The first time that I remember seeing a Hollywood birth scene, I was sitting in a movie theatre with my high school boyfriend. The movie was Knocked Up, which stars one of my favourite actresses, Katherine Hiegl. (Because Izzy Stevens. Am I right?). We went into the movie having heard all about the famous crowning scene. Something that had never been shown on a Hollywood film thus far. Now, before I go on, I actually have to give this movie some credit. They discussed what a bloody show was while the labouring mama relaxed in a bubble bath in early stages of labour. That is something I can totally get behind.
The part of that birth that sticks out the most for me, is the scene in which a friend of the baby daddy hears baby mama's screaming from the waiting room. He decides that he must check on her and make sure everything is okay (eye roll). Baby mama, Alison, looks at him with a look of rage and feral animal mixed into one and yells “geeeetttt ouuutttt”. Funny? Maybe. Accurate? Well, maybe, but probably not. First of all, you might be so lost in Labour Land by that point that you may not even notice someone popping their head in. Second of all, you have way more control over who can come into the room you’re labouring in than the movie portrays. These kind of scenes give us an inaccurate view of what labour and birth might actually be like.
There are literally hundreds of Hollywood birth scenes that inaccurately portray birth. We've all seen the water breaking in a huge commotion on the street, and the ambulance coming to take her to the hospital immediately. The flat on her back, legs up in stirrups, pushing while screaming bloody murder so everyone in the waiting room can here. Although these kind of scenes make for some excellent entertainment, they’re simply not all that accurate.
Our western society has a very skewed view of birth. We have medicalised it so much and filled our minds with those entertaining movie scenes that when it’s time for a woman to actually do it, it becomes a medical emergency, it’s overwhelming and we feel completely out of control.
The thing is though, it’s all fake news. Birth isn’t scary, overwhelming or out of control. When a family goes into a birth having a plan A, B and even C birth becomes something we have power over. When we go into the birth having looked at what birth actually looks like, the moaning becomes less scary sounding and sounds more like a woman doing some hard work to move that baby down through her body. When we hire birth professionals to assist us through all the stages of pregnancy and labour we are able to learn our options and get back our power over our births through having knowledge.
When I was a kid and I watched a horror film, I would tell myself when something got a little too scary “it’s just a movie. It’s all just props, sets and actors. None of it is real”. This is what we need to start doing during those oh, so dramatic birthing scenes. A typical 8-12 hr labour with contractions that are well managed by a strong woman is not something that makes a good movie. But just like those horror movies, it’s just a movie! It’s all just sets, props and actors. None of it is real.
So what can a person do to retrain their mind to not believe this fake birth news?
Watch some birth videos on YouTube. Specifically hypnobirthing or home births. These will show you how relaxed, un-urgent and beautiful birth can be.
Follow birthTube on Facebook. This is a page where really brave woman broadcast their birth live through Facebook live. Be careful though! It’s addicting. I may or may not have forgotten to cook my family supper and had to order pizza one evening after getting caught up watching a birth. (sorry, not sorry, family)
Hire a doula to help you know your options and give you back the reigns in the birthing room
Hypnobirthing or hypnotherapy: when I was pregnant with my first baby, long before my doula days, I took a local hypnobirthing class. It changed my entire view of pregnancy and birth.
If someone starts talking to you about a negative birth story, redirect them and ask for positive birthing stories only. ‘Cause you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
One day maybe Hollywood will realize how damaging it is to show these kinds of scenes but their purpose is to entertain, and not to educate, so it’s unlikely that they ever will. So, it’s our responsibility to fill the minds of young families with positive labour and birth stories, real information that empowers them, and most of all that labour is, for the most part, pretty boring. Which is just the way we want it to be.
-Alyssa Douglas, RPN, Labour/Postpartum Doula