You might’ve had a ‘natural’ birth. That doesn’t make you morally superior.

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It was the birth watched around the world.

Simone Thurber bellowing in pain, heaving, gives birth in a stream, completely unaided by doctors or medicine or a modesty sheet.

Fifty two million people have watched that baby being born on YouTube.  Fifty two million watched a squishy human suspended momentarily, half in and half out of her body. I was one of them. It was the first birth I have ever witnessed and good heavens, I winced.

I can’t stand the pain of a blackhead extraction, let alone a baby extraction. I have never seen anything quite so… traumatic looking. And right now I need to say to all mums: HOLY. MOLEY. Let me get you a chair. And a cold drink. Because I can understand if you never want to stand up, ever again.

The closest I can come to this was a couple of years ago when I had shoulder surgery.  Before I went in, the doctors warned me. The surgeons warned me. The physio's warned me. People who had gone before me warned me with grave faces about the extreme pain of it. I would be in terrible pain, they said. I will want to sell my soul to the devil for relief. I had a pain management plan and was sent away with more drugs than an Amy Winehouse world tour.

Had I stood there and said "Oh it's okay, I'm having a natural shoulder surgery," people would have thought I was cracked. A nut. Had I sat there and said, "I'm actually looking forward to the transformative experience of major procedure and I want it to be a conscious act" I would be carted away to live with Pete Evans and his flouride-denying wife.

So why do we laud women who have a "natural" birth?

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We talk about the concept of a natural birth on the latest episode of Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues... 

All through my social media feeds, people's birth announcements are sprinkled with "all natural" as if it's not just a muesli bar ad but a crowning achievement. Natural is best, I hear. Natural is everything. It's the nirvana of births. You're a virtuous human person to endure one and you can forever wear it like a badge of moral superiority.

I've been in groups of women that have talked about their birth experiences and it seems like everyone is "sharing" their experiences but there's a subtle one-upmanship that happens where who had the most natural birth wins.

Is it because we see pain and suffering as a badge of honour? That we feel like enduring a natural birth will make us better mothers, more worthy women or more connected to our babies? Do we see it as a sacrificial moment, the first of many that motherhood brings?

It's a topic I took to the women I work with, Mia Freedman and Kate De Brito. They've both birthed multiple children. So as soon as I made them sit down and offered them a cool drink and a soft cushion to rest their fannys on, we talked about it.

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Perhaps one of the smartest critiques of the topic is by Jessi Klein in her new book You'll Grow Out Of It. She says, you know what's weird? Society doesn't want women to be natural in any way except birth.

She says as women, we get fake boobs, Botox, plump our lips, feather our eyebrows. We use fake tan, makeup, nail polish, hair colour. We shave our legs and armpits, wear lipstick, rouge our cheeks and rip pubic hair out of our lady bump.

Society tells us, "Natural? Eww gross. Don't be natural. No one wants to see natural."

Except when it comes to the most painful experience a woman can endure. Then, suddenly natural is best.

Interesting, huh?

There are no particular sides I want to take in this debate: as an outsider, I can't see any reason to pit women against each other based on how we want to give birth. Every birth is different, and every woman has a choice. But it's just an observation. An entirely natural one.

Mamamia Out Loud is the weekly with what women are talking about. From politics to pop-culture, let Mia Freedman, Kate De Brito and Monique Bowley talk you through the smart and funny of the week. Subscribe in itunes or in the Mamamia Podcast App, or listen here:

 

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