Sunday, June 17, 2012


There is no end of planning that takes place around childbirth. And of course the best laid plans often get thrown out the window.

Some women vow to avoid drugs and other interventions if at all possible and draw up official birth plans. Mia Freedman labels this group of women Birthzillas, a term destined to sit comfortably beside the equally horrid Feminazi; a catch-all that will be used to sum up and dismiss women who dare to assert any sort of power and control in decisions around childbirth.

Freedman remains remarkably quiet about another group of women who also make significant plans for their births. These women plan in advance to have epidurals, c-sections or inductions for non-medical reasons, plans that are more likely to lead to other interventions that are not in the best interests of the baby. Some even actively plan not to breastfeed, even though the overwhelming medical evidence says that breastmilk is best for baby.

Yet Freedman does not lampoon these women's plans, or accuse them of being selfish Birthzillas, of putting their own needs for a conveniently timed or pain free birth over the needs of their child. Nor should she. And if somebody else did, she would no doubt accuse them of being judgmental and disrespectful, of inducing unnecessary and damaging guilt, of pitting women against each other.

In fact, she might even argue that women's "choices" about how they give birth are complex, that they are framed and constricted by existing ideologies and options, as well as personal histories; that they cannot be reduced to a question of individual selfishness or selflessness.

But that is not nearly as much fun as hanging a snarky column on an anecdote about a woman and her carefully thought out plans for her placenta. It is the sort of anecdote that makes for terrifically entertaining dinner party conversation but perhaps should be employed with a little more caution and a greater sense of responsibility when writing a widely read column for a major newspaper.


Cam @ notunimportant said...

Well said. Very well. I commented yesterday that I wasn't sure that Mia could have fitted any more disrespect in that article.

Mia published an update online in the evening claiming the right to hold an opinion different to other women and remain feminist, apparently without the slightest awareness that her article was nothing but an attack other women for their opinions and consequent decisions and behaviours.

I can't believe anyone who can string words together so well can be as naive as Mia pretends to be in this article. The act must be part of her position description.

Claire said...

Yes well Mia's post and update are completely disingenuous and deliberately so. She's an old hand at starting little flame wars - it's her MO.

The controversy is not about her opinion; the reaction is due to her deliberately inflammatory language and name-calling, as well as the straw man ('straw woman'?) arguments. She won't answer the name-calling charge because she can't defend it.

I doubt the placenta story ever happened - sounds like the kind of thing 'lifestyle' journos make up all the time. I have never experienced this supposedly 'competitive' culture around birth and I'll bet most other mothers haven't either.

Jayne said...

Eeek. Good ol' Mia Freedman is at it again huh? She wouldn't have an agenda against women who choose a natural birth by any chance? ;?

I am not any fan of the 'birth nazis' by any means, but this rhetoric from Freedman is getting old :(

Krystle said...

A sensible, well reasoned response to an article than is so far from well reasoned. Well done and thank you :)

Kim-Marie said...

I know for sure that if I ever met Mia at a barbecue, I would tell her NOTHING for fear of being turned into a column.

I had a birth plan. Not to plan my birth (as if) but more as a planning tool. A preparation tool. If the nurse says this to me, this is what it means and these are our options kind of thing.

As it turned out, I skipped all stages of labour and went from a mild cramp to full labour within 30 minutes. With a huge posterior baby and a too small pelvis with severe SPD. Plus an allergic reaction to drugs. My husband used that birth plan when I was no longer capable of communication to work out what was happening as the
Midwives were less than helpful. It saved us.

Maree_Frances said...

Incisive, brilliant critique, Mamabook. As an older feminist I feel that the targeting of young mothers is much worse than when I had my babies. What is worse, the targeting is dressed up in glib, anecdotal journalism that is characteristic of Mia Freedman. It would be much more productive (but maybe not as entertaining) to hold up the mirror to the social processes and structures that shape women's choices.

Stella Orbit said...

'Some women vow to avoid drugs and other interventions if at all possible and draw up official birth plans.'

This is me. This is what I did. I had a formal birth plan. It was divided into the stages of labour. I talked about it endlessly with my midwife til I was sure she knew that I wanted, that I was preparing for the birth, the process, the outcome and the best result for me and the baby.
My labour was hard. Big headed, partly posterior boy. It took 38 hours. But I got what I wanted. Drug free and largely without intervention.

I had to enlist the help of the midwife to fight the registrar off in the last stage. He was fed up with the lack of progress. I wasn't. I was having my baby, my way.

If this all makes me a Birthzilla well then let it be. I am proud of what I achieved, and I am more proud of the end result, my beautiful boy.

Uninformed and antagonist commentary on birthing choice put us all back on our backs with our feet up letting doctor take care of it. Fuck that.

Nemosmummy said...

I come from a long line of 'zillas' and I married a male of the species. I'm proud of it. I'm confident enough to tell you what I want and stand up for that, which I see as a positive. It was my husband who told the midwife more forcefully I was not having a c section or an epidural when they'd blocked out my constant 'fuck off I'm not doing that my baby is fine'. 5hrs later I had a gorgeous son who was perfectly fine. Stuck to my guns and did it my way and I don't regret it for a second.

In a world where we are encouraging women to have an active voice Freedmans piece of shit article (I can't repeat what my hsband called it) seems to go against that entirly. Way to set us back a few steps.

Mindy said...

So I'm the Birthzilla because I wanted to try a VBAC for my second child? The fact that my Obs bullied me with stories about babies being stillborn to mothers with gestational diabetes doing VBACs until I was too tired to fight anymore and gave into his demands for an elective caesar at 38 weeks (timed nicely to coincide with his holidays) was a good fucking outcome then?

mamabook said...

Oh Mindy. That is awful to feel you were bullied. For me that sense of truly trusting my doctor made all the difference. When there was a decision to be made he would discuss with me what the actual evidence showed (which was usually less not more intervention) rather than trying to convince me to do something I was uncomfortable with.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Maria Tedeschi (Mum's Word) said...

Well done Michelle. Brilliant. I loved this post. You speak spades of sense.

Love & stuff
Mrs M

Lisa Lintern said...

A brilliant and balanced piece. Such a shame balanced opinions seem to get less attention than those that seek merely to attract bees by stirring the pot. Which is exactly the business Mia Freedman is in. We are fortunate to have your view.

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