I have an idea: Let’s stop telling women how to give birth

by Janelle Hanchett

I recently read an article cleverly titled “You should get an epidural” (I know, I know I should have stopped there) that told a story about some “natural birther” who was rude to the writer in a grocery store. Apparently she asked the writer – WHILST STANDING IN A CHECKOUT LINE – how she planned on giving birth then shamed her for wanting an epidural. This is almost unbelievable in its fucked-upedness (yeah that’s a word).

Who the hell would do that? I’d like some stranger to ask me when I was visibly pregnant “how I planned on giving birth.” I’d be like, “On your face, asshole,” and leave.

But that’s irrelevant. The point here is that in response to her outrage at being told how she should give birth, she wrote an article telling women how they should give birth.

Because this is how we do in the interwebz.

Why god WHY?

She implies that women who want unmedicated birth are trying to “win” something and attempts to discredit the real and valid reasons people opt for unmedicated births by bolstering the benefits of epidural and invalidating the “science” stating that epidurals “slow down labor” with the words “but I’ve talked to a few doctors who say it speeds it up!”


Can we all please stop making shit up at random and calling it “evidence?”

Yes, that includes you, lady on the internet who declared that not leaving the placenta attached until it falls off on its own is an act of “violence.”

Yes, I read that. I read an actual human writing those actual words. I can only imagine how fun she is at dinner parties:

Non-Violent Placenta lady: “Oh! You just had a baby. What, pray tell, did you do with the placenta?”

Normal person: “Well I cut the cord and the doctor like, took it away.”

Aghast and appalled, Non-Violent Placenta Lady breaks down weeping right there next to the triple-cream brie.

I have an idea: Somewhere between one must let the placenta fall off untouched in soft moonlight and a choir of angels and FUCK THESE ANTI-EPIDURAL MARTYRDOM WANNABE HEROES is the land of Not Being a Dick.

Also known as, informing yourself and doing what is best for you and your baby and body and family.

Also known as, not caring how strangers birth their babies.

Also known as: Not being a dick.

Always, we’re back there. It’s like Oz. All roads lead to it.

This seems so reasonable, and yet, the nonsense prevails. We pick and choose data and statistics and studies. And we all know how I feel about those. We strategically ignore and omit and focus on this information over that information to prove our points and back our game.

There are valid and real and intelligent reasons to opt FOR and AGAINST epidurals.

And yet, rather than treating both options as sound decisions, there are actual people CRUSADING for and against the use of epidurals. Straight up ON A MISSION. People arguing that all women should have medication. People arguing that all women should have homebirths. To me, they’re all missing the fucking point.

Everybody keeps talking about women’s empowerment by demanding women do things THEIR way.

Am I the only one who sees a problem here?


Look, I gave birth four times, each time without an epidural and twice at home. Yes, I wanted a birth without an epidural, and yes, I wanted that adamantly, for myself. Not for you. I truly could not care less how you have your baby. In fact I can’t really think of anything that affects me less than how strangers have their babies.

I wanted births without epidurals because I am a control freak and wanted as much power over my body as physically possible. I wanted to move freely and birth how I wanted. I was MORE afraid of losing that power than I was of the pain of childbirth. Of course I do not looooooooove the pain, and I certainly didn’t “dance my baby out” (some hippie suggested I do that), and I may or may not have wanted to kick (gently! I love you!) my midwife on account of her infinitely soothing voice, but I was not really concerned about the pain.

Not because I am a martyr. Not because I believe Eve must be punished for her sins. Not because I’m anti-feminist and not because I hate doctors and not because I think YOU should do it. That’s just my preference.

Wait. Seriously, stop calling me a fucking martyr. I am not a martyr. Martyrs are heroes. I am not a hero. What am I fighting for? WOMEN ACROSS THE LAND?

Stop. There is nothing “heroic” about my choice. I was not particularly brave and I was not impressive and I was not trying to “prove a point” and I am not anti-epidural.

Which brings me to my next point: Having an epidural is not cowardly, unnatural, or un-“womanly” (whatever the fuck that means). In the past, I have used the term “natural” to describe “unmedicated.” I don’t do that anymore. It’s a loaded term. I apologize for not realizing that sooner. (On that, the writer of the article and I agree.)

To me, we’re all brave. And I don’t mean that in some cute woo-woo way. I mean it truthfully: We face a thing we are a little (or a lot) afraid of. All of us have grown up in a culture of fear surrounding childbirth. How that manifests in each of us will be unique, but universally, we face the unknown. Whether through surgery or birth at home or in a hospital, we face something infinitely new, with stakes higher than anything we’ve ever faced. And we have no choice. We walk in. We handle it.

That is bravery.

I felt safest with the littlest intervention as possible.

We get to define that for ourselves.

All this shit-slinging about choices is nothing more than self-righteousness masquerading as “helpfulness.” It’s not about other women. It’s not about new moms. It’s about THEMSELVES. It’s about their own damn choices. It’s about pretentiousness and insecurity.

Fun fact: People secure in their choices do not feel compelled to run around screaming how other people should be like them.

Oh, and BTW. If you’ve never had a child: Shut the hell up with your demands on my vagina/uterus/offspring. No, really. Shut the actual fuck up. Nobody cares.

I see people who made choices like mine treating women who get epidurals or planned caesareans as some sort of strange subspecies that barely loves their children let alone possesses the spiritual depth necessary to raise them. They act as if Ina May Gaskin is THE GODDESS of motherhood and we all must embrace her or die alone in parental wasteland.

Perhaps I’m overshooting the mark a tiny bit, but seriously.

You know what? Yes. I believe our maternal healthcare system is pretty fucked, and I believe it needs to change. But that will not happen by running around spewing orgasmic birth as The Only Way.

We have one job. We know what it is.


You know what I want? Women to have equal access to information and education to make informed choices that work for them. I want women to have doctors and midwives who explain the pros and cons of choices openly and honestly, treating women like they have brains in addition to vaginas. (I know, revolutionary.) I want women to be treated like humans, not cute little pets. I want women to be respected, validated, and heard. I want women to be the central player in the birth of their babies.

I want women to have POWER, however they define it.



We’re all warriors here. We can own that.


let’s be real: it’s all about the fucking newborn breath. omg newborns. I NEED ANOTHER BABY.

  • Laura

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If the answer to ALL THREE isn’t yes, then don’t say it

    Unless it’s really, really, REALLY funny. Then save it to tell your best friend.

    • Shannon

      Haha Laura, best comment ever! I wholeheartedly agree 🙂

  • Alyson

    I do actually love you.
    I had 2 home births, one with gas n air, one without ( because the midwife forgot to bring it)
    I just didn’t want to go the bloody God-forsaken hospital,I worked there, I knew what it was like.
    Just everyone shut up! I don’t care, I’ll do it my way, you do it yours.
    But as a fellow blogger ( we’ve been travelling 3-4 years, without school blah blah blah) I know what makes money, and then people jump on bandwagons and then just…Bleggghhh.
    If everyone shut up we could all just be friends.

    • Jessica

      “If everyone shut up we could all just be friends.” just became my facebook status, thanks!

      • Denise B

        What an excellent idea, I’m making it mine once it’s ‘after work hours’ and I can post that.

  • S

    Amen! You should read some of the stuff on the internet about taking back birthing, by WOMEN and the horror stories of some mothers and birth. I had pppl tell me you MUST get an epidural, i mean are you crazy? I had others say no epidural, Are you crazy? I had some say home birth only, doctor birth only, midwives are best, you need a doula, you need no drugs, eat, dont eat, water birth, stand, move, lie.
    FUCK, fuck you all. I was so pissed and overwhelmed. I actually wrote about my labor nightmare. It is time for women to unite and stand up against the establishment and NON establishment and trust our own bodies and intuitive gut about birth. this topic makes me so livid. Glad you wrote about it!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Rachel Romano

    Love this. And how you manage to squeeze triple-cream brie references into so many of your articles 🙂

  • Michelle

    Oh I if I could send you chocolate through the interwebs I would! I had both my kids with an epidural. I am the epidural poster child. I could have been at a cocktail party making jokes with the labour nurses (who, by the way, are perfect people and should be annointed with whatever people get annointed with but I digress)

    If you chose to have your baby in a pool with pan flutes playing, HURRAY FOR YOU!! You squeezed out a human. At home, in a hospital, in a taxi on the way to a hospital wherever you pump out the mini Winston Churchill, good for you. There is no right way.

    There is your way.

    BTW my big advice about labour: it hurts, then it’s over. The raising of the little bundle of… well that’s where the fun starts.

    • Rose

      “mini Winston Churchill” omg im dying! thats hysterical!

  • Rose

    Absofuckinlutely !! <3

  • Chenay Pointer-Bueltel

    I read that article last week and felt the same way. It truly does come down to making sure women have access to ALL of the information and then they decide what to do from there. So true, so wise, as always.

  • Alysicia

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m not really sure when everyone started thinking that that the rest of the world NEEDED their advice on birth and parenting. I’ve had more unsolicited advice since I had kids. The advice I love the most is the “shaming in disguise”. Example: I was nursing my second daughter who then feel asleep during a meeting. After the meeting was over I got up holding my sleeping child and a woman not much older than me came over with a big smile on her face. In a super sweet voice while rubbing me on the arm she said “Oh honey, you’ll regret letting her fall asleep while she nurses. Is she your first?” I had never met this woman before, and I was a bit taken back. I calmly said no, she was my second and that I had done the same with my first daughter who was 4, and that I didn’t regret it one bit. Her comment didn’t bother me, but I found it interesting she felt the need to tel me I was doing something wrong. Wrong by whose standards? Just hers.

  • Mark Goodson

    I’m sharing this with my wife. She chose to do the birth center route with midwives rather than the hospital. I had my doubts, but I learned, as you suggest, to let your decide on the process. I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t trade those 2 birthing experiences for anything. The documentary “The Business of Being Born” was helpful in helping me understand, as the husband.

  • Pam

    I read that Just Get the Epidural article too and I had so many thoughts and feelings about it, which came out in a conversation with my husband as. “I guess she’s entitled to her opinion, and I have to admit, she’s funny, but I don’t get why she gets to make fun of the way I decided to give birth (eg unmedicated, at home).” And here you go again turning all the gobbledy gook in my brain into the articulate words I would have said if I could have vomited them in the right order from my brain to my mouth (or keyboard). Thanks for this. Love it.

  • Creta

    Thank you for posting this! You have really helped me with my perspective. I had a home birth that went bad and my baby and I almost died. Ever since then I’ve gone on crusades against home birth, warning other women of the dangers of it. I used to shake with emotion and get all upset–about strangers’ birthing philosophies! Crazy town.

    But reading your blog has actually CHANGED my perspective and I can’t thank you enough. You have taught me that it is not my business how other women give birth. Once I let go of my obsession, I realized how much energy I was wasting and how ridiculous it is to go on such a crusade. What is true for me is not true for everyone. There is so much freedom in letting go of obsessing over others’ choices. And that goes for all the hot topics, circumcision, bedsharing, etc etc ad nauseum. Thank you and please keep writing your blog.

    • Tracy

      Way to go! Win!

  • christina ihloff

    Two of my four births were unassisted births while three out of four were at home. I did what I felt safest doing. I also love control. Boy did I ever have it! Shit was all on me. I always answer questions honestly when women ask about my experience but I never push the idea that they should do what I did. The book Birth as an American Rite of Passage is hands down my favorite birth book, and it the author says birth will nearly always be safest wherever the woman feels safest. Thanks for this post! Awesome points!

  • danielle

    I really do love you, like, i really do!! I’m a labor and delivery nurse and i want to frame this in all of our delivery rooms!! I want to wear this on a shirt, and give it to all my patients to thoroughly read before they make “their” deciscion based on “someone else’s” opinion!!!

  • Csmith

    I have had 7 babies, 4 times with no epidural, 3 times with, one labor lasted 20 hrs., one lasted 2. I didn’t get extra credit for any of the ways I ended up with a baby. I love to hear other people’s birth stories but, quite frankly, I don’t have an OPINION about how you did it because it’s none of my fucking business.

  • Kristy

    I just…yes. All the yeses. Everything really *does* come back to “try not to be a dick.”

    Currently 31 weeks pregnant with my second, so I’m loving the timing of this post. 🙂

  • Charlie

    Thank you again for your sanity in this insanity. Like many women I didn’t get a choice about the birth of my children. I was well informed of options but I never got a chance to exercise any choice except the choice to live. So now I have two alive children and I’m alive and I really don’t give a f!?&k how anyone else has a child. It is a luxury to have any choice. It is a miraculous and wonderful event to have a child in his or her mothers arms. Every time.

  • Shannon

    Awesome post…can we also add a MYOB about how people feed their babies? I was at the store with my friend and her six-month-old when we stopped in the formula aisle. I saw these two women there…I couldn’t tell what they were saying but the rude looks they gave implied that they thought it was awful for someone with a baby that young to be using formula…not that it was any of their business but my friend wasn’t able to produce enough milk on her own and so she needed the formula to supplement her milk. It’s not like she was doing it because she found the breast “inconvenient” but even if she were it’s not their business to judge. I’ve heard similar snotty things said about other women…it’s up to the mom and her doctor to decide what to use, not some nosy people at Walmart.

    • Jenna

      For all they know, she could have adopted the baby! I wouldn’t say anything either way, it is likely the mom is dried up now anyway.

  • Christina

    It’s funny because I read the other article quite differently – it didn’t bother me – I just thought it brought up interesting points about how women are expected to do this and do that and fulfill other people’s expectations all the time. Which I think is also what you are trying to say…

    • Jordann

      I agree with a previous comment, I feel like you’re both saying the same thing, do whatever the fuck you want. I don’t think she is literally telling people what to do. She’s a satirical writer for a living, I wouldn’t take anything she writes too literally. She also wrote a great skit for Amy Schumer’s show called, ‘Better for the baby.’ It’s all about the competitiveness of birthing. Worth a watch!

  • Tessa

    Kumba-fucking-ya. Hahahha hahahah! Best ever

  • Brittny

    Let’s not forget that there is an element to child birthing that is out of our control. I planned a homebirth and ended up with a c-section at the hospital after my blood pressure went through the roof and my baby went into distress. My next daughter was a VBAC. Every body is different and every pregnancy/birth is different. At the end of the day, we just want healthy babies and healthy moms. Who the hell cares how it happens!

  • Luke

    Two things:

    1) “Not being a dick. Always, we’re back there. It’s like Oz. All roads lead to it.” might just be the most important statement in all of human history. If only we could figure out how to act on it.

    2) You requested (begged, actually) that we, your readers, remind you that you actually didn’t want another kid before Arlo was born. Now, Also seems pretty rad so maybe you’ve changed your mind but…. Well, you asked us to remind you so this is me reminding you.

  • Alyssa

    I read your stuff every week, but I never feel inclined to comment, that is until today. In a writing not to long ago you asked your readers to yell at you if you said anything along the lines of wanting another child. So in response to the description under your beautiful babies photo: “no more fucking kids Janelle!!!” Your welcome 🙂

  • Lindsay

    Preach! One of my biggest hurdles as a professional doula is trudging through this stereotype of “birthing how God designed” or “the way nature intended” or yadda yadda yadda…and getting to the heart of supporting the person who is giving birth. Period.

  • Samantha

    I gave birth four times. The first was relatively short and remarkably unpainful. Five hours, start to finish, and an hour of that was driving to the hospital. I got there, got into labor and delivery, got checked in while being prepped to deliver and delivered.
    The second, I had an unplanned c section. Due to my son having complications and we had to get him out before he died. I was tired and in pain and I had general anesthesia.
    The third, sort of planned c section. I hoped to do a VBAC, but it didn’t happen.
    The fourth, totally planned c section. The third and fourth, I had spinals. Wonderful stuff.
    I had a friend who denigrated me for having c sections at all. She said I didn’t try hard enough. Screw her.
    When we are done telling people how to give birth, let’s stop telling people how to care for their children. Cloth or disposable diapers, you don’t know why I chose what I did. Formula over breast feeding (I was literally followed around the grocery store by a woman who wanted to know why I had formula, etc etc. None of her business, but it was to supplement the child I was expecting, as my first child needed supplementing. Preparation). Pacifiers or not. Co sleeping or not.

  • Heidi

    The only time I actually cared about how others chose to give birth was after my own. She came so fast and furious (from 20 min contractions to hello I am here in an ambulance) that I wanted information on whether a midwife would be best for my next child. But anyone trying to tell you what is best is wrong. My lactation consultant said it best when I had an appointment with her: you know your body and baby best. In essence only you can decide and everyone can shut the fuck up. (Unless you ask them)

  • Jess

    I really really wanted a home-birth with as little intervention as possible for similar reasons, wanting control over my body, etc but ‘I want’ doesn’t get and I ended up agreeing to be induced at 15 days overdue (yeah the midwives & doctor’s loved that one, that I insisted on going the extra day) with an emergency c-section 6 hours later when my baby’s heart-rare dropped during a contraction. Yes it was a bit traumatic but I have a healthy little girl so I’m glad I made that last minute choice to trust the doctors. Thankfully only one person has said “well of course a caesarean is easier, I pushed all mine out all by myself,” (to which I was unfortunately in no state to have a “perfect response.”)

  • Laurie Prim

    This is perfection!!!! I want to say the best line–out of SO MANY bests– is “Fun fact: People secure in their choices do not feel compelled to run around screaming how other people should be like them,” but really, it’s “Don’t be a dick,” bc that encompasses pretty much all of it. (And not giving people options and respect to decide for themselves is dickish, had to add that, but really, otherwise perfection!!)

  • Laurie Prim

    Didn’t see the edit button but yes, as this said, “I want women to have doctors and midwives who explain the pros and cons of choices openly and honestly, treating women like they have brains in addition to vaginas. (I know, revolutionary.) I want women to be treated like humans, not cute little pets. I want women to be respected, validated, and heard. I want women to be the central player in the birth of their babies.”

  • Kathleen ryder

    Having a ‘choice’ is a real priveledge…..women and girls the world over have no ‘choice’.

  • Chelsie Trangmoe

    I had two csections and because of so was told that I wasn’t a real mother because I didn’t shoot them out of my vag. That was pain that I don’t forget but because I did does that make me less of mother? Some mom’s need a hug around the neck.

  • Kaitlyn

    PREACH. Also, recognizing as well that many, many births don’t according to plans or choices or whatever, and if SOME FUCKING MAROON decides to pass judgement on your (my) emergency c-section, your (my) epidural, your (my) failure to progress, they can kind throw themselves into the sea.

  • momy

    thanx for you

  • Andreea

    I had friends telling me about home birth, that it is stress free and more comfortable than being in a hospital where i don;t really have my place. I grew very fond of the idea, but somehow, deep inside I knew it was not for me, I was kind of expecting something bad to happen during labor. I was not able to put that into words, all the answers I got were: nothing will go wrong, you are just anxious. Turned out going to the hospital was the best thing I did, since the birthing process really took a weird turn and I had to have the baby pulled out of me with a vacuum extractor and the neonathologist had to called asap. I still really support home births, they really seem like a very good idea, but just not one to be forced onto women who might either have a good intuition, or maybe are just anxious and rather have a doctor nearby even if everything goes well.

  • Laurie Brant

    Information comes to us in different ways – personal experiences, films, books, social media, etc. No, some people are not very skilled in how they deliver their narratives to others but that doesn’t make it less valid or less important. For most of us, to know better is to do better. I have nothing but gratitude to those women who told me about different choices regarding birth – I didn’t always take their advice but I certainly had a lot to think about and discuss. I also was able to discern, to try and understand my often strong reactions to their words, in short, to know myself better.