New birth trends come and go, from waterbirths and homebirths to vaginal seeding and delaying the baby’s bath. But a hot new trend for labor and delivery on our radar is sure to be controversial—and also to unite two powerful, opinionated groups of modern mamas: one one hand, working moms eager to take a page out of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer’s high-powered playbook—and on the other, the no-epidural-for-me “natural birth” crowd.
“Office births” involve a trained midwife, a doula who doubles as a company’s HR rep, and a conference room whose floor is covered with clean linens, soundproofed if possible, and outfitted with a few other key necessaries. Safely ensconced in this welcoming, fluorescent-lit space that’s always either a little bit too hot or too cold, the laboring mom can put her conference calls on mute and try to keep the screaming down, for sake of the company’s workflow.
Advocates say that office births keep the intrusive medical establishment out of women’s birthing plans, giving them maximum agency and fulfillment, while also allowing them to increase productivity and not let down their teams. During those early labor pangs, for instance, birthing women can distract themselves by filing reports or even typing memos, and when it gets too bad, there’s always the chance to do cat-cow poses under the conference table.
While thus engaged, the mom in question can really “Lean In” to her natural biorhythms, listen to her body and that seminar on avoiding sexual harassment, and keep climbing the corporate ladder all at once. If she needs to stare at an object to focus during pushing, there’s always that unclaimed coffee mug with a single pen in it to keep her in the zone.
And when the little bundle of joy arrives at last, the office will be there to celebrate with a big box of semi-stale Munchkins, a single bag of potato chips and some lukewarm sparkling apple juice. “OK everyone, back to work,” the Doula/HR person will soon say, as she begins to oversee the mopping up of bodily fluids.
After some office births, a nanny will be waiting in the lobby, so the mom doesn’t even have to miss a few hours of work.
“It sounds crazy, I know,” said Kathy Tal Ism, a self-described mompreneur, CEO and certified doula and lactation consultant, one of the leading proponents of the office birth movement via her company, Sassy Labor. “But let’s think about it rationally! Workplaces need to adjust to having mama bears in their ranks with pumping rooms and such, and mama bears need to give absolutely everything they attempt in life their 100% to be empowered, fully realized people.”
So that means no shortcuts, from giving birth, to breastfeeding, to negotiating for stock options once they reach that VP status. “Who has time to schlep to the hospital or haul ass into some kind of big tub? This way, it’s all efficient and most of all, empowering,” she says. “So empowering. It’s honestly the most feminist thing I can think of. I bet Gloria Steinem would love this.”
Ama May Nyack, a recent client of Sassy Labor, describes the moment her daughter was born while her life-partner rubbed her shoulders, and her firm partners—all 20 of them—held their semi-annual meeting in the next room, conferencing her in for key votes.
“One time it was so funny because they asked me if I said yes or no, and I screamed ‘NOOOOOOO!’ but I meant yes, of course,” she said. “It’s just that I was delirious with pain. And empowerment! So much empowerment!”
When pressed for more elaboration, Nyack explained that she was too busy Having It All to talk further, but told us we should definitely consider an office birth for our next baby, or three, “because otherwise, well I don’t want to be judgey or anything, but what kind of example are we setting for the next generation, right?”
Happy April Fool’s Day!