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Obsolete: landline phones, film cameras, and... vaginal birth??? Part 1

A friend posted this link to an article listing common, everyday items that today's adults used for years, which are now obsolete. Will babies born in 2011 know what any of the following items are: landline phones, film cameras, video tape, paper phone books, maps, or encyclopedias ("You mean like Wikipedia, Mom?" "No, dear, it's not the same thing.")?

It reminded me of an insightful blog post by childbirth educator Donna Ryan (Banned From Baby Showers). She told of an experience she had with her 9 year old daughter Abby's friend who was shocked to learn that Abby was born at

home in a pool of water. Her response? "Did a doctor come to your house to get her out of your stomach?!"

This is all too common. The first time I heard something similar was 2004, when I was pregnant with my second baby. At a moms' group, one mom shared that she had had all four of her children by cesarean and she was very glad for that because it made explaining "The Facts of Life" a lot easier for her. All she had to say was simply that to get the baby out, mommy goes to the hospital and the doctor cuts the baby out. I didn't want to make waves, since I was the newcomer in the group and a fairly new mom to boot, so I didn't speak up, but is that what you want your children to think? That normal, average birth means major abdominal surgery?

With each of my pregnancies, I let my children watch natural birth videos with me (positive and less graphic ones) to help them understand how the new sibling would come out. I explained as much as they seemed ready to understand, and it was pretty simple when they were 3, 4, or 5 years old. "God makes a way for the baby to come out through Mommy's vagina like a tunnel. It's a lot of hard work. It hurts, but it's pain with a purpose, and there's nothing to be afraid of. With the pain is joy and love. It's totally worth it, and I look forward to it." How difficult is that?

Several friends lately have told me that their daughters, now coming into preteen ages of 8 through 10, have said that they don't want to have kids when they grow up because they don't want to have surgery. How sad is that? They really believe that surgery is the only way babies are born. Nobody can promise anyone who will or will not need a cesarean, but the World Health Organization has stated that the cesarean rate should not exceed 15% or else more harm is being done than good. America's most current cesarean rate is 32.9% (2008 statistics), which has climbed for the 13th consecutive year.

One mom has two older children (a son 10 years old and a daughter 8 years old), both of whom were born by cesarean. She realized after the fact that the first cesarean was likely preventable, and the second cesarean did not have to have been an elective repeat cesarean and said that if she had another baby, she would seek a VBAC. With her next pregnancy, she was fearful, and her OB pressured her to schedule a repeat elective cesarean. During discussions with her husband and children as to the pros and cons of trial of labor VBAC versus elective repeat cesarean, her son said, "Mom, you may as well schedule it. You know the baby isn't going to come out that way [vaginally]." Even though she *did* eventually choose an elective repeat cesarean, that comment still hurt her, the fact that her son had no faith in her body's ability to give birth normally.

What are we doing to the next generation? Will children born in 2011 think that vaginal birth is obsolete? In my geographic area, many hospitals have a 50% or higher cesarean rate. Will children automatically assume that if and when they have children, they or their spouse will have to undergo major surgery to give birth?

I'm not trying to belittle cesareans (nor mothers who have had them), no matter whether individual cesareans were elective or scheduled or emergency or life-saving, and this isn't the post to weigh risks versus benefits of cesarean or vaginal birth. Regardless of the parents' experiences, the next generation deserves to know the truth: normal, vaginal birth is possible and attainable for the majority of mothers...IF they want it.

The same story plays out with our beliefs on our bodies' abilities to go into labor on their own, to give birth vaginally, to breastfeed, and more. I've heard many variations of this from moms of my generation:

  • "My mom (sister, etc.) wasn't able to breastfeed, so I probably won't be able to, either."
  • "My two sisters didn't go into labor on their own and had to be induced, so I probably will have to as well."
  • and now that the cesarean rate is so high "My mom had to have cesareans with all three of us, so I will probably have to have a C-section, too."
There's no reason to put unnecessary fears into mothers-to-be. The majority of moms can, if they choose to, safely birth vaginally and breastfeed... with the right information, preparation, support, and encouragement.

 My question is this: What do you want *your* children to believe when they are grown about birth, cesareans, and women's bodies' ability (or inability) to give birth? What would you tell your child (in an actual or theoretical conversation)?

If you would like for your response to be included in the Part 2 post, email it to me at wellroundedbirthprep (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm accepting submissions until January 15. Your submission by email gives me permission to post your response. I can post your response with your name (first name, initials, or whole name) or withhold your name, at your request. The length is up to you, anywhere from 1 sentence to 1 paragraph to 1 page. Thanks!

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