The Cult of Natural Childbirth

birth cultAre you in a cult??

What do you picture when you think of a cult?? Do you think of a group such as Westboro Baptist?? Do you think of Christian religious sects? Do you think of a dirty old man who brings in women he marries, has children with, then perpetuates the cycle with the children? What characteristics make something worthy of being called a cult?

According to the Cult Information Center, these are the characteristics of a cult:

1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members

2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.

3. Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma.

4. It believes ‘the end justifies the means’ in order to solicit funds recruit people.

5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society

Let’s look at the first description here- The use of psychological coercion.  In psychological coercion, the threatened injury regards the victim’s relationships with other people. The most obvious example is blackmail, where the threat consists of the dissemination of damaging information. However, many other types are possible e.g. so-called “emotional blackmail“, which typically involves threats of rejection from or disapproval by a peer-group, or creating feelings of guilt/obligation via a display of anger or hurt by someone whom the victim loves or respects.

Next- The elitist totalitarian society.  A totalitarian society believes their way is the only way to live. The group members have their thoughts and beliefs manipulated. The regime controls what members see and hear. Propaganda is widely used because it illicits an emotional response that pushes people to conform and prevent opposition from stepping into the forefront.

Having a self-appointed leader who is good with their words allows them to manipulate more easily. Dogmatic is basically where all your beliefs are facts and nobody can argue with you. Messianic is where someone is worshiped. The leader is wonderful and can do no wrong.

Normally money is raised and the leader doesn’t speak of it. They only collect the money for themselves under the guise of doing it for the group. This is not always a financial thing, though. In the end, everything the leader has will be for the betterment of the group.

It’s wealth not benefiting society or it’s members is obvious. This means the group will have absolutely nothing good to show for itself. It will have leaders and followers and nothing else.

Some of the other things with cults is that the members feel it is “Us VS Them” in all they do. There is also manipulation under the guise of love or friendship. If you step away, you lose that love and friendship. Your friends keep a watch out over you and report everything you say or do.

Let’s look at this in the natural birth world.

  1. Within the movement, the leaders can do no wrong. Everything they say is right and worth gold. This goes for people such as Ina May Gaskin, Rikki Lake, Henci Goer, etc. Criticize them or what they have to say and see what happens (you only have to look as far as negative reviews of their books on Amazon!). These leaders are accountable to no one. Their writings are not subject to peer review and anyone who does criticize (or even politely disagree) is attacked and silenced.
  2. Midwives and natural birth promoters earn money due to the following they have, even when it is to the detriment of their clients.  Women will pay anything in order to have an experience. But the money issue goes farther than that. NCBers raise money to protect bad midwives or midwives who are caught breaking the law in an effort to hide the poor outcomes of lay-midwifery.
  3. The natural birth community will NOT allow those of a more scientific mindset an opportunity to speak. No matter what studies or proof are offered, it is wrong and dismissed out-of-hand. Only things promoted by the leaders are accepted. If you do speak out, or even politely disagree, you are banned from their pages and they call you a troll, or worse. Guess which two of these three posters were banned from the page after the comments you see here:
  1. NCBers have set up an us vs. them mentality in the birth world. They tell women that the medical establishment is out to get them and their babies, alongside the pharmaceutical companies. They claim there is tons of money to be had by making sure all women have intervention laden hospital births. They create fear while at the same time claiming to dispel fear.
  2. Your natural friends will build you up and stand beside you as long as you stay in the movement. If you step away or speak out, they are done with you and will trash you publicly.
  3. This movement is doing nothing good for women or babies. A greater proportion of babies are dying at home than in hospitals. More mothers are feeling like failures and suffering from postpartum depression if things do not go according to their natural plans, and because their NCB “friends” are telling them they SHOULD feel bad.
  4. In order to draw you in, they have to use your mommy guilt against you. Did you have a c-section? Well, obviously it was caused by something a dr did and the c-section is why your breastfeeding relationship didn’t work out. So, here mommy is feeling bad and in swoops this woman who can tell you why everything happened how it did and how it can be prevented next time around.
  5. If you speak up about a midwife being negligent or causing a problem, word will get back to her if it is said to or around a mutual friend or really anywhere. Anything said that does not coincide with the natural beliefs is shared and the natural crowd will try to teach you a lesson.
  6. Manipulation is a regular occurrence. This is why these women get so close to you. They can use their relationship with you as a means of controlling you: “We are such good friends and I love you so much”.

If you watch the vitriol spewed by natural birth advocates, you will see how they have been deceived by those in the movement. Nobody can say anything negative about the tenants of Natural Birth. They have lost all compassion for other women and the ordeals they endure. The mindset has pervaded the internet and message boards amongst the more outspoken women. They have their groups that support and feed them information. Sadly, even intelligent and educated women end up as a followers in this cult. It isn’t until something bad happens and you ask questions that you see the true colors shown.


Who is Mama Tao?

Taking the internet by storm sometime in March 2011 (though in one Facebook debacle, a hater claimed to have been reading her for years…), Mama Tao has been accused of stalking, hacking, trolling, lying, having a mental illness, and being fantastically hilarious. We here at 10centimeters wanted to know more about the woman (?) everyone is talking about, so we sat down for a little interview.


10centimeters: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Mama Tao: I am a 29-year-old, married mother of two. Working on number three. I have an AA degree and am one semester away from a BA in history with a concentration in Revolutionary War. I would like to go to law school when I am done. I am pretty crunchy– I cloth diaper, make my own baby food , baby wear, breastfeed and the like. I’m not a crazy bitch!


10centimeters: Was there something in particular that made you decide to say what so many people like us were thinking? Like an article or statement that offended you?

Mama Tao: There are two reasons I made the site. The first is a serious reaction of anger considering all that surrounds the natural parenting movement. The second is that I needed an outlet to release all that anger without becoming physically violent with people. I guess it was Liz Paperella’s story that made me angry to begin with. It might shock many people to know that I actually used to be a Natural Birth Advocate™ .  When I was reading Aquila’s story there were so many parallels to my own life. My daughter was born a few weeks before Aquila was. I could see myself and Liz on a similar path up until a certian point. We were both pregnant and expecting little girls. We had natural ideas about what birth was and how a woman was “made” to do it. And then the path diverged and we went in seperate directions; mine was a path of joy and hers was of loss. I look at my daughter now and see a playmate she will never meet–A baby that died for no real reason and cannot seem to find justice. Then there were the stories that followed, Mary Beth’s, Wren’s…the list goes on and on. And where was the anger? These babies were dead and all people could say was “babies die in hospitals too”?  So that’s where the anger comes from. The site was brought together when a few friends and I were discussing the abomination that is lotus birth. I began to wonder if certain people whould believe anything they read on the internet. For example, would someone consider eating a newborns first poop, just because someone on the internet suggested it? We wrote that article but we needed more to go with it, to make the site seem legit. Everyone started sending articles and it just took off from there. We have actually gotten some people with the mec post too. Ick!


10centimeters: Do you hate natural birth?

Mama Tao: No, not at all. I had two natural births. What I hate is people telling others that medicated birth is dangerous and that there are no risks to natural birth. There are risks– and there is nothing wrong with seeking pain relief. We live in a time where pain relief is very safe and effective. I don’t think I’d ever actually have an unmedicated birth again. There is no real reason to.


10centimeters: Please explain Tao’s …Law.

Mama Tao: Ah ha! Tao’s Law was invented in the comments section of The Skeptical OB. The idea is that there is no parody one can write that cannot be outdone in wackiness by the World Wide Web. Nothing is too gross or insane for some people to try.


10centimeters: What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever read online?

Mama Tao: Oy! I think the article that said you could change your blood type with raspberry leaf tea was pretty good. That is the same web site that proclamed you should ask your 34 week old baby if they are ready to be born instead of seeing a doctor…Eek! Always good times.


10centimeters: Why “Mama Tao”? Does it have any special meaning?

Mama Tao: When my son was learning to talk he used to call a “cow” a “Tao”. I always thought it was funny and seeing as how I was nursing when I started the blog I often called myself a Mama Cow–Thus, the Mama Tao roughly translates the the Mama Cow in baby talk


10centimeters: How many people read your site?

Mama Tao: I get anywhere from 400-1200 hits a day. It usually rounds off around 600 unless I piss someone off.


10centimeters: Do you get real hate mail? (if so…Are you willing to share it with us?)

Mama Tao: I don’t get as much as you would think. But I usually do share on my Facebook wall. I have been called everything from an idiot who should shut up to being told that my kids would have been better off aborted. All those comments are posted on the blog so have a gander if you like. I post all comments, unlike most crunchy forums. The way opposition disappears in their self-created worlds is astounding.


10centimeters: What do you have against placenta teddy bears?

Mama Tao: I don’t really have anything against placenta teddy bears, more so the idea that body parts are magical. I often wonder what people would have said if I had made a top for my kids out of my appendix or an earring out of my old mole. Seriously, WTF?