Why We Need Birthing Videos

I have a new post up at Christianity Today’s women’s blog, her.meneutics, on birthing videos and whether or not they are ‘modest.’ My answer? Of course they’re not modest, but they may serve an important purpose. Here’s a taste:

Candice, a regular Her.meneutics reader, wrote to me recently in response to this post, asking what I thought about women sharing their photos and videos of giving birth. Another Christian website had called this practice “immodest”; Candice, who is pregnant and planning a natural childbirth, told me that she has found these videos “inspiring and educational, since I’ve never seen an actual birth of any kind.” She also wondered whether categorizing birth videos as “immodest” might be related to the ongoing discomfort in North America with public breastfeeding. Does Christian “modesty” really mean not viewing or posting pictures depicting these intimate events?


Birth videos show women accomplishing some of the hardest work women ever do. They show great pain resolving into great joy. They show us an event that many of us never see in “real life,” an event that Hollywood can depict only in clichés. In movies, labor begins suddenly, with a frantic cry of “it’s time!” or an embarrassing gush of amniotic fluid. In reality, for many if not most women, labor is so gradual that it is only later that they can look back and say, “Oh, that’s when it started.” Usually there is no need for rushing around panicking; it’s more a slow leak than a blowout. Also, doctors don’t deliver babies from under a sheet anymore, not every woman screams, “you did this to me!” at her husband, and women don’t need to be shouted at to “push.” But crises make for better drama and, not infrequently, comedy.

Because birth is for most Americans an event that takes place in the hospital—and, increasingly, in the operating room—there are simply fewer opportunities for women to see other women give birth. By contrast, in early America, as in virtually all traditional cultures, to attend another woman’s birth was expected and routine, more or less like attending a baby shower today. You would help your friend during her “lying in,” knowing she would help you at yours, a phenomenon that historians and anthropologists have called “social childbirth.” It’s worth noting that that while, officially, only women who had already had a baby were included in social childbirth, homes and society were structured in such a way that it’s unlikely a woman would go into labor without a strong understanding of the process of labor (if not the, ahem, crowning moment).

{Read more here.}

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