Supermodels and Homebirths and Liars, Oh My

Gisele Bundchen had a baby, and I’m a little disturbed by it. No, I’m not disturbed because I think she and Tom Brady are trying to create some new uber-species of beautiful, impossibly tall creatures who will use midgets like me as doorstops, or because I think she and Leo should have stuck it out and made little Leo babies together who would have maybe been not quite as tall and therefore slightly less inclined to use midgets like me as doorstops in the new world order.

I’m disturbed because Giselle Bundchen had an unmedicated water birth, at home, and people are giving her shit for not hating it.

Specifically, people are giving her shit for saying that it wasn’t painful. Well, first people gave her shit for having a homebirth – you KNOW how ridiculously dangerous it is to have a baby at home, right? And the baby must have been underweight because this 6’ Amazon only gained about 25 lbs, right? – and then they gave her shit for saying that it wasn’t the excruciating experience women are led to believe it is. They are calling her a liar. They are saying it is because she is privileged, and a supermodel and rich. That might make her clothes and her vacations better than mine, but I’m not sure it does a thing to help a vagina repel pain. They are calling BS. And so am I.

Listen, there are lots of reasons to hate Gisele. Hate her because she is tall and gorgeous and rich and traded Leonardo DiCaprio for Tom Brady. Hate her because she had her figure back 6 weeks after giving birth and most of us are struggling to get into our prenatal jeans two years post partum. But please don’t hate Gisele because she embraced the act of giving birth to her child.

She wanted to be present, and she wanted to feel the experience. From what she says in terms of preparation, her body, her mind and her spirit were strong and open. Obviously her pregnancy and birth were low risk, and she did not seem to be scared. Instead of deciding to schedule and control the birth process like so many celebrities we hear of, Gisele decided that she wanted to be conscious and present for the birth of her child. She did Yoga and meditated throughout her pregnancy. She exercised and ate well. She prepared her home, and if everything she says about her preparation and experience is positive, why then, should the language she uses to describe the birth not be positive, too? I think Gisele’s telling of her birth story is one of the most healthy and truthful I’ve ever heard.

She says that she was able to get through the contractions because she knew that every one would bring her closer to her child. My own mother coached me to think this way, eschewing my Ina May-inspired hippie shit with some good old fashioned pragmatism. ‘Look,’ she told me, ‘Every contraction you have is a contraction you will never have again. They are finite, and they will end when your baby is born, and if that’s not motivation enough to just shut up and do it, then I don’t know what is.’

So that’s exactly what I was thinking when I pushed my baby out on my bed. And it wasn’t painful. When I went into transition, I reared up from my position on all fours and made noises that I didn't know a human being was capable of making. It was the most intense experience of my life, but it wasn’t painful, because I could handle it. And then I pushed for 2 hours, and I was so exhausted that I was literally snoring in between contractions, but it wasn’t painful. Because I knew I could handle it. And I knew that as long as I remembered that I could handle it, it wouldn’t be painful.

The language that I used to get through my birth was practical and positive. I could do this. Let’s go, I can do this.

And when you feel positive and confident and supported during birth, it doesn’t have to be painful. It can be a lot of other things – exhausting, intense, weird, surreal – but it doesn’t have be painful. Or scary or risky or horrible.

So maybe Gisele is not a liar. Maybe she just decided to embrace childbirth and motherhood with every fibre of her being, including the language she uses to describe it. Maybe she was just lucky. But the women that feel threatened or cheated or maligned or lied to by the declaration that birth is maybe Not. That. Bad? Now there is some serious BS.



  1. Great Post. I guess some of us feel cheated that she appears to have everything, and then to top it off she had what sounds like a fairytale birth. Good for her. It is refreshing for a celebrity to have a natural home birth rather than a scheduled C-Section.

  2. I didn't see any of this BS, but good for her.

    I don't have the nerves for a homebirth but I had a great natural delivery and probably could have had successful homebirths with both my kids.
    In fact, I think Julia's would have been much better had I been at home. That delivery WAS painful probably bc I was so scared and everyone around me was scared.

    I did not feel pain like that with Katie. Transition was a little overwhelming but like I tell expectant moms, I cry when I stub my toe and I somehow managed a natural delivery.

    So what is up w this crap? Cindy Crawford had a homebirth and I don't recall a big backlash against her.

  3. I'm disappointed that so many people are mad about this. It's good press for NORMAL birth. Birth without complications and medicines and that fake seen-it-on-tv idea of what birth is all about. I'm not crazy about Gisele but it seems like she did something great, not something bad. More power to her for making informed choices instead of scheduling an elective c-sections like so many celebrities do.

  4. I haven't seen any of the BS, but then, I haven't been reading the gossip rags for a while now!

    But yes, it sounds like she was prespared and things went well, which, great.

    And there are some women - my MIL included - who have really easy births. My MIL had literally easy-peasy 4-hour labours with like 1 contractions, according to her. Lucky her.

    Lucky both of them. I may be envious of that, but it doesn't mean they are hateful liars trying to make the rest of us feel bad. It just means they had good experiences.

    People are silly.

  5. I don't know the details of her birth, I just wanted to chime in that the birth of my first child was wonderful, yet when I tell people that I didn't have a painful labour and delivery they always look at me like I'm not telling the truth. Women constantly say that society makes us live up to unfair standards blah blah blah, then why are we so hard on other women? Good for her that she wanted to become a mother, and that she welcomed a healthy child safely into this world.
    PS-I didn't know that she wasn't with Leo still!

  6. Holy moly, you guys - I was quite sure I was in for a skewering. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and positive perspectives!

  7. Maybe kittenpie and I have the same MIL? One thing that seems to go wrong in these discussions is that people somehow assume that when we talk about labour and delivery that we're somehow talking about the same thing - so if I say mine was painful and GB says hers was not, we're somehow describing the same experience in two different ways - or we're experiencing the same thing differently because of choices we've made or personality traits we possess. Different women have vastly, vastly different labours and deliveries, and what I can say about mine has really no bearing on what another woman says about hers.

  8. I also had a non-painful (in fact, it was wonderful and fantastic) natural child birth. But it was my second baby. My first was a long, long, drawn out, ineffective labour that was very painful and ended up with two epidurals and oxytocin to move things along. If anything, I did more to prepare and put myself in a positive mind set with my first. I think some births are just easier than others no matter how many prenatal yoga classes you do or don't take.

  9. The other topic where the same thing happens, of course, is infant care - as if people think we all start out with the same Lockean blank slate baby and can thus take full credit (or blame) for exactly how that baby sleeps, eats, poops, etc. When in fact human infants seem to me to be far more radically diverse a population than any group of human adults could be.

  10. I just keep coming back...

    My second labour & birth experience was FAR more intensely painful than the first one, but the pain was all physical - emotionally I was ecstatic, elated, confident, happy. I would take that any day over my first experience, where my pain was basically well-managed but labour was not progressing, the baby was stuck and needed to be delivered with forceps... Fear, panic, loss of control - these are far more difficult to endure that mere physical pain.

  11. Brill. You know, with my first kid, I would have cried BS Giselle. But after doing it the way they make it seem on TV and ending up in emergency C with a messed up kid, I wanted a different outcome the second time. A do-over if you will. And I got a lot of shit for that from people thinking I should just have a scheduled C and shut up about it.

    I will never regret doing a(mostly) drug-free VBAC the second time. It was the greatest experience of my life. I do regret taking that shitty demorol that only made me and Lucy stoned and nothing else. But whatevs. Having a baby fly out your cooch is pretty rad.

    Fist bumps.

  12. I wouldn't say that giving birth was my idea of a good time, but I totally agree with Giselle when she says that it's not as bad as it's made out to be. It was NOT excruciating, it was not the worst pain in my life, and I got a break in between each contraction to recover. Breaking a bone is much, much worse and you don't hear anywhere near the fear-mongering about that.

    Plus, at the end, you get this amazing little person. Which is totally worth it all.

  13. Man, where have I been? I haven't heard anything about the Gisele hype, but this post was awesome.

  14. Auntie JennoFebruary 05, 2010

    I say props to any woman who has something positive to say about childbirth. When I tell people that my daughters birth was easy and not nearly as painful as I thought it would be, they often think I'm lying . Same if I say that my daughter as an infant slept through the night and was actually really chill and that I have enjoyed mothering a great deal thus far. Why do some in this society want woman to have a painfully horrible time of birthing and raising their children?

  15. Auntie Jenno - because women are consumers, and there are tons of opportunities to market solutions if we remain scared and constantly in need of rescue from the hardships of motherhood.

  16. Bea - exactly, it's not the same thing. Most women don't even have the same experience in two successive pregnancies, even if they do everything else the same.

    The only time it becomes a problem is in the attempt to compare, or more to the point, judge based on some imagined baseline similar experience.

    For example, when my MIL said that brith was easy and all those women who complain about it are just whiners. AHEM. It's nice for her that her experiences were great, but some people's? Are not.

    Just like it's great for Gisele that her birth was great, and great that she is showing that's something that can happen. If she were slamming other women who had different experiences, I'd be angry, but I don't hear a hint of that from what kgirl has reported here, so I'm just happy for her.

    And envious, but that's my problem, not hers!

  17. I can be a pretty negative person sometimes (I like to think of it more as "realistic" than negative though...ha, ha!), but I'd like to think that I would be happy for someone who had a great birth experience instead of trying to rain on their parade. Why can't we all just get along? And be supportive?? Yeesh.

  18. first time here, followed a friend's link.

    Great post. It was getting to the point where I felt like I couldn't share my feelings about my positive birth experiences. That I didn't want to say it was painful, because intense was a better word. I totally got those negative, resentful reactions so I stopped sharing my stories. But it's great to read these stories from all of you about your positive experiences.

    thanks for sharing!


  19. I hadn't thought about it, Gisele's experience, even though I'd kind of half-noticed info about it online in the last several days. But I'll bet you're right, and anyway -- JESUS. Who freakin' cares enough to wish misery on her? Parenthood is the hard part. Labor is like a warm-up act. I'm sure she'll endure just as much difficulty as the rest of us if she's truly committed to parenthood, and that only makes me feel more endeared to her as a fellow struggler in the parenting gig. Nothing else.

    People ARE silly (as wise Kittenpie adroitly pointed out).

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  21. Oh Gisele,must you have it all! Reminds me of a quote that hung in my midwife's office, "There is a secret in our culture, and it's not that childbirth is painful. It's that women are strong" -Laura Stavoe Harm Guess Gisele is one strong bitch, gawd I hate her!


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