Guest post: Home birth and mattresses

// 4 May 2009

Kate Joester muses on a beautiful depiction of home birth – in a Spanish mattress ad. Check out Kate’s blog Rebel Raising (subtitled “changing the world, one nappy at a time”)

The crunchy mama blogosphere has gone nuts for this Spanish mattress advert, showing a home birth. And no question, if you’re at all interested in birth and the place it has in our culture, it’s amazing. It shows the moment of birth as explicitly as any “birth stories” show on Sky TV, but it’s an advertisment, not for midwifery recruitment or anything else directly related, but for a brand of mattress.

As a portrayal of homebirth, it’s pretty nearly unique. A quick survey of friends reveals two memories of positive portrayals of planned homebirth: Chloe in Home & Away in 1998, and in A Country Practice in the ’80s, though apparently in that case an older kid got tentanus due to neglect. Negative portrayals – well, just last week Jessica’s planned home birth in Casualty ended in a farcical delivery in a car. And that was a good one – nobody died. So, obviously, homebirth advocates are delighted to see it portrayed as normal, as part of life, not hedged around with any more risks than birth is in general.

But here’s another thing that’s interesting: in the crunchy mama blogosphere, in the US at least, many think this is a wonderful example of how those Europeans are closer to nature and all have homebirths:

Home Birth Is So Normal It’s Used To Sell Mattresses

“But in today’s installment of How Euros Aren’t Like Americans, we bring you the mattress ad.”

Except: everything I can find about birth culture in Spain says exactly the opposite. I can’t find numbers (probably because I can’t read Spanish), but “very unusual” is the consensus on homebirth. In fact, birth in Spain is regarded as very “production-line” and mechanised: 90% of women in labour have external foetal monitoring; there is an episiotomy rate of 89%.

It’s not about homebirth, is it? It’s about birth. We have plenty of births in adverts here: hospital gowns and blanket-wrapped babies and proud dads with their mobile phones and fast cars (for getting to the hospital in time). We don’t show actual slimy newborns emerging from actual vaginas. While it’s nice (for the likes of me) that the ad features a homebirth, what’s unthinkable is that it features the reality of birth.

Comments From You

Amity // Posted 5 May 2009 at 5:26 pm

I absolutely agree. I think Americans have a romanticized, idealized vision of Europe when it comes to certain things and birth is one of them. While certainly there are more midwife-assisted home births in Europe than in the US, it is still only a very small percentage. I think in the UK it is about 2-3% as compared to 0.5% in the States. I think what the ‘crunchy mamas’ might have been marvelling at more, however, was the fact that the advert was made and aired on mainstream television, for a mainstream product. I couldn’t imagine an advert like this running in the US in a thousand years, nor the UK. We’re too squeamish about anything to do with bodies and especially birth. We like it wrapped up, covered up, numbed and sanitized. If that ad ran here I have no doubt that there would be complaints and a massive chorus of “Ewww! Gross! Vaginas! Birth! Yuckkkk!” by men and women alike, which is so sad.

Home birth rocks!

Eleanor T // Posted 5 May 2009 at 9:07 pm

Awesome! I like it. :)

Laura Woodhouse // Posted 7 May 2009 at 9:25 am

Wow, that really is beautiful. I’ll just try and forget that it’s a mattress advert!

maggie // Posted 7 May 2009 at 11:15 am

Very sensual advert and really beautiful. It is interesting that it’s as far from the reality of the Spanish woman’s birthing experience that you can get. I suppose all adverts target aspirations. Certainly I would have loved this scenario, especially for my third birth, but I think my other two children would have had words to say about the joining in!

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