Earlier this week we covered the story of mum Fi Star-Stone, 34, from Stafford, who Tweeted throughout the birth of her second baby, Oscar, who was born at home following a 13-hour drug-free labour.
Fi, who is a nursery nurse and runs a childcare website, said she was determined to send the live Twitter updates during her labour to help 'dispel the myths of childbirth'.
She said: "I've worked with children for 19 years and have always had mums telling me how scared they are of pregnancy. I did this to show them the positive side of childbirth and to show it could be done without pain relief – and while Tweeting the whole time."
Fi posted a series of Tweets from her mobile phone while in the birthing pool. An hour into labour she wrote: 'Me and my hippy no pain relief... Ouch. Could do with a large vodka!'
Her tweets were followed by hundreds of online friends and drew the attention of celebrity followers.
However, it seems not everyone who followed Fi's Twitter stream is a fan. In today's Daily Mail journalist Bridget Harrison writes a stinging attack on the idea of twitterbirth.
She writes: 'So I read with some annoyance this week about proud mother Fi Star-Stone, who merrily Twittered live updates during the labour of her second child to prove childbirth could be one happy, drug-free experience.... Fi says she wanted to dispel the 'myths' about childbirth and show that it can be positive and unscary, which of course it can. But to suggest that this kind of beautiful, chilled-out experience is normal is irresponsible and a disservice to us all.'
I am incensed by the ridiculous idea that it's not 'normal' to have a beautiful, chilled-out birth experience, and that to suggest it is perfectly normal is somehow irresponsible and a case of sisterly betrayal to women everywhere. Please. Have we forgotten that giving birth is technically the most natural process in the world?
Complications happen, of course, they do, and every mother is entitled to her own opinion and preference when it comes to pain relief. But I'm sick of hearing women whinge about what a hellish experience labour is. So I applaud Fi Stone for endeavouring to stick her neck out and stick up for the natural pain-free path. As she said, people often pass on horror stories instead of something positive, which isn't exactly the epitome of sisterly love either, if you ask me. She's not making any judgements about other people's birth experiences, or setting herself up as some sort of Mother Superior. She's simply saying it can be natural, beautiful and bearable. Good for her.
Bridget continues: "We should admit that many births do have complications, end up with episiotomies and C-sections and there is no failure in that. Because, let us be honest here, most women in labour are screaming for a general anaesthetic about the time Fi Star-Stone was Tweeting a gentle 'Ouch!' and musing that she fancied a vodka. Why not admit that for a good proportion of women, being in the middle of childbirth is an utterly terrifying, agonising, experience. It's messy, bloody, animalistic and it takes us to a primeval place where most of us are operating only on raw female instinct, not Twitter."
Actually I don't think it's at all 'honest' to generalise that most women in labour scream for general anaesthetic or find childbirth terrifying. In fact that kind of sweeping statement is what I'd call irresponsible and a disservice to mums. In fact a recent report by the National Childbirth Trust cites an NHS report into clinical standards in maternity care which shows that women who are supported during labour need to have fewer pain killers, experience fewer interventions and give birth to stronger babies. And after their babies are born, supported women feel better about themselves, their labour and their babies. Now wouldn't it be nice if that was considered normal.
Bridget goes on to claim that she's not knocking anyone who chooses to have a home birth - so, er, writing a piece called 'Why I deplore the twit who Tweeted as she gave birth' was meant as a compliment, was it?
Good grief. Why is it that mothers who experience traumatic or difficult labours are so often given free rein and public platform to make terrifying generalisations about birth based on their bad experiences, while those of us who DO have beautiful, chilled out normal experiences are often derided. I'd never call someone irresponsible for having an elective c-section, so why is it acceptable to level that accusation at someone who chooses a drug-free birth? I think its time mothers in the Western world grew up and stopped squabbling over this.
My friend Tamsin describes giving birth to her first child, who arrived in less than an hour: "Woke up, rang the hospital, had a bath, contractions every five minutes, drove to hospital with panicking husband, gave birth, wheeled out to ward holding lovely daughter to applause from all the midwives. Left later that afternoon." Clearly not put off by the terrifying ordeal of birth, she went back for more of the same with the arrival of her twins. She says: "My waters broke just after a delicious meal at home while we were talking about what would happen if we needed to go to hospital. We drove to hospital, I had the twins 20 minutes apart. They were small but ok." See? It does happen. Pretending that's not a 'normal' experience strikes me as a lazy attempt to deal with how we feel when things don't go so smoothly.
To my mind, Fi Star-Stone's story is a commendable effort to redress the balance. Women who have natural births are all too often the subject of ridicule. I've never felt comfortable when a group of mums start sharing their birth stories. Not because my sons' birth stories were horrific - quite the opposite. They were born within a few minutes of our arrival at our local birthing centre without pain relief, simply because there wasn't time for any. But admitting you had an easy time of it while giving birth can be akin to social suicide when you're making friends with new mums. It's not considered cool to have a positive birth story - to some circles of mothers you barely qualify for their friendship if you haven't got a horror story to share.
That said, I've never thought of myself as a 'success' because of my boys' births yet many mothers say they feel like failures if they don't give birth naturally. I'm tired of the implication that its us mothers who give birth without pain relief who are in some way to blame for making the others feel bad. Perhaps we should all aim to get a life while we're going about the business of giving it.
Ultimately the only success that really matters in motherhood is the job you do for the next 18 years, not the few hours you spend screaming in a labour ward, under general anaesthetic or Tweeting from your birthing pool at home.
Do you agree with Heidi that we should hear more about positive birth stories?