Every now and then I come across a documentary that changes my perspective about the entire topic. The Business of Being Born is no exception; I can’t picture my views of the birth experience to ever be the same after getting to watch this documentary.
Presented by Abby Epstein and produced by Ricki Lake The Business of Being Born came out in early 2008, but I didn’t first hear about it until this year. I curled up to watch it earlier last month not knowing what to expect other than a fellow instagram-er mom credited it for giving her the courage to have the water birth that she dreamed of. I’ve since watched it a second time with Landon, and could watch it over and over again.
Abby starts in her Director’s Statement, “When my friend Ricki Lake approached me about making this film, I admitted to her that I was afraid to even witness a woman giving birth, let alone film one. I had never pronounced the word “midwifery” and I thought Ricki insane, as she planned the birth of her second child, for passing up an epidural in a hospital delivery.” In 2001, Ricki Lake, (famous for being an actress in movies slightly before my time,) gave birth to her second child through a home water birth with the assistance of a midwife. She made the choice for a home birth after she experienced unwanted medical interventions while delivering her first child.
Together, along with NYC Midwife Cara Mulhann and others, the documentary was created. Feel free to check out the trailer HERE and the check back to see some of my favorite topics and quotes from the film below.
Though many topics were covered, these were the ones that stood out and meant the most to me: the decision of choosing a midwife over an OB, and ways society has changed how it portrays midwives over the past 200 years; rising C-Section rates and why they are a concern to all, the way that medical intervention affect labor and your birth experience, thoughts about the typical birthing process in a hospital, and the power of the natural hormone Oxtyoin — and how the synthetic version Pitocin effects the bond between mothers and babe.
Obstetricians vs Midwives
“An obstetrician is a trained surgeon, and usually very very good at what he or she does.” Carolyn Havens Neimann, Certified Nurse Midwife.
“They should be doing what they love (childbirth surgery) all day, every day, when needed. They should not be attending normal births.” adds Elan Vital McAllister, president of New York’s Choices In Childbirth.
“I always think that midwives do a better job at the normal deliveries than we do. For a normal, low-risk woman, it’s overkill going to a doctor, it’s almost too much. The doctor is not really excited about things when they’re normal.” Dr. Jacques Moritz of New York City’s St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital.
— Why this is important to me? Because as a pregnant mother with a vision of how I’d like my birth to go I have a decision to make: to see a midwife or an OB. As someone who is against bringing my little into the world through surgery with every ounce of my being, the reminder that Obstetricians are trained surgeons is incredibly helpful. I want to find someone who will side with me and be against the idea of c-section until all possibilities are exhausted.
C-Section Rates :
“Caesarean section rates are high and continue to rise in developed countries. However, the impact of guidelines and recommendations in curbing their growth has been limited: in 1985, representatives of a study group convened by the World Health Organization wrote, “there is no justification for any region to have caesarean section rates higher than 10–15%.” Although levels of 10–15% were considered high but acceptable at the time, average caesarean rates in most developed regions (with the exception of eastern Europe) now exceed 20%; the recommendation thus appears to have been largely overtaken by events.” World Health Organization, 2010, entire article found HERE
“The procedure increased 60% from 1996 to 2009. In 2010, the Cesarean delivery rate was 32.8% of all births.”
— Why is this important to me? First, because this is becoming a global issue. Second, because statistically I have a 1 in 3 chance of going under the knife at the conclusion of this pregnancy. And I am so not ok with that statistic.
Intervention During Birth
This clip is a must watch. I can picture mothers heads nodding around the country watching this piece.
“In the hospital you’re not allowed to have very long labors. So if you’re not dilating rapidly, which you’re likely not to do if you get an epidural early in labor, you will be given Pitocin. They’ll put the pitocin in the IV it will flow into your veins. Pitocin makes contractions longer and stronger and closer together. So then the pain of labor is much worse. So you go with that for awhile because you have the epidural, but eventually the pain of the contractions is overwhelming the epidural and you need to up the epidural, and then labor slows down more because of that, so you need more Pitocin. And you’re not feeling the pain of the extra Pitocin because you have the epidural but your baby is getting compressed blood and oxygen supply because pitocin contractions last so long and are so strong the blood and oxygen flow to the baby is compromised. So then the baby is likely to go into distress and then you’re set off for an emergency cesarean for a baby in distress from contractions induced by the Pitocin which was necessitated by the epidural.”
“Step by step one intervention leads to a series of interventions. And the net result is the mother finally ends up with a cesarean and everybody says “thank God we were able to do all of those interventions to save your baby!” The fact of the matter is that if they didn’t start the cascade of interventions, none of that would have been necessary.”
— Why this is important to me. Because I’ve started paying closer attention to women’s birth stories, whether other moms online or friends or family members. And I wait to hear this routine go down: of Pitocin and the epidural, the distress on the baby, and the eventually, the C-Section. This reminds me that when there are consequences for every other decision that we make in life, that I can’t expect drugs in the hospital to not too, also have consequences.
A Perspective of the Hospital Birthing Experience
“Hospitals are a business. They want those beds filled and emptied. They don’t want women hanging around the labor room.” Patricia Burkhardt, Clinical Associate Professor, NYU Midwifery Program
“They’ve told women, “Come to us. We’ll take care of everybody’s birth, it doesn’t matter what kind of birth you want, we’re open to anything.” Then you get there and you realize the hospital system is really set up one way, to handle one kind of birth. And you get put through that system and it‟s a fight to get out of it.” Tina Cassidy, journalist and author
“That’s one of the great manipulative techniques that are used when a mothers starts to question, “Wait, why do we need to do this? Is there something else that we can do?” The first thing you turn to is, “Oh, it’s for the good of the baby.” Whether or not it is, you’ll do anything. Because if you go on to question it, then you’re a bad mom. Who’s going to do that?” Elan Vital McAllistar, President: Choices in Childbirth
“You get a one-sided story and it’s very easy to convince a woman to have this procedure or that procedure especially because there’s a great power disparity. So if you’re in labor, and the doctor says, “Wow I think we need to do x.” You’re going to say yeah, we better do x. The doctor may think he’s offering you an option, but you hear the expert advising you to do something.” Susan Hodges, President: Citizens of Midwifery
— Why this is important to me. Because women in birth need to be empowered to continue to do their best to have the birth of their dreams. We need to know that there is a difference between a suggestion and an informed decision that the doctor feels absolutely needs to happen. This knowledge frees me to questions suggestions that don’t sit well with me.
Oxytocin, The Bonding Hormone
“Until recently love was a topic for poets, novelists, philosophers. Today it is studied by multiple scientific perspectives. With mamma in general, there is immediately after birth a short period of time which will never happen again and which is critical in mother/baby attachment. Until recently, in order to give birth, women like all mammals, is supposed to release a complex cocktail of love hormones. As soon as the baby is born, when mother and baby are together, both of them are under the effect of a sort-of morphine, of opiates, natural morphine endorphins. We know the properties that creates a state of dependency. Addiction. When mother and baby are close to each other, it is the beginning of an attachment.
But today, most women have babies without releasing this flow of hormones. I’ll just give an example of animal experience. In general, if you disturb the hormonal balance of a female giving birth, it’s simple, the mother does not take care of her baby. If monkeys give birth by caesarean section the mother is not interested in her baby. So you wonder, but what about our civilization, what about the future of humanity? If most women have babies without releasing this complex cocktail of love hormones, can we survive without love?” Michel Odent, MD, read more HERE
— Why this is important to me. This is one of the segments and new pieces of information that stood out the most to me, because it rang true with my experience. My attachment with Paityn wasn’t what I expected it to be. I took care of her every need, and the overwhelming love for her eventually came. But why would I would I put myself through that experience again knowing that my body already has what it needs to propel labor forward and to bond with my child from the start?
Lovely Things Said About the Birthing and Motherhood Experience.
“A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” Anna Verwaal, Doula
“A woman doesn’t really need to be rescued. It’s not the place for a knight in shining armor. It’s the place for her to face her darkest moment and lay claim to her victory, so that she can lay claim to her victory after she’s done it.” Cara Muhlhahn, Certified Nurse Midwife
One last point that stood out to me from the Business of Being Born was the idea that as consumers we research so many decisions and purchases in our lives : cameras, cars and everything in between.
But how much effort do we put into researching motherhood, parenthood and the birthing experience? New parents need to know that they have options, and to make the decision that they feel is best for them.
This documentary was biased, no doubt. But I needed that. Because my entire perception of birth up til the point of watching the film was also biased. Society tends to portray one type of birth, and it is usually traumatic, rushed, and the women isn’t in control. Thank goodness for beautiful birth videos on YouTube and others speaking up that there’s another way.