Two weeks ago I wrote about the way childbirth is generally portrayed, even mocked, in popular culture and how that often negatively colors women's beliefs about birth. Sunday, however, on the season finale of the E! network reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, surprisingly -- amazingly -- labor and birth were shown in a largely positive light. In the episode, which had a record 4.8 million viewers, Kourtney Kardashian, 30, calmly gave birth to her first child, Mason Dash Disick.
I have to admit I don't actually watch the Kardashians, but thanks to Jezebel, I was able to watch some clips from the episode. My friend Denise, who blogs at Eat Play Love, told me that she saw the whole episode and said, "I have to admit for the K-women coming off as such prima donnas, the episode/birth was shown in a great way. I was shocked."
Instead of the typical Hollywood water-breaking all over the floor in one big "sploosh!" followed by the frantic Oh-my-God-I'm-freaking-out-and-have-to-get-to-the-hospital-RIGHT-NOW, after Kourtney's water broke and was shown(!) slowly trickling out onto the floor, she was totally calm, did some laundry, said she needed to shave, took a shower and put on make-up all before going to the hospital. A reality TV show actually showing reality? Wow!
Then there was the birth scene at the hospital, which appeared very serene. Kourtney was surrounded by her family, who all looked on in awe as baby Mason was born. She appeared very calm, even zen-like. Once the baby was halfway out, the doctor asked Kourtney if she wanted to grab him and she did. She reached down between her legs and pulled her baby right out of her vagina and onto her chest. It was amazingly peaceful and really quite beautiful.
Of course, that had to be followed by some commentary from her sister Khloe saying, "That's not normal." But, uh, yeah, actually it is. That's what normal birth can look like.
Photo credit: The Unnecesarean
I can't find any information about whether Kourtney received an epidural or gave birth unmedicated, but she certainly looks very zen in the video. She said in this interview about labor, "It was surprisingly easy and just an incredible experience. I always thought your first is supposed to be really hard, but it was easy."
Regardless of whether or not she had an epidural, the fact that E! showed (millions!) what a normal, peaceful birth can look like is seriously huge, especially when you consider the demographic watching this show. According to this LA Times article, "Kardashian viewers tend to be single, college-educated women with no children, white-collar jobs and annual salaries of more than $60,000." Keeping Up With The Kardashians "is the highest-rated series on cable among women ages 18 to 34."
The Unnecesarean had this to say:
Kourtney Kardashian and E! showing a generation of young women someone reaching down and pulling their baby out of their vagina was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles has gained a reputation as the celebrity C-section center, but there’s some mother-friendly stuff going on in the clips on Jezebel.
I didn’t watch the whole episode, but I smiled at the clip of her water breaking. When do you ever see that televised beyond the ridiculous images of actors having a gallon of water dumped between their legs, then instantly doubling over with contractions and being rushed down the hall to L&D on a gurney?
Momotics said Kourtney Kardashian renewed her "faith in birth."
I was SO impressed to see Kourtney so calm and cool while giving birth to her son, Mason, who was born in December. It seems like Hollywood has had a huge rash of scheduled Cesareans, inductions, and over all just horribly medicalized births, and this was just a huge refresh to the Hollywood natural birth stigma.
Carla Fran from Millicent and Carla Fran calls Kourtney "awesome."
I cannot believe, I repeat, I cannot believe that the Kardashians are paving the way for positive images of childbirth. Last night’s finale showed Kourtney Kardashian going into labor, and pretty much backing up what doulas, Rikki Lake, and your friendly neighborhood midwife have been saying all along.
This finale is tremendous because of the audience the show has. If young girls see pop icons like Kourtney Kardashian having this kind of birth experience, their expectation of the event in their own lives is changed. I hope an entire generation of people saw this and thought “I didn’t know it could be like that."
It would seem that's exactly what some women thought. Here are a few of the comments on the Jezebel blog:
- Kali Mama: "While am all for freedom of choice and choosing your own birth plan, big props for girlfriend not being too posh to push. No elective C-sections or nothing."
- Doyouloveit: "For years I've been chanting that I will get a C-section if I ever procreate, 'Knock me completely out! I want to wake up like it's Christmas morning with a baby under the tree!'
But wow! Kourtney was really inspiring! Why can't it always be shown this beautifully? Great documentary film-making, Keeping Up With The Kardashians!"
- Lilspitfire: "I am not a big fan of reality TV, but the way they showed childbirth in this episode was nothing but positive."
- La Madrugada: "Okay, as someone who's going to give birth to her first kid in a month and a half, I have to say, this is AWESOME. I'm not a huge fan of this show, but seeing a woman laughing and relaxed while in labor is extremely cool."
- Gra: "I have never given birth and therefore had NO IDEA that this was even possible. Its weird to realize that everything I know about labor and birth is based on what I've seen in the movies."
- Hotpants McGee: "It's so crazy to say this, but I think I learned something from a Kardashian! Kourt was AMAZING. I had no idea you could just pull it out! I still can't believe it. She could have just stayed home and done it all by herself!"
Yep, the Kardashians are changing the way women view birth -- for the better. Who woulda thunk it?
Contributing editor Amy Gates writes about natural childbirth, attachment parenting, green living and life with an anxiety disorder at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.
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