Birth in the barnyard?

Let’s look at what’s wrong with the cow birthing in the kid’s film “Barnyard”.

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My kids absolutely love the film ‘Barnyard’.  It’s witty and whimsical and takes the children on a wonderful imaginative adventure.    There’s just one problem, the birth! It’s a perfect example of how we are subconsciously fed incorrect information about birth, which leads to fear and anxiety about labour and birth.  As many of you know there is much evidence that fear inhibits the hormones of labour and the consequence of this is increased pain and complications for mother and baby.  So I find myself needing to commentate over this part of the film, so my children don’t confuse what they know (which is a lot when your mother is a Doula and Birth Educator) and what this film is presenting to them.  My commentary is usually met with complaints “Yeah mum, we know.  Just let us watch the film”.  Yet, I can’t let it go. I don’t want my children to take on these subconscious messages and have to deal with the consequences when it’s their turn in life to have children.

Having said that, here are 5 huge mistakes in the film Barnyard that are perpetuating myths and therefor complications in birth.

  • MISTAKE:  The labour mother cow gives birth on her back.  MISINFORMATION:  Why would a cow, of all animals, give birth on their back?  It’s simply ludicrous.  Women also do not give birth on their back in normal labour.   CONSEQUENCE:  Not only is it misinforming our next generation about birth in general, but also how an animal, namely a cow, gives birth.  Lying on your back in birth increases complications and difficulty of birth making it less safe for the mother and baby.  CORRECTION:  The cow should be standing up on all fours.  The normal position for women to birth is on hands and knees, standing or some variation of squat.  Perhaps even lying on their side, but the one position they don’t birth in in normal labour is on their back.

  • MISTAKE: The ‘midwife’ tells our laboring mother cow when to breath even though there is no sign of a contraction and then the mother starts to breath deeply.  The sequence of events is incorrect.  MISINFORMATION:  This feeds the incorrect notion that a mother, even a cow, doesn’t know what to do in labour and someone of authority needs to tell them what to do, including breathing.  The labouring mother would feel the contraction starting,  begin breathing deeper and then the support would engage in encouraging her.  CONSEQUENCE:  When women are ‘told’ what to do and when women feel there is an authority who knows better than themselves, they cease to turn inward, listen to their own body and to their instincts. This can stop labour hormones from releasing to their full potential, making labour needlessly long and exhausting.  This also leads to consequences with the mother feeling very insecure with their newborn baby.  CORRECTION:  When the mother felt a contraction coming on, she should have moved her attention immediately to breathing and focusing completely on the contraction.  This is women do in normal labour.

  • MISTAKE:  The baby cow has no umbilical cord, is completely dry and is held by midwife, then passed to ‘father’ before mother.  MISINFORMATION:  The baby is not attached to mother and immediately after baby is born, it is passed from midwife / doctor to father. This renders what actually happens immediately after labour as insignificant and with out any knowledge shared at all.  This leads us to assume that a baby transitions immediately from mother to outside world without any support.  This is not true.  There is a very important transition time where baby begins breathing on its own while still receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord.  CONSEQUENCE: Women and their partners are often completely ignorant to a hugely consequential and important stage of labour leading to making choices out of fear and ignorance.  Ignorance often creates fear and inhibits labour (refer to #1).  The consequences can be increased risk of baby having difficulties breathing, post partum haemorage, post natal depression, breastfeeding problems and late bonding between mother and baby.  CORRECTION:  The baby would appear ‘wet’ and glossy’ (at least) from the amniotic fluids.  The baby would be born still attached to placenta via the umbilical cord.  The baby would be placed on mothers stomach or chest immediately.   The umbilical chord would be cut at a later a few minutes after baby born, or even later.  …And for the most magical moment – the baby and mother look into each other’s eyes and make their first visual connection outside of the womb.

  • MISTAKE:  The whole Barnyard of animals come to watch and chat which doesn’t bother or interrupt the mother at all.  MISINFORMATION: A labouring woman is happy to have a crowd of people standing around, watching and talking about her while she is labour.  CONSEQUENCE:  When a woman is observed, interrupted and lacks privacy, her body will often slow or halt labour waiting for a safer and more private time to birth (Again it’s a hormone thing and a self preservation instinct the body has)  CORRECTION:  A woman only wants a small group attending and supporting her in labour.  She wants it dark and quiet and private.  She doesn’t like being interrupted.  Even talking will get you told off by her and possibly asked to leave the room if you need to chat.

  • MISTAKE:  The mother is calm and happy.  MISINFORMATION:  The fact the she is calm and happy is not a mistake in itself.  In fact, women who feel supported, safe, uninterrupted and that their dignity and privacy are being respected, are quite likely to be calm and happy.  The misinformation is that this cow would be calm and happy.  With everything going on, she is most likely to be stressed and anxious and experience quite a high level of pain with her contractions.  CONSEQUENCE:  Women who do not have the support and environment actually needed for labour are often in fight, flight or freeze response and with this interuption to labour homromes end with intervention and/or complications.  So this mother cow may have required some medical assistance (This has proven over and over with humans and animals)  CORRECTION:  For mother to be calm and happy in labour and for a mother to have a positive experience of labour such as the birth in Barnyard Film, she needs the following: everyone in the room to be listening to her; she needs privacy and deep sense of safety; she needs to be uninterrupted; she needs to feel safe and supported and she needs to let go of her thinking brain and turn inward.

We could actually educate and empower our children about life events such as birth through story telling, especially films which they love so much.  Instead the myth is reinforced.  I make sure I counteract such misinformation by presenting my children with positive and empowering content where I can.  I have 6 children, 4 were born at home.  They have all watched at least one of their siblings being born (except the youngest one), they have tiptoed around helping me in labour by bringing drinks or simply sitting with me and they have a positive attitude to birth and babies and I intend to keep it like that.  So if this means that they will have to continue to suffer through me commentating over their films, then so be it!

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