I must admit, 48 hours ago, I didn’t even know who Harry Kane was. But now I, and every other woman on the planet who has ever given birth, it seems, has an opinion about him.
You see, Harry’s wife just gave birth, after which he excitedly tweeted:
“Our beautiful addition to the family! Vivienne Jane Kane. So proud of @KateGoodlandx for having the most amazing water birth with no pain relief at all #mygirls #hypnobirthing”.
Our beautiful addition to the family! Vivienne Jane Kane. ???? So proud of @KateGoodlandx for having the most amazing water birth with no pain relief at all ???????????? #mygirls #hypnobirthing pic.twitter.com/a6BM4CkFM1
— Harry Kane (@HKane) August 8, 2018
Those six little words have got the interwebs up in arms: with no pain relief at all.
Putting aside for a moment that he is a thrilled new dad who has just watched his partner give birth to his baby, and so he is on a massive high, amazed at what she has done (and would have been just as proud and amazed if she did have drugs, I’m sure)… We’ll park that for a moment, and unpack the implications of his message.
He’s copped a lot of flack for daring to suggest that he should be “proud” of his wife for the drug-free labour, with comments like this one, from UK broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer:
“I’m delighted for @HKane & his family but why on earth should anyone be ‘proud’ of not having pain relief while giving birth? Utterly absurd! There’s a reason why women get pain relief during labour: because it bloody hurts.”
I’m delighted for @HKane & his family but why on earth should anyone be “proud” of not having pain relief while giving birth? Utterly absurd! There’s a reason why women get pain relief during labour: because it bloody hurts. https://t.co/kyFVqInnsR
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) August 8, 2018
Clearly, this topic strikes a chord with mums everywhere. And I understand why – birth trauma is very real. I have friends who have had traumatic, sometimes life-threatening labours and it can take a long time to process your feelings around it.
At the same time, I feel like the response to this tweet is wildly incongruent with the way we claim to be a generation of “women supporting women”.
On social media, every second post is a meme or a quote about “lifting each other up” and “behind every successful woman is a tribe of ladies who have her back”. This is true – until it comes to childbirth and babies, that is. Once the topic turns from careers and relationships to motherhood, a perceived battle emerges, and needless and unnecessary outrage muddies the water.
Here’s my story: I’m a mother of three. I’ve given birth three times, naturally, without any pain relief.
This is not something I generally share with people, unless they ask. And when I do share it, I add all sorts of qualifiers, lest I be thrown in with the smug ‘natural birthing brigade’ – things like:
“I wanted the drugs, but it all happened too fast.”
“I was more afraid of the epidural than birthing drug-free.”
“I even asked for an epidural when I called the hospital in labour!”
All of the above statements are true, especially the fear – needles terrify me.
In other words, I always downplay my experience, because I don’t want anyone to think I’m being self-righteous or smug, or that I think I’m superior because I laboured drug-free.
Harry Kane’s tweet made me reconsider, though. Aren’t I allowed to be proud of this? As parents, we teach our kids that you don’t need to blow someone else’s flame out in order to make your own shine brighter – so why do we try to squash it when people celebrate a drug-free labour?
I have a very ordinary body. I was never athletic at school. I never excelled at sports, never worked out and never joined a netball team. I literally cannot do one pushup (I’ve recently joined a gym in an effort to change this!) and I’ve been soft and unfit my entire life.
I’ve never known what it was like to have my body do something and think, holy sh*t. Holy sh*t! My body can do something amazing!
I didn’t realise I could feel this way about my body. Each time I gave birth I felt how I a marathon runner after running a race – exhausted, exhilarated, and so in awe of my body for being able to do this.
In other words, proud.
Importantly, I want to be clear that being proud of my own childbirth experiences is not a negative reflection against anyone else. It’s not a zero-sum game: me being proud of my childbirth experience, doesn’t imply anyone else should feel ashamed of theirs.
Moreover, I think we’re all missing the point of the broader discussion here. Which is: we shouldn’t be encouraging women who had drug-free births to pipe down. We should be encouraging all women regardless of their delivery method to be proud. To say: this is my story and I’m proud of it.
Pain medications, opting for no drugs, interventions, inductions, home births, hospital births, water births, c-sections, forceps, emergency measures: these are just some of the rainbow of experiences that can comprise our birthing experience.
For each of us, giving birth is our own deeply personal story, and none of us should be feeling bad for how our little ones arrived in the world – regardless of what the journey entailed.