The way labour and postnatal care is presented in these shows is just too ridiculous to bear: women reclining on pillows and occasionally grunting as they feel a contraction, Addison saving the day with some super complex surgical procedure but never coaching a woman through acual labour and the cute shots of babies smiling in a nursery (these scenes actually make me cry and yes, my baby was taken away from me right after birth and no, a year later I still haven’t got over it).
I’m all for choice. I had an unmedicated hospital birth myself but I’m 100% in favour of women being given the choice of the best pain relief science can offer. A woman should have complete control over how she gives birth, from elective cesareans to home births in the bath tub.
That said, you can only make an informed choice if you have all the information. And some of that information is subconscious. If every single channel on TV suggests that women give birth in a white gown while lying serenely on a pink hospital bed, it’s difficult to adjust people’s expectations to the blood, sweat and tears of the reality. I’m not surprised that given the option, so many women are going for the cesarean – at least they’ve seen that portrayed with passable realism on screen.
Of course Hollywood is never going to be totally accurate: John Nash actually divorced his wife, Lauda and Hunt weren’t really rivals and Pocahontas was a little girl but where’s the romance and drama in all that?
I also get that a natural birth doesn’t really lend itself to film: it takes far too long, involves a lot of unsightly bodily fluids and shows the female lead in far less attractive positions than groaning on a bed under the covers.
But. I do feel that the way birth is portrayed on film takes the proverbial biscuit. And to celebrate that, here are my top 4 worst birth moments on screen.
4. Star Trek. Kirk’s mother is in labour as their ship is being attacked by the disgruntled Romulan in the opening scenes of the movie. Regardless of the fact that I wonder why a heavily pregnant woman was on board a spaceship and I imagine the fear of impending death would have stopped her labour in her tracks, I can’t believe that a society supposedly so advanced still expects a women to give birth in a bed surrounded by bright flashing lights.
3. Star wars episode III. That scene where Natalie Portman runs across the burning ruins of some planet to jump into Anakin’s arms and then gives birth to twins about 10 minutes later. I dare any woman pregnant with twins to post a video of her sprinting in the comments. I was only carrying one baby and only managed a shuffling jog by month 7… Also everyone is super surprised she is carrying twins. So they have X-wings and mind-reading Jedis but no prenatal checkups??
2. Friends. No impossible birth list would be complete without Phoebe popping out triplets without batting and eyelid. The list of impossible is as long as their three umbilical chords combined starting with the fact that she had a natural birth at all. Rachel fares slightly better in that her labour is actually quite long, although I still end up screaming at the TV to “just get up and walk!”.
1. Lost. This is my favourite. At the very end of the last season, Claire is heavily pregnant and staying with Jack. They all go to a fancy party in the evening. On arrival Claire feels a bit odd…she walks off backstage and then two minutes later is in full blown labour and pushing out a baby a few seconds later. Apparently the women on the island not only have no periods or armpit hair, they are also super fast birthers.