For many women, planning how and where they want to give birth is a comforting way to prepare for the arrival of a child, but as several high-profile women have recently revealed, it doesn’t always go to plan.
In January, Serena Williams told American Vogue about the trauma of giving birth to her daughter Alexis via emergency C-section, something which led her to be hospitalised following complications following a pulmonary embolism.
Now, Jessica Biel has also opened up about her own experience giving birth to two-year-old son Silas, who was also born via emergency C-section. Speaking to Connie Way, the author of The Nannie Connie Way: Secrets to Mastering the First Four Months of Parenthood, she explained how her perfect birthday plan didn’t end up happening: ‘We had two midwives, one doula, one meditation birthing class, a ton of hippie baby books, and a lovely home in the Hollywood Hills that we had turned into a labor training facility we called The Octagon. When all our plans fell apart and the serene, natural childbirth we had envisioned ended with a transfer to the hospital and an emergency C-section, we arrived home exhausted, disillusioned, and totally in shock.’
Biel also reveals how Simpson coached her and husband Justin Timberlake through the first few months post-birth, even encouraging them to go on date nights: ‘She held my hand and head as I sobbed and ached through postpartum… She consoled my husband and me when we were tortured by sleepless nights and were zombies of our former selves. She forced us out of the house for date nights because it was important to connect again as adults.’
These stories are important not only because they dispel the myth of the ‘perfect’ birth, but they also prepare women for the worst, as well as comforting them if their own birth doesn’t go exactly to plan. It is important to see that a C-section is not a failure, but a reality for most women: in the US, 1 in 3 babies arrive via the procedure.
Indeed, there has been more talk recently around using the term ‘natural birth’, as if it is the only way to properly give birth. Last August, there were calls for midwives to end their campaign promoting ‘normal births’, and instead change the language used to describe births without medical interventions. They are now referred to as ‘physiological births’. As Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives told The Times at the time, ‘What we don’t want to do is in any way contribute to any sense that a woman has failed because she hasn’t had a normal birth. Unfortunately that seems to be how some women feel.’ Stories like Biel’s and Williams’ will only go further to dispel these myths.