Kourtney Kardashian: Inspiring Women with her Zen-like Childbirth?

Two weeks ago I wrote about the way childbirth is generally portrayed, even mocked, in popular culture and how that often negatively colors women’s beliefs about birth. Sunday, however, on the season finale of the E! network reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, surprisingly, amazingly labor and birth were shown in a largely positive light. In the episode, which had a record 4.8 million viewers, Kourtney Kardashian, 30, calmly gave birth to her first child Mason Dash Disick (born on Dec. 14, 2009).

I have to admit I don’t actually watch the Kardashians, but thanks to Jezebel, I was able to watch some clips from the episode. (Go watch. I’ll wait.) My friend Denise, who blogs at Eat Play Love, told me that she saw the whole episode and said, “I have to admit for the K-women coming off as such primadonnas the episode/birth was shown in a great way. I was shocked.”

Instead of the typical Hollywood water-breaking all over the floor in one big “sploosh!” followed by the frantic Oh-my-God-I’m-freaking-out-and-have-to-get-to-the-hospital-RIGHT-NOW, after Kourtney’s water broke and was shown(!) slowly trickling out onto the floor, she was totally calm, did some laundry, said she needed to shave, took a shower and put on make-up all before going to the hospital. A reality TV show actually showing reality? Wow!

Then there was the birth scene at the hospital, which appeared very serene. Kourtney was surrounded by her family who all looked on in awe as baby Mason was born. She appeared very calm, even zen-like. Once the baby was half way out, the doctor asked Kourtney if she wanted to grab him and she did. She reached down between her legs and pulled her baby right out of her vagina and onto her chest. It was amazingly peaceful and really quite beautiful.

Of course that had to be followed by some commentary from her sister Khloe saying, “that’s not normal.” But uh, yeah, actually it is. That’s what normal birth can look like.

Photo credit: The Unnecesarean

I can’t find any information about whether Kourtney received an epidural or gave birth unmedicated, but she certainly looks very zen in the video. She said in this interview about labor, “It was surprisingly easy and just an incredible experience. I always thought your first is supposed to be really hard, but it was easy.”

Regardless of whether or not she had an epidural, the fact that E! showed (millions!) what a normal, peaceful birth can look like is seriously huge, especially when you consider the demographic watching this show. According to this LA Times article, “Kardashian viewers tend to be single, college-educated women with no children, white-collar jobs and annual salaries of more than $60,000.” Keeping Up With The Kardashians “is the highest-rated series on cable among women ages 18 to 34.”

The Unnecesarean had this to say:

Kourtney Kardashian and E! showing a generation of young women someone reaching down and pulling their baby out of their vagina was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles has gained a reputation as the celebrity c-section center, but there’s some mother-friendly stuff going on in the clips on Jezebel.

I didn’t watch the whole episode, but I smiled at the clip of her water breaking. When do you ever see that televised beyond the ridiculous images of actors having a gallon of water dumped between their legs, then instantly doubling over with contractions and being rushed down the hall to L&D on a gurney?

Momotics said Kourtney Kardashian renewed her “faith in birth.”

I was SO impressed to see Kourtney so calm, and cool while giving birth to her son Mason who was born in December. It seems like Hollywood has had a huge rash of scheduled cesareans, inductions, and over all just horribly medicalized births and this was just a huge refresh to the Hollywood natural birth stigma.

Carla Fran from Millicent and Carla Fran calls Kourtney “awesome.”

I cannot believe, I repeat, I cannot believe that the Kardashians are paving the way for positive images of childbirth. Last night’s finale showed Kourtney Kardashian going into labor, and pretty much backing up what doulas, Rikki Lake, and your friendly neighborhood midwife have been saying all along.

This finale is tremendous because of the audience the show has. If young girls see pop icons like Kourtney Kardashian having this kind of birth experience, their expectation of the event in their own lives is changed. I hope an entire generation of people saw this and thought “I didn’t know it could be like that.”

It would seem that’s exactly what some women thought. Here are a few of the comments on the Jezebel blog:

  • Kali Mama: “While am all for freedom of choice and choosing your own birth plan, big props for girlfriend not being too posh to push. No elective c-sections or nothing.”
  • Doyouloveit: “For years I’ve been chanting that I will get a C-section if I ever procreate, ‘Knock me completely out! I want to wake up like it’s Christmas morning with a baby under the tree!’
    But wow! Kourtney was really inspiring! Why can’t it always be shown this beautifully? Great documentary film making, Keeping Up With The Kardashians!”
  • Lilspitfire: “I am not a big fan of reality TV but the way they showed childbirth in this episode was nothing but positive.”
  • La Madrugada: “Okay, as someone who’s going to give birth to her first kid in a month and a half, I have to say, this is AWESOME. I’m not a huge fan of this show, but seeing a woman laughing and relaxed while in labor is extremely cool.”
  • Gra: “I have never given birth and therefore had NO IDEA that this was even possible. Its weird to realize that everything I know about labor and birth is based on what I’ve seen in the movies.”
  • Hotpants McGee: “It’s so crazy to say this, but I think I learned something from a Kardashian! Kourt was AMAZING. I had no idea you could just pull it out! I still can’t believe it. She could have just stayed home and done it all by herself!”

Yep, the Kardashians are changing the way women view birth – for the better. Who woulda thunk it?

Cross-posed on BlogHer

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27 thoughts on “Kourtney Kardashian: Inspiring Women with her Zen-like Childbirth?

  1. I was happy to see this, too…even more happy to see/read the positive responses! Just another example of something that surprises me just when I thought I was too jaded to change my mind (especially about something involving E!)

  2. duh people, some women dont feel labor pains… its rare but it happens.. and she was prob. one of them.. pure luck… but congrats to her for showing such composure… :)

  3. Thanks so much for quoting Momotics! I love your post and I agree with everything you said!
    I am glad that there are other women out there who really felt touched by the birth too!

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  5. Since my baby’s due in a week and a half… I’m sorry I missed this show. But the way E! does reruns, I’m sure I’ll catch it before my baby arrives.

    ALI-I would think that feeling labor pains and being calm aren’t mutually exclusive.

  6. Thanks so much for mentioning Millicent and Carla Fran here! This episode of the Kardashians was so great, and it is soooo nice to see comments over at Jezebel that aren’t horrified by birth.

    I’m a doula, and it seems like a lot of the time I have to “prove the problem” to friends and clients and illustrate how childbirth is treated, and why they should care. When I recommend the Business of Being Born or books by Ina May, I sometimes feel like I am passing out propaganda pamphlets. It’s a relief to have something this mainstream and pop to refer to…it’s a little easier to have the conversation, and a little more fun as well.

  7. You know, it always surprises me to see who ends up being a birth advocate. For example, when Rikki Lake was just an actress-turned-talk show host I wouldn’t have called “The Business of Being Born”.

    I hope that this has changed the way that some women view birth. It doesn’t have to be medical, it can be very lovely and peaceful.

  8. Kourtney was lucky to have such an easy birth, therefore she was able to remain calm enough to help her baby out. This is the way to give bith, although most of us didn’t have it so easy.

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  10. It was a great birth and closest to most that I’ve been privy to witness or attend. But it was also edited, I’m sure.

    We have to thank the Kardashian’s who have creative control for presenting such a positive example. Medicated or not (and who cares?) it was as a birth should be. Calm, quiet, and miraculous. Anything else is not good for the baby or mom.

  11. Hi – I have been lurking for a while and now I have something to say! Have you seen “16 and Pregnant” on MTV – I know, I don’t usually watch that either, but last night I was shocked. I saw two episodes and neither had the drama-injected birthing scenes and I assume that this is targeted to teens girls. I was really impressed as the young mothers are really brave and not one of them had the screaming or the emergency c-section.

  12. Birth can be calm and quiet – and it can be loud, too. There is nothing wrong with being loud during labor, because for some the baby just doesn’t ‘slide out’ and it’s hard work to push out a baby. Women who ‘scream’ or vocalize in labor are not “drama queens” (as I’ve heard them be called before) but are often just doing what feels natural. As someone recently put it, “You don’t hear people telling professional weight lifters not to grunt, scream or make lots of noise while lifting weights, do you?”

  13. This is AWESOME! I recently blogged about Kendra Wilkinson’s C-section after induction. (No surprise there, right?) It’s so refreshing to see a celeb go the natural route. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I’m going to mention your post in a future post, and I’m about to tweet it, too.

    Best, –KB

  14. I felt the same way after watching this episode!

    I was totally expecting a typical chaotic, tense, drama-filled TV birth. And, since the show is known for ridiculous histrionics, petty bickering, and diva behavior, I really expected the worst.

    But seeing Kourtney so carefree and calm while getting ready to go to the hospital, I was shocked (and pleased). And watching her in labor, pushing so intently, then reaching down for her baby, I got goosebumps. I also loved her family’s reaction…how they treated her like she was amazing instead of “OMG…gross!”

    Across the board, it was a much more positive TV birth than anything I’ve ever seen on “A Baby Story” and the like.

  15. The Kardashians are one of my semi-guilty pleasures and I was very impressed with her birth! I do wish they had shown more about her labor and if she had pain meds, etc., but I was inspired by her posh, zen birth. She was calm and looked amazing, and I LOVE that she pulled her own son out.

    You are the first blog I’ve seen cover this topic, and I think it’s a video everyone should see. Kourtney Kardashian is not someone you would think of as “crunchy” ;) yet her birth was so much more beautiful and natural than the crap I’ve stopped bothering to watch on the TLC network.

  16. Huh, I’ve never been a reality show fan and didn’t even know who the Kardashians were until recently!!! Glad there’s some actual reality tv that’s sort of reality based!

  17. Wow! I’m so glad I read this post. I love how you put it: “A reality TV show actually showing reality? Wow!” I was wow-ed, too. I think that is the first positive, true-to-life birth I have seen on TV. It made me smile! :)

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  20. I think that is amazing. I have had 3 children,and honestly the screaming, freaking out, and etc. are not reality at all. It is so good to see someone famous show how childbirth can be if you make it that way. You don’t have to be like you see women act on tv usually. It is an amazing experience. :-)

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  22. The Deranged Housewife said, “Birth can be calm and quiet – and it can be loud, too. There is nothing wrong with being loud during labor, because for some the baby just doesn’t ’slide out’ and it’s hard work to push out a baby.”

    You are so right that there’s nothing wrong with vocalizing in labor. Personally, I’m a quiet sort, but I think I ought to be free to scream if I wanted to. However — and I know you agree because I have seen your comments on the My OB Said What blog — there’s a big difference between focused vocalizing and hysterical screaming, between making noise because you are working hard, and losing control because the pain is unbearable. I imagine the latter does happen to some women, even sometimes with natural labor. I know that when my third baby was born in 45 minutes I was initially shocked by the force of the contractions, and I couldn’t have done that for 8-12 hours (the length of my other births). But most normal labors are manageable, even if they are hard work, so it’s good to see a mainstream celebrity *managing* it.

  23. I am so happy to hear that Kourtney K is doing the natural childbirth thing! I am so happy that some celebrities are giving childbirth a good name!
    -Sylvia

  24. You are so right that there’s nothing wrong with vocalizing in labor. Personally, I’m a quiet sort, but I think I ought to be free to scream if I wanted to. However — and I know you agree because I have seen your comments on the My OB Said What blog — there’s a big difference between focused vocalizing and hysterical screaming, between making noise because you are working hard, and losing control because the pain is unbearable.

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