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.)

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About Coralie

After 11 years of infertility, I am now a mother to three, a wife of a Presbyterian (ARP) preacher and a struggling homemaker. Welcome to my little corner of the net. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join the conversation. View all posts by Coralie

3 responses to “The Business of Being Born

  • Lollie

    I’ve never seen it, sounds interesting. I think anything that makes us ask more questions and take a stronger role in the decision making of what happens to our bodies, is a good thing. I’m with you on a home birth, not my thing. But I do like my births to be MINE, I decide, I get to see all the options and well “I” as in ‘Josh and I” get to decide. Of course with prayer and God’s leading too.
    With my first baby my doctor was from England. He said in England all the babies are delivered by Midwives, doctors only come in for emergencies.
    After my first I became I high-risk (PPH) so I was always with my OBGYN. She was always great to try whatever I wanted to. She is a Midwife at heart I believe, she is so great. With the girls I had read about how our bodies will do all the work in contractions and we don’t need to push. She was not convinced but gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. So when it was time to push and I was only “blowing into my virtual balloon” and the nurse gets in my face and yells “You need to bare down now!” My OB calmly backs her up and says “We’re not doing that, she’s doing this her way” And she was very supportive and helpful. It wasn’t until she realized I was about to deliver a transverse baby that she became very hands on, and it turned out to be a really good thing that I wasn’t pushing!! We got through it and NO STITCHES!! She comes to me after and says “I don’t deliver transverse babies.” I said “But you just did” she “They are usually emergency C-Sections. ”
    Sorry I kinda rambled at you! LOL!
    Praying for you and your delivery!

  • suzanne

    I think I should delete my blog post about this movie and just put in the URL for this blog post instead. You really are a very good writer 🙂 (And aren’t you *glad* it wasn’t as granola/hippie/crunchy as you were expecting? I was thinking that through the whole movie…I love it when I put up my mental defenses against something and then find they weren’t necessary.)

  • AJU5's Mom

    I haven’t watched the film, but I would be surprised about the lack of talk on VBACs, since that is really what gets some moms thinking about birth options.
    Home births aren’t for us. First, I would hate to have to deal with the mess. Second, with my sisters’ deliveries there were issues that needed a hospital, so I didn’t want to risk it. Both deliveries I have had have needed help too – and I don’t think it is anything that could have been prevented. AJU5 wasn’t positioned vertically (but wasn’t breach), so she never dropped even after being fully dilated and pushing. AJU6 had the cord wrapped tightly around his neck which caused distress with each push (they used the vacuum to hold him in position between pushed because otherwise the cord made him go back up). I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with this at home…

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