Childbirth, privilege and narcissism


Nothing screams privilege like patting yourself on the back for refusing the childbirth interventions that an impoverished woman would walk 5 miles through the jungle to get for her child.

Nothing says narcissism like imagining that the internet should be impressed with you because you did something that poor women in developing nations do each and every day … or die trying.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]If it’s not an accomplishment when a 15 year old Afghan child does it, it’s not an accomplishment when a privileged white woman does it.[/pullquote]

That’s what I thought when I saw this celebration of egotism and self absorption on CafeMom, Mom Gives Birth to 11 Pound Baby At Home the headline blares as if this were an achievement on par with curing cancer.

The accompanying text is equally ludicrous:

Giving birth is a tremendous accomplishment no matter where and how it happens, but giving birth at home … to an 11-pound-baby … with no pain meds?! That’s just plain superhuman. It’s also what one mom and doula named Natalie did — and lucky for the rest of us, birth photographer Laura Fifield documented the once-in-a-lifetime event for all the world to see!

Giving birth is no more of an accomplishment than having a menstrual period. Millions of poor women give birth around the world each day, at home and without pain medication. They have no other choice. No one publishes any articles about the “achievement” if the mother in question is a 15 year old Afghan child forced to labor in agony, facing an astronomically high risk of maternal and perinatal death.

Nothing to see there, right? Where’s the accomplishment in that?

Let’s be honest. It’s only a “tremendous accomplishment” when a well off white woman does it, has a professional photographer document it at the cost of hundreds of dollars, and posts it on the internet.

I have news for all those precious, privileged snowflakes: You haven’t accomplished a damn thing.

This an accomplishment: a rural Indian woman braved a raging river in her 9th month of pregnancy in order to give birth in a hospital.

Yellavva used dried pumpkins and gourds as bouyancy aids to swim nearly a kilometre from her river island village to safety in southern Karnataka state.

She … wanted her baby born safely – there is no medical centre in her village and she did not want to give birth at home…

When Yellavva crossed the river last Wednesday, she says its swirling waters were rising 12 to 14 feet and even experienced swimmers would have hesitated to get into the water at the time.

“I was scared. But it was for my child that I got the determination to get over all my fear and cross the rising river waters,” she told BBC Hindi.

A poor mother threw herself into a raging torrent and risked her life in the hope that she could save the life of her baby. That’s an accomplishment!

In contrast, pictorials that tell the stories of privileged, white narcissists who risk their babies’ lives for bragging rights is not an achievement; it’s absurd.

Pretending that refusing pain medication in labor is impressive is like pretending that avoiding pain medication for a root canal is worthy of praise.

Imagining that a large baby transiting your large pelvis is an accomplishment is like imagining that your large breasts are an accomplishment; you had no control over either one.

Bragging about a stretchy vaginal introitus that didn’t tear is like bragging about not having bladder control issues after childbirth. You were lucky, not skillful.

Pretending that unmedicated homebirth is an accomplishment is a slap in the face, to the millions of women who have no choice but to give birth at home without medication, and face the horrific risks that entails.


If it’s not an accomplishment when a 15 year old Afghan child does it because she has no choice, it’s not an accomplishment when a privileged white women does it because she has the tremendous good fortune to have access to all possible choices, even irresponsible ones.