Is the obsession with natural childbirth a form of body dysmorphic disorder?

Are you ready for changes? Terrified young woman keeping eyes closed while four hands in medical gloves holding syringes and knifes close to her face

What is a “healing birth” and why would you need one?

In the world of natural childbirth, a healing birth is a do-over for a birth that did not meet the prescribed ideal. It might be a do-over for a C-section or a do-over for an attempted homebirth that ended with a hospital transfer.

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of heal is:

You can’t stop think about one or more perceived flaws in your birth experience, flaws that, to others, are minor or unimportant.

[T]o make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.

What do women seeking a healing birth consider unhealthy, unsound or broken after having a C-section or a transfer from homebirth? Their bodies? Their spirits? Their self-image?

Where did they get the idea that any or all of these things were broken by having something other than an unmedicated vaginal birth without interventions?

It wasn’t from an obstetrician, because obstetricians view C-sections as life saving procedures, not a sign of “broken-ness” of the women who have them. I suspect it was not a husband or partner who convinced them that they were a lesser woman for having a C-section. He was probably thrilled to be a father and considers the method of birth to be irrelevant.

Which raises the question: is obsession with natural childbirth a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)?

What is BDD?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable…

… [Y]ou intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance …

You may seek out numerous cosmetic procedures to try to “fix” your perceived flaw…

The natural childbirth variant of BDD might be described as a disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived flaws in your birth experience, flaws that, to others, are minor or unimportant. You intensely obsess over your birth experience, relentlessly reviewing it and finding it lacking. You may seek to have a “healing birth” to try to fix your obsession with the imperfections of previous births.

That doesn’t mean that your distress is not real.

I don’t doubt for one moment that the distress felt by Joni Edelman, the woman who wrote My Labor And Birth Didn’t Go As Planned — And No, I’m Not ‘Over’ It, is anything other than real.

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, and still is four years later.

I don’t want to hear I’m lucky because I could have had a C-section, that he could have died, or that I could have died — because those things didn’t happen, and pain and loss are relative.

Is my loss comparable to the death of a child? No. But it is loss.

After his arrival, I watched friends give birth, peacefully, at home, and I sobbed.

I don’t have to feign gratitude, because I lost something that was important to me. I don’t have to pretend that I’m lucky he’s healthy, because his health and my lack of an abdominal scar don’t mean I’ve forgotten laboring in a dingy hospital room.

Joni can’t stop thinking about a perceived flaw of her body; she couldn’t gently push a baby out of her vagina while observed by friends and family. That perceived flaw has acquired tremendous importance in her life.

Ina May Gaskin, the grandmother of American homebirth midwifery, is often quoted as saying:

Your body is not a lemon… Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo …

But who ever implied that having a C-section or other childbirth interventions means that your body is a lemon?

It was Ina May Gaskin herself. She prescribed a treatment, homebirth, for a disease that women didn’t know they had: the need to prove that a baby could transit your vagina while you eschewed pain relief or modern medical care.

When a person with body dysmorphic disorder seeks multiple plastic surgeries for a flaw that only they can perceive we don’t commiserate with them on their terrible flaw. We suggest therapy to ease the anxiety and grief over the perceived loss.

When a person with childbirth dysmorphic disorder seeks a “healing birth” with a subsequent child we should not commiserate with them on the need to redeem themselves with a do-over. We should be suggesting therapy to ease the anxiety and grief over the perceived loss.

It is bad enough to have repeated unnecessary plastic surgeries to address an imagined body imperfection. It is far worse to expect a baby to heal you from the imagined flaw of childbirth imperfection.

  • So thought provoking

  • Erin

    This is a fascinating perspective. I think you absolutely are on to something here. As a mother who has survived an unexpected stillbirth, and two high risk pregnancies resulting in healthy babies (the second an emergent delivery with a partial abruption), I have great difficulty relating to the psychological needs that lead women to endanger their unborn children by choosing risky home deliveries. What you have said here makes a great deal of sense, and I find it much easier to understand how their choices are more akin to those of an anorexic or bulemic patient with a dysmorphic disorder. Thank you for this very interesting discussion.

  • Mariana

    I don’t know what’s so horrible about csections… I had two. One after 12 hours of pitocin (and no contractions) and a planned repeat csection (because at almost 40 weeks and a large transverse baby I was done with being pregnant). The second one
    was used for instruction purposes (three medical students) because of the crazy position my baby was in (it seems that he really was sideways and stuck really good). For both I was so relaxed, talking the whole time to my husband.

    I do have one trauma… Both babies were taken from me super fast and stayed in the nursery for more than 5 hours for no good reason (they both had apgar 10/10) despite having repeatedly called the nursery to ask them to be sent to my room. In both occasions I had a lot of support people in the room with me who could have helped me the babies. And on both times (two different hospital) they only brought me my babies when I had a fit and told them I was walking to the nursery to get them myself (I had already gotten up to shower and pee). It still hurts to think how desperate I was to see my kids and they kept them from me without any explanation. The nurseries were right next to the room, the kids were bathed and ready (all my family had seen them thought the glass), they weren’t in heating cots (if that’s the name).

  • Mrs.Katt the Cat

    I like this idea. I think you are onto something that really helps explain the obsession with birth experiences. We do live in a culture that is inundated with unattainable ideals, perfect birth could easily be among them. An intersection of sorts between body image, self/mental image, control expectation, achievement, and competition.

    I wonder what message some of these kids are getting though, if they hear their mother talk about how awful and damaging their birth, and by extension their life, was for her?

    When I was preggo with the MiniKatt, I spent a few days reading ‘birth stories’ to get an idea of what labor was like. I noticed a theme- NONE of them went as planned. Not one. There was always something unexpected, something unwanted, something scary or unknown. My takeaway was to not have a birth plan or sit around imagining a ‘perfect’ birth. I made a preference outline for major decisions, with the directive that if something went against those wishes but was in the best interest of my or my babies life- do it, and explain it to me if there is time.

    I wish I remembered more of my labor. Apparently I am hilarious when my filters are gone in between contractions. But my sisters made a record and send me a ‘labor quote’ every now and then in return for baby pics. 🙂

    • demodocus

      Oh, gosh, the ideals… so many people in a due date group I belong to are head over heels with ideals, mostly about unmedicated, no “interventions” and all that stuff. Sigh. One’s trying homeopathy because she doesn’t want to “go straight to medication” for some pregnancy ailment.

      • Mrs.Katt the Cat

        If I had needed a csection I would have been annoyed about the increased recovery time, but it would give me an excuse to design a wicked tattoo around the scar.

        So, homeopathy, hope it’s not sugar pills for gestational diabetes.

        • demodocus

          No, fortunately. Aches or sleep issues or something like that.

  • CSN0116

    Completely OT: My mom stopped by last night with this odd “mix it up” drink. Basically, it was nothing but a bottle of purified water on the bottom, but when you opened it up, contained on the top was a little cup of powder that you opened, dumped in, and shook up… thus creating your flavored drink.

    It reminded me a lot of mixing powdered infant formula.

    Then I got to thinking, what if the bottle of clean water was much, much smaller, like 6 oz (her drink was like 24 oz), and the cup on top contained packaged powdered formula instead of flavoring powder. This would be a cheaper, safe way to provide formula in the developing world where clean water is scarce. One could even make the drinking spout on the top of the drinking bottle in the form of a disposable nipple for an infant to suckle from. Bam, all in one. And you throw it out when done. I understand the potential for plastic waste, but I can’t think of another material at the moment lol. And if powder formula can be made for half the price in generic version, shit it can probably be made for even cheaper than that.

    I know some of you have experience working in places where infant formula is not available, let alone the water to mix it. Tell me, does this device already exist?

    • guest

      What would be the advantage of this over the ready-to-feed nursettes? Would it be cheaper? (Because those are expensive.) Since the water is included, it wouldn’t weigh less and it would take up more volume than powdered formula alone, so my guess is that the cost would be prohibitive, just like the RTF. It’s the weight of the water that adds greatly to shipping costs.

      • CSN0116

        It would be loads cheaper than rtf to produce. Shelf life would be longer too. You could do roughly 7-10 powdered for 1 ready to feed, especially if you manufactured The formula powder yourself. The water has to be controlled for, despite cost, so that contaminated water isn’t used in place. But if you saved 600%+ on the self-contained powder system, you offset shipping. Also, most rtf doesn’t come with the silicone nipple. It’s a separate add on piece that could get separated, rendering the rtf practically useless. My system would have nipples attached, no risk of separation or contamination.

        Hmmmm.

        I really appreciate your feedback! 🙂

        • guest

          Just a thought. I spent a lot of time over at Fearless Formula Feeder where the issue of RTFs cost has been discussed before (it is the safest form of formula feeding since it’s mixed and each bottle nipple is sterile before opening – the nursettes come with the nipple, but you can also buy RTF without them).

          But definitely, for this to work in that situation, the water has to be included. I just know that the weight of it drives up the price of shipping, and also that many relief organizations won’t stock it because it takes up too much shelf space.

          • CSN0116

            The shelf space thing is too bad 🙁 perhaps if it was highly effective and very cheap shelf space could be reconsidered.

          • guest

            I don’t think relief organizations have a lot of wiggle room on that front. They’re often trying to access disaster areas where it’s very difficult to reach the community they want to serve. They may or may not be able to drive a car all the way to the target area. They may or may not have funding to pay for a larger warehouse where their home base is located and they keep supplies in waiting for the next deployment. But babies in disaster areas are the ones who most need safe food. If they were formula-fed before the disaster, it’s not easy for mom to relactate quickly.

          • CSN0116

            I’m flabbergasted as I research “recommendations” for babies in natural disasters; babies of HIV+ moms; and even orphans:

            1. Formula is evil. All the time. Just evil.
            2. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” – the <6 months population is hardly even discussed by UNICEF, WHO, etc. When they are – breastfeed.
            3. According to WHO, caretakers of orphaned infants should try to lactate themselves. Why not?! They go so far as to say that a grandma, because she has lactated in the past, should be able to pull it off.
            4. If you give enough "encouragement" even malnourished women will start to produce enough milk to feed their infants.
            5. At least babies of starving moms are ready to donate millions of formula cans post-disaster. They outlawed ALL donations. It's literally not allowed.
            6. The Philippines had formula companies and charities ready to donate millions of dollars worth of formula post-disaster. They outlawed it. It's illegal to send formula there.
            7. If you Google "infant formula needed for starving children" the ONLY shit you get is Nestle crap from the 1980's.

            I've come to the conclusion that unless an infant is at least 6 months old and able to consume Plumpy'Nut (or similar product), they are fucked. They will let them die before giving DONATED formula or trying to be innovative. The ONLY people who seem to give a shit are NGO's.

            What's interesting is the reasoning goes in this order: (1) unclean water (2) improper mixing (3) inability to sterilize utensils (4) affordability (5) "undermines" breastfeeding throughout the community. My idea controls for the top for. But my guess is that #5 ranks more important than all else.

            Never in a million years did I think that government agencies actively encouraged, instead of trying to work around, HIV+ women to breastfeed, or orphan caretakers to lactate to feed! No wonder they're all dying in droves! JFC!

          • Daleth

            What’s interesting is the reasoning goes in this order: (1) unclean water (2) improper mixing (3) inability to sterilize utensils (4) affordability (5) “undermines” breastfeeding

            Ready-to-drink formula eliminates issues (1) through (3), and donated or subsidized formula eliminates (4). So I think you’re right that (5) is actually the real stumbling block–in other words, people with a “breastfeeding is mandatory” agenda are the stumbling block.

          • CSN0116

            It’s so sad :'( It’s like first world lactivism but on steroids…

      • CSN0116

        Quick look. Enfamil’s standard RTF 6 oz bottles are ~$11 for a 6 pack, or ~$1.83 per 6 oz. Target’s *generic* version of powdered Enfamil standard costs $0.51 per 6 oz. If a generic powdered manufacturer will (easily) sell for 66% cheaper than a name brand powder maker, then I’m sure they have so much more wiggle room in profit. They’re probably still making 3-4 times profit after production costs …meaning with the generic powder already costing 72% less than name brand RTF (generic doesn’t do RTF to my knowledge), powdered formula can cost even less.

        I think you could bring the powder down from its already cheap $0.51 per 6 oz feed to the $0.30-0.40 range. Plastics, water, and silicone would add, but I think you could still keep manufacturing costs well under $1.00 per 6 oz feed. Most babies require 4 (or so) of those per day. So, you could possibly sustain a baby’s life for $3.00 and some change per day, plus shipping.

        • guest

          That sounds more like what we need is generic RTF.

          • CSN0116

            Agree except shelf life gets cut in like half :/

            I have no idea what makes rtf so much more expensive; if It’s actually manufacturing reasons, or just sheer profit reasons…

          • guest

            A big factor is the weight and volume of the water. It costs more fuel to transport that way, and takes up more shelf space in a store or warehouse.

        • Mariana

          It’s a great idea. I’m just worried mothers would try to reuse the container and nipple, or dilute the milk to strecht it. Here in Brazil formula is expensive (and in urban centres the water is safe). Less wealthy moms add cereal to formula bottles from very early on (sometimes less than a month) so the baby is full longer, and they don’t use up all the formula so quickly. I can just see them reusing the bottles and nipples… We save butter and cream cheese containers, wash them, and use as Tupperware. A lot of food products (jams, tomato sauce, cream cheese) come in glass jars that can be used as drinking cups later (they are more expensive than plastic containers, but people will buy it for the cup. I do)

          • CSN0116

            That’s a great point. And unavoidable. I think my intention is more orphanage-centered, perhaps. Providing cheap sustenance to babies who will 100% die without access.

          • CSN0116

            Stayed up half the night (don’t ask lol) and designed a system that would use a biodegradable pouch. Think Capri Sun juice or baby food pouches. The nipple is built into the pouch and does not separate. There are two internal holding chambers – one for purified water and one for premeasured powder. A seal separates them in the middle and there is some air space for mixing. Tabs on the outside are pulled to break the seal and the mixing process begins. At least one side of the pouch is clear so the user can observe that the solution is mixed. The built in nipple is capped and sterile and becomes uncapped when the mixing is over and the baby is ready to feed.

            1. It controls for clean water
            2. It controls for dilution. You cannot access the inside without rendering the entire system useless. You’re forced to mix proper ratios.
            3. It controls for sterile feeding equipment.
            4. No part of it can be dismantled and reused. It is one-time sterile.
            5. It does not (at present) control for reusing leftover formula, but at 4 oz sizes it would reduce the likelihood. I’m also working on a chemical reaction process that happens on the outside of the pouch when tabs are pulled or nipple in uncapped that would slowing make the pouch turn red – an international color for stop. Other than that, I cannot think of a way to physically stop a person from reusing spoiled, leftover formula. But controlling for all of the other factors is a start! 🙂
            6. It reduces shelf space. The pouches can be stacked and smooshed together in a way hard-sided bottles cannot.

          • Mariana

            Sounds perfect!

    • Adelaide

      I love that you are thinking about ways to help this huge problem. Your idea is most likely too costly for most areas, although I think it is a problem that deserves some serious attention from doctors and scientists.

      The country I lived in had an average household income of less than a dollar a day. The rural area we were in, it was most certainly less. Women typically had children from their teens until they were replaced by a younger wife, hit menopause, or died. As an example of the level of poverty, we found out that the local doctors did not urge people who likely had HIV to get tested because if they were positive they couldn’t afford the bus fair to the hospital to get the free drugs. If you wanted anything produced outside of the agrarian village you had to pay a premium at the village stores because someone spent a whole day walking to the city to load a bicycle or paid for a bus ticket to get those goods to the village.

      I hope I’m not overstepping by saying this, but if anyone really is interested in helping with these problems there currently are a lot of causes that indirectly support babies getting fed.

      Clean water projects where communities help build and maintain the water projects would probably top the list. Carrying water in every African country I have been in is considered women’s work. It is long hours of backbreaking work, it expends a lot of calories, and in some cases scarcity contributes heavily to dehydration leading to poor milk supply in the first place. Projects that require the community to be educated and involved have a much higher long term success rate than projects where the system is 100% charity.

      Microloan projects are also amazing. Often groups of women are able to buy an oil press, or sewing machines on credit that they can pay back quickly with the added industry of a small business. This allows them to care for themselves and their babies better. We hired a women to come cook lunch for us while we worked and one of the first things she did with the extra income was start taking her 4 month old for baby well visits. She also bought what was needed to make fry bread so she could sell it in the afternoons. Working for us for a year had a long term affect on her family’s health and financial well being.

      Finally, education (especially for women) makes a huge difference. A girl in school will birth her first child at a later age, have a longer life expectancy, and have more resources to care for a child when she does give birth. Unfortunately, when a family can only afford to send some of their children to school (primary or secondary school) they almost always send the boys. The girls stay home and work, they get married and/or pregnant at 12 or 13, or worse they are sent away to work as “house girl” where they are likely to be abused.
      Formula is the easy answer in the developed world, but in the developing world the problems are so huge that formula is only a tiny piece of the solution, but I am still so encouraged to see people giving it thought.

      If you ever have the opportunity to vacation in a third world country, I would strongly encourage you to take some time to visit or work in the rural poor areas of that country. It is not something you can see and remain unchanged.

      • CSN0116

        Thank you so much for taking the time for such a thorough response! Your points are so valid. I’m somewhat familiar with the education statistics, and I’m of course familiar with the massive positive effects of sustainable, clean water sources.

        I’m really not interested in marketing my product (mere *idea* at this point) to women who are alive and able to care for their infants. I feel those women are best off breastfeeding, as it’s far more sustainable, and we are better off working to get them things like good nutrition and hydration, and education as well. I’m preoccupied with the massive orphan population, the severely malnourished, and the infants of HIV+ women. So the babies who have NO other option.

        I would never want to sell such a product to individuals, but rather the relief organizations that help them. The point isn’t to “get moms hooked,” the point is to use the product in situations where emergency nutrition is required/no other nutrition is possible (i.e. deceased or HIV+ mom).

        I’ve spoken to a couple orphanages and they tell me that the formula they can get – be it shipped in from the States, or bought locally where possible – is loads more expensive than what I’m proposing. A brief review of quotes from Doctors Without Borders shows that they pay far more for the formula they provide too. And all these relief workers get is cans of powder. There must be clean water, sanitary bottles, etc.
        My system would also allow the at-home, or non-institutionalized care of malnourished infants, because all of the sterility is controlled for. Perhaps it could also allow for orphaned infants to be cared for by extended family where available instead of institutionalized.

        And, yes. I am considering a problem for which I have never even seen with my own eyes. I have never worked with this population, and like most Americans my knowledge comes from what I see in images on CNN or the nightly news. But for whatever reason, I just woke up three days ago with the immediate need to draw and this thought on my mind. Perhaps I was dreaming of it but have no recollection. What I drew, and have since modified, is the system I describe above. I would love to learn more and plan to do so.

  • Deborah

    “……labouring in a dingy hospital room”
    Joni might benefit from watching “Motherland Afghanistan” – a documentary on maternity care in that country. I think she might be persuaded that her hospital room wasn’t so bad.
    First worlditis. Sigh…

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Actually, that line made me think of the recent post about the woman who tried to have her baby in a birthing pool in the kitchen.

      Because, you know, labouring in the kitchen is so much more happy and comforting than in a dingy hospital room.

      (at our hospital, the delivery rooms were really nice – hardwood floors, good mood lighting, but I realize that is not necessarily representative; then again, your kitchen might be cozy and comfortable, but that is also not representative)

      • guest

        My delivery room was nicer than any room in my own home. It had a birthing ball, a private bathroom with shower, a chair the reclined fully for my support person, a TV and a mini fridge. And it was spacious. It had all the medical stuff, too, plus room for two teams of medical personnel for each baby.

        Granted, I couldn’t use most of that stuff since the one thing they haven’t invented is remote monitoring for twins, but you can’t say it wasn’t a nice room.

      • Bombshellrisa

        My delivery suite was huge and beautiful. The lighting was adjustable and there was beautiful art and a gigantic soaking tub. It looked like a hotel suite. There was in demand music and movies. If I hadn’t been out of my mind with pain, it might have been a nice place to hang out.

        • Mariana

          My delivery suit looked just like a hospital room, and it was ok. I was there for 48 hours, I have the rest of my life to enjoy my kids in my own house

      • Old Lady

        Even when I was caught up in the woo, I never wanted to have a home birth because I didn’t like the idea of having it in my home. I’d have a hard time relaxing because I’d be self-conscious about my home and feel like I’d have to be hostess. Then the whole idea of messing up and then cleaning up afterwards was unappealing. Our house is small so I’d have to rearrange everything on top of that to create a birthing space.

    • namaste863

      God, I still get squicked out by the description Kahled Hosseini gave of matrnity care in Afghanistan in A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you havent read it, one of the main characters is forced to endure a C Section without pain relief of any kind because all of the drugs have been allocated to hospitals that service males.

    • namaste863

      God, I still get squicked out by the description Kahled Hosseini gave of maternity care in Afghanistan in A Thousand Splendid Suns. If you havent read it, one of the main characters is forced to endure a C Section without pain relief of any kind because all of the drugs have been allocated to hospitals that service males. I hope to anyone who might be listening that this is an exaggeration.

      • sdsures

        *speechless* I don’t pray, but I will send up a prayer right now to the Big Guy.

  • demodocus

    certainly, if you feel genuinely tramatized by an experience that no-one has much control over, you should see a therapist, not try to repeat it as often as needed until it’s all better. Getting back on the horse is for getting unseated, not for being caught in the middle of a stampede.

  • LibrarianSarah

    Speaking of body dysmorphia and lemons. Have any of you heard of the “lemon challenge” or the “lemon diet.” An acquaintance who has a tendency to believe everything they read on Facebook told me the are going to do start it this weekend. Apparently, the acid in the lemon “burns of all your belly fat.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them about gastric acid. I think I am getting soft.

    • Azuran

      Wait…..I though acidity was the cause of all diseases.

      • Bombshellrisa

        Lemons are natural, but only if they are organic. I have heard of this diet, you make lemonade with lemons, cayenne and vinegar. You drink it instead of having breakfast and lunch. Then you eat a healthy dinner.

        • Nick Sanders

          You forgot the pure, organic maple syrup.

          • Bombshellrisa

            How could I forget? Yes, maple syrup! What is the name of the diet? It has a special name

          • Nick Sanders

            Lemonade diet/The Master Cleanse/malnutrition.

          • Bombshellrisa

            Master cleanse! Thanks.
            What is it about lemons and garlic, they show up in every “cure” known.

          • Proving once again my theory that Greek salad is good for what ails you.

          • J.B.

            Well, garlic does scare vampires away. And I’m down with lemon and garlic in a nice pan sauce.

          • Lisa Cybergirl

            Yukko? That sounds like a good name for it…

          • Bombshellrisa

            I think we forgot to mention the cayenne…make that double yukko

      • Angharad

        I’ve seen charts about which foods make your body more acidic/alkaline list lemons as alkaline. Which makes no sense whatsoever, but there you go.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I was going to mention the same thing.

        • Azuran

          Well…..I guess if you throw in some homeopathy BS in the mix, you need to eat acid things to make yourself resistant to acid.

        • Chant de la Mer

          Well to be fair, citrus is acidic but will reduce acidity of urine. I have no idea of how it works. I had to do a urine test but it was too acidic to get accurate results so the nurse sent me home with the direction to not drink coffee and drink lots of water with lemons or limes in it and to come back in the morning for a repeat. the citrus was specifically to alkalanize things not just to make the water more palatable. Granted this only in regards to urine, about the only thing we can tinker with the ph in our bodies!

  • BeatriceC

    I think you could call the birth of my middle son “healing”. Y’all know my OB history. It had been extremely traumatic with death and trauma even for the one baby that did survive. I’d told my OB that if this one lived long enough, I wanted a c-section. I couldn’t mentally handle another vaginal delivery. I’d never had a c-section before, but I thought I would mentally lose it if I had to deal with labor again. My doctor was one that thought that mental health is as important as physical health, and readily agreed. He did warn me that if labor couldn’t be stopped prior to 24 weeks the baby would have to be delivered vaginally, like the others I’d lost prior to that gestational age, but if he made it that long, he’d do the section. I didn’t fully understand why (and thank you to the doctors here that explained it to me, so very many years later), but I was glad he was on board. That baby made it to 32 weeks. The nurses and the doctor on call tried to convince me to to a vaginal delivery, since at that age, it was unlikely a SD would happen again. My actual doctor flipped his shit on the on-call doctor, then came in to do the section himself, even though it was his day off. The prep was relaxed and everybody was joking around and having a grand old time. Until you noticed the NICU team in the corner, it looked like a happy, full term birth. I was talking and joking, the OB and anesthesiologist were cracking one liners and taking bets on weight, hair color, etc. The first words out of the doctor’s mouth when he pulled out my son was “It’s a redhead!” and everybody busted out in grins and giggles. At last I was at peace. My baby was still sick, but at 32 weeks, the problems weren’t terrible. For the first time in 4 pregnancies (and 5 babies), I left the delivery room smiling.

  • attitude devant

    Pregnancy is, at best, unpleasant. Childbirth is painful, arduous, and risky. Parenting a newborn is an exercise in frustration, sleep deprivation, and self-doubt. In this setting is it so surprising that women fantasize about a pregnancy full of hope, an easy delivery (the choice of “peaceful” to describe these events is so telling!), and a pleasant, unruffled newborn period? I used to think that part of my job was helping women to have a more realistic view of maternity, identifying what parts of their expectations were unrealistic, and reassuring them that it was not their fault when all did not go according to their idealized expectations. Now there’s a whole industry devoted to confirming that their fantasies around birth were reasonable and that anything that did not meet their expectations is a cue for a do-over. When I watch women on facebook and in the blogosphere say, “Well, I had to have a repeat c/s. How long should I wait to get pregnant again so I can go for my vbac?” while in the immediate post-partum period, I know that we are truly dealing with ideals that are completely out of touch with reality.

  • Mel

    What about those of us who were the infant survivors of traumatic births? Are we supposed to feel like shit the rest of our lives?

    My family always separated the process of labor and delivery from the outcome of a child. What that means is that my mom and aunts would share how their labors went – good (i.e., not much pain, no scary situations) and bad (i.e., really painful and long, scary situations that required painful interventions) without attaching it to the infant involved except as a way to clarify which labor it was. Like “when I was in labor with Tim”.

    Plus, there was no blame attached to the baby. We always assumed that the baby was doing the best they could in a tight situation where they couldn’t really see or know what to do.

    • LaMont

      My mom will sometimes jokingly “blame” my younger brother for defying her expectations (I was a slightly-preemie who took a good 20h to arrive after my mom got to the hospital, she went full term with little bro – in summer – and then he arrived too fast for an epidural to be placed) but it’s all in fun. My brother even spars back, to glorious effect. The winners: me and my dad looking on with our popcorn! 🙂

      • sdsures

        Preemie here, too at 28 weeks! *fistbump*

    • Sarah

      I’m the infant survivor of a traumatic birth and to be honest it makes me feel all special. Like I’m really lucky.

    • Chant de la Mer

      I can’t even imagine blaming the baby. It’s not the baby’s fault that birth is hard or a C section is required, even if baby “stubbornly stays in a bad position”. my last son’s birth was difficult on me and on him, and yes I was traumatized a little bit from it because it had been incredibly painful for me and dangerous for him. Not once have I ever blamed his sweet little self for any of it, its just not a thought that has ever crossed my mind. That’s just the breaks of life that this labor was a hard one, well that and I kinda grew a baby too big to easily give birth.

  • Lurkerette

    Musing aloud: I wonder how much of the “healing” in a “healing birth” is simply due to the fact that it’s often the second birth, so a lot of the fear of the unknown gone, and whatever challenges or complications happened with the first birth (new pelvis) don’t exist in the subsequent births.

    I felt like the birth of my daughter was healing, if only because my son’s was a little more eventful (long labor, long pushing stage, forceps, PPD for me, he was fine), and so it felt amazing to have a very easy, quick hospital birth with a very light epidural. A few hours after birth I was very happy and recovery took just a few days, and I could imagine that had I been sucked into woo, I’d be attributing it to the magical properties of water birth or essential oils, when really it was just that kid number #2 was a pound and a half smaller, and that it warn’t my first rodeo.

    • attitude devant

      In my experience, much of the ease of birth credited to birth at home is simply that it’s not the first birth. Of COURSE it’s easier!

      • Lurkerette

        Right? We’ve been joking that my son’s giant head rearranged the real estate so completely that of course his sister practically fell out.

        • sdsures

          “rearranged the real estate” LMAO!

    • Sara N.

      My 2nd birth was very healing in a different way – it made me realize the only wounds I needed to heal from were imaginary! I had a scheduled c-section with my first due to gestational diabetes and him measuring large. I was on board with it, as I didn’t want to risk shoulder dystocia, but I was devastated. DEVASTATED. I cried every day about it. (I was very deep in the woo and felt like a huge failure.) My second baby was three years later, during which time I had broken free of the natural birth cult (thank you, Dr. Amy), and had decided that I was not going to stress out about how this baby was born. We scheduled a c-section for a few days after my due date, but my OB said she was okay with a VBAC attempt if I went into labor beforehand and wanted to try it, which I did, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. It was a much more peaceful, sane pregnancy. My water broke 10 days before the c-section date, and I did end up having a VBAC. A few weeks later, with some time to reflect, I realized I felt no different about my son’s birth than I did about my daughter’s birth. None. I got two healthy babies. Physical healing was about the same. Actually birthing a baby was just as arduous either way, just in different ways. I feel lucky that I got to have a VBAC so that I could come to this realization, and KNOW in my heart (as well as my head) that how my babies were born truly didn’t matter at all. All that matters, and all I feel as I look back on each birth, is the joy of having these babies. The only negative feeling I have about my c-section now is how many hours I wasted crying about it!

    • moto_librarian

      I know that my second delivery also felt absolutely blissful compared to my first. Given the severity of complications with our first son (unmedicated labor and delivery resulting in cervical laceration and pph, diagnosed via manual examination of the uterus with no pain medication), I was pretty scared about giving birth again. I emphasized that I would be having an epidural as early as possible with each of the midwives in the practice (all of whom were soundly on board or I would have switched to OB). After 2 weeks of prodromal labor, I had my membranes stripped at 38 + 5, and went into real labor. I got my epidural within an hour of being admitted and proceeded to sleep through most of my labor. The only hitch was when the catheter became dislodged during transition and I was complete when the anesthesiologist arrived. I was terrified that I was going to have to go through pushing without pain meds again, but she was able to fix the catheter and give me a full bolus. I couldn’t feel my toes and pushed in stirrups, but I had no problems feeling the pressure and urge to push. I still marvel at the fact that our second child’s delivery was completely pain free. Given that he had some pretty significant stress at the very end (he basically unrolled out of his umbilical cord), having the epidural allowed me to focus my pushing and get him out before the need for a vacuum or forceps. Said little dude will be four years old this coming Tuesday.

  • Zornorph

    On the overall theme of this article, I have to say it makes sense. Isn’t this a fairly new concept? The idea of a ‘healing’ birth? I can’t imagine women in the past seeking such a thing, but I’m a guy, perhaps I just don’t know.
    Look, I can get that having a lousy experience can stick in your mind. There are things in my past I’d like a do-over for, but everything that happens to us is part of who we are, so I really wouldn’t like to change it at the end of the day. But there are some things I really don’t understand. Why did Michael Jackson do that to his face? Why did that woman turn herself into a cat? Why do anorexics think they are fat when they weigh 70 pounds?
    I’ve never studied mental illness – if I had, perhaps I’d have some idea, but it just mystifies me. I’d want to be like Cher in Moonstruck – give ’em a good slap and say ‘Snap out of it!’ I know it doesn’t work that way and I don’t wish to be General Patton – I let people who are trained in dealing with such things handle it.
    But with birth, I really don’t get this valuing of process over outcome. I dealt with three miscarriages before I had my son – yes, they hurt a lot and I did get some ‘healing’ by eventually having a child. But I never cared about the process – two of those were from normal sexual activity and one from IVF but who cares? I know I’m a guy – I know it’s different for the woman, by why the focus on the birth itself? I know girls often dream up their dream wedding, but have they always been dreaming of their dream birth, too? And do teenage girls do this even now or only women who get sucked into the woo?

    • Roadstergal

      “I can’t imagine women in the past seeking such a thing”

      Historians might have more perspective, but the thing that strikes me about a lot of cultures ‘in the past’ is that they didn’t give women a choice – they had to have children throughout their fertile years, and if they died, another woman would take their place. You didn’t seek a healing birth – you were going to have another birth, as soon as biology let you, and any pain or death from it would be chalked up to some deity’s plan…

      • BeatriceC

        And women were terrorized and traumatized by childbirth. But they had no choice. And they didn’t have the choice of wallowing in their misery. If they wanted to survive, they had to keep going. We are spoiled by modern society, but so many in the NCB cult fail to recognize that.

        • Sarah

          We also don’t have much idea what most women in the past felt, because even in recorded history there haven’t been that many examples of societies where many women had attention paid to their feelings.

          • BeatriceC

            But we have some idea. Women of the higher classes kept diaries and wrote letters, so we have a bit of insight. Folk lore tells us quite bit and religious records provide another window. The prayers that were said for and by the pregnant and laboring women were sometimes written down but more often passed through verbal tradition, and the words in those prayers speak volumes as to how women viewed childbirth.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Yep. Disgusted as I am by LLL in general, the idea of a devotion to “Our Lady of Easy Labors and Plentiful Milk” makes PERFECT sense in the context of “if you *don’t* have plentiful milk, your baby will die, and if your labor isn’t ‘easy’ by these quite unpleasant standards, there’s a good chance you will, too, or at least be permanently disabled from it.”

          • Sarah

            Well, sure. The Genesis accounts and the existence of eg Twaret, the goddess protecting labouring women in Ancient Egypt, provide pretty useful hints of the way things were seen even several thousand years ago. It’s just there are a great many more blanks than there are clues, since we have pretty much nothing from much of human existence.

          • BeatriceC

            I’m sorry, but it seems as if you’re being willfully ignorant. There’s far more than that and I can’t come up with a single reason you’re trying to deny common knowledge. Even now there are standardized prayers in the Catholic Church, prayed that have been around for centuries, that beg God to help the laboring woman through the terrors of childbirth. Those prayers are rarely said anymore, but they still exist. There are countless diaries and letters from women of the higher classes throghout history, telling g the tales and terror of childbirth. One such diary excerpt was just quoted in this very comment section on yesterday’s post. There’s no reason other than willful ignorance or planned deception to claim that we don’t know how women felt about childbirth in eras past.

          • attitude devant

            Oh, and don’t forget the myriad temples in Japan to the goddess Kannon, erected by high-ranking women to ask the goddess (she was the Goddess of Mercy) for a safe delivery. Makes you think about that word: delivery.

          • Sarah

            I think you’re probably accidentally misinterpreting, then. Most of human history is unrecorded. Even the oldest examples either of us has listed, and I think mine predate yours, represent only a minority of human existence. We simply have nothing at all for a great many peoples in a great many eras. You may like to know that I studied history at a fairly high level, so it’d not a discipline I’m unfamiliar with.

  • Zornorph

    Twice I’ve been around dogs giving birth and in both cases, I had to help. Now perhaps they would have managed without me in the wild, but I didn’t intervene until it was clear that they needed me to. In one case, the first puppy out, the placenta stayed in and she didn’t chew the cord, so when the second shot out, there started to be a log jam. From then on, I cut all the cords. The other one, when the last pup came out, she was too tried to chew open the bag, so I cut the pup free. I don’t care how nature ‘designed’ their bodies, the fact is that they needed help. I really don’t get how anybody thinks that birth in nature is perfect.

    • Inmara

      Well, dogs are not very “natural” compared to species living in wild – many are selectioned for physical traits that have nothing to do with capability to bear pups and consequently they often have pregnancy and birth complications.

      • Zornorph

        Well, true enough and these were both purebreds – one a dachshund and one a shih tzu. (I have to say the shih tzu was NOT mine – I was helping out a squeamish ex inlaw. I would never own one of those things!) Either way, I have a boy doggie, now, so don’t have to worry.

        • Inmara

          I had never thought of it (despite knowing about other health issues of specific dog and cat breeds) until my SIL mentioned that she would like to have Pomeranian spitz but they are crazy expensive because of difficult breeding.

          • Zornorph

            Most of my dogs have been mutts. I’ve a beagle right now, mostly because I know they are so excellent with kids and I’m really enjoying him. But I really was never one to care about breeds – I just love dogs.

          • BeatriceC

            I tend towards the giant breeds, so they’re pretty close to pure bred, but every time I’ve looked for a new dog, I’ve scoured the shelters. My last dog was an absolutely stunning Brazilian mastiff I found in the county animal shelter. I’ve had other mastiffs as well, all found in shelters or rescue groups. The only dog I ever had not found in a shelter was one of the puppies that resulted when a 3-legged St. Bernard jumped a 10 foot fence to get to my aunt’s female Japanese Akita the week before she was due to be spayed.

          • Lisa Cybergirl

            Almost all English bulldogs have to give birth by c-section (since they’re bred for those big heads), and they are very expensive. Also very unhealthy, according to my friend the vet.

    • LeighW

      When I was a kid we went out to the barn one morning and found out that my little cocker spaniel had puppies overnight*. 4 alive, 3 stillborn (I’m assuming), and she was a mess. We had to take her to the vet to get fixed up. Science saved her. Nature would have had her die from blood loss or infection.

      (*the father was our neighbors bouvier. Yeah, ouch)

  • Anna

    I used to have body dysmorphic disorder and yes, I was very frustrated by the fact that my body wasn’t designed for the “normal” birth. And just like dysmorphic people won’t listen to spouses, parents and friends, women who are unhappy with their birth experiences can’t be soothed with phrases like “At least you have a healthy baby” (woman is preoccupied with herself mostly), “But now you are both healthy and thriving” (she thinks if she were healthy she would have had a regular birth), “You did your best, shit just happens” and many, many other similar phrases. This condition requires professional therapy because there are many underlying issues. Typically (and unsurprisingly) these are: perfectionism, narcissism, secret crave for superiority and strong sense of rivalry with other women. These need to be exposed and processed.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Also, I would add, biologic tendencies toward depression, anxiety and OCD traits.

    • Anna

      Now, I must make a distinction between those who failed to have the “birth of their dreams” and those whose birth was truly traumatic. What I wrote certainly does not refer to the latter. Because there is much confusion here. When one woman was truly traumatized by having to endure inhuman pain or scared to death another feels equally “traumatized” by not getting exactly what she wanted for her birth experience.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I kind of got that from the original post, but was glad of the clarification for readers who might not have. 🙂 I think most people recognize that there’s a bit of difference between on the one hand, not being able to pop the cork on the bottle of champagne the second that Junior enters the world due to silly hospital policies re alcohol and on the other, not being given sufficient pain relief during a CS.

  • jhr

    A very astute analogy and hence, analysis. This opens a new door, theoretically in understanding the “healing birth” obsession.

  • AirPlant

    I actually feel really bad for the blogger in question, because I can imagine that under normal circumstances she might have mourned and worked through her feelings in a normal way, but instead she is trapped in a community that won’t let her move on.
    .
    She was probably drawn to the crunchy community for the support and love that they offer and before that birth she was probably getting it too. We have all seen how people rally around these stunt births, she was being encouraged and love-bombed left and right, but then things went pear shaped and she got to find out the hard way that their love is conditional. Because of a stupid quirk of physiology she has fallen off the pedestal and is stuck with being an object of pity at best and silenced at worst, and because so much of the natural community is birth centered it isn’t going away even four years after the fact. She has to watch woman after woman get the picture perfect homebirth and crow about it ad nauseum and all she gets is a story of failure to progress, a hospital that saved her life and a compassionate care team.
    .
    So she is angry. She is angry at her body and angry at her baby and angry that so many women get to have what she didn’t in spite of her doing everything that she was supposed to do. It is such a dysfunctional and toxic place to be and it is just heartbreaking that it has such a hold in her life.

    • Amy

      Exactly! It hit me reading your comment that they offer all this love, but it’s so conditional. You have to ape ALL their values, including the deification of natural/stunt birth. If you don’t, they shun you.

      • Angharad

        And not just the values! If your planned natural/stunt doesn’t work out for you (either because it ends tragically or it ends in a hospital) it seems you still end up shunned.

        • Amy

          To a point. If it ends tragically, I think you’re absolutely right– because you’re living proof that birth is NOT “as safe as life gets.” Ditto for contracting a VPD or dying when homeopathy doesn’t work. But if you end up in a hospital and you blame the hospital and the “mean” doctors and nurses, and you claim that whatever happened happens more often in the hospital, etc etc, then you get to stay in the in-crowd. Particularly if you absolve your midwife of all wrongdoing.

          • AirPlant

            The worst she could say about the hospital was that it was ugly. I mean, points for trying I guess, but no exactly a horror filled montage of butcher obs with their sharpened knives.

    • MissKate

      The saddest part is that 10-20 years ago, her obsession would’ve been viewed as the mental illness that it is, and anyone who found out would have urged her to seek help from a therapist. Nowadays, all she has to do is jump online to find an entire community of enablers who will tell her what she feels is normal and that she needs a do-over. It all bears an uncanny resemblance to “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” forums where people with severe eating disorders swap diet tips and cheer each others’ weight loss “success”. Disgusting.

  • manders

    this from my current OB-GYN’s website on uncomplicated pregnancy:

    “Uncomplicated deliveries are not necessarily a logical consequence of
    uncomplicated pregnancy with an unremarkable prenatal care. This is
    actually the time of highest stress for your baby. Either some
    conditions related with the baby’s failure to thrive that haven’t been
    diagnosed before because poor prenatal care, or conditions related with
    the process of birth itself can severely affect or even endanger your
    baby’s life. Therefore the quality of professional care is very
    important during the pregnancy and delivery as well.”

    I feel much pity for these women who view their bodies as faulty for not delivering vaginally, but i think my OB put it best up there^ there are so many unknown factors involved with labor and delivery that we all cannot foresee and that high quality professional medical care serves the best interests of both the mother and baby. These women think they have control but really they do not, and it is not their fault.

    • sdsures

      I’ve always viewed pregnancy and birth as two separate processes. Like when the body is getting rid of waste material via the liver and kidneys (growing the baby) vs eliminating it in the toilet (birth). Is that a fair comparison?

      • manders

        It is definitely two separate processes

      • Maya Markova

        Some aspects of vaginal birth surely resemble what we are doing at the toilet.

        • sdsures

          “PUSH, dammit!” 😛

    • Taysha

      I had an uncomplicated pregnancy with a text book c-section (for everyone’s safety). My doctor called it nothing short of a miracle and remarked one should not look a gifted horse in the mouth. At one point he asked what god i was offering sacrifices to and to keep it up.

      • manders

        I’m getting a c-section as well (in July) and could give a rat’s ass about the “experience” of child birth. I trust my doctor and the medical team at the hospital I am delivering in, and I hope all goes as well as yours did!

        • Taysha

          Good luck! it’s nowhere near the horrifying thing people claim. Feels like you’re being pushed and pulled a bit and then it’s over.

          • Mariana

            I don’t have terrible memories of mine either. It’s over very fast. I was up as soon as the anesthetisia wore off (the nurse helped me shower, but I was ok).

        • AnnaPDE

          Good luck! Mine was actually a fun experience, with friendly laughs and getting to look over the screen when the main event happened. Plus cuddles right away while being stitched up. The best part, however,was the hover-mattress transfer from table to bed. I’d do that again!

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          What AnnaPDE said below. I didn’t get to look over the screen (and to be fair, I personally don’t think I’d be up for watching my own CS, but that’s just me–I know a lot of moms love that option!), but she was on my chest for snuggles and nursing within minutes, and the OR staff was absolutely lovely. (Side note: I’m pretty sure you can’t beat newborn snuggles under a prewarmed blanket.) I wasn’t expecting it to be a great experience, but it was one of the most beautiful of my life. I hope yours is the same! 🙂

  • Amy Tuteur, MD
    • sdsures

      Doesn’t surprise me at all. If BDD is comorbid with eating disorders, I would like to suggest a connection between a long-term eating disorder (and its attendant BDD), and obsession with NCB. I’ll try to make this a bit clearer. Please correct me if there are medical or nutritional mistakes:

      When someone has an eating disorder, it usually has been going on for a long time before the patient either seeks treatment on their own or ends up in hospital (not always by their own choice – a loved one may seek assistance for them) due to emergent complications and poor diet. An eating disorder, and food, becomes how the patient orients themselves in the world, by counting calories, purging, or eating only certain foods (that eventually leads to vitamin deficiency). It’s not something you get over overnight. Therapy can help a patient, but in addition, there is nutritional therapy – learning that food is not evil. Getting back to a normal diet takes years, and even then, compulsive thoughts about food may remain. Hopefully, continuing therapy as an outpatient can help them on a day-to-day basis.

      Similarly, I think the obsession with NCB is a chronic one. It usually starts either before or shortly after conception, and can go on for years afterwards, as in Edelman’s case. There needs to be an exit-support group or therapy to deprogram NCBers who are at risk of harming their kids because after all, they weren’t interested in having the kid – just the “healing birth”.

      • Taysha

        Wouldn’t naturalistic tendencies co-present with orthorexia?

        • sdsures

          That’s a fascinating question! (I’m not a doctor, btw, just s geek, and I prefer live, healthy babies to preventably dead ones.)

          Your question made me think of the couple in Alberta who have just been convicted of letting their toddler die of meningitis. They gave him all sorts of “natural” foods, that they believed would “boost his immune system”. :'( A slap on the wrist is all they’re getting. By the time they bothered taking him to hospital, it was too late. The fact that they knew he was sick with meningitis (the mother claims to have looked it up online) and did nothing is abhorrent, but it speaks to the fact that they knew they were wrong. They also knew they were wrong because they finally *did* take the kid to hospital. They knew that there were medical professionals at the hospital.

          • Megan

            All of those situations are about the person being in control of that which is not always controllable.

            I was like this too and it’s why I had a hard time accepting my induction and CS with my first child and my failure to breastfeed. It’s also why I struggled with hating my body for years on end. Ironically, what helped me was having children. Birth was totally out of my control, as was my ability (or not) to breastfeed and my ability to control how every single thing goes in my life with children. These experiences helped me let go a lot. I’m not perfect. But my children have taught me about giving up control (or the illusion of it). I am thankful to them for inadvertently “healing” me!

          • sdsures

            ” Birth was totally out of my control, as was my ability (or not) to breastfeed and my ability to control how every single thing goes in my life with children.”

            I totally get where you’re coming from, even though I don’t have kids yet. What I do have is chronic illness (chroic severe migraines), which often means I’m not in control of my body (medication side effects include fatigue).

    • Zornorph

      Well, according to that, she’s also bipolar.

  • Amy

    My body is totally a lemon, and it has nothing to do with my two c-sections.

    -I am really, really nearsighted. In nature, I’d be dead because I wouldn’t see the predators coming after me.
    -I suffer from chronic migraines and have since my teens. If I don’t take a triptan within 20 minutes of feeling an aura, I’m incapacitated for the next day or two, no exceptions.
    -I have lived with moderate to severe clinical depression almost my whole life, and have to take medication every day in order to control it.
    -I was in a car accident in high school and my upper back hasn’t been the same since.

    The fact that my older child was ill-positioned for a natural birth, or my VBAC attempt with my younger child was curtailed when my water broke early, doesn’t make my body a lemon. I easily conceived and gestated two healthy babies!

    And who cares if my body IS a lemon? I have a great life. Thanks in no small part to modern medicine.

  • namaste863

    “Your body is not a lemon… Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo…”

    Right, because all those creatures A) Never die or lose offspring in birth, and B) face the same competing evolutionary pressures of a huge cerebral cortex and a pelvis evolved for an upright gait (Sarcasm, just to be clear).

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      For a while, there was a show on PBS called “Sex in the Wild” which talked about sex and birth in the wild.

      One of their stories followed a pregnant elephant, pretty much from conception to birth and past. The last scene they showed was the mother elephant walking down the path with the baby.

      At which point the mentioned that the mother ultimately died from complications she had while giving birth.

      Fuck you, Ina May.

      • sdsures

        NatGeo has “Wild Sex”, too.

        • Zornorph

          You and me, baby, ain’t nothing but mammals/so let’s do it like they do on The Discovery Channel.

          • sdsures

            Seriously, I love nature documentaries! Just saw one about wildebeest migration on Netflix, and those animals rank as the fastest birthers on the planet. It’s all over in 10 minutes, and if the calf can’t run within ten minutes of being born, it can become a tasty snack.

      • Azuran

        I had an owner this week who came in with puppies and told me the puppies’ father did not survive the birth.
        Yes, he thinks his male dog had some complication from his female dog giving birth and died.

        • Who?

          Let’s hope he hasn’t bred.

          😉

          • Azuran

            I’m also hoping the male puppy will not breed with it’s mother. He said his dog male dog had some kind of heart problem, I’m already horrified enough that he bred it.

    • RubyRed

      I know there are veterinarians who frequent this page as well as dairy producers who can provide better real-world experience than I can, but FWIW I’m a veterinary student and this year we had take a course on theriogenology.

      People who think animals give birth easily are deluded. Cows have high rates of dystocia. Horses do not have high rates, but when there IS a dystocia it is almost always fatal to the foal and often to the mare as well. RFM in a mare is a medical emergency that can quickly result in the death of the mare. Puppies born to bitches with prolonged labours often need help staying warm and sometimes need to be fed as well- without help they can die from cold and hypoglycaemia while mom is giving birth to other pups. One of my classmates is working on a ewe farm this summer and she’s already had 2 serious dystocia cases and she’s less than a week in. For large animals with dystocia and a dead fetus, there’s the option of the fetotome… to cut the fetus apart and pull it out piece by piece. We had to practice on a dead calf this year because it’s something that we will have to do (if you go into large animal medicine). And the crazy thing is, these animals have neither the cephalo-pelvic issues nor the invasive placenta that humans have.

      Any time someone says animals have easy births, my head wants to explode.

      • Mel

        I’m always amazed after watching a cow give birth how little blood the cow loses. A nearly one-ton animal loses about as much blood as a human mother does immediately after birth – and she stops bleeding much sooner.

        Fetotomy sucks, but you have the gratitude of the owner of the animal because the animal would have died in horrible pain without it.

        • Mishimoo

          Which is what I explained to my daughters recently, and it calmed them down immediately. We were watching a River Cottage Australia episode, and the people on it had to pull the (dead) calf from the mother because it was far too big. Accidental first pregnancy from a large bull getting in and covering a smallish Angus cow, so I wasn’t expecting it to end well.

      • Azuran

        They do give birth easier than humans, but they are far from immune to complication.
        Even if you exclude high risk races, we still get about 1 c-section a month. I’ve had a cat with a uterine rupture (surprisingly there was 0 blood in the abdomen, only 2 dead kittens floating around.) one of my colleague had one too. Stillborn on dogs and cat are very common. I’ve seen 2 postpartum uterine prolapse and too many postpartum pyometra to count. And that’s in domestic pets receiving care. The death toll in the wild is very high.

        • Cartwheel

          I had a client who was a labor and deliver RN so she thought she knew all about it all. She let her English Bulldog labor for 12 hours and then brought the dog and also all of her own children in for the c-section. She thought that the bitch was tired but everything was still ok. The kids had a betting pool about how many puppies; I forget who won, because all ten puppies were of course dead.

          The silver lining (?) is that when they bred her on her next heat they boarded her with us starting at day 59; we took her to surgery when she started first stage labor and got five healthy puppies, so at least they learned their very sad lesson.

          • Azuran

            Well, if the puppies had been alive all those children would have been there to help reanimate the puppies. After all, isn’t the whole point to teach the circle of life to the children? Nothing like making them shake newborn puppies until they yelp :p
            I’ve had a breeder a few weeks ago (she’s our craziest one by a mile) who refused to come in at 3am for an emergency c-section because I wouldn’t do a c-section with only an epidural. I have no idea where she came up with such a ridiculous idea.

          • Puffin

            Wait…. she wanted you to do a c/s on a dog with just an epidural?

          • Sarah

            I know literally nothing about dogs, but would the poor thing not be very frightened to be conscious during surgery?

          • Azuran

            I can be done. It’s usually done in dogs before hip or knee surgery. I guess it ‘could’ be done for a c-section, but no one bothers since you need to put the dog under general anaesthesia to do an epidural anyway so it’s kinda pointless at this point. Epidurals are almost only done by anesthesiologist or neurologist in veterinary medicine also, I’ve never done one, nor has any of my coworker or any other vet I personally know.

            But she expected that I was gonna do an epidural on an awake dog, and then have the awake dog lay down on it’s back and not move while I performed abdominal surgery on it.

      • Maya Markova

        I remember Steinbeck’s Red Pony – the part when the ranch hand promised that the colt to be born would be for the boy, but the birth got awry and he could fulfill his promise only by killing the mare. (I guess a vet with the appropriate equipment could do better.)

        • demodocus

          that book gave me nightmares

          • Lisa Cybergirl

            I read it when I was little kid, my dad got it for me because I liked “horse books”! 🙁 🙁 🙁

          • demodocus

            Um, good thought? Sheesh.
            I like horse books too, but Steinbeck didn’t come across my radar until we read it in school.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            There are times when I get really, really annoyed that my education was as neglected as it was. On the other hand, there are rare moments, like this particular comment string, when I’m not entirely unhappy that I missed out on reading a lot of the books that Everyone Read In School.

        • Cartwheel

          Well, maybe.
          There’s a reason that high-risk and/or high-value mares are sometimes sent to foal out AT the veterinary hospital. With round-the-clock monitoring and a surgeon on call.

          One interesting thing is that if a horse is presented to an equine surgeon for dystocia, generally they will begin shaving and prepping for surgery WHILE someone attempts to deliver the foal vaginally. Because there’s just not very much time.

          • Azuran

            But then again, it is a horse 😉

    • Puffin

      I’ve lost two birds – one a finch, one a parrot – to egg binding, which is the avian equivalent of an obstructed labour. These aren’t birds that’ve been bred into absurd shapes by humans, either. These were animals still in their wild form, only a handful of generations removed from wild stock, not large mammals that’ve been bred for tens of thousands of years to conform to human standards. These were animals at the peak of health, most likely far healthier than their wild counterparts, and they died because they just happened to have pelvises too small to pass a normal-sized egg (even though their mothers obviously didn’t have that problem.)

      Maternal death is exceptionally common in nature. Only the willfully blind would think nature is some benevolent mistress.

      • BeatriceC

        MrC lost a cockatiel (mate of our elderly cockatiel, Cookie) years ago due to egg binding. She, like yours, was at the peak of health. He pretty much refuses to get female birds after that. Having read about it, I tend to agree.

        • Puffin

          I’ve kept birds for 20 years and I currently have 3 female birds. Two are young conures and so it’ll be at least another six months or so before they have any interest in laying eggs, but as it is I ensure my cage setups are such that they don’t promote egg-laying, and I am careful about lighting hours to minimize the chances of triggering breeding cycles (helps limit hormonal aggression too.) The other is my fifteen year old Quaker. She’s never laid an egg in her life and I think she just has no interest in it and I’m awfully glad of it.

          If it were possible to spay birds or use some sort of avian contraception, I would. Lighting control and not offering ‘nesting-friendly’ spaces is about the best I can do.

          • BeatriceC

            My avian vet said something about birth control being available for some birds. It wasn’t relevant to me, so I didn’t pay attention, but it was during the discussion about possibly acquiring a macaw or a cockatoo and dealing with behavior issues. It’s possible it’s just for larger birds. I can talk to the vet again and actually pay attention if you’d like.

          • Puffin

            I looked it up. Apparently avian vets are using lupron, hCG, and depo-provera for behavioural and egg-laying issues and there’s a commercially available pigeon ‘birth control’, but I’m doubting that’d be effective in capitive psitticine species and it doesn’t look like it reduces egg laying, just hatchability. Interesting. Haven’t had a good talk with an Avet in a while – we lived in a rural area for most of a decade and there simply weren’t any avian vets nearby, I had to be the first line care for my birds – about this since none of my current birds are layers anyway.

          • Azuran

            Deslorelin implant is the new rage in avian medicine. Lupron injection is still used, but is more expensive and requires repeated injection. Deslorelin implants are expected to last about a year, but often, when you break the cycle of chronic egg laying, they don’t start laying eggs again, even after the implant lost it’s effectiveness.
            My own cockatiel got one when I was a student after she broke her wing because her bone density became super low because of chronic egg laying. In the following 5-6 years after she had the implant, she only layed 1 egg. (as opposed to 20-25 per years before that)

            I’m not sure of the kind of effect it would have on behavioural issues though….

  • Erin

    I can’t be sure because my opinions are tainted by reliving previous trauma but I think you could well be right. I felt neutered, defeminised and repulsive by my failure to give birth. That my body was disgusting and broken. If I’m being honest (and since I’m typing this from a very rocking ship on the Pentland Firth and thus this might be my last ever words) I still do.

    I can not say “I gave birth” because I don’t believe I did. Had a baby yes, gave birth no which is why I laughed at the Consultant when she suggested a planned section might be “healing” (although given the parameters the NHS set odds on it would either be another emcs or an unplanned/unwanted vbac).

    • nomofear

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I wish there was some quick way to give you relief about this in your mind. I’m sorry you are having to go through this. It’s not fair. It does seem to me very similar to body dysmorphia in that your brain has gotten severely glitched out on this “did give birth/didn’t give birth” theme. If I had to guess, I would say that trying to force yourself to believe that you “did give birth” would be counter productive, because right now your brain is stuck on “did not give birth”, and trying to force it to believe something that it doesn’t will feel like a lie to you. It’s like my patients with body dysmorphia who are convinced they have disgusting, disfiguring acne when they have normal skin. Trying to convince them that they have normal skin is counterproductive. “Recovery” isn’t about becoming convinced you have nice skin, but about not having to think about skin much at all, because the theme has lost its obsessive quality.

      I predict that eventually your brain will get relief from its current miserable patterns. I am a mom to 2, and have had one vaginally and one by CS. I can honestly say that this “did give birth/didn’t give birth” dichotomy is not taking up any mental space. It just never crosses my mind. I feel like I have 2 kids. I almost never think back to their births, and when I do, they seem very similar: “I’ve had a baby twice” is how I feel–a neutral and normal feeling. No anxiety associated it. It feels just content and calm, and that’s where I am hoping your brain will eventually end up too.

      We are all rooting for you.

      • Anna

        Thanks for writing this. It was helpful for me too.

      • crazy grad mama

        This is a great comment. I had a C-section and have always been fine with that, but I don’t identify with the words “gave birth.” (Personally, I like the old-fashioned “was delivered of a baby.”) I rarely admit this, because it makes it seem like I have some kind of hang-up about it, but I don’t. I just don’t care. Being at peace doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.

        (However, if anyone *else* were to tell me that I “didn’t give birth,” I would be tempted to smack them upside the head.)

        • AirPlant

          I had actually associated the phrase “Give Birth” more with the sacrifices that the mother makes to create the baby over the pregnancy. Like the actual birth is more like an anniversary or a birthday where yeah it is the moment of recognition, but the actual time leading up to the milestone means more.

          • Roadstergal

            That’s a great way of looking at it.

          • AirPlant

            I feel like society underplays how much pregnancy sucks balls, and I like the idea of focusing on the love and sacrifice that goes into surrendering your body to another human being to give them life. Like no matter how they come out that is a big deal, and it is likely something that they will never thank you for.

          • AnnaPDE

            Or maybe just after they had a kid themselves…

          • crazy grad mama

            Ooh, I like that. Like birth is a gift that you’ve spent nine months putting together.

          • Megan

            The gift that keeps on giving! (And taking, I suppose!)

        • Daleth

          I gave birth by choosing a c-section (mainly for my twins’ safety, also partly for my own mental health and to avoid pelvic floor damage), and undergoing the painful recovery that comes with that.

          But I can see why a woman who had a c-section but didn’t choose it might feel like she didn’t “give birth”–I mean, *I* think she did, but if the CS feels more like something that happened to her rather than something she wanted or chose, it’s not illogical to feel like she didn’t “do” it and therefore didn’t give birth.

          • crazy grad mama

            Yeah, this is *completely* a weird quirk of mine, not a generalization about C-sections. I found mine to be awesomely weird, but did feel like something done *to* me.

          • SporkParade

            I have to admit that part of the appeal of maternal request C-section for me is the “not giving birth” part.

        • Old Lady

          I feel the same way actually. I always stumble over the words because it feels like something done to me rather than something my body did. I guess I think of it as surgery, which is something done to me not something I did to myself. It’s like if I were to say I gave my tooth for a root canal. I had a scheduled c-section and was happy with the experience. It went well and I got two healthy babies from it.

      • Sarah

        As another mother of two who’s had one of each, I agree. It’s just, like, no fucks to give. Couldn’t really be less interested in which one of them came out which way. Blahblah. Your current feelings are important and valid and you’re entitled to use the words you choose to define what happened to you, but hopefully you just get to a stage where you’re thinking, whatever.

    • Anna

      I so much understand you. I felt (and feel) pretty much the same. What helped me out a bit was thinking of all those famous really glamorous women who had to have c-sections (JLo, Angelina). They are definitely not defeminized or broken.

  • she

    Confession time. I had no desire whatsoever for an unmedicated birth. Give me all the drugs and let’s get through this, that was my “birth plan.” Sadly, all the drugs didn’t work. I had a long and horribly painful labor that eventually ended in c-section (turns out baby was OP). To my incredible shame, I was traumatized by the labor experience, PTSD symptoms and all. I’m in therapy, taking meds, doing all I can, and yet I find myself thinking that if I had another baby, a peaceful RCS, it would be a healing experience. I’m not going to do it, but I think I can understand the (admittedly unhealthy) thinking behind the “healing birth.”

    • LaMont

      Lack of health, mental or physical, is not a moral state requiring confession – there is no shame in a perfectly justified response to severe pain and a surgery you hadn’t intended to have. You keep on fighting for yourself the way you are doing, and your unhealthy thoughts need only be part of the *much* bigger picture.

    • Gatita

      I agree with LaMont, no shame in being emotionally traumatized by a difficult labor. You’re doing all the right things and I hope you can be easy on yourself as you heal.

    • Elisabetta Aurora

      Yep. All of that is true for me too except the therapy and meds (although my postpartum anxiety probably qualified for both). I’m having my healing, peaceful RCS on the 17th of June and I couldn’t be happier about it! Best of all, I get to meet my little guy two weeks early and my mom will get to be there because she can get airline tickets in advance (mom lives on the other side of the world). I am absolutely ecstatic about my repeat c-section!

      • Megan

        RCS for the win. Mine was fantastic. Best recovery I could’ve hoped for. Hope yours is too!

      • sdsures

        That’s my birthday, too!

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Baby Books #2 is due on the 15th, so who knows? Maybe there’ll be two SkepticalOB babies coming that day! (Though if he wants to make his entrance a week or two earlier, I would have slightly fewer than zero objections, mind you.)

        • demodocus

          or 3, Mine’s due June 17th, too, lol.

    • Cartman36

      I am sorry for your struggle and I wish you the best. I don’t entirely understand the need for a healing birth but I understand how things going wrong can be distressing. My first section was an emergency one, not running down the hall emergency but unexpected for me. I don’t feel broken but I do feel like I missed out on being able to enjoy the birth experience (I count c-sections as giving birth) so I am looking forward to the scheduled RCS because I think I will be more relaxed and able to enjoy it (as best you can enjoy having a baby pulled out of an open wound in your stomach). For instance, this time I am going to ask to watch when they actually pull the baby out, not the cutting of anything prior though!

      I do wish you all the best and agree that you should go easy on yourself

      • AnnaPDE

        It was actually fun in my case, the part with the wound only became real when I first got up… And don’t worry about seeing your insides or the cut – the bump is totally in the way! 😀

        • Cartman36

          Thanks!!!!

    • Megan

      *hugs* My first baby was OP and I had two failed epidurals while getting induced with pitocin. vNo fun. Felt so helpless from the horrible pain. I ended up with a CS too. I’m glad you’re getting the help you need. Frankly, if you do have another child and want a CS, I think that’s totally legitimate.

    • Sarah

      I can as well. I did find my second birth somewhat healing despite it being a crash section, because it involved being treated with respect and not forced to do the whole thing unmedicated, unlike the first.

      It’s ok to feel traumatised by something that was traumatising. You went through a lot of physical pain, I’m sure you were very worried about your baby, and you had surgery without much warning. It’s normal to find it hard to get over BEING IN SEVERE PAIN AND THEN BEING CUT OPEN WITH A BIG SHARP THING. Those are not things that traditionally have positive associations for humans! For most of history you probably wouldn’t have survived that, it’s not surprising we don’t have brilliant coping strategies for something that in evolutionary terms has only been happening for 5 seconds.

    • Deborah

      I think what you have described and what drives women like Joni are poles apart. Joni’s births did not meet her expectations both in terms of the experience itself and in her ability to validate her belief in the virtues of natural childbirth. When her second attempt at a peaceful, idyllic birth failed she is cast adrift in a sea of self doubt. She feels lost and unmoored as her core beliefs are yet again shaken. She knows it can be done.She sees other women doing it. She knows it is the right way. Why then can’t she do it? There must be something wrong with her and she remains excluded from the inner sanctum of her peer group who have all had their babies swim up into their arms while friends and family gaze on in awe. She has to keep trying. It has nothing to do with a desire for children, nothing to do with trauma in the sense that you experienced but is driven by the need for an experience that fits an ideological narrative, guarantees her acceptance within the subculture and validates her identity and sense of self as a member of that community.

    • FEDUP MD

      My RCS was in some ways healing. Mostly because I wasn’t being gaslighted by the anesthesiologist about not being in pain. My epidural was incomplete and I was having an emergency c-section. You can imagine how it felt. I was being told by the anesthesiologist that I was feeling pressure, not pain. This was after he rolled his eyes putting in the epidural because “it was going to get much worse.” Mind you, I am a fellow physician, too. I cried until they put me under general, and the last thing I remember before going under was him being impatient and huffy. So I sort of thought maybe I had a low tolerance for this birth pain thing. Until I had a real spinal put it for my RCS and felt no pain. None. Just, indeed, some mild pressure. I realized I had been gas lighted big time and it completely changed how I felt about my first experience. I wasn’t a failure or a whiner, but a survivor – so was my kid. Big difference.

      • sdsures

        It sounds horrible that a medical professional would engage in gaslighting.

    • moto_librarian

      The difference in your case is that you ARE trying to heal from this experience in an appropriate way. I don’t think that having PTSD from your experience is anything to be ashamed of – I had a purposeful unmedicated birth with severe complications that took me a long while to get over. In fact, I firmly believe that had I not stayed medicated for depression and anxiety during and after that pregnancy, I almost certainly would have wound up with PPD and quite possibly PTSD as a result. Our second child’s birth could be described as healing – an epidural so strong that I felt absolutely no pain, even during crowning. But we didn’t have a second child simply so I could have a “healing” birth – we did it because we wanted to add another person to our family. The fact that it went well was a happy coincidence.

  • Daleth

    That’s a really intriguing way of thinking about it.

    BTW, slight typo: the “ing” is missing in this sentence:
    “The natural childbirth variant of BDD might be described as a disorder in which you can’t stop thinkING…”

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!