I'm not sure anymore what this blog post - intended as my first - was originally meant to be about. Something to do with women and midwives needing to be brave or similar, I'm sure I'll get round to writing it eventually. The thing is, as I sat down at my computer, I got distracted by the fact that I couldn't think of a single catchy umbrella term for people like me who are 'into' pregnancy and birth. Like 'foodies' or 'twitchers', but to describe those of us who basically live for oxytocin.
'Birth enthusiasts' is already in circulation and a recognised genre (according to one online book store), but it's a bit dreary. When I typed 'birthophile' into Google, it autocorrected to 'burritophile', making me think it's not really a thing.
I then spent a considerable amount of time trying to invent a term myself. A quick look at some Collins 'birth' synonyms for inspiration threw up only: birthing, childbirth, delivery (something else altogether), accouchement (romantic but decidedly un-catchy), parturition (which reminds me of sheep) and nativity (nativists is, sadly, already a thing). 'Birthivists' is out there, but its meaning seems to be more political than the catch-all term I'm after.
An hour on, tiring of the ambitious task I'd set myself, I started cruising the entries for the 2016 International Association of Professional Birth Photographers Image of the Year competition. A brilliant decision that introduced me to some sensational shots of childbirth and, in particular, the work of globe-trotting doula Angela Gallo, who is at least 100% radical (if I have gained one thing from my ARM membership, it is the right to use the word 'radical' freely and with relish).
In Angela's blog on natural birth in the hospital setting, she writes, 'if you are a birth nerd like me...' And there it was, the term I'd been looking for: BIRTH NERD. It's even works as a hashtag.
Keen to explore just why this term was so pleasing, I did a bit more research into its meaning. 'Birth' we've already covered... but 'nerd'?
The first, kindly, definition of 'nerd' that I found on-line was, 'A single-minded expert in a particular technical field'. Single-minded? Maybe sometimes. And expert? I'd like to think so. A less generous definition, and one we might be reluctant to identify with, was this: 'A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious'. But, if we take a moment to think about it, proponents of natural birth are regularly subjected to ridicule and contempt. Even those of us who have a well-developed understanding of the benefits of timely medical intervention when it is needed. Think, for example, of Melissa Kite's delightful assertion, 'Natural birth enthusiasts need C-sectioning' (she blogs for the Daily Mail, I'll say no more). But do we really lack social skills? Anyone who's ever sat down to dinner with a bunch of would probably say so (we have absolutely no appreciation of when it's appropriate to talk about placentas). And are we boringly studious? Well, yes, because we have to be. We have to know our stuff if we are going to defend natural birth in a culture which is increasingly medicalised. We have to use science to convince people that we're not just a bunch of hippies, skipping around wooded glades, waiting for the woman spirit of the forest to come to deliver our babies. We - midwives, doulas, hypnobirthing teachers - have to be birth nerds if anyone is going to take us seriously.
So, Angela, thank you for introducing me to this delightful phrase. I now know that I am Julia: midwife, hypnobirthing teacher and #birthnerd. I shall be using the term liberally.