High hopes for The Business of Being Born

Cross-posted at BlogHer: BlogHers Act.

It’s just over a month now until the release of The Business of Being Born to DVD a la Netflix* on Feb. 12, and I, for one, am counting the days. There are 36.

As a self-confessed “birth junkie,” I’ve been excited about this movie since I first learned about it back in May of 2007.

For anyone unfamiliar with the premise of the film and how it came about, here’s a little background. Actor Ricki Lake had two very different birth experiences (one in the hospital and one at home), and over the past several years considered becoming a midwife to help make a difference. However, after learning about the years of schooling and training involved, she felt that she could bring about more change by using her time, celebrity status (and her money) to make a documentary about birth. Lake recruited filmmaker Abby Epstein for the project.

The Business of Being Born explores the business aspect of birth and the way that American women have babies. The film includes a history of obstetrics, the history and function of midwives, footage of several natural births (including Ricki Lake’s home birth), interviews with people “on the street,” doctors, as well as birth advocates like Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, and Robbie Davis-Floyd, and more.

The film is about empowering women to know what their choices are when it comes to birth. As Ricki said in her interview with The Huffington Post, “I hope this film educates people and empowers them to really know their choices in childbirth. We do not want to make any woman feel bad about the outcome of her birth, or the choices she made (or will make).”

It is my hope that because this movie has the potential to appeal to all women and anyone who is concerned with women’s rights, it will reach the masses, not just the midwives and birth activists out there. I believe that having a choice when it comes to birth is a woman’s right. It is also a woman’s right to know what her options are, as well as have access to all of the information about what is healthiest for her AND for her baby.

While the media would often have us believe otherwise, birth is a normal, natural process, and in most cases women require minimal assistance and no intervention to give birth to a healthy baby. Of course there is always the exception, but I believe birth should be treated as normal until proven otherwise, not as a potential emergency waiting to happen.

While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the film even though it’s been shown a handful of times around me locally (always at my kids’ bedtime it seems), I have been enjoying reading reviews and observing the different perspectives the reviewers have based on their personal (and professional) backgrounds. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what they wish was or was not included in the film, but the overall consensus is that this is a wonderful film.

The Navelgazing Midwife had a unique perspective on the movie since she’s been a midwife for the past 15 years and a doula for 23 years and thus is much more observant of the intricacies of birth than a lay person may be. I enjoyed her “insider’s” point of view and critique. Despite disagreeing with some aspects of the film, overall, she was very pleased and concluded that “she (Ricki Lake) did a beautiful job and I am proud to call her our own. She knows her stuff.”

Another midwife, newer to the profession, from Belly Tales wrote “overall I thought the film was truly amazing; it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions. Rather than being far out on the left fringe as I had feared, I was actually blown away by how mainstream and accessible it was. It begins with the assumption that the audience knows absolutely nothing about birth and the business of birth in this country, and then moves on from there, using a simple and easy-to-understand, yet powerful and engrossing format and narrative.”

Tanya Lieberman, host of the Motherwear blog, Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and breastfeeding advocate, came away from the film believing change in the current birth system is definitely needed and said, “the only people who can change this trend is us.” She makes the point that to bring about change we need to vote with our feet, which is why she believes it’s so important that the masses see this movie – to realize that they have choices.

Despite the fact that I’ve read several articles and reviews about the film and consider myself fairly well-versed in the history of obstetrics and midwifery, I am still so excited to see it, especially for the beautiful footage of normal birth. I watched a lot of birth videos in preparation for my son’s home birth and got emotional just about every time a baby was born. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of my time watching The Business of Being Born with a tissue in hand as well.

Birth is such an amazing, beautiful, raw and emotional event, and I truly hope that this movie will be seen not only by the “birth junkies” such as myself out there, but by the mainstream population – the couple who is newly expecting, the woman who is dissatisfied with a previous birth experience, the medical community, and anyone who is interested in learning about birth – as well. I think it has the potential to bring about change for the better. Change, that I believe, is so desperately needed.

Rest assured I will be writing about this film again once I’ve had the pleasure of viewing it. And I will add my own review, as a woman and birth junkie who has experienced both a hospital birth and a home birth, to the list. Until then, the countdown continues…

*While the film is not going to be released on DVD until Feb. 12, you may add it to your Netflix queue at any time.

17 thoughts on “High hopes for The Business of Being Born”

  1. I am with you, I can’t wait to see this film! I missed the one shown in my city. I am just thrilled that the word is getting out that birth is normal and homebirth is a good option!!!

  2. I have never heard the phrase “birth junkie” before but I have always shocked people when I’ve told them how much I had loved giving birth. Partly (only partly) had my second child so I could get to do it again. I’m very excited to see this film, except that I cry every time I see a birth – even in a sitcom! Thanks for talking about this – I had no idea… will look forward to seeing the film. Happy New Year..

  3. It has been shown here locally, too…but again, at kids’ bedtimes. The milk bar can’t be out at bedtime 🙂

    I added it to my Netflix queue several weeks ago! I can’t wait!

  4. The film showed here in Wichita a few weeks ago, and it was absolutely, positively amazing. I can’t wait to see it again…and again…and again. I think I’ll have to get my own copy. 🙂

  5. I can’t wait for you to see it and hear your opinions. I really thought it was well done and balanced. I loved their explanation of why epidurals increase c-sect rates. I’m going to put it on our DVD list so that I can see it again.

  6. I had not yet heard about this, but I am very interested to see it. I worked in OB for several years, and will be very interested to see the way things are portrayed. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. I am so glad you wrote about this movie – I hadn’t heard of it. Before getting pregnant, I always thought that I would want an epidural because, why feel pain if you don’t have to? After getting pregnant I started doing a lot of research and ended up giving birth w/a midwife, in a hospital, totally drug-free. It was truly my proudest moment and so empowering. If more women knew what their options were and the reality of natural childbirth, perhaps more would be willing to do it.

  8. This is very exciting!
    As a midwife in Australia, I am VERY interested in how obstetrics and midwifery works in different countries.
    Also a strong believer in natural, normal birth.

    Thank you for this. I hope it is made available here.

  9. I had two very different birth experiences as well. The first was in a hospital, I was ignorant about everything, and it was awful. The second was also in a hospital, but I did it naturally with a doula and it was much better. If I have another baby, I would like to try a homebirth. I feel blessed to have been much better informed my second time around. Movies like these are so important to helping to educate women about natural childbirth, especially since hospitals do such a poor job in that area. I can’t wait to see the film.

    BTW, congrats on the new writing gig with BlogHer. That’s great!

  10. Thanks for the heads up. This film has been on my radar for quite awhile now, and I am very excited that I will not have to wait much longer to see it. I added it to my Netflix queue before I even finished reading your post. Thanks again!

  11. Sounds like such an interesting movie!

    As someone who gave birth in a hospital with an epidural, but had an amazing experience, I’ll be interested to see what information is portrayed. I think (of course) that it is vital that future parents have all the information out there, but I also think that there are several wonderful ways to give birth. You just have to be empowered and knowledgeable about what options there are, and make the best choice for yourself.

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