Daily Archives: March 16, 2011

The Business of Being Born

(I’m feeling much better today. Thank you for all of your kind thoughts. I’m just trying to remind myself that I can’t put two days’ activities into one morning. I am still 34 weeks pregnant.)

The Business of Being Born is a documentary about midwives and home deliveries and basic labor and delivery practices in the United States. It is decidedly pro midwife assisted home birth, but was not as hippie/granola/crunchy whatever-you-want-to-call-it as I was expecting.

The primary thesis of the film is that women in  America have abdicated the birthing process and we need to begin re-informing ourselves. Presenting a study, both of the history of obstetrics and the current obstetrical practices and statistics interlaced with real stories of women choosing mid-wife assisted home delivery, it is much more entertaining and engaging than one would think.

I really appreciated the inclusion of several traditional obstetricians and with the exception of a brief montage about home deliveries specifically, the film presented the OBs in a positive light. I also appreciated that when one of the women went into labor 5 weeks early, with a baby in distress, the midwife made the call and took her to a hospital. They didn’t pretend that emergencies don’t happen, or act as if there is no place for surgical obstetrics.

I wish they would have spent a little more time on some of the history of obstetrics. While the anecdotal vignettes of women having healthy home deliveries were interesting and informative, they are, in the end, just anecdotal. There was a very brief segment about the campaign to discredit midwives in America in the early 1900’s in an effort to move more women into hospitals. I would have loved to have seen more than just a piece of a brochure on that. I was also surprised that while they mentioned the fact that cesarean sections account for 1 in 3 births in the United States (a STUNNING number) they did not mention the clearly connected fact that the US is the only nation in the world with a wide spread policy against VBACs despite the evidence that VBACs are less risky than repeated C-sections. I was surprised not to hear it mentioned at all.

I really wish I would have watched it between my mackerdoodle and my cheesedoodle. There was nothing in it that would have changed my terror of the unknown with the mackerdoodle, but there was a lot of information presented that would have changed the way I handled the cheesedoodle’s delivery, including, but not limited to, refusing a “convenience” induction (done for my doctor’s convenience, not mine.) The presented connection between unnecessary intervention and eventual fetal distress, or vacuum delivery makes a lot of sense and I will be discussing that with my doctor on Friday when I go in for my regular appointment.

In the end, while I found the film very informative, it made me *less* likely, not more, to consider a home birth. As I wrote in my earlier post about short hospital stays, I was never inclined to clean up both before and after a home birth, but after watching what a home birth looked like for these women, I completely shudder at the idea.

First, a great many of these women were completely naked. Why? I must admit that I’ve never considered being naked when delivering my babies, but I would also never consider having someone film the experience either. Secondly, most of these women spent a great deal of time wandering about their houses. In one scene, Ricky Lake is leaning on her kitchen counter as she goes through a contraction. I had two thoughts: “The last thing I want to look at when I’m having a contraction is my STOVE!” and “Really? Food is prepared in that room!” Another woman was walking past what looked like file boxes in a hallway, when she squatted, over a hastily laid towel, and delivered her baby. This is not the peaceful mother/child bonding that I would like to experience. I’m just saying.

In fact, this impacted me so much, that the evening I watched the movie, I dreamed that I was having the snickerdoodle in my basement, with my children wandering around, and I kept saying to this woman who was with me, “But I didn’t WANT a home delivery!” Jonathan kept asking me if I wouldn’t be more comfortable upstairs, and I kept saying, “I’m not leaving the concrete floor! It has a drain in it!”

While humorous, that gives the wrong impression of what these home births looked like. They weren’t, in the end, nearly as messy as I was expecting. They also aren’t for me. At all. Thankyouverymuch.

The documentary, on the other hand, I do recommend for pregnant women who would like to know where to begin asking questions. If you can get past the naked women (you notice I didn’t recommend it for men) the information is, at the least, an alternative point-of-view that can help you be as informed about your own birth experience as possible.

(I just streamed it on Netflix. No one asked me what I thought.)