If you've ever been super uncomfortable with the number of people that wind up in the delivery room when you give birth, a new trend is about to make you even more so. It's called "crowd birthing" — when moms let others watch them deliver — and according to a recent survey, it's all the rage among young U.K. mothers. The survey was done by the video blogging site Channel Mum, which polled 2,000 mothers with the question and found that for mothers in their teens and twenties, it's common for up to eight people to crowd into the delivery room.
I don't know about you, but all of that sounds like my own worst nightmare. Letting your partner (and your doctor/nurse/doula/midwife) get a ring-side view of what's going on down there seems like a big enough audience to me. After all, let's not forget, the actual act of giving birth is a pretty personal thing — your vagina is on display for all to see. And there's A BABY emerging out of it (among many other less awesome things). Yes, yes, it's all very beautiful and amazing and all that, but it's also kind of intense and graphic and... honestly, sometimes scary, depending upon whether or not there are any complications.
But while "crowd birthing" often refers to a group of friends and family members standing around you as you grunt and push your way through it all, some parents go one step further. Many even live blog the particulars of their labor and delivery as it's happening. (As evidenced by the play-by-play Robbie Williams gave last year during the birth of his second child.) In the survey, Channel Mum found that around a quarter of young moms update their social media followers throughout the entire experience. But perhaps that's no surprise. Stats aside, a quick scroll through my own personal Facebook feed will prove that having a baby has become everyone's business. So much so that delivery room photos go up almost immediately, with thousands more to come in the days that follow. A recent New York Times report even called out the growing trend of delivery room "primping" that goes on, as moms call upon hairstylists to show up bedside.
As Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum, told The Telegraph, "The younger generation are used to sharing every aspect of their lives, so why not birth? Many women feel it is their biggest achievement and so want to share the moment with all of those closest to them."
Hmm... so maybe I'm in the minority here with thinking all of this is a bit nutty and too close for comfort. After all, when it comes to other people watching you give birth, there are parts to the trend that aren't exactly new. In fact, back in the day, royal ladies always gave birth before an audience — and I'm not just talking about a few bystanders, either; I mean a throng of people. As The Telegraph once reported, "Up to 70 people would be present when future monarchs were born, so that they could verify there had been no skulduggery such as an infant impostor being substituted in the royal bedchamber." (Skulduggery. I can't.)
That's not the only kinda nuts birthing trend from way back in the day, though. Consider these rather out-there practices that women once considered totally normal...
1. They Gave Birth Into A Pile Of Leaves
That's right — leaves. According to historian Ellen Holmes Pearson of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Native American women often had midwives or family members help them through the laboring process. But when it came time for the baby to come out, no one actually made a move to catch it. Instead, a pile of leaves would be set under the mother (who typically labored while standing or sitting) for the baby to fall into.
2. They Spruced Up Their Lady Bits Prior To Birth
During the mid-twentieth century, another since-outdated delivery trend started to emerge: Nurses would routinely shave women's nether regions and give them enemas before birth. As for the latter, it had to do more with trying to helping the mother avoid embarrassment during delivery (aka, in case she pooped), according to a 2013 Cochrane review of the practice. (Though in reality, enemas don't actually prevent pooping during childbirth, so it seems to have been all for naught.)
3. They Had Their Memories Wiped Clean. (Seriously.)
So this one kinda sounds like something out of a weird sci-fi film, but just hear me out. Back in the early 1900s, a strange practice called "twilight sleep" started cropping up around the U.S. Women were given a combo of two drugs, morphine and scopolamine, which together resulted in a pain-free delivery that also just so happened to erase the memory of the entire event. While relieving labor pain was considered a medical miracle, thrusting women into states of near unconsciousness while they delivered was... problematic. Eventually, docs put the kibosh on the practice, after reports of women "thrashing" their arms around and having fits during labor.
4. They Gave Birth In Special Chairs
While many women today may give birth laying down with their legs up, back in the second century A.D., it seems the Greeks felt sitting down was a much better position, for both the mother and the baby. As for the chair itself, historian Valerie French says it was apparently designed for such things — each birthing chair had a "crescent-shaped hole" that the baby could pass through.
So maybe this new (or not-so-new) "crowd birthing" trend isn't all that weird after all, considering all the ways we used to give birth? As long as nobody brings back the twilight thing, I think we're cool.
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