Maybe the home-birth trolls should leave Meghan and me the hell alone
Like the duchess and Gisele Bündchen, I fell foul of these rabid, self-righteous harpies - but it really has nothing to do with them
If I’d been one of the Duchess of Sussex’s advisers, I would have warned her as soon as she fell pregnant: “You think people troll you now? All this online hate is nothing compared with the whirlwind of spite you’ll reap if you fancy a home birth.”
No single act – not even holding a baby shower that costs more than most people’s starter homes – enrages the world more than expressing a wish to push your baby out without hospital intervention. Add the term “water birth” (which insiders claim is part of Meghan’s plan) and vituperative harpies will strongly hint that they hope you and your offspring will drown.
I think my favourite moment in any comedy series is when heavily pregnant Daphne tells Frasier’s acerbic radio producer, Roz, that she hopes to have a natural birth without pain relief. Roz plucks a single hair from Daphne’s head, who yelps in pain. Roz looks at her coldly and says: “Times a million.”
Suggest a home birth and the Mothering Police will stick you in the dock alongside Gisele Bündchen, who had the snake-hipped audacity to expel two babies at home in a pool – although Bündchen’s real crime was going public on the matter. It didn’t help that the millionaire supermodel is married to American football star Tom Brady and has, therefore, officially used up an entire lifetime’s supply of good fortune. Even mild-mannered observers seemed to feel she deserved a post-birth undercarriage that resembled a half-chewed haggis.
If people deeply mistrusted home birthers pre-Bündchen, they loathed them afterwards. And Meghan ticks all the boxes as a kale-loving, California-raised, mindful, yoga type who ramps up the grievances by being rich and famous. If she hasn’t swum with dolphins, it will only be because all the bottlenoses were at Gwynnie’s that day.
An idle flick through last Sunday’s papers in the UK yielded the first of what will surely be many splenic columns on the duchess’s rumoured birth choices. If I’d been playing home birth bingo, I’d have a full house by now: “Jo Malone candles”, the pretence that “giving birth is as easy as shelling pistachios”, turning childbirth “into something where all a gal needs is a lukewarm paddling pool and Enya on Spotify”. But it seems their chief crime resides in not “driving home the risks” when they might influence others into following suit.
Curiously, I don’t remember a similar outburst when some of the most influential celebrities around, including Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, admitted to elective C-sections. Nor when Kim Kardashian opted for using a surrogate for her last baby (we’re told she suffers from placenta accreta), dispensing with using her own womb altogether. Don’t all these women with their huge followings have a sacred duty to inform fans of the risks? Or could it be the world should just naff off and leave pregnant women alone?
I write this with feeling as I’m one of those ghastly, smug, bossy (because no rational man would agree to it), berry-munching women who gave birth in their living room. When I told people of my birth plan for son number two, they said things like: “My friend’s friend did that and her baby died” and “Why do that to your vagina?” Many in my circle seemed to actively will me to be transferred to the maternity ward in screeching submission. Which was distressing, as my first son was born in hospital and nearly died after I had a chronic reaction to the drug they routinely use to “speed labour up”.
Everyone nodded along and said: “Yeah, that happens all the time” or “My birth was far worse” or “I couldn’t sit down for a year”. I don’t think I was a spoilt princess for not wanting to repeat the process; for thinking it might be nice to try a safe, familiar place with a midwife I knew and trusted.
There were risks, but I understood them. Rather like people who go three-day eventing, test jets or climb Everest understand the risks – only a home birth is less risky, since the odds are largely stacked in the mother’s and baby’s favour.
However, the tide of public opinion is still stacked against me and Meghan. When I wrote about my home birth, a friend said a group of obstetricians she knew used it for darts’ practice. Well, if she does manage to squeeze that baby out of her slender frame at home, she deserves to be smug – and if she has him in hospital, ditto. It will almost certainly hurt like hell, times a million, and no amount of wealth or titles can mitigate that.
Furthermore, Meghan should know the best way of countering the haters is trolling them back, responding with this Bündchen quote: “I felt like Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, creation, destruction and power, a feeling of invincibility. I could chew rocks in half! I could split mountains in two!” Not only will it be true in my limited experience, but it makes the home birth trolls froth at the mouth.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)