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A dolphin doula? Couple plans animal-assisted childbirth

The desire to have a magical birth experience is natural – and certainly trendy. But it's fair to say that when humans start having babies with wild animals (and not because they were trapped on an African safari or even, say, in a zoo), those pregnancy hormones may be muddling the mind of mom-to-be.

Yet apparently the latest wave of baby birthing mania is to welcome little junior into the world while swimming with the dolphins. According to The Charlotte Observer, a North Carolina couple, Adam and Heather Barrington, are planning to "bring their child into the world in a dolphin-assisted birth" in Hawaii.

"Dolphins are very intelligent and healing, which in turn calms mother and baby for the whole process," Heather Barrington told the Observer.

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Now, dolphins are indeed cute and clever. Swimming with them, under non-baby-delivering circumstances, is understandably a highlight. But as an article on the Discover magazine website details, they are also wild animals, prone to vicious predatory behaviour, including apparently gang rape. "Let's get real here," Christie Wilcox writes. "Dolphins don't eat sunshine and fart roses."

She goes on to point out that male dolphins partake in violent misogyny, kidnapping females, smacking them around and mounting them by force. They have also been know to be similarly aggressive with human beings. For all the stories about rescuing drowning swimmers, dolphins do have a dark side. How would one protect a human newborn and mother from a 400-pound sea creature, anyway?

Not only that, but our swimming with dolphin fetish is already affecting their behaviour patterns, with dolphins leaving traditional habitats for quieter areas that may not be optimal.

The Sirius Institute, which provides the service, reported "occurrences" when mother and baby were playing with a dolphin "45 minutes after birth." And another time, the site states, a free dolphin helped a baby human to the surface for his first breath. (Details on this "occurrence" are sketching.)

According to the Discover story, illusionists Penn and Teller got in touch with the institute, and no mothers have yet actually gone through with a dolphin-assisted birth. The Barringtons, presumably, mean to be the first.

Wilcox rightly called it "one of the worst natural birthing ideas anyone would ever had," which prompted a rebuttal from online reader. "Sharks," Liam Skoda pointed out, "would probably be slightly worse." Great. Now the idea's out there.

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More


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