An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Where my pinky gets a little itchy with the shift key

Jon is about this close to activating the parental controls on our DirecTV so that I can no longer watch anything on Discovery Health Channel or TLC. It started a few months ago when I accidentally stumbled upon a show about a new fad in childbirth called Freebirthing where women have their babies at home without the aid of a nurse or midwife or any trained professional. And at one point there was this three-year-old kid going WHY IS MOMMY SCREAMING LIKE THAT?! And the woman is clawing at this head coming out from between her legs, and she’s all GET IT OUT! GET IT OUT! Except, there is no one there who knows how to get it out, and her husband is just standing there shrugging like DUDE, THIS WAS YOUR IDEA!

I found the whole thing totally fascinating because you’ve got to have a special combination of bravery and stupidity going on to attempt such a thing, but Jon has not ever recovered from watching it. In fact, one night last month they ran the episode again, and there I was in bed eagerly awaiting the part where the woman has to get in her car, drive herself to the hospital and ask someone to pull out her placenta, when Jon walked in and was all NO WAY, NOT AGAIN, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF. Oh, come on! Television doesn’t get better than this! The look on that doctor’s face when he says, “You want me to what?” And she’s all, I don’t know what the big deal is, I just had a baby at home in front of my three-year-old and this damn placenta won’t come out, can’t you just yank it for me? Give it a little tug?

And then, of course, there’s that loathsome show “A Baby Story” on TLC that follows real couples through the last few weeks of pregnancy. I cannot stop watching it, even though it makes me violently angry. I just cannot believe the bedside manner of some of the doctors on that show, and I’m not even kidding, twice in the last week I have watched a doctor wave the arm of the newborn infant at its mother AS IT IS BEING PULLED FROM THE WOMB. No, wait. Let me finish. These doctors treated these seconds-old babies like puppets, waved their little arms wildly in the air, and said, “Hi, Mommy!” in a high-pitched voice as if that is exactly what they would sound like and say upon taking their first breaths. WHILE THE LOWER HALVES OF THEIR BODIES WERE STILL INSIDE THEIR MOTHERS.

You have got to be shitting me.

I was telling Jon about these episodes yesterday, my voice getting louder and louder with each gruesome detail, and he decided that this was it. No more cable television while I’m pregnant, just look at how needlessly angry it was making me. I made him promise me that if my doctor looked at all like she was going to treat the baby like a puppet that he should immediately knock her to the floor, because otherwise I would one day show up at her house with a crowbar and then spend the rest of my life appealing an assault conviction. WHO KNEW that you might have to include a line in your birth plan that says, “If at all possible, could you please not play ventriloquist with my newborn baby.”

  • Becky

    Anyone who has issues with alternative styles of birthing should do themselves a favor and see The Business of Being Born. Key word there: Business.

    We need to take back our births and support a mother’s choice to have her child in the way she most feels comfortable.

    As an advocate for Natural Birthing, I really have a hard time with the Unassisted births,but who am I to judge. I only hope there is an emergency plan in place for the safetly of the unborn.

    Blessings with your birth,


  • TED

    Oh your poor husband. Freebirthing sounds like DIY taken to an unhealthy extreme. I blame all those TV shows that make it look like you can easily lay your own hardwood floor. YOU CAN’T. On the plus side, the next time Jon decides to take on a project that you know is beyond his capabilities, you can just tell him that he’s freebirthing. If he persists, threaten to show him the TV show again.

  • Anonymous

    The OB/GYN that was on call the night my son was born did the puppet thing. I was less concerned with the puppetry and annoying voice than I was with the fact that THERE WAS STILL HALF A BABY IN THERE and oh my hell get him out! Hope you don’t have to deal with this, or any other unpleasant birthing surprises as Not Maria makes her debut.

  • I just had my second kid in December and I am STILL watching A Baby Story. I can’t stop. Every day at 1 I’m compulsively switching it on.

    My favorite episode is the one where the doctor is holding the baby up over the c-section drape to show it to the mom, and there is GOO and BLOOD and GORE dripping right off that baby and onto the mom’s FACE. What makes it extra cruel is that it is a C-SECTION and her ARMS ARE TIED DOWN and how is she supposed to wipe PLACENTAL GOO OUT OF HER EYES? BLAH.

    I am sorry, I know that despite loving that little newborn baby with all my heart and soul, I would NOT ENJOY HAVING MY OWN LIQUID UTERINE CONTENTS SPLASHING ON MY FACE.

    (My second runner-up is the one where the dad tries to prevent the mom from getting an epidural. HOO BOY is that one dude I would like to punch in the gonads.)

  • Yaz

    I went and googled Freebirthing. And saw a youtube video. I’m in shock. Also, ouch. Also. OMG THATS FREAKING SCARY!

  • Val

    Holy crap, that show sounds horrifying. I must find it and watch it!

    BTW, the comments are cracking me up. Your readers are HILARIOUS. Especially Betsy! LOL

    Can’t wait to virtually meet NotMaria!

    (My Captcha words are Cadwalader Dreyfuss… that sounds like an awfully good name….)

  • You took the words right out of my mouth and said mouth has not closed since I read this post. I am not even pregnant and the thought of a doctor doing that incites some serious anger. All I can say is – they must’ve been male doctors. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some men, but c’mon!

  • I’m the pregnant one and I’d be cancelling cable if I saw any of that stuff. I remember watching a birth on television a few months ago and I’m still walking around twitching and shuddering just thinking about it. Ugh. Sometimes I think that a serious lack of foresight goes into this whole “let’s have a baby” thing. I probably would not have been so enthusiastic with the ovulation sticks had I known what my poor vagina was in for.

  • Rebecca

    I was a doula and the things I saw doctors do gave me nightmares for years. I had to quit being a doula after about 3 years because when the doctor would walk in the room I would have a panic attack and think I was about to die, literally.

    One time I had a trooper of a fist time momma… she had labored through 12 hours of induced labor, drug free, and just so happened to be 10cm at about 5:30 pm. HER BODY SCREWED HER! The Dr. comes walking in (wishing he was at home or on the golf course, I’m sure), no lie, didn’t even check the mom, just said to his nurse, “Go get the forceps let’s scare that kid out of there!” I am sooooo not lying! The mom flips out and says, “No! Let me try to push!” This first time mom pushes like a mad woman and the baby is coming down nice… she was on her second push, the head was crowning… For a first time mom that is fabulous! Next thing you know, for absolutely no reason and no warning at all the Dr. who was in such a rush, cuts the woman from the front straight into her ass! I mean to tell you she looked like a filet of fish, laid open. The baby fell out. The Dr. caught him. The baby couldn’t breathe because all the fluid that is in a baby’s lungs from being in the womb are naturally pushed out during a normal birth…. the pressure from the tight birth canal acts almost like the Heimlich maneuver, to get all that stuff out so they can come out breathing… Well not this baby. He instead got to stay in ICU for 2 days while they had to put tubes down into him to get the fluid out. By the way, it was NOT muconium… just fluid from the bag of waters he was in, in his momma’s womb.

    That was the last hospital birth I attended. I could tell you nightmare story after nightmare story. In the 3 years I was a doula I only saw a couple births that were uneventful and pleasant. Every doctor wanted to intervene and intercept and mess with what the body was naturally designed to do and every woman was completely powerless to stop her Doctor. Those who tried to make informed decisions concerning their body and their baby were treated like they were stupid, or like they were a bad mom for wanting to “kill their baby”. Heather, this is why women feel forced to birth their babies at home with out medical assistance; because to invite modern medicine into your birth experience is to invite a total lack of control into your birth. Once you step into a hospital you are no longer in control of your body or your birth, no matter what your doctor tells you when you are sitting in his office in your first trimester… when it comes to Birth Day, it is a totally different story all together. Your birth plan doesn’t mean a single thing, most of the time.

  • Leigh Anne

    I hate the freebirthing show. It makes homebirths look bad. Homebirths are very safe as long as there is a trained midwife or other professional there. Shows like that irritate the crap out of me.

    And don’t get me started on how doctors treat newborns or their mothers…garrrr….

    easy labor vibes to you….

  • Sara

    I haven’t seen it yet, but don’t let Jon set the controls before you check out “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” I can only assume that these are reenactments (for obvious reasons), but I can’t wait to see it and I have only 7 weeks left before pregnancy hormones no longer justify my obsession.

    Good luck with the birth!

  • Kelly

    Have you seen the Ricki Lake documentary on home birth? (It’s not her documentary, but they do show her home birth.) It is horrifying. Especially in places where they make the mother’s experience of the birth a priority and think that people obsess too much about “the health of the baby.” I couldn’t turn away, but ugh. These women act like it was a great experience and romanticize the pain, but maybe they need to watch their own footage again.

  • Oh my god this was hilarious. I keep checking your blog- I feel like we’re on Armstrong Birthwatch 2009, and it needs some really awesome CNN graphics and theme music to go with it (think “Miracle on the Hudson” or “Decision 2008”). As for me, well, I haven’t had kids so I can’t speak to whether or not I’d do home birth or go to the hospital (probably hospital because I’m a worrier and I can just see myself having a freakout panic attack in the middle of giving birth). But that show sounds downright scary and A Baby Story always makes me cry so I don’t let myself watch it. 🙂

  • Joy

    Three months ago, I birthed my baby at a birthing center with a midwife (in a tub no less), and yes, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding/amazing experience I’ve ever known. However, I would NEVER do free birth for “D” all the above reasons.

    All the best with your birth, I’m sure you will kick ass. I was 10 days late and by the end of it began to question whether or not I was actually pregnant, maybe it was a tumor, but it wasn’t. 😉

  • i totally have seen that freebirthing show. that lady with the “can you pull my placenta out”? yeah she lives in my state. about 100 miles away. as if people don’t think that colorado is crazy enough with our weird laws about not smoking outside.

    what i love about that particular episode? how she resists everything UNTIL…her placenta isn’t coming out. goes to the hospital like, hum drum, gotta get this thing out. come on kids! everyone in the car. she makes colorado seem so effing white trash. the other one i love about that episode? the lady who gives birth almost silently. like WTF? are you a human being or a crazy alien creature?

  • Oh, and I have to add, a friend of mine had a homebirth with a trained midwife and everything was perfectly fine, she did great, blah blah blah no judgment here, that’s the way she wanted it… BUT they had to store the placenta in the freezer so it wouldn’t stink (I don’t remember the rules about disposing them, but I’m pretty sure it’s considered biohazardous waste) and ANYWAY, the point is that the midwife put the placenta in a baggie and then took the time to fashion the umbilical cord into a HEART before freezing it.

  • You have just described in your inimitable way why I do not watch ANY of that shit on TV. Why watch stuff that just makes you angry?

    Wishing you, Jon and Leta all the best as the birth day approaches. I, for one, feel a little “Ooh!” whenever I see a tweet from Jon lately, thinking it could be “the one.” 🙂

  • LOL to Kristen aka Comment #10!!!!

  • Dude. You must stop watching the crazy women while you’re pregnant!

  • Anonymous

    #14 there’s a HUGE difference between home births and freebirth. Home births are generally assited by a knowledgeable and trained midwife, the mother has had all her prenatal care, and the birth is decidedly low risk. Many women who freebirth have NO midwife, doula, mother’s neighbor’s sister, ANYONE with ANY training helping them out. They also typically don’t believe in any kind of prenatal care. I, too, am all for natural yet RESPONSIBLE birth.

    That being said, I’m at 30 weeks, we don’t have cable. 😉

  • I have somehow managed to miss the episode of Freebirthing where the mother drives herself to the doctor for placenta removal. I’m going to have to Tivo the whole series now until I see that. INSANITY!

  • Man, was I having a DAY, and here you go, swooping in to make me giggle til I feel all better. Thanks woman!

  • Laurie

    What I want to know is how many women actually say “GET IT OUT” during delivery. I did. Three times. Even though I knew they were boys I still said “IT” like it was an alien or a Macho Combo Burrito (which it could have been.) There needs to be a statistic about this. Or a montage on YouTube.
    Heather…for Gods’ sake…GET IT OUT!

  • Man, i was addicted to those shows for the first two years of my university life. no idea why. hurry up and have your baby! i’m excited.

  • Hahaha I totally agree… A Baby Story is soo awful. WHO ARE THESE DOCTORS! And often, who are these poeple…. Thanks Dooce for undoing a lot of anti-glamorous anti-hip done to motherhood that this show does.

  • Hi Heather,
    This post, like many, made me laugh because like you I enjoy all those goofy baby shows on tv. My husband on the other hand, does not. He did however tape the entire surgery when our oldest was born via c-section, but I still haven’t been able to watch it even 14 years later. Funny how I can watch perfect strangers on tv go through all sorts of trauma, but don’t want to see my own intestines outside my stomach. Ugh.

    Good luck on your impending birth. I’m sure not-Maria will be beautiful – just like the rest of her family.

    Hugs from the Midwest!

  • My coworkers probably think I’m hyperventilating right now trying to control my laughter. Tug out the placenta? Ventriloquist baby? I’m cracking up!

  • Anonymous

    I’ll never have kids, cute, would like to have them maybe, but whoa…

  • Betsy

    For the record – I think doulas, midwives, camcorders and big ol’ tubs are fine, if that’s what floats your boat. And suddenly everyone – even my single friends who are dudes – are running at me screaming “Have you seen The Business of Being Born!!” with their Netflixed copy in hand.

    It’s just…what Patrice (29) said. Cracks me up, the “rite of passage” that some women claim, once they’ve done it in said living room, with said doula and scrambled placenta.

  • Danielle

    Thank you Heather for clarifying. I did not read your post as a rant against homebirthing at all. I am a huge advocate of ASSISTED homebirth but I agree that going at it completely alone gives homebirthers a bad name at best and is utterly lunatic and life-threatening at worst.

  • Katie

    I thought that said Freebirding for a second. Like Jon and the hospital staff should wave lighters in unison while you’re screaming to a rockin’ guitar riff as Not-Maria enters the world.

  • If my doctor did that with my newly born child I’d beat her upside the head.

    That said, I’m ridiculously excited for you, Jon & Leta. And also a bit jealous; my biological clock’s screaming at me and I’m insanely baby crazy.

  • When I was living in England and pregnant, I discovered “Home Birth Diaries.” Look for it on YouTube. In the UK, they don’t censor anything on television (which makes watching Gordon Ramsey quite entertaining!), so you would see things like a baby’s head hanging out of the mother’s vagina while she squatted screaming over her birthing pool with the midwife, dumbfounded husband, quivering dog and completely terrified toddler looking on. It was then and there that I decided to get the epidural.

    My daughter is nearly two, we have been back in the US since she was 7 weeks old, and my husband is *still* talking about that damn show. He was traumatized.

  • The really twisted part is that those two shows and the scenes you described sound like they could come directly from the show South Park. (which I’m ashamed to admit is one of my most guilty pleasures. everyone needs a vice, right?)

    I think I would rather stab my eyes out than give birth at home or even watch a show about it.

    Love you, love the blog, can’t wait for Not Maria,


  • Ha. I can’t stop watching Baby Story either. Want to look away, but can’t. My mother had four children–when my first brother was born, doctors shoved a bedpan–upside down–under her to lift her up, and the ob/gyn then went and joked to everyone over and over again (within her earshot) that he had just delivered a baby “into a bedpan”, and wasn’t that funny?

  • WOW! You continue to amaze me at every pregnant turn!

  • jennifer

    oh no, that sounds horrible!! i am now needlessly angry and i am not pregnant nor have i seen the show.

  • Mighty K

    Freebirthing? Are you kidding me with this shit? OH MY GOD, YES millions of women have given birth since the dawn of humankind without the help of doctors and nurses but isn’t the point of evolution that we EVOLVE from that?

    I’m curious just how guilty some freebirthin’ mom would feel if something goes horribly wrong with the birth and there’s no one there except a crying, vomiting husband to “help”. Paramedics must just lurve the freebirthing crowd, you know, keeps ’em busy when there’s a lull in the traffic accident/sudden stroke/more sudden heart attack game.

  • Anonymous

    hahahaha that is would like the show “I didn’t know I was pregnant” on Discovery. Yeah there are people out there who was unaware of their own pregnancy.

  • When I was pregnant with my daughter two years ago, I was warned not to watch A Baby Story, and instead got hooked on Birth Day on Discovery Health. Since then, I love Deliver Me, and read as many blogs as I can find that are written by labor and delivery nurses.

    Because I had such a wonderful experience, I quit teaching, and am starting nursing school next month. I’m also trying to get certified to be a childbirth educator.

    If anyone is interested, there is a book called The Surprising History of How We are Born. It talks about the progression of the birth process throughout history, and is really fascinating.

    Good luck, Heather. I am sure everything will go well for you.

  • Please PLEASE come be my doula in September. Not that I even want or need a doula… it would just be nice to have a RATIONALLY minded person in my corner…

  • I was that way with the wedding shows when I was planing my wedding. Knowing how much those freaked me out I avoided all the baby shows like the plague when I was pregnant. I still won’t watch them & my daughters 18 months old.

    Good luck to you. I can’t wait the hear charming/exasperating/hillarious stories about not Maria.

  • Ha! I, too, find these shows addicting while pregnant. We have an understanding at home that I’ll only watch them when the hubby is out of the room, and we don’t discuss the shows, as my hubby thinks I’m obsessed. I say you try growing a human and not being fascinated by TV shows about it!

  • Katie

    I watched that Freebirthing show and I thought that girl with stuck placenta was insane. Literally. Anyone who wants to give birth without the aid of medical professionals and drugs is certifiable in my book.

    Best wishes to you and your growing family!

  • Grace

    You know what else bugs the crap out of me about all this hippie “natural birth” crap? The people who tell you that you should eat your own placenta. They are always screaming that “all sorts of other animals eat their own placentas! It’s healthy!”

    Uh, Coco eats her own shit, too, and you don’t see anyone suggesting that.

  • becky

    Oh my goodness, this could not be more timely. I’m 27 weeks with my first and watched The Business of Being Born last night. Already going with a midwife, etc, but the one thing that really pissed me off was the doctors talking to the women in labor, saying “Ok, Mommy, you need to push now or we’ll have to have a c-section”. I turned to my husband and said “If anyone calls me ‘Mommy’ while I’m in labor, so help me God, they need to be forcibly removed from the room!” What the f*ck?! So patronizing!

  • Anonymous

    Turn off the TV. That is all.

  • Elinda

    I always laugh at the shows where the first-time pregnant woman, who has read every crunchy granola book there is about labor and delivery, is talking about how her birth will be a peaceful, wonderful experience and under no circumstances will she take any pain medications, yada, yada. Then they show her actual labor. She’s 2cm and screaming like a banshee! “Get me the effing anesthesiologist! Now! I was crazy before! Just put me out of my misery!!!” te he he he. OK. It’s not nice to laugh at the pain of others. It’s especially not nice since I’m due in 11 weeks… and I have babies over 9 lbs. That’s probably why I have such bad labors… KARMA. : D BTW, reading your book right now — loving it!

  • OK here it is. The Dr. who delivered my first born waved his hand at me while he was still half in! I’m NOT kidding. He actually came out with one arm up, above his head so he said something like “oh look he’s waving at you”, and I believe I remember thinking, so it wasn’t just his head it was his head PLUS an arm and everyone thinks that’s cute?? wtf? It is seriously messed up.

    I can’t look away from the shows about the biggest man alive etc. I just commented to my husband the other night who would love to remove TLC and HGTV from our set, that it is a modern day freak show when they used to travel from city to city and people had to pay to get inside the tent to see this crap. Now it’s just on tv for all to see. We are all messed up.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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