

            No, she’s right. The time when doctors didn’t wash hands between patients was not a time you wanted to deliver in a hospital.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            The period between discovery of anesthesia and development of aseptic technique was an ugly one. Fortunately, it was relatively brief.

          • Young CC Prof

            Like Trixie said, there was indeed a time when maternal mortality rates in hospitals were substantially higher than at home. This period, thankfully, came to an rapid end with the introduction of handwashing and carbolic acid antiseptic. Carbolic acid is nasty nasty stuff, but it beats endometritis.

          • Medwife

            A woman I know, who is black, was strapped down in leather 4 point restraints to deliver her baby in the late ’60s. She was a teenagerNo medication of any type was offered. If I had that experience I might have chosen to have my next baby at home or maybe to have no more babies!

          • Jocelyn

            That is AWFUL.

          • An Actual Attorney

            It still happens a lot to women who are incarcerated in the US, who often are black or brown. It’s horrible.

            (Not that giving birth in a living room or jail cell is an improvement)

          • fiftyfifty1

            Giving birth in 4 point restraints without access to medications of any type happens a lot in the US to incarcerated women of color?! Do you have something to back that up? Because I have worked as a prison doctor and that was not our protocol at all. Women delivered at the local hospital without any restraints and with any pain meds they wanted. There was always a guard in the room, but he/she stood behind the curtain.

          • An Actual Attorney

            http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128563037,

            http://www.ibtimes.com/virginia-pregnant-prisoners-will-no-longer-be-shackled-during-childbirth-893690just quickly. As you must know, policy and law varies state by state, often prison by prison.

            http://www.justicefellowship.org/node/169

            And, before you tell me there would be a lawsuit, http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-8th-circuit/1498723.html

            But Ms. Nelson was eventually awarded one dollar for what happened to her, and her lawyers were awarded $1.50

          • araikwao

            I really don’t want to read those links, because I hate to think that what you said is true. Why don’t the NCBers get onto the cause of women who *actually need defense of their human rights in childbirth??

          • fiftyfifty1

            I agree with the general idea that women shouldn’t be shakled during delivery and I’m glad policies have largely changed. But I don’t think it is unreasonable for a woman to be in some level of restraints (e.g. wrist cuff) during transport. And none of your links back up your assertion that prisoners deliver in 4 point restraints or are refused pain meds.

          • Houston Mom

            Is a spinal block different from an epidural? My mother-in-law had one for my husband’s birth in 1970. My mother was given some kind of gas during my birth in 1971. It was a quick labor. She barely made it to the hospital. She said they knocked her out with gas and she woke up and there I was. My brother had to stay in an incubator for several weeks after his birth in 1970 and Mama was not allowed to visit. She just phoned daily to see how he was doing.

      • Trixie

        Heck, I was born at home! With a CNM, which was a really new thing back in the day. I may be one of the first non-Plain home births with a CNM in my state. Certainly within the first few dozen. My mom was trying to avoid things that don’t happen in hospitals anymore but did happen in 1978 — being separated from her husband, mandatory shaving and enemas, mandatory baby being kept in the nursery, paternalistic doctors, etc. etc. All the things that the NCB movement *still* pretend are happening in hospitals. By the time my sister came around, 9 years later, most of those things had already changed, and my mom had pre-e, and happily went to the hospital! And she encouraged me to have hospital births as well.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Wow, it seems we have a lot of commenters here who had mothers who were followers of the original 1970s NCB movement, or from the first trend wave of homebirth. I’m another one. My mother had her first baby in the 1960s and was treated poorly, she was a teen with an unplanned pregnancy and got a lot of moral judgement. She describes having to fight not to receive the shot to dry up her milk. So I think her initial attraction to NCB came out of that. But then the hospitals changed. By 10 years later it was an entirely different story:No episiotomy, no shaving, whole family in the delivery room, doc called by his first name. But even after this near-perfect hospital experience she still decided to birth at home thereafter. There was an element even then of rebellion and forming an identity based on being a Homebirther. But homebirth was still a unorganized fringe movement by the time she had her last in the mid 1980s. Now homebirth is still uncommon, but it’s not just an unorganized fringe movement anymore. Its ideas have entered into mainstream consciousness even if the rates are still low.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          The homebirth movement has stopped being a fringe movement and started being a business. I wish women who try for home births because they want to be anti-establishment and not support big business would notice that the NCB movement has become what it was originally fighting.

          • Young CC Prof

            Exactly what I always say about the drugs vs supplements debate. Dietary supplements are big business, AND it’s an industry with almost no consumer protections or safety regulations.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Yeah, small struggling anti-establishment movements don’t have their own regulation loopholes. Supplements lost any claim they had to being counter-cultural when they got the FDA to exempt them from regulation.

        • Sullivan ThePoop

          They were still giving episiotomies pretty regularly when I had my son in 1991. I had to talk all about it with my doctor beforehand and he had never not given one, but was so awesome and spent a lot of time going to seminars and reading about it. Afterward he told me that I completely changed his mind and he would change his practice of when to give an episiotomy.

        • yugaya

          What you said there has me wondering of the lifelong consequences on this generation of NCB children – how will it affect them in the long run, being exposed to all that mother-centered brainwashing. What are they going to feel once they are old enough to start deconstructing the narrative and understand all the nasty implied things, like the fact that their mother mourned her perfect birth experience rather than celebrating bringing them into this world by any means possible? What kind of toxic issues because of heavy context of genderism are the daughters going to pick up along the way when they grow up ‘knowing’ that trusting their überwomanly vaginas is always better and safer than trusting their brains?

      • Dr Kitty

        My mother is the anti NCB.
        She’s a Dr, trained in Zimbabwe in the 1970s (hyenas beside the generator= Emergency CS by torch light) and studied with Philpott, who developed the first partogram.

        When her first birth (me) ended up going sideways (42 weeks, PROM for 24 hrs without contractions and an unengaged foetal head, several hours of pit with no dilation despite tetanic contractions, foetal distress, crash GA section) it just convinced her that Trusting Birth was the stupidest idea ever.

        She hasn’t wavered despite the Spinal that didn’t work for her second CS (she told them she could feel the cutting, swift conversion to GA) and the neonatal death of her third child from an undetected congenital anomaly.
        The only birth she was actually awake for, when there wasn’t neonatal resuscitation and panic was her youngest child.

    • Klain

      Can I say that the whole watermelon analogy was particularly fear-inducing when the only watermelons I’d seen pre-children were round, larger than soccer ball shapes.

      • prolifefeminist

        Is there ANY shape of watermelon that would be comfortable to pass through a lemon-sized hole? ;)

  • mydoppleganger

    You know what really helps birthing mothers? Realistic support! With 2 sections under my belt (literally), 2 *failed* attempts at breastfeeding, I can honestly say it was not for lack of trying, eduction, determination, or faith. What has hurt is one size fits all idealism of things I can only influence to a point. Life is much better embracing what is and making the best of it. The journey of trying to accomplish the perfect birth or the perfect breastfeeding can be mentally damaging to women.

    I recently was speaking with a man who goes to a church that believes all mental anxiety is from demons. You know where I’ve heard that school of thought before? Natural birth folks. Natural birth folks that believe so much that if one just believes, just prays right, has no spiritual blocks everything will be amazing. If things go wrong, the default answer is “well, maybe you did have some blocks in your energy/your aura wasn’t clear/you didn’t trust God/Mother Earth enough.

    • mydoppleganger

      I will add I’m thankful for my struggles with these things, because my empathy for others is more convicted. Had I gotten or achieved everything I thought I needed to be happy and fulfilled, I would have missed who I am now. Plus, my world got better when I stopped reading Birth Without Fear, which ironically, only caused me fear during my vbac attempt preganancy.:)

      • Busbus

        You know what? I also became a more compassionate person when I started giving my second baby bottles and didn’t live up to the attachment parenting ideal in other ways. I never was one to be mean, but man, was I judgemental on the inside, before! It pains me to think about it, and I just hope it was never written on my face.

        • prolifefeminist

          Me too! I couldn’t breastfeed my last baby (preemie, oral birth defects) and instead pumped and bottle fed, eventually supplementing with formula. Boy, did that ever give me a much-needed kick in the pants. BF had generally come easily to me, and I believed all the crap that “almost EVERY woman can breastfeed!!”

          It was a relief and a wonderful sense of freedom when I finally admitted that I’d been wrong about “the best way to do things.” Giving up that ideal in my mind felt good! And I’m way more compassionate now, because there’s no need or desire to judge. Now, a “good mother” to me is one who truly loves her kids and is doing her best.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            Add me to the list of folks who is waaaay more compassionate and supportive of multiple ways of doing things. Somehow, after three kids, I’ve given up the pasttime of thinking that only I know the nest way. I was never mean (at least not purposefully) but am sure that someone sensed my judgement somewhere along the way.

          • AmyP

            “I believed all the crap that “almost EVERY woman can breastfeed!!”

            But not every time.

            I had two non-suckers, followed by one great little sucker. I didn’t realize until I had my third that the first two just had no idea what they were doing.

          • Young CC Prof

            I made lots of milk, but my son would probably have starved before he figured out how to get it out. I tried a bunch of things, but none of them quite worked, other than switching to bottles.

        • OBPI Mama

          This was me too! I was totally judgemental, inwardly… then I had my first baby and my milk didn’t come. Tried for months to get milk to come in and was seeing 4 lactation consultants and the census was inadequate amount of milk glands (maybe 1 or 2 per breast)… formula for all 4 of my babies and a big dose of humility! Which I’m thankful for now.

  • Carrie Looney

    The whole idea that rejecting science and science-based medicine is ‘feminist’ and ‘empowering,’ that women cannot look at the options and statistics and make logical risk/benefit analyses – it is all just jaw-droppingly misogynistic to me.

    • Young CC Prof

      But math is hard, ya know? And I heard a man invented science. It’s better just to rely on other ways of knowing.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      I understand where that idea came from in the historical context. In the 19th and early 20th century, science was considered a male thing that women were incapable of understanding. This gave rise to a movement within feminism that accepted this claim but tried to make an additional claim of there being “other ways of knowing”. “Other ways of knowing” might be a useful concept in philosophy or religion, but it’s less useful in biology and physics. And it’s abundantly clear at this point that women are equally capable (or incapable) of understanding science and logic as men. Time to consign this one to the dustbin of history along with pure communism and unmodulated capitalism.

      • http://whatismyreferer.com/ MikoT

        I suspect that part of the problem is that scientists are underrepresented in the upper ranks of feminism, and within most political structures.
        This will change over time.

    • Sue

      That NCB biological determinism, with ”my body was made to give birth” is the antithesis of feminism. Especially when it creates a sense of failure and guilt in women whose bodies ”fail” that ideal – even though their brains are perfectly functional.

  • Hannah

    The idea that NCB is feminist, especially in its current structure, is feminist has always been laughable to me. I can’t think of anything more misogynistic than telling a woman that choosing pain relief is weak, that listening to doctors is weak.

    If anything some of the birth stories with the most horrifying example of misogyny and complete disregard for letting a patient’s voice be heard are home birth stories. Ruth Iroio’s comes to mind with her doula and midwife laughing at her when she begged for relief, instead of hearing her cries. Yeah, real empowering.

  • Amy M

    I hate the “..but NCB is feminist and mainstream childbirth in a hospital is the realm of the Man!..” crap. I see how it started, with medicine originally being the realm of men and women having to fight for rights, and in many places still today (including, sadly, sometimes America), still aren’t considered as smart/good/worthy as men. Women had to fight for pain relief in labor as they were originally told that pain was their due, thanks to Eve, or some such nonsense.

    I think we are long past that here. I think many people on this board agree that when you get down to brass tacks, feminism is about choice and equality, and certainly, a woman should be able to opt against an epidural assuming all is going well in labor. Hell, she can opt against all medical care, for all I care, as long as she is fully informed of what she is doing. But, for a group of people to decide that ALL women MUST….they’ve stepped over the line right there. It’s no longer feminism.

    • Hannah

      And for entire hospital systems to systematically enforce is, such as in the NHS where it is almost routine and considered acceptable to delay a woman’s access to pain relief until it is ‘too late’. They tell women they will get pain relief if they ask for it, what they don’t tell them is how hard it will be made for them to actually get the request fulfilled.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      A very wise person has said, “Empowerment is manifested in the ability to make choices, not in the choices one makes.”

      IOW, the ability to choose an epidural if one wishes shows empowerment, regardless of whether one chooses one or not. Choosing or not choosing and epidural are equally demonstrating empowerment. Telling a woman that she has failed because she chooses an epidural disempowers her.

      Similarly, allowing women to have an abortion if they so choose is empowering. However, that does not mean that women have to choose an abortion to exercise that power.

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        IIRC, one study of satisfaction with abortion versus birth after an unwanted conception found that women who chose to have an abortion and those who chose to give birth were about equally happy with their choice. Those who were forced by law or circumstances to give birth were significantly less happy. Supports your thesis that it’s having the choice, not making the “right” choice that’s important.

        • prolifefeminist

          Along those same lines, women who were forced (by partners, parents, circumstances, etc.) to abort report higher rates of regret and dissatisfaction afterwards than those who were not pressured into the decision. That’s always been my area of activism as a pro-life feminist – working to address the factors that make women feel pressured into having an abortion they don’t want. Advocating for wider access to affordable childcare, viable options for pregnant and parenting students, maternity health care coverage (yay, ACA!), better protections from abusive partners, paid maternity leave, child support enforcement, etc. etc. etc. are much better ways to effect change than picketing clinics, IMO. Solutions, not slogans.

          • Young CC Prof

            I can get on board with that.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Also, better birth control. The abortion rate is down in both states that have instituted laws restricting abortion and those that have not. The decrease is credited not to laws harassing women about abortion but rather to increased use of highly effective birth control methods such as IUDs. Abortion will never disappear because there will always be pregnancies that go so badly wrong that there is no other sensible solution, but they can be drastically reduced with universal access to contraceptives.

          • Trixie

            Jinx!

          • Carrie Looney

            Obligatory link to the ‘no duh’ study that showed that access to free birth control lowered the abortion rate.
            http://medschool.wustl.edu/news/patient_care/Contraceptive_Choice

          • Trixie

            I’m on board with that too. I’d also add better access to contraceptives/emergency contraceptives.

          • prolifefeminist

            Oh yes – there are so many factors that can PREVENT these pregnancies from occurring in the first place…better access to birth control, better educational opportunities for young women, female mentors in a variety of professions to inspire girls to set high goals and work towards achieving them, even participation in sports…the list is practically endless. Pretty much anything that elevates the status of women has a positive effect on unplanned pregnancy rates.

  • Amy

    On the last day of a 10 week hypnobirthing class, our instructor directed our partners (all male) that if we (laboring mothers) say we want drugs that they should prevent it from happening. She told them that we would always regret getting an epidural if they “allow” it and we will always be resentful.

    Fast forward to my own delivery, my water broke and I didn’t go into labor. After 40 hours with no epidural, 13 hours of pit, back labor and NO dilation. I’m telling my husband I can’t take it anymore and I want the epidural. He’s fighting me, telling me I’m almost ready to push (I was only 4cm) and that I shouldn’t get it. My sweet husband didn’t want me to resent him for the rest of my life.

    The NCB movement is not about personal choice, it’s about one choice and it doesn’t matter who makes it for you.

    • MaineJen

      OMG. That is my nightmare.

      • Amy

        “Fighting” is the wrong word. He was trying to talk me out of it. I get it, the poor guy didn’t want me to hate him and couldn’t comprehend my pain. At the time of our class I was shocked that our instructor would say something so anti-woman but it was the last class and I was heavily pregnant, miserable and did not have the energy to be as outraged as I should have been.

        • Dr Kitty

          “The only way to truly do what your wife wants is to ignore her and do what you think is best for her”.

          If you wouldn’t accept it in any other part of your marriage, don’t accept it in labour.

          Your poor husband was trying to do the right thing, but OMG, that childbirth educator is not helping women be empowered, autonomous actors.

          • Amy

            Another lie that our instructor told was that after you get an epidural you have to sit perfectly still for 30 minutes straight. Once I got the epidural and did not have to sit still we started to realize how much that instructor lied to us.

            Interestingly enough, that instructor owns a store dedicated to natural parenting. Every class was an ad for her “community center” aka, store.

          • ngozi

            How disgusting!

          • Young CC Prof

            30 minutes straight? WTF? How about 30 seconds, so the anesthesiologist can place the needle?

          • Amy

            I know. I even asked the anesthesiologist if I could still have one because there was no way I could be still for a half an hour. He couldn’t understand why anyone would ask such a thing….

          • theadequatemother

            30 minutes!!!!

            Did she say why?

          • anh

            our lamaze instructor told us if we got an epidural we’d have to consent to having our waters broken and IFM

          • anion

            We were told in our class that we’d be given IV pitocin immediately on arriving at the hospital and that we would not be able to refuse it. (I didn’t care, but several of the women in my class were very upset by that–and it was completely untrue.)

    • Mel

      Over the summer, some work buddies were sharing labor and delivery stories – namely, the women who had had children were talking about how much they appreciated epidurals.

      One of our male colleagues mentioned when his wife gave birth 10 years ago, the Lamaze or Bradley or whatever instructor told the pair of them that there would be a point where the wife would be begging for pain relief and his job as coach would be to “help her remember the larger goal of a natural child birth.” My blood went cold when he said “And that totally happened.”

      That’s when I realized I could never ask that, would never ask that and would never expect my husband to talk me out of pain medication during labor/delivery.

      I was sharing the adequate mother blog post about how epidurals do slow down first and second stage labor – but by less than a hour total. He looked at me and said “That sounds like a very, very reasonable trade-off: 1 more hour of low or no pain labor compared to however many hours of pain.” (He’s a really nice guy, IMO :-P)

      • ngozi

        “help her remember the larger goal of a natural child birth.”

        Because the goal is not a healthy baby, apparently.

        I’m all for a great experience within reason; don’t get me wrong.

      • Jessica

        The nurse who ran my childbirth education class (at my OB’s office) said that epidurals might slow labor, but who cares because you’re not in pain! Seemed perfectly reasonably to me. I was SO MAD when I got my epidural at 4cm, passed out from exhaustion and the pain of an induced labor, and woke up for a cervical check about an hour or so later and was told I was 8cm dilated. I wanted more sleep and fully expected my slowed labor. My son was born less than three hours after that. Next time I’m getting the epidural ASAP.

      • thankfulmom

        Sounds like a really reasonable and nice person to amit that!

      • Hannah

        I mentioned this last week somewhere, but my husband point-blank refused to do anything that would involve him trying to persuade me not to get pain relief. He is as supportive as they come but he is not prepared to tell me that I don’t need pain relief in a situation where I do. Not going to happen.

        • KarenJJ

          My husband said the same. I was terrified of the “cascade of interventions” at the time and felt let down and wondered whether I should get a doula as well (which he was also not keen on). It was when the midwife at the hypnobirthing course told me to trust my medical providers that I managed to get past this idea that I needed someone to protect me from the doctors and nurses.

          And of course birth went well – no cascade of interventions even though it was a c-section (because I didn’t have any interventions prior the c-section and also because the “cascade doesn’t exist to start with!) and I was much happier going through birth without being on guard and trying to second guess everything the doctors and nurses were trying to say to me at the hospital.

          • Sue

            I would be appalled to think that patients seeking my help (not OB, but in health care) would be ”on guard” to defend themselves against my decisions and actions.

            I feel for nursing/CNM/OB providers who are held with so much suspicion by some people, while working to help them.

          • Young CC Prof

            I do believe that when it comes to my health, the buck stops with me. I try to understand what’s going on and why as much as possible, both as a final check against medical errors and because I just plain like to know.

            However, I also believe that the vast majority of health care providers are skilled and knowledgeable people working to HELP their patients as well as they can. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to go to the hospital with a different set of assumptions.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Of course, I actually know a few doctors so know that they are really nice people who are trying to help.

            Then again, I also know enough about medicine to know their limitations, so that means while I know they are doing their best to help, I also understand that there’s not always a simple answer to the problem.

          • KarenJJ

            It’s not a pleasant position to be in as a patient. It’s exhausting and I felt very anxious leading up to my first child’s birth because I couldn’t protect myself from all the potential problems. The best thing I got out of that hypnobirthing course was the midwife telling me to trust the medical providers. It really helped me to relax and enjoy those last few weeks of the pregnancy. The day before I went into labour, instead of trawling the internet and trying to “research” we went to the pub and for a walk along Manly beach.

            I hope more childbirth education and patient education helps to build trust between patients and medical providers. Half the women on that hypnobirthing course were there due to anxiety about medical procedures and hospitals.

      • Sue

        I had reason to look up the research on epidurals and prolongation of labor yesterday in response to another source of misinformation.

        The most recent Cochrane found mixed results, but overall an average prolongation time of THIRTEEN MINUTES.

        • Young CC Prof

          Huh. I guess that’s what happens if you actually manage to control for the obvious selection bias inherent in most epidural studies?

        • Trixie

          My epidural labor was much longer than my non-epidural labor…because my epidural labor was with a posterior asynclitic baby, and it was much more painful!

      • Elaine

        I don’t see it as bad for the husband to remind the wife that SHE previously wanted to do or not do whatever in labor for XYZ reason. That was basically all I wanted from my husband in terms of supporting my preferences. And then if it changes, it changes. In my most recent labor, my husband and I had a conversation in which I said “I don’t know if I buy that no-epidural thing anymore” and he said “Well, what about the cascade of interventions?” and I said “I don’t know if I buy that anymore either”. That was about as far as the epidural conversation got because then I went back to “well, it might not be all that much longer, so let’s just go with it for now”, which is the attitude that has gotten me through both labors, and our son was born perhaps an hour after that conversation. If there’s another baby we’ll be having another philosophical conversation beforehand about the “cascade of interventions”. But I don’t think that if I had said “No, I totally changed my mind and I do want the epidural because [whatever]” that he would have fought me on it.

    • Hannah

      A friend of mine’s marriage was almost destroyed by her husband adhering to those wishes. She resents the pain she endured even though she had expressly told him to stop her getting an epidural at all costs. He was trying to do the right thing, like your husband.

      If anything, husband-coached childbirth has got to be the least feminist way to give birth, ever. What makes it so awful is that the vast majority of men go along with it not because they are patriarchal assholes but because they want to respect their wives wishes.

      • me

        It puts men in an impossible situation: If he runs to grab the nurse/doc to get the epidural ball rolling and she later “regrets” getting it, he’s the bad guy – he didn’t “support” her enough. If he tries to talk her out of it/discourage getting it, and she is left enduring pain, and whether she ends up getting the epidural or not, he’s the bad guy – he didn’t “support” her enough.

        What’s so “empowering” about making a “choice” that requires someone else to force you to follow through on that choice? At that point, it’s not a “choice” at all.

      • Amy

        Yes, my husband is most certainly NOT a patriarchal asshole. He was just doing what he thought he was supposed to do, and that was to keep reminding me of my NCB “goal.” It’s so strange how our birth instructor would go back and forth between saying we were in control of our delivery but then she would also say we were not in control and our partners would have to advocate for us.

        I ALWAYS said that I would accept intervention if my OB said I needed it. My belief was that it was my job to learn how to birth and my Dr’s job to step in when she needed to. Was my epidural medically necessary? No, but the pitocin was. My water had been broken for 24 hours and nothing was happening. I was not taking risks with infection.

        I told my husband later that if he hadn’t “let” me get the epidural I would have resented him forever. But deep down be both know without saying that he does not “let” me do anything. We both know I make my own decisions. I can’t even type “let” without quotation marks because the notion that I get his permission is so completely absurd.

    • LMS1953

      That instructor should be crucified with nails.

      • http://www.antigonos.blogspot.com/ Antigonos CNM

        I once admitted a woman to L&D who had extremely long nails on one hand, while on the other they were cut short. While chatting, I asked her if there was any significance to that — was she, by chance, a musician, or some such? No, she replied, the long-nailed hand is the one I use to clutch my husband’s hand during contractions. And she was serious. “I want him to participate in the labor”, she said, with a grin, “and short of kicking him in the stomach every few minutes, I think this might give him a small idea of what I’m going through”.

        • ngozi

          I’m sorry, I think that is just sick.

          • http://www.antigonos.blogspot.com/ Antigonos CNM

            I agree that this lady did seem to have an odd sense of humor. But digging into his arm with her nails was probably better than bringing an electric cattle prod into the labor room…

          • MLE

            A bit sadistic, I agree, with forethought. I hope she doesn’t have serious menstrual cramps!

        • http://kumquatwriter.wordpress.com/ Kq

          I took a swing at my husband during labor once. He was never trying to keep me from pain meds (they were ineffective as the catheter had come out and we hadn’t discovered it yet) and he told me to try deep, slow breaths. I yelled that it wasn’t helping. He joked “yes, but it keeps you quiet!” And I tried to punch him! We still laugh about it (we are a seriously smartassed family). I don’t think he would have been a good coach anyway, because he’s not the greatest at sensing emotional needs. My mom was there for that – he was my advocate and kept me laughing. We knew I was hitting transition when I wasn’t laughing anymore!

          • anion

            IMO that’s hilarious. :-)

            (But then, I’m the one who found it hysterical when, after I mentioned how if I was a contestant on ANTM I would pose nude because that’s part of the contest, my husband replied, “Yes, but you’re a wh*re.” I laughed so hard I almost fell down.) (I hasten to add that he was definitely kidding; I didn’t mistake an insult for a joke or anything. He would never actually call me that word or anything remotely like it.)

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Possibly while being told that the anesthesiologist will be here soon to relieve the pain of crucifixion, but if she were really strong she’d do without.

    • Beth

      Yeah my dear SO would have been reminded it’s my body, and if he doesn’t like how I’m giving birth he can do it himself next time. Preferably while bearing down in the midst of a pain with his hand in mine.

  • ngozi

    I have experienced natural childbirth and I felt it was a positive experience. I wouldn’t pretend that it is for everyone. The problem I have with the natural childbirth movement is when their supporters try to say that anything other than natural childbirth is a failure that you have to “heal” from.

  • Comrade X

    Agree with everything you just wrote, Dr T.

    And nobody is saying that there’s anything WRONG with being slim, or with pushing a baby out of your vagina unmedicated. Dr Tuteur, for example, is both slim and has pushed babies out of her vagina unmedicated. Which is great. She just doesn’t think it makes her a Speshul Fucking Snowflake (TM) and that anyone who is different to her is an abomination unto Allah.

  • fiftyfifty1

    Size 2 is the right size for some women. They know it because they don’t even need to try to stay that size. They don’t need to play any games or restrict themselves from food so they won’t be tempted to “cave”.
    Likewise a med-free delivery is the right choice for some women. But if you are having to go to unhealthy lengths to attain it (staying home from the hospital so you won’t be tempted to “cave” when you are in pain) then you are trading the health and safety of yourself and your baby to try to attain it.

    • FormerPhysicist

      Amen.

    • MaineJen

      Well said.

    • R T

      I work my booty off exercising 6 days a week and eating very fresh and clean to maintain a size 2/4! I weighed 170 after I gave birth and am down to 125 now! I doubt I’d naturally be this size if I ate crap and say around all day, but I work hard to make this size feel very right! I think it’s much harder to change your lot for pregnancy and delivery. There is nothing I could have done differently to prevent my 2nd trimester miscarriage or my partial abruption at 20 weeks with my pregnancy with my son.

      • Certified Hamster Midwife

        And yet, there are people who exercise as much as you do and deprive themselves of food and still aren’t a size 2/4. That’s not a personal failing, it’s just not how their bodies are.

        • Young CC Prof

          I wouldn’t fit into a size 4 without losing part of my pelvis. Literally, my bones are bigger than that.

          • Mel

            Ditto. I’m obese and have been successfully losing weight in a medical weight loss program.

            When we were talking about what my healthy weight range was, my doctor looked at me and said that the goal I thought was realistic (120-130 pounds) was probably too low for someone of my frame (5″4 with broad shoulders and hips means around 150 pounds is a reasonable weight goal). I started crying because I had been in that weight range throughout HS and college and still thought I was overweight….

          • R T

            It may be reasonable but I wouldn’t let it stop you from reaching for a goal beyond 150lbs! Once you get down to a more manageable weight you can always start to find training you really enjoy! I really recommend the Body Back program! There are many obese women in the program who have amazing results! You have to really commit to the meal program and exercise homework outside of class, but we have women who weigh over 300 pounds at 5’4″ in my current class. It took me a year to go from 170 to 125 and I was really fit before I got pregnant and gained a bunch of weight. It’s a slow, but steady process if you commit. It is not fun, it is not easy and there are plenty of days I don’t want to go, but I’m always glad I did it when I get done! Congratulations on taking the steps to get healthy! It’s much easier to not try to change!

          • Trixie

            Why would you encourage her to lose more weight than her doctor told her to?

          • R T

            Her doctor gave her a reasonable goal of 150. He didn’t say if she happens to get to get to 140 she will die. He just wants her to get to a healthy weight. If she eats a lot, but well and exercises and gets lower than 150 it’s obviously not unhealthy! If she continues and eats correctly and exercises 6 days a week and never gets smaller than 150 than that’s where she’s naturally going to be and that’s okay too! However, since this is a new process for her, no one, not even her doctor knows what could happen!

          • Trixie

            Her doctor told her that 150 was a realistic goal and that going much below that was probably too low. But, you, random internet weight loss junkie, obviously know better than her physician.

          • R T

            Interesting you think because I have decided to eat well and exercise regular I’m a junkie of some sort. I guess it makes people feel better about living an unhealthy lifestyle if they somehow imagine its a bad thing to actively pursue health.

            I’m hearing a lot of “probably” here and that is not absolute. He’s giving her a guesstimate but its not set in stone.

          • Elizabeth A

            You’re talking pretty unpleasantly about weight and size, evangelizing for your exercise program, and proposing some really unrealistic standards, and you’ve just tried to override the actual doctor who has actually seen and evaluated the patient in question concerning what’s a reasonable weight goal for a person you’ve never met.

            I don’t know if you’re a junkie, but you’re being extremely unpleasant.

          • R T

            What I think is unpleasant is the original poster’s assertion that only people who can sit around and eat whatever they want and natural be a two, should be a two. It’s an unhealthy idea to believe all people who are thin are naturally that way. It takes a lot of hard work for a lot of people! We have a culture where people tell themselves they can’t be in shape because they have “fat genes”. Barring legitamite health disorders like thyroid issues, no one has “fat genes” that will keep them from getting into shape if they try hard enough. It may be much, much harder for some people than others, but its possible! I’m not saying everyone can be a 2/4 that’s just what I’m able to get down to, but everyone can get in shape and lose weight!

          • anion

            Except that’s not what she was asserting.

          • R T

            Of course it is! She’s comparing something none of us can change to something we can all change! It’s just not a good comparison. We do have control over our weight whether it’s up or down!

          • http://kumquatwriter.wordpress.com/ Kq

            “Everyone can lose weight and get in shape! Blaming genes is a cop out! Your doctor says X but REALLY you know Y is totally possible if you REALLY try!”

            “Every woman can breastfeed! Blaming genes is a cop out! Your doctor says X but REALLY you know Y is totally possible if you REALLY try!”

            I’m pretty sure this is why people are pissed at your comments. It’s why I am, for sure. I’m seriously offended.

          • R T

            Not the same! It’s just not! Every single person can change their body and health through diet an exercise unless they have a true medical condition that needs treatment first. Many woman really can not breastfeed, no matter what! Now, if you can breastfeed and don’t want to that’s your business and if you don’t want to exercise and eat well that’s your business too! It’s not easy in either case for many people! That’s a better comparison!

          • EastCoaster

            Yeah, you really are coming off as a sanctimonious know-it-all although you seem to think you’re being reasonable and supportive.

          • Trixie

            Which is why it’s so weird that you’re telling someone you’ve never met to lose more weight than her doctor told her is healthy.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Every single person can change their body and health through diet an exercise ”

            This is the mistake in your thinking. It is true that every single person’s weight will go down if net calories are decreased. So yes, everyone can “change their body”. Strictly following a fad food philosophy (e.g. “clean eating”) will do it. Actually so will a portion controlled diet of McDonalds. So will a famine or a forced labor camp.

            But what CAN’T be controlled is whether an individual person will be healthy at the size that the fashion industry dictates. Some women simply can’t be healthy at a size 2. And having to go to lengths to attain and maintain size 2 is a sign that that size is not healthy for you.

          • Jessica S.

            Yes!!

          • Jennifer2

            Even if every person could change their body “if they really try,” not everyone could or should change their body to be a single specific size or weight. I will happily acknowledge that I am at an unhealthy weight, and I have worked hard to lose almost 40 lbs since my son was born. I have a lot left to lose. But I also know that for my height and frame I will never be a size 2 (and you don’t know a damn thing about me so don’t try to say I could be). If I could get to a 10 it would be the smallest size I can ever remember wearing.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            No, we don’t all have control over our weight the way that you have control over yours. It is becoming increasingly clear that different individuals have different metabolic rates and probably different “set points” for what the body thinks is an ideal weight. Obviously it is always possible for people to lose weight if they stop eating, but, short of that, the effect of a specific number of calories and a specific amount of exercise varies from person to person.

          • R T

            Yes, but it is something we can all change and work with to some degree! My metabolism as slowed down extremely since hitting my 30′s and having I child! I’m sure it will continue to get harder as I age and there will come a point I will never be able to be as thin as I am now. I understand its much more difficult and time consuming for other people! I don’t look at overweight people and think they must just be lazy! It took me a long time to lose 45 pounds! 18 months actually! All I’m trying to say is there is nothing I could have done differently to change my experience with pregnancy and delivery! If there was I would do it no matter how difficult! I feel like its not a good comparison to say weight is the same as pregnancy and delivery and that thin people are just lucky. Yes there are natural thin people, but many more thin people work hard for it. Like I said, I really wish the same could be said for normal, natural pregnancy and delivery!

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            The difference is in the level of sacrifice that different people have to make. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that what works for you will work for others. It’s the same mistake as thinking that if breastfeeding is easy for you, it will be just as easy for others.

          • yugaya

            I’ve been where you are mentally, emotionally and weight/eating wise and now when I look back at it I know it was not a good place at all. There’s exercise, there’s healthy nutrition, and then there is that point beyond which all that time and money and effort you are investing in your ultimate body becomes a compensation of sorts for a bunch of other things you may be avoiding dealing with, like I was. I now weigh only three or four pounds more than I did back then ( I get on the scales maybe twice a year at general health check ups only, and my weight has been the same for over a decade with soon to hit forty factored in), but I am far healthier person overall, and I do not spend two to five hours daily musing over my foods and working out.

            It is a good thing you started this line of conversation because this attempt to have our weight under full and complete control, and adhering to uniform perfection ideal which we then individually try to self-impose with greatest of efforts is something that is very similar to the NCB dogma of ‘our bodies were made to do it’.

            No matter how much kale we drink, some things are sometimes just never going to be THAT perfect, be it our thighs or our vaginas. :)

          • araikwao

            Yes!! Was just scrolling through this thread to see if anyone had brought some recent research into it. And sadly, even a year after significant weight loss, the set point hasn’t changed, and the “hungry hormones” are still running at their old levels, telling the person to eat themselves back to their old size. There are genetic and epigenetic influences at play, including the Barker hypothesis, which shows higher levels of obesity (and cardiovascular disease) not only amongst the babies born small, but the big ones too. It is way more complex that “eat like me! Exercise like me! Then you’ll look like me!”

          • Elizabeth A

            We have a culture with a whacked out idea of “in shape”. IMO, if you can lift the things you want to lift, run a mile, swim a few laps, and enjoy an active game with friends, you’re in shape. Any other standard isn’t actually about health.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I agree with your above standard of being “in shape” Elizabeth except that I would substitute “walk fast” for the part about running for certain people.

          • anion

            “I guess it makes people feel better about living an unhealthy lifestyle?” You don’t know what Trixie’s lifestyle is, or that of any of us. To imply that we’re only troubled by your encouraging a woman to disregard her doctor’s advice because we’re couch potatoes who eat slop is rather rude, don’t you think?

            Mel is losing weight supervised by a physician. That’s all any of us need to know in order to know that telling her to ignore the MD’s advice and keep losing weight is wrong-headed. If you wanted to advise Mel to talk to her doc if she still wants to lose more at 150, that would be different, but there are a lot of factors at play, a lot of health issues (in general, I don’t mean Mel specifically, as I have no idea what might/might not be a factor there), and all of those are known to her doctor and unknown to you. It is irresponsible to tell her to do whatever the heck she wants, who cares what the doctor says.

          • R T

            First of all, she’s a long way from having to worry about it! However, if striving to be 140 motivates her just that little but more its a good thing. When she gets there her doctor is going to reevaluate her! This process will take a couple years and she’ll need to slowly work up to being able to do it on her own way down the rode! Like I said when she gets to a healthier weight everything will change.

          • anion

            How do you know how far she is from having to think about it? How do you know it will take years? Did I miss some info she posted?

            And yes, when she gets there her doctor is going to reevaluate her, as s/he is presumably doing regularly anyway. And at that point she can ask about further loss if she wants to. No one is saying she cannot ever go below 150, we’re saying that no one should be telling her to against her doctor’s specific advice.

          • Trixie

            Why does what she eats and what she weighs matter to you? It’s kind of creepy that you keep harping on this.

          • Anj Fabian

            I saw a woman at the fitness center. “How does she find pants to fit her?” I thought. This lady does 100 mile runs and her legs are like tree trunks, not slender saplings.

            She’s no size two, but she can run a hundred miles. Form? Or function? I vote for function every time.

          • Young CC Prof

            I agree with Elizabeth. There’s nothing wrong with healthy living, but you have definitely crossed a line into sanctimony and fat-shaming, including “fat-shaming” of people who may be active and perfectly healthy.

          • Trixie

            “guess it makes people feel better about living an unhealthy lifestyle if they somehow imagine its a bad thing to actively pursue health.” WTF? Was this directed at me? Not that it matters, but I do live what you would consider a “healthy lifestyle.”

          • Jessica S.

            No, the way you choose to live your life is not a bad thing. What IS a bad thing, and is almost certainly what Trixie was referring to, is to suggest to someone (Mel, in this instance) who has shared her story about an emotional conversation with her doctor about a more reasonable weight goal that she lose MORE weight. Because I’m sure that will make a person in that situation feel so much better.

          • Mishimoo

            I eat food that I enjoy, because life is too short to be miserable and I exercise when I have the time. That doesn’t make me any better or worse than you.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “He didn’t say if she happens to get to get to 140 she will die.”

            No, he didn’t say she would die. People don’t die from being ~7% below the bottom of their individual healthy range. But they do develop all sorts of other consequences at this level including decreased fertility, increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, irritability, depression, insomnia, osteopenia and heart arrhythmias. They are also at a higher chance of flipping into an eating disorder, which can take a variety of forms including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia. I see all these consequences and more at my job as a physician.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “I started crying because I had been in that weight range throughout HS and college and still thought I was overweight….”

            I run into your story all the time at my work. For many 5’4″ women, 150 pounds is their natural weight and they live healthy long lives at this weight (think of the build of the Queen Mother, she was no size 2/4). Actually, a number of studies show that the longevity is highest at a BMI of around 26-29 (for someone 5’4″ that’s ~150-170) which the BMI charts will say is “overweight”. That’s why I hate BMI charts. They really are a mis-used tool!

          • Trixie

            My DH weighs 220 lbs at 6’1″, but has a 36″ waist. He’s just a large, large person. He’d look really odd at a “normal” BMI.

          • Young CC Prof

            Actually, BMI tables fundamentally don’t work right on men over 6 feet tall. That’s because the person who designed the formula didn’t understand math. Your BMI is based on the square of your height, but people are three-dimensional, so your ideal weight depends on the cube of your height.

            You can approximate a cubic equation with a quadratic over a short range of x-values, but not over a long range. Result? Most healthy men over 6 feet are “overweight” or “obese” according to the BMI table, and fit, healthy people under 5 feet are likely to be classed as “underweight.”

            And this is what the FDA felt the need to endorse…

          • Dr Kitty

            I’m a teeny tiny person.
            Think Kylie Minogue, Eva Longoria or an Olsen.
            5′ tall, 23″ waist, the same size feet as the average 12 year old.
            I weighed 52kg the day my daughter was born.

            Size 0/2 is a perfectly healthy size for me, because I’m very petite, and it doesn’t require any effort on my part to stay this size (I basically haven’t changed my weight since I stopped growing, barring illness and pregnancy).
            I don’t starve myself and my exercise regime is practically non existent. That’s just the genetic card I got dealt.

            To get to a BMI of 26 I’d have to eat a LOT of ice cream.

          • Trixie

            That is FASCINATING! I had no idea. Thank you so much. The things you learn on this blog.

          • Trixie

            Also, does this explain why my kids are always “underweight” for BMI? or do they adjust the formula for kids?

          • Young CC Prof

            The adult BMI numbers absolutely don’t work on children. My nicely chubby baby, for example, has a BMI of only 16. And of course, children are differently proportioned. A healthy baby is round, with a huge heavy head. A healthy five-year-old is quite lean.

            Some bureaucratic genius actually developed BMI versus age charts for children, like this 21-page!! document designed to find out if your child’s weight is healthy. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/00binaries/bmi-tables.pdf

            Personally, I prefer the WHO’s weight-for-age and height-for-age percentile tables, much more straightforward. (Yes, having a low-birth-weight child caused me to spend perhaps a bit too much time studying growth charts,)

          • Trixie

            The WHO charts are recommended up until age 2 in the US. They made a big difference to my son — at 9 months he was in the 3% on the old CDC chart, but 15% on the WHO for weight.

          • Hannah

            Yeah. My brother is 6’2 and build like a ‘brick shithouse’ as Australians put it. He hasn’t been able to be in a ‘healthy’ BMI since he was 17 and he’s not ‘fat’ by any means.

          • Jessica S.

            I want to hug both you and Mel – I’m 5’4″ and was 156 when I got pregnant last October. If I can get back to that, I’ll be happier than a bird with a french fry and know that it’s completely normal!

          • Dinolindor

            I’ve been/I am there (well, adjusting the scale since I’m now pregnant again). Throughout my adolescence my dad was very harsh about my weight, and I thought I was horribly overweight when I was in the low 140s (also, 5’4″ and a shot putter). In college I suddenly became motivated to lose the almost 30 pounds I had gained freshman/sophomore years, and came back to the high 140s. My dad was overjoyed and proud of me and commented that this is what he wanted for me when I was in high school. And refused to believe that I was actually 5 pounds heavier at that point than in high school when he told me I was overweight. When I look back at photos from junior high and high school, I get so sad because I see how perfectly fine my weight actually was and yet at the time I always thought I was horribly fat. Oh to have enjoyed being that size!

          • R T

            Yes, I have plenty of friends who are tall and broad and could never be a 4. I’m not saying everyone can be! What I’m saying is everyone can change their weight and the shape of their body through hardwork. It’s not a good comparison to pregnancy and labor.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “What I’m saying is everyone can change their weight and the shape of their body through hardwork. It’s not a good comparison to pregnancy and labor.”

            Actually maybe it is:

            A woman can be 100% sure of becoming thin. For some women, it will take no effort at all. For some it may involve making potentially risky choices like following fad food philosophies and engaging in exercise enforced by personal trainers. For some it would take living in sub saharan Africa during a war to become thin (the person may die in the process but they would be 100% guaranteed not to be fat).

            Likewise, a woman can be 100% sure of avoiding a C-section. For some women it will take no effort at all. For others it would involve making potentially risky choices like vaginal breech or rotational forceps. For others it would take living in sub saharan Africa during a war (mom either dies or baby gets cut out of her with a sharp wire in chunks, but either way she is 100% sure NOT be having a CS).

        • Dr Kitty

          And some of us are small framed petite people with child sized feet and pelvises and we can shop in the kids’ section and wear size 0 while still eating pizza and doing almost no exercise.

          Genetics are funny and people come in different sizes and shapes. The only moral good is to try and be as healthy as you can be, whatever that means to you.

          • R T

            Yes, absolutely, but every single person CAN change their weight and fitness! The original poster is comparing something you can not change to something everyone most certainly can change about themselves!

          • LibrarianSarah

            They can if they have money. Money for “clean” foods. Money for a personal trainer/gym membership/exercise program. Money to live in an area where they can go for a run before or after work without the risk of becoming a crime victim. Money so they don’t have to work 2 or more jobs, plus take care of a family.

            Obesity is highly linked to poverty. To say every person can change their situation while promoting an expensive exercise program (a crossfit box membership can go for $500 around here) and food that I could only afford for a special occasion shows that your own privilege has blinded you.

          • Hannah

            I could not fit in a size 2 or a proper 4 unless my skeleton were to be replaced. It’s just not my frame. Size 4-6 is the smallest I get and that requires immense discipline and constant workouts.

            People like you, making comments like that, are the reason I spent my teen years and early twenties starving myself to be tinier than I was ever, ever genetically meant to be. In eight years of starving, I never reached my ‘goal’ size of a 2.

          • Young CC Prof

            That’s so funny! I’m the exact same height and weight right now, and I wear a TWELVE. At my skinniest, when I had been very sick and looked pinched and awful, I was a size 8.

            I really do have big bones I guess.

          • Hannah

            That’s the other thing. Size doesn’t meant shit. People can wear a six and look like they wear a twelve, and vice versa. I worked in retail long enough to learn that! :)

        • R T

          There aren’t very many woman who exercise as much as I do and eat like I do who aren’t almost the same size range and as fit as I am. I think the show “The Biggest Loser” is a good example of how people can really transform their bodies. There are some women who are taller with bigger hips or thighs, but even they have the ability to really change their shape and size dramatically.

          My mother comes from a family of very obese people! Her parents and grandparents were all obese to the point they died very young. She always heard growing up it was just their genes and she was destined for it too. However, she decided to change her life style, eat correctly and become a yoga instructor. She has never been obese. It was not her genes! Bone structure had nothing to do with it! It was their lifestyle which was a learned behavior from generation to generation to generation.

          • anion

            Ever watched the TV show “Secret Eaters?” (I don’t know if it’s aired in the States.) It’s all about the large difference between what people say they eat vs. what they actually eat; typically they’ll have an obese person explaining how they only eat 1200 calories a day so there must be a genetic issue, and then the show’s secret cameras/private detectives will record what they eat and show them that they’re actually eating closer to 3000 calories/day. It’s fascinating, actually, because it really makes you think about how much food/calories you’re forgetting or rationalizing or underestimating. (I swear the show isn’t as fat-shamey as it may sound.)

            That being said, I think there definitely are body types or people that have a much, much harder time losing weight and/or keeping it off, or are the classic “big boned.” And of course there are people who actually look much better with a little weight on them than they do rake-thin–I always think of Renee Zellweger as the classic example there, but I’ve known people IRL who looked and felt much better twenty-thirty pounds over the weight they were “supposed” to be.

          • Elizabeth A

            I had terrible menstrual problems in high school (I had really irregular periods, and missed 2-3 days of school each cycle), and wasn’t at all active. The summer before college, I went on the pill (on my mother’s advice about the inadvisability of skipping two days of class every 30-40 days). I gained 10-15 pounds (probably as a result of not fasting 10% or so of the time). By the end of freshman year, I was taking 4-5 martial arts classes a week and feeling fantastic. The weight gain seemed to smooth out the menstrual issues too – I didn’t get them back when I went off the pill.

          • Trixie

            Bone structure can absolutely determine whether one is a size 2 or a size 10.

          • Mishimoo

            “I think the show “The Biggest Loser” is a good example of how people can really transform their bodies.”

            I need to point out just how much I hate that show and it’s effects on the people in my extended family as well as my local area.

            I hate the way the way that it encourages unhealthily fast weightloss and bodyshaming. I hate how much branded merchandise is advertised for it. Most of all, I hate going for a walk each time that it’s on tv due to bodyshaming from complete strangers.

          • Jessica S.

            I’ve read a few articles, quite awhile ago, profiling former contestants and it did not sound like they were losing weight in a healthy manner at all. Which of course, doesn’t shock me. If anything, it shows a body can be changed temporarily but maintaining it is often unhealthy and unrealistic. I hate the show, too.

          • Hannah

            They are dehydrated until they pee blood. Real healthy.

            A friend of mine has worked on the series and while she hasn’t said much for contract reasons, she has said that you have to take for the edited grain of salt that it is, and know that those outcomes are not sustainable or achievable for the average person. They’re not even maintainable for the vast majority of contestants, either.

          • Jessica S.

            Interesting! And awful, really. I wonder if the contestants really feel it was worth it, or if it simply reinforced the cycle of failure, assuming they gained weight again. I don’t think it’s worth it!

          • Lion

            A six foot woman and a four foot woman who are both skinny, eat well and Exercise moderately should absolutely not both be a size two. If you have to starve yourself to be a certain size it probably isn’t healthy. If you can eat a healthy diet and exercise moderately and be that size, then it probably is healthy.

      • fiftyfifty1

        Yes, it certainly is possible for some people to maintain a lower size than their natural size by restricting their food and strictly adhering to a program of vigorous exercise. Whether such a plan is good for a person in the long run is an open question. For instance, we are getting more and more data that show that individuals who participate in vigorous exercise (like running) have a higher rate of developing heart problems than those who participate in moderate exercise (like walking).

        • R T

          First off, I don’t believe in restricting my food! In fact, if I exercised at the intensity I do and restricted my diet I would probably pass out and die! What I do is eat fresh, whole food and lot’s of it! It is absolutely not how much you eat, but what you eat. There’s a good website called One Hundred Days of Real Food that’s a good starting point to learn how to eat better. If by restricting you mean not eating candy and cake except for special occasions than, yes, that is what I do. However, I eat a ton of cheese, meat, fruits, veggies, nuts everyday! Last night for example I had an dinner of baked salmon with a mushroom cream sauce, roasted beets with feta cheese and coleslaw with apple and poppyseed dressing.

          For exercise, I do a program designed for mothers called Body Back, work out with a trainer, yoga and ,now that I’m in shape again, I’ll be starting Crossfit again. I absolutely hate running and can’t do it because it gives me shin splints. I enjoy High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)/Tabata the most!

          • Trixie

            Good for you, but I hope you realize that the cost of that type of menu is out of the reach of many families.

          • R T

            Oh, absolutely! To maintain the healthy lifestyle I do is expensive and that’s a shame!

          • MLE

            Maybe it’s “absolutely not how much you eat,” for you, but for me, it doesn’t matter if I eat 1,000 calories of apples or 1,000 calories of chemical-laden oreos…I would gain weight either way if it’s over the amount that I burn in a given day.

          • anion

            Ditto. A calorie is a calorie, and there is zero real evidence (afaik) that the type of calorie affects weight loss. It affects overall health, yes, but as far as weight gain/loss goes, 1000 calories is 1000 calories.

          • R T

            Of course, but eating well and enough is not restricting your diet in some cruel form of mental self flagellation! 1,000 calories is 1,000 calories but a candy bar is a lot less filling than a plate of meat and veggies!

          • Elizabeth A

            I run because it’s free. And because I don’t have to commute to a g-d Tabata class that magically fits in between carpools, doctors appointments, and things I actually care about. Trainers can be great, but at $60/session, it’s usually not happening.

          • R T

            No matter what exercise you do it takes a small amount of time out of your day! Running is a wonderful choice for those who can do it! Good for you! My comment was never about what size everyone should be and what exercise everyone should be. It’s simply stating you can change your body through exercise and diet so it’s not really the same as pregnancy and delivery at all.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “It’s simply stating you can change your body through exercise and diet”

            You can change your body through diet and exercise, but you can’t change what weight range is healthy for your body.

            We are getting more and more evidence that if you have to follow strict rules to attain a certain body size, then that size is not healthy for you. When people are only able to attain a very small clothing size by following food rules from a website and paying professionals to assure they exercise vigorously enough to burn enough calories, then that very small clothing size is not natural for them and is unlikely to be associated with longevity.

          • Hannah

            Are you even aware of how badly you need to check your privilege? The food you suggest eating is so beyond that reach of many Americans. It’s also not even necessary, calories are calories, despite what the Paleo Mafia might tell you.

            For the record, I eat similarly to you because I can afford it and I attend expensive classes like you because I can afford it and I still don’t fit into size 4 jeans and I likely never will again. Especially after my pregnancy is over. You would probably assume I am a gluttonous pig if you saw me in Bar Method. I’m not, I just have a different goddamn set-point to you.

          • Susan

            “Are you even aware of how badly you need to check your privilege? ”
            I vote Poe… I really don’t think she’s serious and I think it’s been tongue in cheek from the outset.

          • Susan

            Also I have taken care of some pregnant moms with serious body image issues re can’t stop dieting and exercising despite really high risk pregnancies. This stuff in this context can be a real problem. There is a line past which eating healthy and being fit goes from just making a healthy choice to an obsession that becomes the prism by which one views the rest of the world. I think that’s what the point is.

          • Hannah

            Maybe, but if someone is doing this for entertainment, that’s incredibly disheartening.

          • Susan

            Yeah I don’t know but the thought crossed my mind many times.

      • Trixie

        Okay, but I would literally have to cause myself to waste away to get to a size 2. My BMI would be dangerously low. It would probably affect my menstruation. Let’s remember that height and body frame are important factors.

      • Elizabeth A

        Yay you, I guess, but who cares what size you wear? 2/4 doesn’t mean you can walk on water, it just means you wear 2/4 clothes. Which aren’t better then 6/8 clothes. (In fact, at lower priced outlets, they probably *are* the 6/8 clothes – the more you pay, the more you run into vanity sizing.) They’re just clothes. But when you write a post that mentions your weight and dress size, all of a sudden, you are writing about weight and dress size, whether you meant to or not.

        I had some health issues over the past few years, and I’m working now to get back up to the kind of long-distance running I really enjoy. May main racing virtue is the ability to keep going, which I’d like to rebuild to the half marathon level I was at before. Every race I have ever run, either before my health issues or since, I have been *smoked* by people who don’t appear to even aspire to fit into a size as small as 10. I want to be healthy like them, and I don’t think anyone should care what size the manufacturer put on the tag.

        • R T

          I absolutely agree with you! What I’m resounding to is the originally posters assertion you should only be a size two if you don’t have to exercise to be so. It’s such a common cop out to say, “Oh well I’ll never be in shape because I’n big boned or its in my genes to be fat. I can’t change!” It’s really hardwork the older you get to be healthy! You have to work at it, but its possible! Anyone can change their weight or BMI!

          • Elizabeth A

            I kind of think you’re missing the point, actually.

            If you need to starve yourself to be a given size, you probably shouldn’t be that size – you need to eat to have energy. “Size 2″ shouldn’t even be a goal. I want to be able to run as long as I want, give my kids piggyback rides, and minimize certain genetic health issues with cholesterol and osteoperosis. You seem to be shilling for size 2 because… you got there without suffering, I guess?

          • fiftyfifty1

            “minimize certain genetic health issues with cholesterol and osteoperosis.”

            Ah, you’re in a tough bind there as they go in the opposite direction! Cholesterol mainly goes down with weight loss (exceptions include some familial hyperlipidemia syndromes and also oddly enough being significantly *underweight* which causes cholesterol to soar). With osteoporosis, the higher the weight the better to prevent it. Severe obesity (BMI over 40) provides powerful protection against low bone density.

            Damned if you do, damned if you don’t eh?

          • Jennifer2

            The running should help that though. Keep her fit and keep the cholesterol down but also provide good high impact exercise for bone density.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “The running should help that though”
            Except that high impact exercise has really only a very mild protective effect, and none at if you are below your ideal weight. In my practice I see women on a regular basis who are thin and exercise with high impact exercise daily and who have moderate to severe bone loss in their early 50s. They cry bitter tears because they believe they did everything “right” unlike the women they look down on who have “let themselves go”.

          • Young CC Prof

            And then there are the 16 year old girls with female triad disorder who wind up with stress fractures when they try to run. Women’s bodies just won’t maintain bone mass without a certain minimal level of body fat, enough to keep the hormones balanced.

          • Elizabeth A

            I’m going to have to have a sit down with a good nutritionist about this at some point, I think. Right now, I’m training for a five-mile race at the end of May (my goal is to finish in under an hour – I really am not fast), trying to eat more lean protein and leafy greens, and also trying NOT to lose weight, because the plastic surgeon may be able to use abdominal tissue for my reconstruction, and I’d prefer that to the option of moving my latissimus dorsi out of its current location. So lean protein, leafy greens and easter candy.

            Being a healthy weight and in good shape probably made my cancer treatment much less unpleasant than it might have been, and now I’d like to be back in the shape I was in then – I did some badass running in the few months before I was diagnosed, and I could walk up the stairs with a kid in each arm. I should probably cut myself some slack on the latter – the kids got bigger.

          • Hannah

            Running did appalling things to my body.

          • Lion

            I think you may have missed the point of what the OP was saying. They meant that some people are just a size two and don’t do anything special to be that size. Some women go into labour, have no complications and cope fine with the pain and don’t say yes to offered pain relief because they’re coping. Some people can’t even look at food without putting on weight, and for them, being a size four is effortless, they can eat healthily and excercise moderately and maintain that in the same way someone else does size two or size six. Some women are in agony with their labour and want an epidural and so what, they can have one rather than try to force themselves to do without as the women who wasn’t in as much pain did, because she wasn’t forcing herself. I have had an epidural birth and a drug free one. The second was was less sore, I did ask for an epidural but a nurse refused to phone for an anaesthetist saying he would shout at her as it was three in the morning. I had a doula with me who helped me cope, if that had been the first birth when I was crying for an epidural, that nurse might not have been alive today.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “Clean eating” is a very loaded term don’t you think? I’ve done a lot of thinking about it as I run into it all the time in my job as a physician treating eating disorders. What exactly is the opposite of Clean Eating anyway? Why Dirty Eating of course! The tone of moral judging comes through.

        • Young CC Prof

          I personally drop my food on the floor a few times before I eat it. Sometimes I like to sprinkle a bit of sand on top.

          • Trixie

            Oh, just wait til your kid starts eating solids. Lol.

          • Young CC Prof

            I await with eagerness, trepidation, and a large broom the days of the edible projectiles.

          • Jennifer2

            Do you live in my house? Are you 3 1/2 years old? Floor food is for puppy, not for people.

          • Young CC Prof

            Now I am cracking up, hearing a mom say that for the 9,000th time.

  • Zornorph

    It’s funny how things get perceived and how it changes. I saw a movie in the late 1990′s called Mr. Wrong, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman. In it, DeGeneres was dating Pullman who seemed at first an ideal boyfriend who suddenly became this controlling freak from hell, who literally kidnapped her at gunpoint to whisk her to a wedding he’d planned for the two of them. Key to the humor of the movie was that Pullman apparently didn’t see himself as a bad guy, just as somebody who knew best. Anyway, just before the wedding, he’s listing all the things they have to look forward to as a married couple, including sailing around the world on a boat where she would experience ‘natural childbirth!’. It was obvious the scriptwriters were framing this as only something an asshole man would expect of a woman – to give birth out in the middle of the ocean with no medication – but now there are probably some in the NCB movement who would think that worthy of praise and a Youtube video.

    • Karen in SC

      A recent episode of Call the Midwife showed a lecture from a doctor who spoke about the “new” research by Grantley Dick-Read. He even showed these East End mums slides of women of color!

    • LMS1953

      Life imitates art. Re the San Diego couple who thought it would be cool to circumnavigate the global with a couple of toddlers in diapers. I was glad to read that the mom eventually admitted it was the stupidest thing she had ever done.

      • R T

        Yeah, I can’t imagine trying to force my 18 month old to spent weeks on end stuck on a boat. He would lose his mind! He needs a large area to roam and explore. I think he’d probably make himself sick just to get off that damn boat, lol!

        • KarenJJ

          My great great grandfather was 6 weeks old when he left the UK on a boat for a month long journey to Australia. You have to be pretty desperate to hop on a crowded boat for four weeks to come to a country you know very little about with a young family.

          • Young CC Prof

            My great-grandmother’s third child was born in the middle of the Atlantic. Her husband had left earlier, and she was accompanied only by her two oldest children. Desperate indeed.

      • R T

        Oh and some idiots were talking about how plenty of children did long boat trips hundreds of years ago and we should be glad about it since the Mayflower wouldn’t have come otherwise. I had to point out two children died coming over on that trip! What I’m thankful for is times are no longer so difficult I would be willing to risk my children’s lives to make a boat trip across the ocean!

    • manabanana

      I witnessed a couple abiding by the husband’s all-natural OOH birth plan. It was not empowering at all for the woman, she was abiding by her husband’s perceived idea of what would be the superior way to give birth. I realized that an empowering birth for this woman would have been a scheduled induction with an epidural. Of course, I was participating in the charade of OOH midwifery at the time, but I whole-heartedly believed that she would have felt much more empowered with something else. I’d secretly hoped she’d walk herself to the the hospital and demand interventions.

  • Young CC Prof

    Yes, yes, YES. There is nothing feminist about a movement that promotes biological essentialism to the extent of denying any actual science involved and judges women not only by their ability as mothers, but by their innate capacity to produce children rather than by their results in raising them.