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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Birth as performance art? Why not!

Is that a trophy I see? Why yes, yes it is.
Photo credit: AP. 
It's being talked about all over the birth community: a "performance artist" has just given birth to a baby boy inside an art gallery. Weird, perhaps. Maybe it's the Nyquil haze I'm living in today, but somehow the more I read this story and think about it, the cooler I think it is.

The blogger at Mama Birth and I joked that we'd both like to do posts about it (she beat me to it LOL) and here's her take. I don't want to repeat too much of what she just said, but yeah. What she said.

Something we both noticed were the comments - horrible, as usual. It seems that whenever birth is talked about there's something nasty to say, usually from other women. I don't even remember all of them, but the general feeling I got was How dare you birth somewhere "non-traditional?" How dare you go against the grain and do something that is supposed to be so painful and horrible and make it look ..... easy?! The audacity - to shower, move around normally, get into whatever position you want, no epidural... You are a @(%&&!!!*#^%^@ and deserve to die and have CPS called on you!" 

Okay, the CPS comment came from the comments section about the pregnant marathon runner who gave birth within hours of running a race. I think this birth falls into the same category: that somehow, there are people that think because you birth outside the norm or dare to do anything weird while pregnant, that they have some emotional claim to stake on you, your baby and your birth experience.

What Marni Kotak did was probably weird, but like Mama Birth pointed out in her blog post, not really that different than what they have been doing for years on A Baby Story (hello, since 1998?!). 16 and Pregnant - I've never seen that one, but honestly it sounds like utter tripe. I'm sure we can count the reasonably accurate, normal birth scenes we've seen in TV and movies on one hand.

I'm sure people were even more furious when things went well and the child was actually born. Of course, if things hadn't, they would no doubt declare smugly how "hospitals are where all birthing women belong," and how stupid/selfish/much of a whore she was for deciding to even have children in the first place, or something equally hurtful and bizarre.

For some, this is the closest thing to normal birth that they'd ever see. And it's not like she had an audience, per se - not like birth shows do - because she and her husband allowed no video cameras or photography. If she feels comfortable sharing it with a few people whom she knows care about birth (and her work), then so be it. How is that any different than mom calling so and so's step-sister's aunt's neighbor's daughter into the room (and all her girlfriends and close co-workers) while she's nearing the pushing phase? I don't get that, either, but that's their choice. Just like, I guess, it's Kotak's choice to show others that birth can be normal. That perhaps it's not her that's wrong or weird, but they are, for thinking that a normal birth doesn't exist, can't be done, is dangerous, selfish, blah blah blah. Somehow, though, when people watch birth on reality television they don't spout off about how much these women are trying to grab attention, but when someone like Kotak defies the "rules" they have no shortage of nasty things to say about it.

While my eyes were closed pretty tightly while I gave birth, my husband said there were quite a few people in the room during my VBAC. Not because it was an emergency or things were going badly, but, I'm guessing, because people wanted to see it happen. (Not trying to flatter myself here) but perhaps because they wanted to see a woman come in to the unit in active labor, doing a VBAC and refusing an epidural. Pretty straightforward, over and done within a little over three hours after arriving. While I was busy doing my thing, I couldn't help but notice the almost surprise in the nurse's voice when she did an internal and found that my water was almost ready to break. I thought, What is she used to seeing, then? Good heavens.

I couldn't help but notice in the thumbnail picture of Kotak that she had a trophy next to her bed. That made me laugh. It's like thumbing her nose at all of those women who sneer, "You won't get a medal for giving birth naturally!" I guess in this case, yes, you do.

Related posts:
The pregnant woman as public property


The Deranged Housewife said...

Some of the comments from the Daily Mail's story:

"NASTY LADY, has no shame. IT'S ONLY one step back from sex on stage."

"Creating an entire room dedicated to you so that people came come and talk to you about you and then watch you...self-obsessed much!?" (How is this any different from the hospital staff, labor support people, husband/spouse and family that often attend a hospital birthing woman?)

"How very sordid and distasteful. And as for one step back from sex on stage, in my opinion this is ten times worse. The woman is disgusting."

"Sorry but giving birth isn't an ''everyday life experience''. Having given birth three times I can safely say she has no idea what she is letting herself in for...all preconceived notions fly out the door when the moment arrives." (Because, darn it, I've been there, dontcha know, and I speak for all women *everywhere!??!*)

"If it was just her and her husband they could exhibit themselves as much as they like... however there will be a third person involved... their unborn child. They should not inflict this "exhibit" on the child or permite it to be oggled at in this way. US Social services should intervene. This is not "art" it is insanity!" (I wonder if this person has ever watched "A Baby Story" or gobbled up the tabloids of celebrity babies on display...?)

Comments from the NY Daily News:
"she named her kid after a house-hold cleaning product? definitely an attention seeking hore. where's the daddy? is there one?"

"I couldn't watch my wife give birth to my own daughter...why would anyone want to watch her bloody mess?" (This one is so sad on many levels)

From the NY Post: (Who called the 9 lb. baby "massive")

"What a pig."

This one from Strollerderby was awesome, though:

"You don’t have to be so rude about it just because you don’t understand it. You come across as narrow-minded, judgemental, shallow and ignorant. And BTW, you don’t OWN the rights to the birthing process just because you have done it."

Enjoy Birth said...

She does deserve a medal! :) I think it is great that she was willing to share this magical moment. Birth can be art!

As for the medals, I created some birthing medals after one of my doula clients amazed me at a birth. I thought She deserves a medal! So I made her one. :)