The Bear’s childbirth episode should be celebrated for finally getting TV birth right - an expert shares her take on the 'normalised' birth

The standard for future TV births has been set

Abby Elliott as Natalie in The Bear
(Image credit: FX on Hulu/Courtesy Everett Collection/Alamy)

The Bear handled Natalie "Sugar" Berzatto's birth episode in the way it takes on all themes - visceral and so real. An expert shares her take on this particular depiction of childbirth on TV.

The Bear season two2 doesn't seem like it aired that long ago, and the frenetic, smash-hit series is already back to have us glued to our screens and shouting "yes chef" along with the team. Amid family trauma and messy relationships, season two came to a close with Pete speaking excitedly to Carmy and Natalie's chaotic mother Donna (an outstanding Jamie Lee Curtis), about the baby he and Natalie are having. Showing the devastating extent of their fractured relationship, Donna doesn't know her daughter is pregnant, despite the birth being imminent.

Cut to season three, and Natalie's birth episode arrives - and it depicts the fear, isolation and pain of childbirth, existing alongside utter mundane normalities of the process. If anyone was going to write a childbirth episode and nail it, it's The Bear. The Ice Chips episode was written by the series showrunner Joanna Calo, herself a mother-of-two. 

Joanna has spoken openly about working alongside motherhood, and found out she was pregnant with her second child while working on the show. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times about juggling both, Calo said "All of a sudden, the game had completely changed. I was navigating being a first-time parent, but I had absolutely no intention of giving up the dream. So I just kept going."

She adds "In the end, I’ve had to push myself to the absolute maximum; I want to be fully immersed in the show and also give myself to the job of being a mother. It’s been … hard." The difficulty, the frustration, and life not turning out to be a Hollywood dream, is reflected in Natalie giving birth. 

"Natalie's birth episode arrives - and it depicts the fear, isolation and pain of childbirth, existing alongside utter mundane normalities of the process."

She had written a birth plan and didn't want an epidural, yet struggles on in pain and just needs to know when her ordeal will be over - a question nobody can answer because it can't be answered definitively. There's a heightened sense of desperation while Natalie makes the realisation her body is carrying out a complicated and incredible process by itself. She reacts instinctively to the out-of-body experience of labour in an animalistic way - the same way that shocks a person finding themselves realising the strange 'mooing' noises of birth are coming from their own mouth.

Although writing your own birth plan and hoping for a natural birth free of pain is the ideal sold to many women - it's not the reality. Birth is hard and difficult, and rapid fire decisions are being constantly made through the process that make it far too unpredictable to plan - a person who gets their planned birth is unusual. What you're likely to get, is Natalie's birth. This offers validation for any woman feeling like they've 'failed' for not having met the high natural birth expectations placed on them by society.

At the other end of the scale, TV births can be horrifying and overly dramatised. Natalie's sits somewhere in between the ideal and the off-the-scale horror, to offer honest expectations of a new life exiting your body. 

To get an expert opinion of the episode, we spoke to midwife Megan Rossiter. In an ideal world, Megan says Natalie wouldn't be attached to a beeping machine and more explanation would've been given to informed consent for examinations and drugs offered. However, she agrees that the episode normalises these things. 

"What you're likely to get, is Natalie's birth, offering validation for any woman feeling like they've 'failed' for not having met the high natural birth expectations placed on them by society."

Megan shares "Whilst laying in a hospital bed, attached to a beeping machine might still be at odds with supporting the kind of birth Natalie describes she is hoping for, there are useful takeaway from the episode. What we see here is a mother advocating for herself. 'I want to be able to move around and change positions, 'dim the lights', 'play music; not things we're used to seeing in most TV shows. 

"Our subconscious mind is taking in information all the time, and it's often not until we see someone doing things differently, that we even realise it's possible for ourselves. A lot of what happens is 'normalised' birth and definitely a step away from the dramatic, bloody birthing scenes we are used to seeing on TV."

While Natalie is forced to endure her labour with mother Donna as a birthing partner - she was the only one who picked up the phone when the contractions started - Megan says that if the pair weren't working through their relationship issues (and Donna's evident narcissism), the benefits of physical and emotional support would ordinarily be huge. 

She continues "'It's really up to you, it's your body', is a statement from a doctor that we so rarely hear in TVs or films, but the total truth about everything that happens to you in pregnancy and childbirth. It's something that so few people realise, but the most important takeaway of all, that has the potential to completely transform the way you feel about your birth experience. When you feel in control and supported in your decisions, it changes everything.

Though the most valuable takeaway is simply how 'uneventful' the episode is. Normal, boring childbirth. There's an expectation that there's always a lot 'to see' in birth, when in reality, it's quite boring! Knowing this helps alleviate a lot of the nervous anticipation we have about giving birth, it's not always the dramatic, emergency situation that tends to make great TV." 

For more on birth, the recent Traumatic Birth Inquiry found huge numbers of negative experiences reported by women, just as the Green Party released a harmful proposed birth policy. We also share how to ask for an elective c-section if that's the birth you'd like.

Midwife Megan Rossiter
Megan Rossiter

Megan is a midwife and founder of Birth-Ed. She also has a diploma in hypnobirthing and has supported thousands of women both in and outside of the maternity system.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.