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Why, Oh Why? Media Representations of Birth

Categories: labor & birth, mental health, pregnancy

December 3, 2012

author: Jeanette Mesite Frem

Turned on the TV this evening and Baby Mama was on. If you haven’t seen it (and I wouldn’t be surprised if you haven’t), the plot is that a brunette hires a blonde to be her gestational carrier. I won’t ruin the whole movie by telling you much more, but instead talk about the birth class and the birth scene…both of which are so very typical to how the media portrays birth and birth classes.

I had seen a preview of this long ago and rolled my eyes then and tried to suppress the rage. The childbirth educator in the film has a speech impediment (and not the kind you might have ever heard in an actual person) and she says rather bizarre things during class and has the couples say and do awkward things. I’d get more specific but don’t want to ruin the movie for you. Unfortunately, I’ve seen other TV shows and movies do the same thing…they do such an injustice to qualified childbirth educators.

What really happens in childbirth classes? Are they really that awful? I have observed several childbirth classes and taught hundreds of couples in my own childbirth classes over the last decade and more. I also train childbirth educators and try hard to make clear to trainees that their classes need to be entertaining and provide couples with information and practical activities that empower them to ask questions, figure out how they want to give birth and make it happen (as much as is medically possible). However, I’ve heard many people who took classes other than mine that their classes were awful. I have had several people tell me they didn’t go back to their class after lunch or only went to the first class and then left. What was your experience?

The birth is the same as most births in movies or TV shows. Water breaks. Rush to hospital. Sit up with legs in stirrups. Push while screaming. Male OB says ridiculous things. Someone faints. The baby comes out and is clean and two months old. Is that how your birth went?

What is it about writers and directors that they insist on perpetuating this unrealistic portrayal of prenatal classes and births? Is this what we really enjoy? What about what’s real? Or, better yet, what about what is possible? Too many women have unsatisfying births. I hear about them all the time. But I also hear about/have attended births that both parents found amazing, empowering, beautiful, exciting, wonderful and they loved it!

If you’re interested in what’s real AND what’s possible, watch Born in the USA, theBusiness of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth. (Yeah, that’s right, birth can be or-gas-mic…but the whole movie isn’t about that so be not afraid, my child.) All of the movies have previews that you can find on youtube.

Do you take a childbirth class? If yes, how was it? Was anything lacking? Was it awesome?
Did you NOT take a class? Why not? Are you glad you didn’t or wish you had?

How was your birth? If you were going to have another baby, what would you do different?

I’d love to know…email me or post your comments below.

P.S. If you are interested in making a difference in the world through teaching childbirth classes, check out the program that I co-teach with the Boston Association for Childbirth Education.

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