A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby brings us so much holiday joy: the introduction of a new fictional country called Penglia, Amber’s (Rose McIver) return to blogging, an ancient Christmas curse, and of course, a new royal baby (look out, Archie). And along with the members of the Penglian royal family, we’re introduced to a new character: Dr. Magoro (Madra Ihegborow) , Amber’s obstetrician. When we first see her, she praises Amber’s amniotic fluid levels as “superb” and advises her to embrace “rest and relaxation” during her pregnancy.
But then, thirty-nine minutes into the movie, Amber and her Christmas Prince (Ben Lamb, now a Christmas King) have a video call with Dr. Magoro that has some viewers scratching their heads. Dr. Magoro tells Amber, “Fear causes the body to tense up, and pain in childbirth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
When Amber asks, “So you’re saying no pain is really an option?” Dr. Magoro answers, “Language is powerful and we want to have a positive view of birth. For instance, instead of contractions, we’ll call them surges… During labor, every surge you feel is a wave of relaxation, pleasure, and love.”
Wait, what? So all those women who talk about begging for an epidural — they should have tried a thesaurus first?
Sure enough, when Amber goes into labor, two weeks early, she seems to experience little more than minor pain. I mean, she's able to solve a mystery about a missing treaty while going through contractions — sorry, surges. She straight-up turns down pain meds and squeezes stress balls instead.
In fact, she barely breaks a sweat throughout her entire labor. To be fair, she's a little distracted — Dr. Magoro’s car got stuck in a snowbank on the way to the castle, so the Queen of Penglia (Momo Yeung), who, we learn, used to volunteer at a maternity hospital, guides Amber through labor.
Yes, that's right: another queen is helping deliver her baby. The giant baby that's coming out of her vagina. And Amber is squeezing her stress balls like it's nothing.
Don't worry. Dr. Magoro makes it back in time for the actual birth, which happens offscreen. Cut back to Amber holding the royal baby, her makeup not even smudged. It seems even more unrealistic than Aldovia's dungeons — or Amber's blogging career.
Pain during childbirth is considered such a fact of life, that when I first saw the scene of Dr. Magoro saying otherwise, I nearly laughed out loud. Then I looked into the idea. Turns out, there are tons of people — some of them medically trained — who agree with her! Painless childbirth is A Thing. Sorry, Dr. M.
“I often tell my clients that while we're used to calling the feelings that we experience during childbirth ‘pain,’ but that's not how everyone describes them — some people even express enjoyment in them,” Cheyenne Varner, birth and postpartum doula and founder of The Educated Birth, tells Refinery29. “I also encourage them to think about how when we feel pain, it's often because something is broken or wrong, but the growing sensations of childbirth are not telling us something is wrong in our bodies. Instead, they're telling us that our body is working, the baby is getting closer to being born!”
She adds, “When laboring parents tell me, ‘It's getting more intense!’ part of my role is to encourage them so that any anxiety they might feel becomes excitement and motivation instead — and they can let go of tension. I remind them, ‘That's good! That means we're getting closer!’ and that if they continue to listen and move with their instincts, we can expect this progress to continue.”
Some proponents of natural childbirth methods including Lamaze, orgasmic childbirth, and hypnobirthing (which, like Meghan Markle, Amber expresses an interest in) argue that painless childbirth is possible. (To be fair, other champions of these techniques say they can help reduce pain, but may not eliminate it entirely.) These schools of thought are, of course, not without their critics. Others argue that pain during childbirth has more physical factors than psychological and that, as the Daily Telegraph health writer Kim Thomas put it, “If your baby is positioned awkwardly, no amount of positive thinking is going to stop it being painful.” (I know at least a few moms who would agree with that.)
The Mayo Clinic may put it best. In a guide to labor and delivery, Mayo Clinic staff advise, “No two labors are exactly alike — and no two [people] have the same degree of labor pain… Keep in mind that birth isn't a test of endurance. You won't have failed if you ask for pain relief.” Or stress balls.