I just saw this short video of a woman giving birth alone. It was posted on Youtube with the caption: “This mamma was waiting for her husband and midwife and just did it! It really can be that simple.”
I don’t want to say too much until you’ve seen the video because I’m very curious how people respond to this. It’s pretty intense.
Check it out:
Here’s what I thought watching it:
On the one hand, Wow. Incredible mom, incredible instincts. Yes! Birth can be terrifically simple. Astonishing to see given the typical representation of birth-as-a-screaming-emergency we see on TV and in movies, fictional or otherwise. Women and babies know a lot more than we’re given credit for.
On the other hand, this felt scary to me.
I felt for her. The sound of her breathing, the closed environment, the way she looks around afterwards and doesn’t even call out because it’s so clear she’s all alone.
One of the big selling points of the midwife is that she’s with you for more of the labor that a doctor might be. Midwife literally means “with woman.” I love the idea that there’s someone with you in labor, someone to reassure you and support you. And, not inconsequentially, someone with extensive and significant training and experience in birth.
This mom was waiting for her husband and midwife and they weren’t there. These things happen. People don’t make it the hospital. Babies can come fast (I’m guessing this was not her first but I don’t know).
This mom rose to the occasion and she seriously deserves a glass of champagne and permission to retell this incredible story over and over and over, working out whatever feelings it inspired.
But I do wonder, watching this, that the romanticizing of going-it-alone can lead us down a dangerous path away from the time honored tradition of women being supported in labor.
I see lots of posts in my Facebook feed with captions like, “watch this amazing unassisted birth.” (This is what happens when you’re a childbirth educator.) But we have evidence that even in prehistorical settings women had help in labor! This was not a planned unassisted birth, so I’m not even going to get into the risks and safety issues.
Having said all of that, I remember being inspired by stories of moms giving birth alone when I was pregnant for the first time. I really did. I didn’t want to give birth alone or in a cab or in a bathroom or barn, but it reassured me to know that this can happen and women figure out what to do. That was a really helpful, empowering message.
So I’ll put it out to you: Do we do good or do we do harm when we revere the “amazing unassisted birth”?