"When was the last time you had an orgasm with an eight-pound, twenty-inch penis," a pissy commenter wonders at the bottom of a brief story in the New York Times about the documentary Orgasmic Birth.
Birth, a pretty self-explanatory film (it's about how some women climax during childbirth, natch) we've mentioned before, is making its televised debut tonight on 20/20, and a brief article in the Times by Lisa Belkin has inspired 330 comments from impassioned moms either supporting or maligning the doc.
Belkin writes, "Some women will see this film as a declaration of emancipation from the medicalization of childbirth. Others will see it as yet one more way to raise expectations and make new mothers feel inadequate if they do not experience the 'ideal' birth." While that notion seems ridiculous on one level — that women are concerned about measuring up to other women, even while they're pushing out a kid — the comments from the times reveal a ton of judgment, insecurity, and competition from both natural and hospital birth proponents. We've cherrypicked some particularly revealing comments and put them below.
Oh, boy. Looks like some folks are already on the bitter bus! I didn't have an orgasm during delivery, either (meconium led to pitocin led to epidural for me), but that doesn't mean it can't happen. Jealous much?
I've given birth three times. One in hospital, one in birthing center, and one at home. All were so painful I lost my voice. Orgasm during child birth seems gross and weird. Not to mention the midwife/ doctor/ nurse/ whatever around while you are giving birth and who would want to have an orgasmic birth with people watching you. Giving birth is hard enough, let along with people around watching you and then expecting you to orgasm while you are in the most insane pain anyone could possibly imagine. How intrusive and bizarre. I can't even get my mind around it.
I used hypno-birthing as a means to overcome the psychological wall developed by all the dramatic stories of pain shared by the women in my life. In my experience, and my husband backs this up, I never described it as painful or cried out, rather as a mix of wanted and unwanted pressure with some moments of pleasure. I do believe that for some women I know there is a sufficient range of experiences to include orgasm if they are able to relax sufficiently which is not easy due, I believe, mostly to the expectation of pain which is self-fulfilling. Watch animals in the wild who aren't taught what to expect. They don't cry out in pain. For others its the most painful thing they ever experience. I believe this is mostly due to that expectation combined with the way many hospitals pressure one to push and to see the whole experience as medical and anxiety producing.
My entire pregnancy (planned as a single woman) was perfect, and I knew the birthing would be simple, easy, and definitely pain-free. After all, the word "labor" means hard work, not pain. It's only "modernized" women (and their partners) who've been persuaded by outside sources that there should be pain.
Talk about trivializing an amazing experience. How many orgasms will most women have during their lives? Hopefully hundreds or thousands. How many times does a human being who you've been carrying for ten months all of a sudden go from being a concept to a living breathing human being? I mean honestly, is having an orgasm supposed to improve the experience?
I also am rather concerned about this sort of cultural politicization of birth. I agree that needless C-sections are bad; I also am a historian who has read numerous accounts of women and babies dying in childbirth in those wonderful aeons before the medicalization of childbirth. And they still do, in those benighted countries that lack a medical infrastructure. It's called ‘labor' for a reason! As a mother of two I do think that women need to be aware of, and capable of choosing, a wide variety of options, but we need to avoid treating those many women who may find a hospital birth more secure as if they are frightened ninnies.
At the risk of being crass, I hope this doesn't portend some entrepreneur coming out with baby-shaped dildos.