The modern way of birth

By on May 1, 2016

Kony 2012.  It might be a golf tournament.  In fact, as you probably know, it’s a film about atrocities perpetrated by a man of that name, last seen in Uganda that became an overnight viral sensation with over 100 million views in just a few days.  The maker of the film is one Jason Russell, confined in a hospital allegedly for running amok and disturbing the peace.  

I do not wish to comment on the terrible things that have been going on in Africa, but the film set me wondering about some things that seem not quite right closer to home.

The film opens with a scene of an operating theatre. A woman with oxygen tubes in her nose and screened from the neck down by a blue sheet is apparently undergoing surgery, but she is conscious. Well, that’s not so unusual. The operation is presumably under a local or spinal anaesthetic.  Is  she having her appendix removed, a hernia repaired, or even a hip replacement?  The surgeons are bemasked and begowned and the theatre lights shine down on the operation site.  But – just a minute – there’s something odd going on: a man with his hair covered in a net is stroking her face. Then it’s clear. It’s her husband. We hear agonised screams and the woman joyfully cries “I can hear him!” She knows the sex of the baby before it’s born.

Mr. Russell’s voice-over informs us: ‘Every single person in the world started this way.’  Did they?  Some estimates put the Caesarean section in the US at 30 – 50%.  Even this absurdly high rate of this way of entering the world is not every single person, though it’s far too many.  The voice continues: ‘He didn’t choose where or when he was born.’  Nor, indeed, how he was born.

Maybe the mother had cephalo-pelvic disproportion or a transverse lie or some other condition making a normal birth impossible, but I doubt it.

Why does a baby need to be born screaming? Why not with a smile? Why can’t a baby have a gentle birth, ‘Birth Without Violence’? This is the title of a book by Frederick Leboyer – the very title makes you think. Another Frenchman, Michel Odent, wrote ‘Birth Reborn‘ in which he laments that a whole generation of mothers have forgotten how to give birth.

It is oddly appropriate that this baby’s middle name is Danger. If the birth wasn’t bad enough, it is highly likely in that unnatural hospital setting that he was soon screaming in agony some more through being circumcised.  Mr. Russell – if you’re out on bail and can read this – tell me it’s not true!

About Dr. Gabriel Symonds

Dr. Gabriel Symonds was the director of the Tokyo British Clinic. The clinic closed down in May 2014 after serving the expatriate community for 20+ years. Dr. Symonds has retired and the Tokyo British Clinic is now closed. Dr Symonds will continue to live in Tokyo and may be contacted by e-mail over any questions concerning medical records or related matters: He will be available from another address for: smoking cessation psychotherapy/counselling circumcision information Tel: (03) 5458-6099