What Exactly is a “Perfect” Birth?!

16 11 2011

Perfect. Such a provocative word.



1.conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.

2.excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.

3.exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose: a perfect actor to play Mr. Micawber; a perfect saw for cutting out keyholes.

4.entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: a perfect apple; the perfect crime.

5.accurate, exact, or correct in every detail: a perfect copy.

Haters are always asking me– what IS a perfect birth, little missy? Well, above, for your convenience, I’ve included the definition of “perfect”. Now add labor/childbirth to this concept and you’ll hopefully understand.

“I always thought a perfect birth is one where a baby comes out alive.”  Well, you’d be wrong.

That’s not good enough! My baby and I deserve more than just to survive.

So much can go wrong for women and their babies in birth, especially in today’s childbirth culture. So, if you induce me because you don’t want to miss a special occasion, force me into compliance for arbitrary standards I’m held to even though my baby and I are in good health, forcibly do anything to my body which is not life saving, and remove me from your care because you cannot honor my needs or requests– these are potential imperfections in birth. And I don’t have to settle for that.

That’s what my book is about. In Search of the Perfect Birth may sound like a judgy title to someone looking for something to criticize, but you can’t be a true critic if you are judging a book by its cover (or, title).

Even though all my babies are alive, I don’t have to settle and gratefully accept the things which happened to me. Disliking my births and wanting more is not the same as disliking my children and being ungrateful that they are here, alive and well. These negative birth events didn’t have to happen, and they weren’t essential for saving me or my children. They were unnecessary. Some women aren’t as lucky as me, and even if their babies live in the end, sometimes those babies have lifelong issues stemming from the birth method. These are very real issues that I’m talking about here.

People find this threatening, though, because we’ve accepted sub-par care for so long now, that it’s threatening to define that some births may go “perfectly” and others do not. In fact, most do not. No, it’s easier to say that no birth is perfect, or to insist that an intervention-filled birth was perfect. The alternative is to admit that things didn’t quite go as they should have and that it’s not okay, and that’s either A) a threat to one’s very identity or B) too troublesome a thought to bear.

Women who go “searching” for a “perfect birth” are a threat to women who don’t. There is the implication that they settled, that they missed something. That’s my theory on why this is so offensive. But I cannot control who gets offended by this concept.

I have an obligation to tell my stories so that others can understand that their searching was not stupid or useless or selfish. I validate their dissatisfaction with the machine, a system that is built to churn people out, not to care about you the individual (mother or child). If I can help make birth and life any better, easier, or healthier for other mothers and their babies, then my pains were not in vain. I will not be silenced just because some out there deep down feel mediocre or inadequate and choose to take their feelings of inferiority out on the rest of the world.

Even on GoodReads, I am being judged as being “unprepared” and “expecting to coast through labor” because of my quest for something more.

It made me wonder about Rachel. It seemed like she didn’t even read the book, and got so much factually incorrect in such a short review. Is “perfect” this severely misunderstood? I think so.

Oh course, if you want blatant offense at the mere word “perfect”, you can take Serendipity (a troll) and her review of the book on Amazon:

Once recently, troll Florence stopped by my page to discuss what a “perfect birth” is. Apparently a popular midwife blogger asked me this in what I’m guessing was a challenging tone, and I had missed it because I didn’t stick around her page to watch the troll party go down. So, here’s what I said to Florence, and hopefully this is a good way to sum up for the world what a “perfect birth” is, and why one would search for one:

So, like I said, “perfect” is just a word. It happens to fit, but there is no personally judgmental or sinister meaning behind it. It’s innocent and pure in intention. Honestly, when I named the book, I did it on a lark, speaking totally from the heart, trying to capture what the essence of the book was so that people would understand its content. Still, regardless, you can expect in this life to be misunderstood by plenty.

From trolls, to nurses, to midwives, to doulas, to wannabe doulas, to wannabe midwives, and all level of cast and characters, the very people supposed to be the most supportive of women are the most maliciously speculative when it comes to pouring out the heart and soul of one feminine experience.

Now, do you really want to know my idea of “perfect”, in terms of childbirth? To me, a “perfect” birth is one that does not involve any physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional trauma to the mother or baby in the process.

But apparently, that’s too much to ask. I have some nerve. Hmph! “Perfect”.

When Is It Okay to Complain About Birth?

25 07 2011
In Search of the Perfect Birth: A Journey From Hospital to Midwife to Unassisted Birth
0615481701Elizabeth McKeownPerfect Birth Books, Ltd.In Search of the Perfect Birth: A Journey From Hospital to Midwife to Unassisted BirthBooks
An alarming trend of selfishness
The first line of Ms. McKeown’s book sets the tone for the rest of it…in which the author declares that most women are traumatized by their birth experiences…whether we realize it or not! In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I didn’t finish the entire book. I read about 2/3 of it in online excerpts and, after reading what I did, I wasn’t interested in purchasing a copy of the book for myself to finish it.I am amazed at the arrogance of that opening statement. And unfortunately it colored the way I read the rest of it, because I couldn’t ever get over that amazement or the recognition of the author’s arrogance.When I was pregnant, my greatest hope and prayer was that I would have a healthy baby when it was all over. NOT that I would have the perfect birth experience for myself. I think this focus on the “birth experience” and “how can you achieve this perfect birth experience?”….and all the rhetoric about “medical rape” and being traumatized and resentful because your birth experience wasn’t exactly the way you had hoped it would be….I think that to have this be your focus and/or attitude as a pregnant woman is incredibly selfish.
The goal of being pregnant is to have a baby…not to have a wonderful, empowering experience for the mother. Where this gets tricky is when you acknowledge that giving birth IS empowering for most women. For me, I’d never felt more alive or more strong than I did after I birthed my daughter. I was very clearly thinking, through the entire process, that “this is the most important thing I have ever done, or will ever do”. I don’t want to discount this, because it’s very real.
Also, I have to agree with some of the other reviewers about the comments on some of the reviews here. I think it’s extremely unflattering and unprofessional for an author to respond to her negative reviews and engage in arguments with the reviewers about them. People are entitled to their opinions. I feel that the author must know this or else she wouldn’t have felt the need to self-publish an entire book full of her own opinions. andie
July 23, 2011
  • Overall: 1.0 out of 5 stars5
Your initial post: Jul 25, 2011 3:56:51 PM PDT
Elizabeth McKeown says:
Hi Andie. Time for me to be “unprofessional” again and address your concerns. 🙂 I am thinking you’d prefer I did not, but I would just like to clarify my feelings and intentions, in case anyone else is confused. 🙂
I think that the most important thing to get out of a birth experience is a healthy baby. That is first and foremost and should go without saying.I also think that how the mother feels and labors is of extreme importance, not just for herself but also for her baby. It is generally accepted that the health and well being of the mother also affect the baby, so a mother choosing the best and healthiest birth she possibly can is not an isolated, selfish decision… the baby is still the primary reason and focus. I do not, however, think we should ignore any wrongs being done only because a healthy baby may be the end result.
I don’t think you are in a position to fairly judge how selfish women are who’ve been hurt by their birth experiences if you had such an immensely empowering one.

If you came out of it feeling amazing and incredible, maybe that’s how you think all women should feel. They should, but unfortunately that is no longer standard. Your attitude seems to blame the mother for not having the awesome experience you say you have. It isn’t due to selfishness that she may be traumatized; it’s due to a lot of things, but most are traceable back to a broken system.

Judging the pain of others when you said yourself how great your experience was seems dismissive and ignorant. I hope you never have to experience a “medical rape”.

If it is causing women undue pain, hurt, stress, or trauma, I don’t want women to merely go with the flow. I want them to know they can have a healthy baby in ways that do not hurt them or scar them psychologically.

I hope that helps. Thank you for taking time to read some of my Amazon excerpts. If you would like to discuss “birth trends” or any of the topics you take issue with from the book, I would be happy to continue in the discussions section of this Amazon book page.

So, what do you think? Do you think that if you had a bad experience in the hospital, that you should just shut up as long as you have a live baby? What if you don’t have a live baby, or if your baby was injured… is it okay to talk then? When IS it okay to talk about your sad story? Just when is it okay to stand up against what happened to you and say you find it unacceptable and will not let it happen again?