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Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Thoughts on The Business of Being Born Documentary by Ricki Lake

This is a letter I wrote my friend who missed the movie:

The documentary successfully conveys the theme, "You're going to be transformed by your birth like it or not; it might as well change you for the good."

I didn't count, but I guess about 30 or more women and two men came to the viewing on Sunday. About 2/3's I knew.The documentary showed excellent coverage of a few natural births purposely filmed for this project including Ricki Lake's birth, a midwife's reflection on her own birth, and others. These births with low profile midwives in attendance really emphasized the ecstasy and joy a mother feels after an unmedicated birth and connecting with the new baby. And it showed previously recorded segments of clips of Marsden Wagner, Ina May, Michael Odent, Robbie Davis-Floyd, and more all speaking on the problems with birth in American hospitals. It showed clippings and photos of the history of hospital birth: stirrups, scopolamine affect, tying women down to keep them in control. Showed segments of residents on rounds (which could have been in any hospital I've been in residency) totally clueless how to meet the needs of their laboring women. It was quick and fast moving, emotional and funny.

The Filmer, Abby Epstein, was pregnant during the making of this documentary. She was under an OB's care, until the 35 week check-up when she told him she was going with the homebirth midwife. On this day it shows Ricki Lake commenting on her small gravid abdomen. The very next day she went in to labor with a breech. The midwife transferred to the hospital and her OB did a C. The audience seem to conclude that sometimes "you need a hospital." Abby herself said, something like everything was wrong, preterm labor, breech, cord around the neck, IUGR-- the typical things a women says after a C. One of the reasons I took advantage of the second showing is that I wanted to follow the dialogue of her pregnancy better. It was apparent to me after a second viewing that chronic maternal malnourishment was the problem(not a last minute freak accident) and it was passed onto the baby and the birth outcome. Necessarily and sadly it showed the disruption in bonding and breastfeeding of this birth. I also saw a different attitude with Abby at the beginning than the other women, "this movie one of Ricki's crazy ideas." I don't think at first she fully appreciated what "Birth" means. I think she does now, but I don't think she did when she was pregnant. Not unlike most American women. Kudos to her for being brave to show all this in her movie.

I don't know if everyone noticed, but I noticed that the starring midwife did not wear gloves at the births (some water, some squatting). I am not sure what most Americans would think viewing this or would they even observe this detail. Other midwifes wore gloves, though. An out-of-town midwife at the second showing I went to, pointed out that this would probably be something the midwife and couple would have to discuss before hand.

Two women in the movie were squatting/standing when they delivered their baby. It reminded me of you standing/breastfeeding and holding newborn Tobias. Definitely not what you see everyday. Two women, one in water and one of these women squatting were so internally focused (and not screaming) when the midwife asked the moms to reach down for their baby and pull him to their chest, I don't think the women even realized the baby came out. Beautiful births! All these ecstatic outcomes brought me back to my emotions with Scott and David being brought to my chest.

The first audience had women who wanted to be there, some NEEDED to be there. A tissue box was passed around the room. It was nice to be in a group with so many pregnant wanting this info and babies being held in slings and laps and not in containers. Tammy Osborne, me, and an Acupuncturist were the "panel." Most questions were directed towards Tammy. She did a great job answering questions. I really enjoyed the discussion I had at last nights showing. It was a quiet and intimate group and I knew I had questions on my mind I wanted to ask about. The out-of-town midwife had a lot of insight to my probing.

I almost feel envious of the women who are pregnant who will have such a wonderful experience in the near future.


Courtney said...

Thanks for sharing. I heard about this movie and was interested in seeing it.

Baby Keeper said...

Great blog. I am looking forward to your book coming out.

I posted an entry about your blog and your upcoming book on my blog, (It started out to counter one against homebirth; hence, the name).

Do you know about the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH). and the founders hometown group of birth professionals,

Looking forward to your book.

Baby Keeper/janel

Catalina said...

Yeah, I'll have to watch the movie. Just reading this though makes me realize each time my first birth. I can't wait until my next so I can experience what I really want from birth. That natural birth with tummy time and nursing right after ... it's like a dream :D

Permission to Mother said...

Janel, Thank you for your comment and the links to my blog and breech story. Your blog looks like it would be informative to my readers. The other websites look great also. I haven't been on them, at least not recently.

I am also familiar with the "birthdebate" blog you mention in the welcome post of your blog. Like you, I prefer to dialogue and support (not debate).

Anonymous said...

I thought Abby was malnourished too...her belly was just SO small. And I did pick up on the attitude of "one of Ricki's weird ideas" as well.

That said...the inclusion of her birth did show how seemlessly a transfer can be handled, even with a "high risk" situation.

KMDuff said...

Makes me more interested in seeing the film! :)

Gloria J. Lemay said...

More than no gloves, I was alarmed at how dirty the midwife's car was and how bizarre her hair seemed to be. It made it difficult for me to even hear what was being said in the movie. When the whole homebirth movement is being judged on film, you'd think it would be so simple to do a few cleaning/grooming efforts so that more people would be open to the message.
I really like your blog. Do you know about Sarah Buckley,M.D. from Australia who also had a home breech birth herself? I think you two should be friends.

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