Should We Care How Beyoncé Gave Birth?

Update: after posting this, Beyoncé released a statement saying that she had a “natural” birth.

Right now, the blogosphere, facebook, and apparently the entire internet, are all on fire about how Beyoncé gave birth to her baby. Does it matter? Should we care? My answer is, yes… and no.

Celebrity is a two-edged sword. The same people that want tons of attention when it comes time to sell an album, star in a movie, or play a game, can’t just suddenly plead the interests of privacy, and desire inattention, when it comes to their personal lives. That sort of sucks, but there you are. I wouldn’t want to be stalked by paparazzi, either, and have every bad photo of me and my cellulite plastered over every tabloid, but for the most part, that is unfortunately the price to pay for celebrity. We can argue over whether it should or shouldn’t be, but the reality is, for the moment, that is what is.

I remember a reply by John Lennon, in an interview in which he and the rest of the Beatles were asked if they would like to be able to walk down the street without anyone recognizing them or without anyone causing an uproar; his response demonstrates that he understood the reality that he couldn’t have it both ways; he said: “We used to do that all the time, without any money in our pockets. Why would we want to go back to that?”

Beyoncé, and certainly every other celebrity, justly or unjustly are put under the microscope, and fortunately or unfortunately thousands of people will follow the example of one famous person. In that aspect, those of us who care about issues of birth and pregnancy, and especially those of us who support and promote vaginal birth, unmedicated birth, and/or home birth — “natural child birth” folks — are frequently (and rightly, I believe) dismayed at the high rate of C-sections, and what we perceive as almost the promotion of it in celebrity births.

So, thinking about how that many people (particularly today’s generation of teenage and young girls) may look up to Beyoncé, and possibly may be influenced by reports of her C-section, to plan on having their babies by C-section, it is possible that every celebrity C-section today may result in an increased percentage of C-sections in the future, and therefore, it does matter, and we should care about how others, particularly celebrities, give birth, because of that influence; and while Beyoncé’s C-section may have been the best choice for her (either for medical benefit/necessity or personal preference), and she may have no negative repercussions from it, almost everybody who takes an interest in birth realizes that C-sections as individual choices may be better, but C-sections as an aggregate tend to have worse outcomes for both mother and baby, particularly repeat pregnancies and C-sections.

Unfortunately, births don’t happen in aggregate — they happen to individuals. So, in dissecting birth as a whole, we end up trampling on individual births. This is one reason it’s so difficult to talk about many birth topics, such as C-section vs. vaginal birth, because no matter what you say, there will always be at least one person who said, “I did that, and it turned out horrible!” or “I did that, and it was the best decision I ever made!” Many women report that their C-sections were horrible, with nightmarish recoveries; and many other women report that their C-sections were a breeze; and some women who have had both C-section and vaginal births will say diametrically opposite things — that some found their C-sections to be easier recoveries, and others that their vaginal births were easier to recover from. Unfortunately, there is no 100% certainty in any decision made, no matter what, so women just have to choose what they believe to be best for them (and I hope that they will be given accurate information, and not pressured or coerced in any way).

I don’t know why Beyoncé made the choice she did, though there may have been some medical reason (I haven’t read any of the reports because, quite frankly, I don’t care; I’m not “into” pop culture, and she’s basically just a name to me, though I *think* she was in the Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin some years ago, and I did watch that). I did read this and this commentary on the blowback she has received, which, along with a few headlines, is the sum total of what I’ve read, and several people threw out in her defense that there may have been unreported medical reasons, such as pre-eclampsia or breech baby. I must admit that when I saw that she had had the baby already, I was a tad worried that the baby might be early [it seems just a month or two ago, I saw some headline about her being pregnant, so I thought at first it might be **really** early], and if she had an elective induction/section at or before 37 weeks, I was concerned on her baby’s account, because I know in aggregate, these early births are worse for the baby, though in particular, it may not be horrible for any individual baby. Also, someone suggested that they intentionally gave the wrong due date, to avoid increased press scrutiny at the time of the correct due date, and the baby may have been 40 weeks, or possibly even over 42 weeks, instead of the reported 37 weeks.

Whatever. I don’t care. I really don’t.

I don’t care why she chose it, whether there was a true medical need, too posh to push, desire for being able to schedule the birth, the belief that it was safer, the desire for privacy, or whatever her reason(s) were. [Although I must admit, that if there was a real medical reason, I hope it will be told, because I think the last thing our society needs is another high-profile celebrity having a medically unnecessary C-section, and making it look like it’s the smarter, better, easier choice.] For Beyoncé as a person, it makes no difference; for her as a celebrity with influence, it does make a difference to the thousands she may influence.

Her desire for privacy could be the sole reason for choosing a C-section, and I would understand that. I’m not a celebrity, so I can’t pretend to have the same knowledge base or experiences a celebrity has, but I have a pretty good imagination, coupled with sufficient knowledge of the paparazzi and how they work. What wouldn’t one of these people do, to get a picture of Beyoncé in labor, giving birth, having a C-section, holding her baby, or anything else related to this time? It would be pretty hard to impersonate a labor nurse or otherwise infiltrate the L&D floor, but it could be done, by someone with the knowledge and desire to do it. However, it could be easier to pay off an employee to break regulations and get such a picture. Also, put yourself into a celebrity’s place, and imagine trying to relax through the contractions, or push your baby out, with the fear that somebody somewhere had planted a hidden camera and/or microphone, and would be selling it for thousands upon thousands of dollars to some tabloid magazine somewhere. Yeah, that would make renting out a hospital floor and scheduling a C-section more appealing to me, too.

I also don’t have a problem with her renting out the entire floor — it’s her money, she can spend it as she wishes. I’d spend it differently, but that’s me; this is her choice — she can do with it whatever she wants, as long as it isn’t harming anybody else and is not illegal.

Ah, but there’s the rub, isn’t it? Her choice to take over the hospital floor *did* harm others — apparently there were many stories from parents who were not allowed to visit their babies in the NICU, because of this. She went to such lengths to choose what she felt was best for herself and her baby, but in so doing, the rights of other parents to even see their fragile newborns (most of them probably preemies, many of them with serious, even potentially lethal, conditions) was trampled on. It is my hope that she didn’t know what was happening, and when she chose to rent the entire floor so that she could have privacy, that she did not intend for other parents to be separated from their precious babies.

One of the articles I linked to above was sarcastically “Beyoncé Must Be a Terrible Mother” [it was a collection of various comments from people on facebook, reacting to the news that she had had a C-section, though no reason was stated, and that she had rented out an entire hospital floor to do so], and I agree with the blogger’s point of view — that having a C-section, even a medically unnecessary one, does not make one a bad mother. However, I would say, that keeping parents from their children does make you at best an unthoughtful human. I don’t say that’s Beyoncé’s fault; I think that was the hospital’s fault, plain and simple. Even if Beyoncé knew that many parents would be separated from their NICU babies and didn’t care (which would be pretty heartless, if true), it is still the hospital’s ultimate responsibility, so I lay most if not all of the blame at their feet, because the hospital folks should have known what the result would be, and they chose to put money and fame (having Beyoncé pick *them* to have her baby in), over principles, and also over the benefit of the many parents, who likewise entrusted their births and their babies to this hospital, and deserved more consideration.

I laughed until I cried!

A Man’s Guide to HomeBirth on Dr. Momma [Update: it was removed from Dr. Momma, but here it is in full.]

This is hilarious! Simply hilarious. I’ll give you a taste, but you must read the whole thing:

These are the items that men need to assist in a homebirth (not in order of use by the way): a black-light, princess wand (any type of wand toy will do,) fun-house mirror, catchers mitt/fishing net/soccer gloves, pocket watch, thesaurus, gum, woman who has witnessed a live birth, six pack of beer (or favorite alcohol), shovel, bucket, 1 dozen eggs, shredded mozzarella cheese, shower shoes, swimming shorts, push-up/pull-up bars or a wheelbarrow, old table covers (plastic holiday ones are best,) 1 big steak (or other red meat,) and 1 big cliche. Most of these items are for preparing for the birth, while a few are for the actual birthing….

So when I came down the stairs and was informed that she was in labor at 9am-ish, I felt ready this time since I just slept for 10 friggin hours. Alas, after hanging around downstairs for about ten minutes, my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I went and took a nap. On a side note, this is where the doula’s biggest strength lies – they are highly trained to withstand the Hypno-Fog. It was after that nap during the Hypno-Fog stage that I discovered that women who are about to go into labor cast this area-of-effect spell that can drop a man to the floor in a matter of minutes….

Skin-to-Skin in the O.R. after a C-section

Being born vaginally is good for babies, in part because it colonizes them with the mother’s good bacteria, setting them on the road to health; a C-section bypasses this normal process and may be part of the reason why babies born by Cesarean have higher rates of things like asthma. But putting the baby skin-to-skin with the mom, especially after a Cesarean, can restore some of this good colonization; otherwise, the baby will be colonized only with hospital bacteria. Skin-to-skin contact is also beneficial in facilitating breastfeeding. Typically, when babies are born, they have an innate ability and desire to get to the breast and self-attach; wrapping babies up in a blanket like a burrito prevents this. All too often, whether the baby is born vaginally or by C-section, babies are only briefly shown to the mom right after birth, and then are taken across the room for the newborn assessment and procedures, before finally being returned to their mothers securely swaddled in a hospital blanket. Then, many times, babies are taken to the nursery soon after birth for a bath, then kept in the nursery under the warmer for a few hours to warm back up, and then finally taken back to their mothers… just in time for them to fall asleep for a few hours. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Healthy babies can — and should — be placed skin-to-skin with their mothers immediately after birth, even with a C-section.

Update: Here’s a video showing skin-to-skin after a C-section


If you had a C-section, were you able to have your baby put skin-to-skin in the operating room? Did you even know that was a possibility? If you are a nurse or midwife, do you ever put babies skin-to-skin on their moms, even if they have a C-section?

Weigh in on this topic on the Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy fan page [currently, it’s the most recent post, dated May 28]. Laura Keegan, the author of Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy, will be giving Grand Rounds in June/July, so will have the opportunity to talk about this important topic to attending physicians, L&D nurses, and residents in OB, pediatrics, and family practice. She would love to have input from women about their experiences with skin-to-skin contact (or the lack thereof) after both vaginal and Cesarean births, to pass along to the doctors, nurses, and doctors-in-training. What did it mean to you to be able to hold your baby with nothing between you, and just a blanket put over both of you? What did it mean to you to be denied this? Please comment on the fan page post, and also spread the word (blog, share on facebook, Tweet about it, etc.), so that doctors and nurses can find out from you and other women what they otherwise might not hear.

All My Babies

If you’ve not seen this documentary you need to. From the description:

Both educational tool and poetic portrait of a black midwife and childbirth in the Deep South.

“This beautiful film is the story of “”Miss Mary”” Coley an African-American midwife more than half a century ago in rural Georgia. Conceived as a demonstration film for “”granny”” midwives its production sponsored by the Georgia Department of Public Health All My Babies quickly transcended its initial purpose. It was used around the world by UNESCO and has become an enduring classic of non-fiction film.

All My Babies was written produced and directed by George C. Stoney in close collaboration with Mrs. Coley as well as with local public health doctors and nurses and shows the preparation for and home delivery of healthy babies in both relatively good and bad rural conditions among black families at that time.

The film is in addition both a deeply respectful portrait of “”Miss Mary”” who is revealed as an inspiring human being and a record of the actual living conditions of her patients.

Selected in 2002 by the Librarian of Congress as a “”culturally historically and artistically significant work”” for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry.”

While there were some moments that made me cringe (like Miss Mary telling a mama it wasn’t “safe” to give birth on the floor and that the bed was “much better”; and her fully and completely cleaning and dressing the baby before letting the mama even see the baby), it is still gives great insight to the culture of the time, and it is obvious that the doctor, nurse, and all the midwives had their hearts in the right place, and did the best they could with what they knew at the time.

Link Round-up

Ok, for lack of spare time, in conjunction with internet connection issues [long story, but my husband’s LAN port shorted out or something so we can’t both be on the computer at the same time], I have a whole bunch of interesting posts I’d like to share, and no time to discuss them. But I’m not going to be getting any more time in the future — I’m pretty sure we’re stuck at 24 hours per day for a while, anyway! — so, I’m just going to post the links with a little commentary, so I can clear out both my mental space and my computer browser.

Mom has a successful birth after eighteen miscarriages.

Ms Baker had high levels of a subtype of white blood cell, known as Natural Killer (NK) cells.The cells would normally protect the body against foreign viruses, but in Ms Baker’s case they mistook the foetus for a foreign body and attacked it.

Dr Shehata’s treatment is pioneering because it starts before conception and uses higher than normal doses of steroids.

Natural vs. artificial oxytocin [Pitocin, Syntocinon] in birth.

Oxytocin administered as an i.v. bolus of 10 IU induces chest pain, transient profound tachycardia, hypotension, and concomitant signs of myocardial ischaemia according to marked ECG and STC-VM changes. The effects are related to oxytocin administration and not to pregnancy, surgical procedure, delivery, or sympathetic block from spinal anaesthesia.

Think your doctor knows about breastfeeding because s/he graduated from med school? Think again!

One of the speakers, ABM member Dr. Nancy Wight, spoke on breastfeeding. Almost every word was news to me. Medical school, residency, chief residency and part of a neonatology fellowship and I did not know about any of the content she was presenting. One of the other speakers lectured on lice- that I knew something about. But breastfeeding? Nope. How did Dr. Wight know this stuff when I didn’t? Who taught her yet set me loose on an unsuspecting patient population armed only with my personal 7-week breastfeeding experience? [….]

You really need to read the whole article — I want to cut and paste the whole thing because every part of it is worth reading. But that would be plagiarism, so just go read it.

While on the subject of breastfeeding, a nurse writes about a conversation she overheard between a breastfeeding mother and a mother planning on formula-feeding, occurring a few hours after birth. Very good article!

And “The Language of Breastfeeding” — highlighting the importance of noting that breastfeeding is not “superior” but is “normal,” while formula feeding is “inferior.”

When we (and the artificial milk manufacturers) say that breastfeeding is the best possible way to feed babies because it provides their ideal food, perfectly balanced for optimal infant nutrition, the logical response is, “So what?” Our own experience tells us that optimal is not necessary. Normal is fine, and implied in this language is the absolute normalcy–and thus safety and adequacy–of artificial feeding. The truth is, breastfeeding is nothing more than normal. Artificial feeding, which is neither the same nor superior, is therefore deficient, incomplete, and inferior. Those are difficult words, but they have an appropriate place in our vocabulary.

I may at some point write a whole post on guilt and breastfeeding, but this isn’t it. However, formula is inferior to breastmilk, and everyone should know it. A recent study showed that over 900 babies’ lives could be saved every year here in the United States, not just in some third-world country with nasty water, if 90% of women breastfed. So, yeah, I think if you could have breastfed and chose not to, you ought to feel guilty about it, just as you should feel guilty for blowing smoke into your baby’s face or getting drunk while pregnant or having an elective induction at 35 weeks gestation just because you’re tired of being pregnant. HOWEVER, many mothers who end up using formula are not choosing to use it, they’re making an “un-choice.” Their choice would be to breastfeed, but because of one or another of the “Booby Traps” (TM), end up not being able to. My intent is not to make these mothers feel bad. There are many women who would love to breastfeed, but must work in order to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their babies. Formula is inferior to breastmilk, but starving your baby all day doesn’t work either! And there are many, many more women who wanted to breastfeed or tried to breastfeed, but for one reason or another — perhaps bad advice or hearing too many horror stories — ended up falling back on formula. I know at least two different women — both stay-at-home moms — whose mom or dad died when their baby was young, and the stress of the situation caused their already-shaky milk supply to dry up completely. It wasn’t their fault that their parents died; and such a situation is certainly stressful, either due to a sudden death or due to a lingering hospital stay. They did not choose to stop breastfeeding — that was just life circumstances forcing them into an “un-choice.” In these instances, formula was necessary, and though inferior to breastmilk, was superior to starvation. But this article is about changing one aspect of the culture to truly promote and enhance breastfeeding, by slightly changing the wording to give breastfeeding more force and highlighting not just the superior nature of breastmilk but the inferior nature of formula.

And if you think that this is causing unnecessary guilt because “everybody knows” that breastmilk is superior… you’re missing the point of the whole “mental shift” in breastfeeding language that this article is talking about, and you need to read the “overheard conversation” in the link above, in which the mother who had decided to feed her baby formula had been told that formula was “just as good” as breastmilk.

Nowhere is the comfortable illusion of bottlefed normalcy more carefully preserved than in discussions of cognitive development. When I ask groups of health professionals if they are familiar with the study on parental smoking and IQ (1), someone always tells me that the children of smoking mothers had “lower IQs.” When I ask about the study of premature infants fed either human milk or artificial milk (2), someone always knows that the breastmilk-fed babies were “smarter.” I have never seen either study presented any other way by the media–or even by the authors themselves. Even health professionals are shocked when I rephrase the results using breastfeeding as the norm: the artificially-fed children, like children of smokers, had lower IQs.

Inverting reality becomes even more misleading when we use percentages, because the numbers change depending on what we choose as our standard. If B is 3/4 of A, then A is 4/3 of B. Choose A as the standard, and B is 25% less. Choose B as the standard, and A is 33 1/3% more. Thus, if an item costing 100 units is put on sale for “25% less,”the price becomes 75. When the sale is over, and the item is marked back up, it must be marked up 33 1/3% to get the price up to 100. Those same figures appear in a recent study (3), which found a “25% decrease” in breast cancer rates among women who were breastfed as infants. Restated using breastfed health as the norm, there was a 33-1/3% increase in breast cancer rates among women who were artificially fed. Imagine the different impact those two statements would have on the public.

Yes, imagine the paradigm shift that would occur if people — particularly mothers — were told that infants fed formula had lower IQs and higher rates of breast cancer as women. I think there would be a stronger push from mothers to promote breastfeeding, if the conversation proceeded along those lines — making breastfed babies the standard against which formula-fed babies were measured, rather than the other way ’round.

What is said, vs. what is heard” — if you’ve ever been in one of “those conversations” when you react not only to what someone has actually said but what you thing s/he meant, you’ll enjoy this. Here’s a taste:

She said, “Are all those kids yours?”

I heard, “Is that impossibly large number of children yours? Have you ever heard of birth control?”

I said, “Yes. They are all mine.”

She heard, “They are all mine. I am a saint.”

Whose responsibility is it? — when a woman ends up with an unnecessary intervention during birth, is it her responsibility or is it the doctor’s? This says a lot of what I’ve said before and/or wanted to say on the topic, although I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of it. In short, there is a balance between women’s responsibility in choosing the right care-giver and between the doctor’s responsibility in not intervening unnecessarily. If a woman knowingly chooses a doctor who has a high C-section rate, she shouldn’t be too surprised if she ends up “needing” a C-section too; on the other hand, if the woman believes the doctor (or hospital) to have a low rate of unnecessary interventions and then ends up with an unnecessary episiotomy or C-section, then she should rightfully be upset if she finds out that she was lied to or misled. Women should be conscientious consumers of health care, and not just blindly follow their doctors; but doctors should be conscientious providers of health care, and should be able to be blindly followed. They both have responsibilities; but I would put the emphasis more heavily on the side of doctors, because they have an implicit office of trust, in that they are “the medical professionals who have gone through years and years of study of medicine,” so often their opinion has more weight (and rightly so) than the average person. Since they speak with more authority, they have the greater responsibility not to abuse that authority. And doctors who have a 70% C-section rate for low-risk moms would have a hard time convincing me that even most of them were the responsibility of the mother.

Cesarean Scar Website

Barb from Navelgazing Midwife has launched a new website dedicated to the “story” your Cesarean scar tells. From the “About” page on the website:

Something told me the cesarean scar needed a place to speak.

As this site was being born, I asked three things:

-1. Take a picture of your scar.

-2. What does your scar say when you look at it?

-3. What does your scar say when you touch it?

What followed was a steady trickle of photos and stories… tender, painful, wonderful, awful stories.

Here, I humbly offer space for the stories to find their way to light.

I’ve read a few of the stories, and already there is a wide range of emotions: “I hate my scar,” “My scar mocks me,” “I’m now at peace with my scar,” “I love my scar because that means my child(ren) are alive,” etc. Everyone has a story to tell…

ISO: Home Birth and/or Midwifery pictures and videos

I’m making several promotional/educational videos about midwives, midwifery, and home birth for our Mississippi Friends of Midwives group, and would like to have more pictures and/or videos that I can use. Here are the two that I’ve gotten done so far.

This second video is clips from my younger son’s newborn exam (we had no video nor pictures from my first home-birth). I edited it for length as well as due to background noise (my mother and sisters talking), so this isn’t the entire exam.

I may even be able to make a lengthier DVD production if I can get enough material. If you have any pictures or video that I can use of midwife-attended births (preferably a home-birth, but I wouldn’t exclude a hospital birth), or even pictures/video of an OB-attended hospital birth to use as a contrast to home birth, or you can video yourself talking about why you chose a home birth, if you’re a midwife why you became a midwife, etc. — if you would like to be included, you can email me the pictures and/or links at kathy_petersen_283 at yahoo dot com [note the spelling of my name!], and in the email please write some sort of statement giving me permission to use the pictures/videos for MS Friends of Midwives.

Thanks!