If you think childbirth is about your ego, you’re doing it wrong

ego word in letterpress wood type

Childbirth is not performance art.

That basic fact seems to have escaped natural childbirth advocates who are under the mistaken impression that their babies’ births are about their own egos.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If you want to heal, get a therapist; don’t risk your baby’s life in a do over for nearly killing your previous baby.[/pullquote]

How do natural childbirth advocates express their overweening self-absorption? Let me count the ways.

1. Forcing a baby to remain attached to the placenta until it rots off.

No, I’m not making that up. A bunch of natural childbirth advocates made that up as part of the ugly one-upsmanship that is so beloved of natural childbirth advocates. They call it lotus birth because the lump of dead meat that is the placenta reminds them of a flower.

Adele Allen writes I Kept My Baby Attached To Her Umbilical Cord For 6 Days:

Just over five years ago, I gave birth to my first child and opted not to cut the cord—and, subsequently, the attached placenta—and allow it to fall away naturally. Cord non-severance is otherwise referred to as a lotus birth, a process that felt so instinctual to me that nine months ago I also chose to birth my second baby in the same way…

So instinctual that the practice occurs nowhere else in nature. So instinctual that it was invented in 1974 by Western, white, well off natural childbirth advocates who were looking for yet another form of childbirth competition.

Didn’t the placenta stink like the rotting organ meat that it is?

To keep the placenta smelling pleasant, we sprinkled it with a coating of rock salt and rose petals before wrapping in muslin cloths which were changed every few days. For easy transport, the placenta was then placed into a hand-held cool bag which kept everything clean and aerated.

Just like in nature … NOT!

What is the ostensible benefit of deliberately risking a deadly infection of the baby.

In an article written for the July/August 2005 issue of (what else?) Mothering Magazine, professional natural childbirth advocate Dr. Sarah Buckley, describes the lotus birth of her son Jacob:

… Placental symbolism is everywhere in our culture, from the handbags that we carry—holding our money, datebooks, and other items of survival—to the soft toys that we cram into our babies’ cribs. Some believe that much of our culture’s discontent and our urge to accumulate possessions—including all of the aforementioned—come from the traumatic loss of our first possession: our placenta. And each year we honor our placenta by lighting candles on our birthday cake—in Latin, the word placenta means “flat cake.”

Jacob’s placenta has been his conduit, passing life from my body to his. Now this placenta—his womb-twin, his primal anchor—has gone back to the earth. Seven years after his birth, Jacob tells me “your placenta is like your heart;’ and I realize that he received more than physical nourishment through his placenta. Along with the oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and all the other placental gifts, Jacob also received my love, which was equally his sustenance in my womb, transmitted subtly but vitally by this amazing organ—the placenta.

Really? REALLY?

2. Forcing everyone to watch your birth video.

Laura Leu wants you to know Why I showed my birth video to everyone I knew (and some I didn’t). Why? Because she’s a narcissist who needs to bolster her own ego by preening over her birth performance.

… People tended to watch it with an open mouth and darting eyes, while mumbling “oh my God” repeatedly. There was also plenty of gasping, squealing and gagging. I felt comfort in their anguish, pride in their amazement. I found the reactions so satisfying, I even started filming some of them. When I played it for my squeamish best friend, who was seven months pregnant with her first child, I captured her hilariously horrified reaction and posted it online. (The video is so amusing, it has since been licensed and recently appeared on the TV show World’s Funniest. Go ahead, Google “Pregnant Woman Reacts to Childbirth Video.”)

So amusing … NOT!

A lot of people have chosen not to watch my birth video, including a former boss, an ex-boyfriend and my own father. And I understand their resistance… But for me, the graphic physical part is not only easy to share, it’s necessary.

What I found difficult to express are some of the deeper human emotions I felt when becoming a mother. I’m much more comfortable showing someone my body expelling a human than I am talking about the intense and all-consuming love that tore through me in the seconds that followed.

“I felt,” “I am talking,” “I found the reactions so satisfying.” ME, ME, ME!

But the worst example of natural childbirth narcissism by far is this:

3. Forcing a baby to endure a dangerous labor to “heal” his mother from the labor that nearly killed her older child.

Joni Edelman, in a truly ugly display of petulance and egotism, wants you to know My Labor And Birth Didn’t Go As Planned — And No, I’m Not ‘Over’ It.

Joni planned the homebirth of her dreams to make up for the shoulder dystocia that nearly killed her toddler at her previous homebirth. The fact that she was at great risk for having another shoulder dystocia and killing this baby apparently did not factor into Joni’s plans.

Alas, another big baby and this time a stalled labor requiring transfer to the hospital. Joni was inconsolable:

This is the point in the story where I will say, I sobbed putting on a dress. I sobbed through packing my bag. I sobbed through hugging my kids goodbye. I sobbed the entire 25-minute drive to the hospital.

I got to the hospital and sobbed through intake, through the donning of a hospital gown, through the insertion of an IV.

I was lucky to have a group of care professionals who were fighting for me to have a natural birth, but I sobbed anyway. I was lucky to have a midwife who could have whisked me off to the OR, but instead, sat at the side of my bed for seven MORE hours to help my stubborn, egg-headed son to get his act together — but I sobbed anyway.

I was lucky that my body responded to the small amount of pitocin I needed to convince my uterus that it was supposed to be getting a baby out. I sobbed anyway.

I was lucky I didn’t have a c-section. I was lucky he was born, healthy and huge at 10+ pounds, from just two hefty pushes.

I was lucky.

I sobbed anyway.


His birth was supposed to be peaceful, swimming into the world in our kitchen, surrounded by his family, welcomed with cake and champagne. He was supposed to come out easily and heal me from the trauma of my previous labor and dystocia. His birth was supposed to be a lot of things that it was not.

I do not want to hear, “Well, you’re lucky he’s healthy,” ever.

His birth was supposed to heal you? Heal YOU??

No parent should ever look to a child, let alone a helpless infant, to heal her. Planning a risky homebirth to heal yourself is like having a baby to heal your failing marriage. It is selfish, monstrously unfair to the child and doomed to failure. Children are people, not accessories to decorate your life and make you feel better about yourself.

If you want to heal, get a therapist; don’t risk your baby’s life in a do over for nearly killing your previous baby.

Childbirth is about one thing and one thing only: it’s about having a baby.

If you think it’s about you and your ego, your opportunity to preen, to force your birth video on others, your opportunity to heal, you are most emphatically doing it wrong!