More (Yes, More!) Business of Being Born
Back in 2008 when I was pregnant with Alec–37 weeks pregnant with Alec, that is–I attended a screening of Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s documentary, The Business of Being Born.
Like scores of other women, something inside of me was forever transformed after watching the film. I left the theatre feeling capable and strong in my body’s ability to give birth. I felt validated in the fact that my preferences mattered, that my voice and my choices deserved respect from the people around me.
This a true gift in a society and culture where birthing women all too often find themselves feeling robbed of their confidence and autonomy and respect. And it was a true gift to me, who had just switched care providers (yes, at nearly 37 weeks pregnant) and who would go on three weeks later to have not only an empowering VBAC but also my hospital’s first water birth.
You can imagine my excitement, then, when I learned that Abby and Ricki would be releasing yet another film–and, in fact, a whole set of films that expanded upon the work they did in The Business of Being Born.
You can imagine my even greater excitement when I was asked to review all four installments of the new films–More Business of Being Born–before their DVD release date tomorrow, November 8, 2011! (Make sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post to win a digital download for yourself!)
This time around, instead of releasing one film, Abby and Ricki created a set of four hour-long pieces:
- “Down on the Farm: Conversations with Legendary Midwife Ina May Gaskin”
- “Special Deliveries: Celebrity Mothers Talk Straight on Birth”
- “Explore Your Options: Doulas, Birth Centers, and C-sections”
- “The VBAC Dilemma: What Your Options Really Are”
As both Abby and Ricki mention in the introduction to each of these shorter films, they wanted to build upon the inspiring possibilities of The Business of Being Born and give women a wider set of educational tools to use during their pregnancies as they prepare for birth.
And while they see this as a distinction between between the two films, make no mistake: More Business of Being Born is still inspiring!
For instance, it’s one thing to read or hear a bland, expository account of the second stage of labor (that is, the “pushing stage”). It’s quite another to watch Ina May Gaskin as she and another midwife from The Farm share their stories and wisdom about birth, and particularly about pushing. They discuss physiologic pushing, the sensations of pushing, perineal protection, and crowning in a way that women can both learn from their conversation and walk away feeling more confident in their body’s ability to push out a baby.
And then there are the celebrity stories. Some people might wonder why anyone needs an entire DVD devoted to celebrity stories (and not “regular people” stories).
First, it’s important to note that throughout all of the DVDs in More Business of Being Born, there is a wide range of amazing, glorious, and honest birth stories from non-celebrity women: stories that make you laugh and cry and jump for joy (and, like seven-months-pregnant me, cry some more). But what I like about “Special Deliveries” is that it showed celebrity women being just as candid and real about their labors as any other woman would be.
For example, when Alanis Morissette says (with a wry smile on her face), “I was prepared as I could possibly be, and there was nothing that prepared me for it,” I was like, “YES!!!” Because it’s so important for women to hear others be open about just how humbling the birth experience can be: that it can be both beautiful and challenging.
What’s more, the other celebrity parents (Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington Burns, Kellie Martin, Melissa Joan Hart, Gisele Bündchen, Alyson Hannigan and her husband Alexis Denisof, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Laila Ali) are just as open and honest about their birth experiences. They talk about feelings of empowerment and the reservations they felt before giving birth. They talk about what scared them without making birth itself seem scary. And they share the many different ways in which they prepared for labor, made decisions, and ultimately gave birth.
(Cesarean mamas, look out in particular for one of the women featured in this film as she talks about her unexpected cesarean. What she says might ring true for many of you, and if you’re like me, you’ll shed tears right along right her.)
The third installment in More Business of Being Born, “Explore Your Options,” does exactly that: it gives women the tools and information they need to explore some of the birth options that are available to them and to make choices that reflect their own values and their own preferences for their babies’ births.
It shows doulas talking about what they do, and it shows doulas doing what they do. (Hint, hint: we’re not midwives! But we can make an extraordinary difference in a woman’s labor and birth.)
It describes the “middle ground” of out-of-hospital birth centers and explains why these locations might be great options for many women.
And lastly, it explores the alarming increase in the cesarean section rate, both in the United States (where the overall rate is currently 32.9%) and in Brazil (where the rate is a shocking 99% in some individual hospitals).
The final film in the series, “The VBAC Dilemma,” takes the perspectives of doctors, midwives, journalists, and, perhaps most importantly, women who chose VBAC (including Abby herself) and creates a sort of montage of views on the subject. In other words, there’s no voice-over declaring, “VBAC IS FOR EVERYONE! AND DAMN EVERYONE WHO DOESN’T THINK SO!“
But there is an underlying narrative that captures the following: The “VBAC dilemma” is complicated. Private and malpractice insurance companies make the issue even more complex (and frustrating). But perhaps even more troubling is that certain hospital, insurance, and individual care provider policies regarding VBAC are chipping away at women’s autonomy: at their ability to choose how they give birth after a previous cesarean. And it should be up to women to examine the risks and benefits of both VBAC and repeat cesarean and make the choice that is right for them.
And then there’s the video of the home water birth VBAC that had me literally sobbing tears of joy by the time the mother picked up her baby and brought her to her chest.
Just like the rest of More Business of Being Born, the film is the perfect blend of education and inspiration.
So here’s my final take: Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein don’t believe that every one of us should have a home birth. Lots of people (mistakenly) thought that this was the message of the first Business of Being Born, but this is not the message of the films.
Instead, the message is this:
Each woman has a fundamental right and ability to choose the type of birth that is right for her, and what is “right” will vary from woman to woman.
Women need honest, accurate information about birth in order to make the decisions that are right for them.
Birth is beautiful, and there is also beauty in the wisdom of women and of skilled care providers.
But more than that, birthing women are strong and capable and wise.
This is what childbirth education students need to hear. This is what doula clients need to hear.
In fact, this is what all pregnant women need to hear.
And these are the messages that any woman should be lucky enough to take with her as she goes to give birth, no matter where and with whom she does it.
Edit: The contest is now closed. Congratulations to Rebecca, whose comment #11 was selected at random using random.org!
Want to win a digital download of More Business of Being Born for yourself? Here’s how:
Let me know why you’re excited to see More Business of Being Born! That’s it!
You can enter up three times, once each in these three places:
1. In the comments section to this post
2. On my Facebook page
3. On Twitter, using the hashtag #MBOBB
Make sure to come back here and add a comment if you’ve entered the contest via Facebook and/or Twitter.
Contest ends one week from today, Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will pick one winner at random using random.org and will announce it the following day.
And if you can’t wait for the giveaway, go ahead and order More Business of Being Born (available TOMORROW, NOVEMBER 8, 2011) for yourself.
Note: The folks from The Business of Being Born did supply me with free digital downloads of MBOBB so that I could review the films. I received no other compensation for this review and giveaway.