Poor Blue Ivy Carter. The daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z is barely a week old and already she has come to know both the highs and lows of celebrity life. Her high-pitched squawking has been sampled on her father's hip-hop track, "Glory", causing her to become the youngest person ever to appear on the Billboard chart ("Baby, I paint da sky for you"). Less glamorously – or perhaps more, depending on how you measure these things – she has now had a strain of marijuana named after her, on sale in labelled jars in medical weed dispensaries in LA. The high life indeed.
Her most significant contribution, though? To ignite a debate about the best way to be born. Without intervention via the quickest and, er, most convenient exit? (Admittedly it's not always that quick. Or that convenient. Especially for the owner of the exit.) Or by scheduled Caesarean section?
The blogosphere has been buzzing with speculation about all the newly revised, coded information concerning her birth at a hospital in New York. And if you're thinking, "For goodness sake, who gives a flying Fallopian tube?" just Google "Beyoncé natural birth": 2.6 million hits.
The press release says: "She was delivered naturally at a healthy 7lbs." Having read more on the subject of the exit strategy of "the child of Destiny's Child" (copyright Jay-Z, "Glory") than is probably advisable for any person's mental health, I have come to the conclusion that the expression "naturally" means "not by C-section". The release should simply have said: "Stop press. This was an unprecedented Celebrity Non-C-Section Birth."
Of course the expression "naturally" is just a way to avoid using the much-maligned and often-overlooked factual adverb "vaginally". (Proof: "Beyoncé vaginal birth" has a paltry 298,000 hits.) Because there is no such thing as an "unnatural" labour: there's only vaginal birth and birth with medical intervention. Putting moral judgements on the exit strategy is not helpful.
But in the US in particular the celebrity baby's mode of entry is a big deal because it suggests a gold standard. It's what you'd choose if you could choose anything you wanted. Most Hollywood celebrities schedule C-sections to fit around their lives. Although personally I suspect their decision has more to do with who they ask to start off with. If you seek out the best advice money can buy, you are unlikely to find someone who will say, "If there are no complications, why not start out with the usual exit and see how you get on? No charge for this consultation, by the way. It's just common sense." Having sought the counsel of the best-qualified private obstetricians in the land – as opposed to your average, practically minded midwife with little interest in furnishing hotel suites with Cristal on tap – it's hardly surprising these women make the choices they do.
This is why it was initially assumed Beyoncé was having an elective Caesarean, for which she was denounced online. The self-righteousness of the people commenting on the misreported non-intentions of a woman they've never met is hilarious. "The child will be spoiled and privileged. Selfvish [sic] and self-serving. Who wants to bet she isn't breastfed either." "I believe Beyoncé is lazy and did not want to go through natural childbirth." (Beyoncé is lazy? Have you seen her on stage recently? Never mind.)
When it emerged that the child of Destiny's Child was in fact "natural" after all, an equally self-righteous band emerged. "Blue Ivy came out of Beyoncé's vagina naturally because this ain't no Gwyneth Paltrow Peruvian C-Section box social, yo," opined one. Translation: "Beyoncé had a down-to-earth experience unlike Gwyneth Paltrow who had one of those posh, pre-scheduled treatments abroad." Or at least that is the best translation I have been able to manage with the help of Urban Dictionary.
Time magazine declared that celebrity births set trends and Beyoncé's choice was significant because it underlined the belief "natural birth is the birth of champions". Yikes. I have had three "Civilian Non-C-Section Births" and I didn't hear Freddie Mercury singing at any of them. The same report put forward the theory the words "natural birth" are code for "a vaginal birth sans analgesia – no epidural block, no pain relief whatsoever". Really?
This shows the biggest problem with this row: everyone is acting on imprecise information. All the Carter family has revealed is that Beyoncé didn't have a C-section. We don't know how or why. We don't know whether she got the birth she wanted or not. She might be gutted that she didn't have a planned C-section. So there is not much point in appointing her as some kind of poster girl for "natural" birth. Or castigating her for not doing it naturally enough. (Or rather, not vaginally enough.)
At least, though, this is the traditional post-partum response. Welcome to mothering, Beyoncé! Guess what? Everyone else knows better than you. Your child will probably turn out to be very selfvish [sic]. And whatever you do will be wrong and unnatural. Enjoy your baby!
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