On Easter weekend—a holiday rooted in symbolism for the goddess of fertility and birth—the now-famed giraffe named April, from Animal Adventure Park in New York, went into labor. The zoo began livestreaming her stall in February in anticipation of her upcoming labor, and April appropriately waited until the perfect weekend in April to welcome her mini-me.
You probably didn’t need that intro paragraph because it seems the entire nation has been on edge waiting on this baby giraffe’s arrival.
On Saturday morning, I gave my infant her Sophie The Giraffe Teether, and propped my phone up with the livestream on and watched as the number of viewers soared from 31K to 40K by the time my coffee was ready. The little baby hooves were poking out of April’s rear, and I found my attention kept turning to the live-comment thread where I kept drawing parallels from this microcosm of people to all of us mothers in regards to birth:
The Grandparents, Aunties, and Uncles: First of all, as a collective, it seemed almost all of us were excited that The Big Moment was here at last! It’s as if we were on the Family Group Text and we had gotten the message to start heading to the hospital! We grabbed our things (coffee cups) and headed out right away (clicked the Play button). We were not going to miss our little niece or nephew’s birth!
The Coaches: On the positive end of things, I loved how everyone was cheering her on with comments like “Puuuuush!!” “Breathe, April, Breeeeathe.” “Walk that baby out. Keep swaying your hips.” “Come on, baby girl, a few good pushes! Bare down.” People were hitting the “Angry” emoji/reaction button to symbolize pushing, which I found hilarious. I know when I was in labor, having my husband reminding me to slow my breath down was so important and helpful! Having a great Birth Partner is essential, and April had thousands upon thousands of doulas coaching her through this.
Honorary Doctors: There were a ton of people spreading misinformation as if they were authorities on the subject. This should come as no surprise, because every pregnant woman and new mother has met many of these people. Medical advice comes freely from any stranger and it is up to us to distinguish who has the authority to give us information and to research what we’ve been told before acting on it. April, if someone thinks a giraffe lays eggs or that a baby giraffe (calf) is called a “joey”, I hope you take their advice with a grain of salt.
Alarmists: There were plenty of people worried that something was wrong with April’s labor and demanding interference. “Someone needs to help her! She looks like she’s in pain!” “Why does it take so long? This can’t be normal. She needs help.” “That baby isn’t gonna be alive if they don’t get in there. It already looks lifeless sadly.” “Head should’ve been out already. It’s stuck. This is not good!” I found it incredibly sad how many people did not know that labor is a long and natural process—one that all of our female bodies is primed to do naturally. I saw people constantly urging for a vet to medically intervene. Some people thought someone needed to grab the calf’s legs and start pulling it out. …This mindset might be why the U.S.’s c-section and induction rate is so high compared to the rest of the world. Too many people think that birth is a medical problem that needs to be feared and solved, as opposed to a natural process that requires patience and trust.
The Conservative Parents: There surprisingly was a lot of people wanting to protect kids from seeing this birth. This alarmed me and then I understood why the above categories existed. If we don’t let children understand the process of birth, they grow up into adults who are fearful and ignorant about it.
The Educating Parents: To balance it out, there were plenty of parents talking about their kids watching, and playing with their “pregnant” farm animal toys. This was certainly a great educational experience not only for children but adults as well! I thought it was brilliant of Toys R’ Us to sponsor this event.
Natural Birth Lovers: I’ll admit, I am one of these people. And my heart was happy at the amount of heart-eye-emojis sprinkling the comment section as people saw parallels to their own natural births. I’ve never felt more “animal” than when I was giving birth, so it is easy to see how we all saw a piece of ourselves in April’s situation.
The Daddies: While April is focusing hard on contractions, there were tons of people concerned about the “poor daddy.” Daddy Giraffe was nervously pacing in the next stall and occasionally peering over at April with concerned eyes. I know many men watching this could relate. It’s probably nerve-wracking to see your spouse in such a state.
Impatient People: There’s nothing more frustrating than being 9 or 10 months pregnant and being constantly bombarded with questions like “Are you still pregnant?” or “Has that baby come yet?” Poor April had thousands of impatient people that felt she should be able to birth on demand for their convenience. We can relate, April, and we hold back our urge to punch them, too.
The Naming Game: Everyone and their brother was trying to name her. “Bunny” seemed to be the most popular suggestion. What is it with strangers trying to name your baby?? Every time a stranger struck up a conversation about my big belly, they gave their own name as a request for my child’s name. Seriously. Annoying. April, you and your partner (er, zookeeper) get to make that special decision.
The Comedians: I like these people. Pregnancy and labor are hard, and humor is often the best way to get through it. Some of my favorites were:
“April looks thirsty, someone get her some ice chips!”
“If only the “Circle Of Life” song was playing”
“I hear there’s another giraffe at the same stage of pregnancy named Gloria. I guess you could say they’re neck-and-neck”
“No need for a mirror when you have a long neck”
“Bet she can’t wait to have sushi once this pregnancy is over!”
“Some of you people really need to start watching Animal Planet or something.”
“62K predators watching”
The Birth Photographers: “Turn around April, we wanna see your baby’s entrance into this world.” The zoo, the livestream, all of us–we were all the photographer/videographer in this situation. Every single moment of April’s beautiful birth was captured and shared for all to see!
Just before 10 a.m. EST, at around 67K viewers, April gave her final pushes and her baby dropped to the sandy floor (a natural process to “cut the cord” and knock the excess fluid from the calf’s lungs), and a gush of fabulous fluid followed. My jaw hung open, as did thousands of others, and we collectively said “WOW” and gave our Congratulations to the new mother! What a beautiful thing to witness! And what a beautiful thing technology can be, to allow such a rare viewing to be experienced–to educate and to unify.
Well done, April! We are all proud family members! Happy Easter!