Sad about your birth experience? Blame the industry that set you up for disappointment.


What would you say if your teenaged daughter confided that she was profoundly depressed because she did not look like a fashion model? Yes, she is thin (size 4), but not size 0 like all the actresses and models she sees in People Magazine. Yes, she is tall (5’9″), but not as tall as the women she sees in Vogue who are over 6′. Yes, she has a nice figure, but nothing like those models in the magazines.

What if she told you that her inability to look like those models made her hate herself? That being unable to look like those models is the worst thing she could possibly imagine happening to her? How about if she said that she could no longer spend time with her boyfriend because he deserved a thinner girlfriend? In fact, she couldn’t enjoy and didn’t deserve to enjoy any aspect of her life unless and until she could look exactly like those models she so admires.

I’m going to guess that you might point out to her that being a healthy weight for her height and body type is far more important than wearing a specific clothing size. That the models that she aspires to emulate differ markedly from real women and it makes no sense to try to emulate them. That they don’t even really look like they appear in magazines; they are airbrushed and Photoshopped to a perfection that is impossible to attain in real life.

I’m going to guess that you would take pains to explain how women have been exploited by the fashion industry into feeling inferior so they will buy more clothing, more make up, more diet aids in a futile and psychologically harmful attempt to replicate the arbitrary standards decreed by that industry. You might even point out that it is an industry that is profoundly anti-feminist, judging women for their bodies and not their minds.

In other words, if you are sad that you aren’t the ideal weight, height and proportions decreed by the fashion industry, blame the industry that set you up for disappointment.

Now imagine that you are profoundly depressed that you did not have a homebirth. Yes, you had a healthy baby, but you did not give birth vaginally. Yes, you survived the experience, but you “gave in” and got an epidural. Sure, your baby is breastfeeding fine, but you have a lot of nipple pain, and you’re sure it is because you weren’t able to do the breast crawl in the operating room.

The loss of your homebirth is the worst thing that has ever happened to you. You can’t enjoy your baby because you didn’t really “give birth” to her; she was surgically removed like a tumor. You can no longer enjoy and don’t deserve to enjoy any aspect of your life until you achieve your healing homebirth.

Imagine, in other words, that you are like this woman featured on the blog Homebirth Cesarean:

Losing the home birth was the scariest thing I could imagine. I had been preparing for this home birth the entire pregnancy. I did my prenatal yoga where I would hold incredibly uncomfortable poses for 60 seconds, breathing through them as if they were contractions and visualizing my body opening and my baby being closer to me. Then squatting at the end of the session envisioning my baby coming out and being lifted into my arms. Every single workout I would end in happy tears becuase I was practicing giving birth to my baby and soon she would be on my chest.

But she went postdates, her labor stalled, and her baby’s heartrate began to dip. She ended up with a C-section.

And this was my fault. My body so broken labor wouldn’t start, and now it was on the verge of suffocating Geneva. I had no choice but to give up my body for my baby. It was a moment of sacrifice: sacrifice of my dreams, of my body, of my future pregnancies and births and possibly even children…

She describes her C-section:

… Everyone milled around as if I wasn’t there, pulling and sucking and cutting as if I were a dead body. No one told me what was going on, truly treating me as if I were a dead body they had to remove Geneva from. They provided fundal pressure which feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest and I literally could not breathe, but had no way to communicate this. I thought I would pass out. When they pulled out Geneva I felt nothing but despair, and cried because I could not see her and she was surrounded by strangers. She needed me and instead the first woman to hold her was that hateful OB. I knew I should be happy and felt so guilty that I couldn’t be happy…

What would you tell her? Here’s what I would tell her:

Having a healthy baby is more important than having a vaginal birth.

The experience you aspired to differs markedly from what real women experience and it makes no sense, either physically or psychologically, to try to emulate those who have an idealized experience.

That the women who do have the idealized experience are lucky, not stronger, not better made, not more deserving.

I would tell her that she has been exploited by the natural childbirth industry, a multibillion dollar industry that sells childbirth “fashion,” attempting to convince women that they need midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, hypnotherapy tapes, books and DVDs in a futile and psychologically harmful effort to replicate an arbitrary standard decreed by an industry that makes money ONLY if you accept their arbitrary standard.

And I would emphasize that the natural childbirth industry is profoundly anti-feminist, judging women for the function of their bodies and not their minds.

In other words:

If you are sad that you didn’t have a homebirth or an unmedicated vaginal birth, blame the industry that set you up for disappointment, the natural childbirth industry.