Millions and millions of people are watching random strangers give birth on YouTube.
Just FYI: This post contains images of childbirth.
I can’t remember the first time I saw childbirth. I have a vague memory of a video being shown in “PD” lessons in high school, but at an all-girls school in the early 90s such a video was more sanitised than educational – and we spent most of the class passing notes about the hickey on Lisa Hudson’s neck anyway.
These days all it takes is a few flicks of your fingertips and a click of your mouse. From there you can take your pick – from birthing triplets to C-section hospital birth to garden births (yep, flowers and all.)
It’s all there for anyone to see.
Breech births, vaginal births, water births and even (terrifyingly for the lack of warnings about their dangers) unassisted births. Researching online for this story, I found one shakily filmed “graphic childbirth” video which had more than two million views.
British mum Gemma Vaughan is one of these women who decided the rest of the world should see her at her most vulnerable. She posted a 39-minute birth video on YouTube, which has now been viewed by over 27,000 people.
Ms Vaughan told The Daily Mail that she was thrilled so many people enjoyed her birth.
“It really doesn’t bother me that men on my street may have seen me naked and giving birth. I’ve always thought of breasts as things to feed babies with rather than anything sexual.”
Vaughan is one of a growing number of women choosing to upload their births in full explicit detail. But that’s not to say that all of us should be doing the same.
I’ve had three babies – one C-section and two vaginal – and not once did it occur to me to “vlog it” and give it a catchy title like “Super gory bloody birth in full detail for all to see.”
I was too busy, well planning on having a baby.
My first reaction when I first heard of women posting their birth photos to YouTube? No thanks. I don’t want to see your vagina. I don’t want to see the graphic details of childbirth captured on shaky iPhone and edited to a half-hour special.
I had my babies – in three amazing, life changing births – all totally different and all with enough blood, vernix and discharge to give me a lifetime of memories.
The fact is childbirth is messy, and gory and bloody. It is noisy and a little bit smelly. It may be empowering and exhilarating but it isn’t very pleasant. To me it is a personal and private thing.
I don’t need to watch the entrance of a stranger’s baby to the world. I don’t need to see a naked woman graphically exposed at her most vulnerable.
But as I write this I realise something. These videos probably aren’t posted for someone like me – someone who doesn’t want to see them, someone who has had her babies. They are for people who have no idea what to expect when it comes to giving birth; the people whose only interpretations of birth are the unrealistic three-minute clips you see on American dramas where – somehow – the actresses’ makeup – always manages to stay perfectly in tact.
The fact is that I don’t actually have to watch them, and if other men or women want to, then they can make that choice.
The greatest thing we have about modern childbirth is choice. In Australia we have the ability to choose, for the most part, how we want to give birth, where we want to give birth, what assistance we require (the drugs we desire), and how we will raise our children.
We have the choice to birth alone, with our partners 0 or with half the yoga devotees from our ashram clustered around the birthing pool iPhones ready if that’s what we wish.
It’s about choice. If women want to have their births documented and posted on YouTube, if they choose this method then others have the ability to choose to watch.
In this world of choice and social media, there is one person we seem to have forgotten about. One person who gets no say about oversharing. The one person who doesn’t get a choice about whether or not to be a YouTube star… and that’s the baby being born.
Internet psychologist Graham Jones told The Daily Mail that couples need to consider how children may react in the future to videos of their births being shared.
“These could impact upon the relationship between mothers and their children. How would the mothers who upload videos today feel if their own mums had publicly shared movies or pictures of their own birth in the past?”
I know how I would feel.
It’s a bizarre new landscape to navigate, but one that mums-to-be need to keep in mind before they decide to expose their most intimate moments to the vast uncharted world of social media.
What do you think of YouTube birth videos? Okay or oversharing?