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Confession time: I’ve always been uncomfortable with my own vagina. The combination of society’s general squeamishness around vulvas and my own battle with vaginismus put me in a position where I never saw a vagina—even my own vagina—until well into my 20s.. The first time I took a hand mirror to my own lady bits, I felt this weird queasy sensation in the pit of my stomach. This general discomfort around vulvas never let up, even after I worked through my own pelvic pain issues and became sexually active.
As I grew older, my fears about sex dissipated and were replaced with a new, even more terrifying vagina-related fear: What was I going to do when I wanted to have children? As someone who has always had to take Xanax before my annual visit to the gyno, I couldn’t imagine myself going through nine months of unmedicated OBGYN visits, let alone the birth itself. I have always seen myself as having a family, but there has also always been this nagging voice in the back of my head saying I couldn’t do it. I was too scared. My vagina was too finicky, the ick-factor too strong. How could someone like me, with all my struggles and squeamishness, actually bring a human life into this world? But then I found the Instagram account @blissful.herbs, and everything changed.
So what is Blissful Herbs?
Blissful Herbs is a home birth account run by Julie Bell, a nurse, doula and herbalist, that shows exactly that: home births. And when I say it shows you home births, I mean it shows you home births, up close and personal. The account is full of close-up shots of vulvas, crowning heads and lots and lots of bodily fluids. The account features many different types of home births, water births and even shows babies being born breech or en caul (which is when a baby is born with the amniotic sac still intact). All the births featured on the account are healthy and successful.
And this is allowed on Instagram?
Surprisingly, yes! But not without a fight. As late as May of 2018, Bell had her account “permanently disabled” by Instagram for sharing what was, according to her, a “discreet breech birth” photo until a petition signed by over 23,000 users made Facebook change its policies and allow uncensored birth images on their platform. Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, this change meant Bell’s account could be reinstated, and the dawn of Blissful Herbs had begun. Since then, the account has become a mixture of ads for Bell’s herbal products, birthing stills, affirmations and, yes, home birth videos, in full uncensored glory.
Are these women safe?
Yes! The women in these videos are attended by trained midwives and doulas, all of whom are ready to respond to emergency situations should they arise.
Where else can I find these videos?
There is also a thriving community of home birth videos on YouTube that exist to help expectant mothers, particularly those looking for a home birth, prepare for what is to come. Most recently, Bekah Martinez of Bachelor fame released her own home birth video on YouTube, saying on Instagram that she “benefited greatly from watching natural birth vids” and wanted to “share [her] experience so hopefully other women will be encouraged and less fearful should they take a similar route.”
Why is this important?
For most American women and/or people with vaginas, our one and only opportunity to see an actual birth is in the context of a sex ed class, watching The Miracle of Life through your fingers while trying desperately not to make eye contact with any of the boys nearby. Many go into pregnancy with only anecdotal evidence about what’s going to happen during birth (“You’re gonna poop yourself!”) and having absolutely no visual knowledge of what is about to happen to our bodies. These accounts help expectant mothers and future mothers demystify the birth process and prepare themselves
Accidents aside, I’m still very far away from becoming a mother myself. I still have a few more things I’d like to do. A little bit of pre-motherhood life left to live and, to be honest, I’m not ready to give up wine. I have not yet decided whether or not I’ll actually go the home birth route when my time comes. I imagine that will be a decision I make on the advice of my doctor and doula (because I’m totally getting a doula), based on the circumstances of my own health and pregnancy. But there’s one thing I do know: I’m not going to be scared. Or at least, I’m not going to be too scared.