Guest Writers

A Gift That Changed My Life: The Business of Being Born

2 Comments 07 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Melody Aylestock

I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine.

I used to think that women who wanted to give birth naturally were crazy.

And as for women who actually wanted to have a homebirth? ON PURPOSE?! They were INSANE. I just didn’t get why anyone would WANT that.

And then I watched The Business of Being Born. And it rocked my world.

Our first born son, Davis, who had been born in the hospital, was about 15 months old at this time, and we were newly pregnant with our 2nd (and planning on delivering at the hospital again).

The term “home birth” was still a foreign concept to me. I just assumed it meant you didn’t make it to the hospital on time! I had heard of a few friends who had delivered at home with a midwife, but I had never thought twice about it and honestly wasn’t even remotely interested in the prospect.

Full disclosure: I am a wimp when it comes to physical pain.

Plus it seemed too “unsafe.” I liked knowing that a hospital is prepared for all emergency procedures, were something to come up. My husband mentioned that there was a new movie from Ricky Lake on Netflix about home birth that we should watch, and I thought “sure!” After all, I loved watching TLC’s “a baby story” and other shows where babies were born in hospitals.

After watching this beautiful film, I was totally transfixed.

It was TOTALLY different from “a baby story.” These were women who were not screaming – not hooked up to iv’s and oxygen or laying on their backs with their legs in stirrups – women who weren’t being rushed down to have an emergency c-section. These were women who had chosen to labor in their own homes and dance, sway, move however they wanted to – so that they could feel EVERYTHING – and give birth totally naturally. They made it look FUN!

My eyes were opened to something I never knew I had wanted so badly.

I hadn’t really done any research when automatically signing up for a hospital birth the first time.

Our research was basically: “okay, we have these 2 hospitals to choose from. Which place is better to have a baby?”

In The Business of Being Born, it is stated that people will put more energy in researching what new camera or tv to buy before weighing their options about giving birth!

Isn’t that bizarre? It’s really our American culture. We watch shows like “a baby story,” or see screaming laboring women in movies, and grow up assuming that childbirth is a traumatic, scary, painful event that must take place in the hospital. We assume that as women, our bodies are “lemons,” and are unable to properly deliver a baby on their own. We think that we must have medical intervention to help us through this “illness.”

Thankfully my husband and I did not have a “traumatic” experience at the hospital with our first born’s birth, but I did feel very much “out of control” and rushed.

Since my body wasn’t progressing “quickly enough,” the doctors and nurses were telling me what I needed – for the “sake of my baby” – a double dose of pitocin, (the drug from you-know-where) nubain, epidural, vacuum extractor leading to tearing…UGH. And since I didn’t know the difference – and didn’t want to be a “bad mother” by refusing drugs that would “help” my baby, I just agreed do whatever they suggested. Plus, while being hooked up to the i.v. and fetal monitor, I was very limited in what I could do as far as moving around.

They had said in the hospital “birthing class” that I would be able to walk around, but really they made me lay in the bed for all 18 hours.

I would say I had to go to the bathroom, just to be able to actually sit up! Of course, no food or water (which I don’t understand why…because labor is the hardest work you ever do!) and with all of the conflicting drugs (which really do act against eachother), poor davis’ heartrate began to slow down, and I had to use an oxygen mask. No fun. Thank the LORD, he was born healthy and I did not have a cesarean section.

After watching “The Business of Being Born,” I began to wonder if birthing at home was something I could do!

It took us about 4 months to make the decision – and now that I look back on how long it took for me to decide this I just have to laugh. I was so insecure – unsure of myself and what I was capable of.

I am one of those people that once I make a decision, I am ALL in. So I began pouring over countless midwifery/home birth books, (especially Ina May Gaskin – I mean seriously. The woman is a rockstar!)

An interesting point she makes is that as women, we are uniquely designed so that our emotions are deeply tied into how our labor and delivery are. If we are strapped down to a hospital bed, in an unfamiliar room with doctors and nurses we don’t know coming in and out of the room, our bodies naturally take longer to labor and dilate. It is much like the concept if someone tells you to stand in front of a group of people and just pee on the spot…your body tends to freeze up!

However, when a woman is able to labor on her own non-rushed terms, in a comfortable, nurturing environment, surrounded by people who are lovingly supporting her decision (and not trying to convince her of drugs she “needs”, but instead allowing her to walk/squat/eat/lay in a warm tub of water, doing whatever she feels is right for her body), the experience is totally different.

My friends who have delivered both in a hospital and then at home or birthing center with a midwife all told me the same thing: the difference is night and day. They would do it again any day.

It’s really funny when I think about it…

Before Davis was born, I had such a totally different view of giving birth. I really didn’t understand why people would want to refuse drugs. I thought it was a “feminist machoism”type thing. I said that the only reason I would ever refuse pain drugs is if 1. labor was totally painless, or 2. I was trying to prove something to somebody. Isn’ it funny how people change?!

My mentality changed so drastically once I took ownership of my pregnancy and birth.

What once was a half hour wait at the OBGYN Dr’s office to only see the doctor for 5 minutes – who merely listened for the heartbeat, took my weight measurement and asked if I had any questions turned to hour long chats in my living room with our midwife (who I seriously feel like is my aunt or sister- I love her!!!).

She would talk about my nutrition, how I was
feeling, how my stress levels were. She would let my toddler listen to his baby brother’s hearbeat on the doppler and explain to him how the baby in mommy’s belly was growing. How deeply I cherish those sweet memories.

I occasionally would have moments of doubt – and she would affirm me by saying, “Melody – your body was made to do this. You CAN do this. You’re doing a great job.”

I remember at our first “meeting” when she came to our home, she said “I remember this house! I delivered a baby here about ten years ago!” It made me feel like we were living in a hallowed house. A baby had been born in this house once before. And it was about to happen again.

At other times, when people would ask me things like: “Wait – you’re having your baby at home? On purpose?!”

Or “You are crazy. Isn’t that unsafe?” And so the occasional nagging doubts would start to creep in but I would speak truth to myself. I KNEW I could do this. I WANTED this. This is how God designed my body to work.

And then I found the Bring Birth Home community. And Kaitlin Rose and all the thousands of like-minded mamas in this loving community would affirm eachother and write of their beautiful births. And I knew I wasn’t alone.

Plus – we knew that we weren’t going to act foolishly were any emergencies to come up. We knew that our midwife was beyond competent and highly trained to intervene if we needed help. We had asked her so many questions before making the decision (which is what I highly recommend any woman to do when interviewing midwives)

People ask me if I regret having given birth in the hospital with Davis.

Honestly, I don’t.

I am beyond thankful that he was born healthy and without complications, but were I not to have had that experience, I don’t believe I would have been as passionate as I was about wanting to have a homebirth the 2nd time around. I would probably be more scared and insecure of my decision.

I think it’s awesome for women who don’t have the hospital experience and know they want homebirth from the very beginning. I had just never known of what my options were the first time. And I can’t live in regret – but i can be thankful that The Business of Being Born made me aware of the choices I have – and that birth can be a beautiful and empowering and HEALING experience.

And let me just tell you about my homebirth. It WAS healing. EMPOWERING. Beautiful. Peaceful. Relaxing! PERFECT. Intimate. EUPHORIC. Life-changing.

You can read the full story here : Caedmon’s home birth story.

I will also use this post as a shameless plug for hypnobabies. I used this program to learn how to relax and enjoy labor (and it totally worked.)

 

I never even realized how strong I was…how incredible I was, (not to sound arrogant – but you homebirth mamas know what I’m saying, right?) how awesomely designed my body was…until I gave birth the second time. What I had once not been able to feel, (due to meds and epidural in the hospital) I was now able to feel, because I WANTED to.

And I wasn’t scared. I was on cloud 9.

I gave birth in a tub of warm water in our bedroom.

Right at the foot of our bed.

And even now 15 months later, sometimes in the middle of the night I will hold my baby boy right in that exact spot he was born and I will close my eyes and breath in his warm milky breath and nibble on his chubby earlobe and press my nose to his forehead and remember at the peak of labor when I felt him moving down – and knowing that MY BODY was doing it.

No one was making me push when I wasn’t ready to. My body naturally pushed when I had a contraction.

It was so peaceful. No one was yelling “PUSH! 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. COME ON! PUSH!!!” My husband was rubbing my shoulders – my doula was giving me the best back massage of my life – my midwife kept saying “you are doing GREAT. Your body is doing exactly what it needs to do.” And I relive that exact moment when my midwife said “reach down and feel your babies’ head!”

I just felt so powerful and primal and deeply connected with the millions of women in the earth’s history who had ever done this before. It’s one of those indescribable moments where you just KNOW you are ALIVE.

And it was such a necessary journey for me to become the woman I am today.

{Please understand: I totally get it that homebirth is not for everyone. I have several friends who have had high-risk pregnancies or medical conditions that won’t allow them to have a natural birth, and I totally understand and respect that. Please know that I am not judging them, nor do I think any less of them. This was just a decision that was very right for us. My goal is not to make any woman who has no desire to have a natural birth feel any less of a woman. I just want you to know that I used to be totally skeptical, and am now so very thankful that we were able to have this experience.}

I love the moment I became a mother for the first time.

Yes, it was in the hospital. Yes, it was with medicine. But that moment changed my life.

And I love that moment I gave birth at home.

It was a re-birth for me. It changed who I was. It grew a confidence in me that to this day helps me out in everyday life. When I am going through stressful times or having a terrible day – all of a sudden I have a flashback of my husband whispering in my ear “you’re doing it! you’re doing great!” And I think “yes, I can do this. I can do anything. I gave birth. I GAVE BIRTH.”

And I promise I am not an
emotional person.

I’m just not. But every so often, I remember that perfect moment when my midwife helped lift my sweet baby Cædmon out of the water and place him on my chest – and I still get tears in my eyes as I relive -in the exact spot- that night that healed me and changed me and gave me the confidence and strength I never knew I possessed.

I know that The Business of Being Born is what opened my eyes to what I could do.

What we as women can do. Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” The Business of Being Born did that for me. It gave me hope that birth could be beautiful. And it is.

So thank you to Ricky Lake and Abby Epstein, for opening my eyes and helping me see what new dimensions I would have more than likely missed out on had I not seen your beautiful film. I absolutely can hardly wait to give birth again.

Your documentary was a gift that changed my life. And I am so glad you gave.

Melody blogs at “Ramblings of a Lovesick Mommy,” where she likes to record all of the adventures she has with her little family (which includes her husband and 2 sons, dog, 14 hens, and whatever lizards or frogs her toddler wants to catch that day). Her 2nd son was born at home, and the BBH community played a very encouraging role throughout her pregnancy.

Guest Writers

The Business of Being Born Opens Doors

3 Comments 06 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Kate Jaggard Tyo

The fact that I didn’t consider birth a “women’s issue” before seeing The Business of Being Born is a bit startling to me when I look back on it.

But the truth is, despite being a mini feminist growing up and always having been fascinated by pregnancy and babies, I clearly remember saying at age 20 that when I had kids I wanted the epidural in the parking lot.

Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about. All I was really thinking at that point was Pain = Bad, Epidural = No Pain, No Epidural = Pain, and so Kate + Pregnant = Epidural. I did not do well in my university logic class, by the way.

About a year before I saw BOBB, a seemingly insignificant comment made a huge impact on me.

In my biology lab we watched the NOVA birth video and I saw for the first time a baby actually being born. What is usually depicted in the media is not this, but instead a woman birthing a baby. Think Rachel on Friends, or Kirstie Alley in those ridiculous baby movies. The faces they make, the screams they emit, this is the focus of the media’s portrayal. In my science class, however, I saw a baby emerge from a vagina and it was awesome.

In talking about the film afterwards my lab instructor stated that she was a “doula” (huh?) and then went on to say, nonchalantly, that “women have no idea what their bodies can do.”

I hated biology and everything else about that biology class but I could not stop thinking about that comment.

I couldn’t stand to think that we, an entire gender, had somehow been tricked into thinking something lame about our bodies when what we should be thinking is something awesome. And so those words stuck with me, percolating a nice big pot of interest in the back of my mind.

It was a year or so later when I got to see a showing of BOBB at midwifery convention in my city.

I was absolutely dumbstruck at the state of maternity care in my country.

I was appalled at the history of obstetrics and the persecution of midwives and the oppression of women. I was horrified at the reasons given for emergency cesareans and the misinformation given to women by their caregivers. I could not believe that the cascade of interventions existed and that the medical community did not seemed fazed by it but instead seemed driven by it.

That same evening we had dinner with two different couples, both of the guys surgeons. I asked them about the sky-high cesarean rates which they confirmed, although not with the horror I was expecting.

I was also enthralled by my education of what a doula really is and does, which was fleshed out for me in this film. My passion was ignited and I knew that somehow I needed to be involved in birth experiences and supporting other women.

When my husband and I moved to Sweden for his work, I decided it was time to pursue a doula certification.

I really internalized what I was studying and soon was pregnant myself.

My doula studies took a backseat for a while as I attended to my own pregnancy dreams, the top of which quickly became to have a homebirth.  Had I not seen BOBB I don’t think I ever would have considered homebirth.

But it showed me these absolutely beautiful families birthing so calmly while explaining why that was important. The juxtaposition to hospital protocol and what struck me as a completely impersonal experience made it a no-brainer for me.

I had to have a homebirth.

At this point BOBB became my tool.

I had seen this film with my husband and I’m sure we watched it together again as we explored homebirth.

When I talked with friends, some of whom were also pregnant, I’d invite them to watch it with me. When I talked to my mother, at home thousands of miles away from her baby, I sensed her apprehension when I uttered “homebirth” (though she was far too polite to say anything direct) and so on a visit home I watched it with both of my parents.

My mom, a former RN who to that point had only experienced the medical model of birth both in her work and twice herself, was pretty much an instant convert.

And most importantly, as I contemplated our plans for our baby and tried to really iron out all it was that I was wanting, I would watch BOBB over again and let the tears fall down my cheeks as I was deeply saddened by what has become the typical American birth experience as well as being deeply moved by what is still possible.

While I love that BOBB opened the homebirth door to me, what is more generally valuable is that it shows women that there is more than one option for them.

There are women who will never feel safe outside a hospital environment, and women who would never consider a midwife-attended birth.  There are women who, like the younger me, sign up for the epidural before signing up to be a mother, and there are women that will want a scheduled cesarean the first time and every time. If that is truly a choice then that’s awesome; be empowered to have the birth you want.

But to have those be defaults because your caregiver doesn’t tell you about an option that he or she isn’t supportive of, or your girlfriend’s birth went horribly so you assume yours will too, or because the only impression of birth you have is that which our culture presents to us, is not to have an empowered experience.

I have heard people say that BOBB is one-sided.

Well, freak yeah, it’s one-sided. It’s a documentary and generally that’s what those films do: speak the story of a previously unheard voice. I am so glad that I saw this one-sided film and was able use it to balance out the loads of other one-sided messages about birth that I had gathered in my birth bonnet over my short lifetime.

In my continued reading and research after seeing this film, what I dishearteningly discovered is that for a lot of women it takes a traumatic birth experience to result in an empowering one.

If nothing else, I hope the the existence of BOBB leads to millions of women feeling truly empowered in the birth experiences they have, as I did in mine.

Kate Jaggard Tyo lives in Chicagoland and is a wife, mama, and doula, currently planning her second homebirth for early next year. She blogs (though not so recently) at Kate is Fun and is a passionate lover of good food. That noise you heard? It was a foodgasm.

Guest Writers

A Cause Close to My Heart

1 Comment 05 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Pascale

I saw The Business of Being Born while living abroad in Sweden.

Our home is Montreal, Canada.

We had moved overseas a few months earlier for my husband’s work, with our 2 kids (my husband and I originally met in Africa and in the last 12 years we have moved 10 times!).

We were planning to have another baby and I was happy to be in a country where unless you had medical issues it was the norm to give birth with a midwife.

There I wasn’t an extraterrestrial because I thought that being hooked up while laboring on your back with your legs up in the air was weird and abnormal! But even in Scandinavia I sometimes couldn’t believe how misinformed some people were about natural birth and even though I am known for being opinionated I often found myself unable to justify my choices…

The Business of Being Born changed everything.

For  the first time I heard my voice! When people in the documentary spoke, it seemed like their words where coming from my heart! I will always remember the women who was making a metaphor between giving birth and climbing a wall. She said how once you climb that wall you feel like now no wall would be tall enough to come between you and your dreams. I cried. That is exactly how I felt since birthing my babies.

Before seeing BOBB I was already a believer in natural birth.

I thought there was something wrong with the way most babies in North America are being welcomed into the world.

That’s why my own kids where welcomed by their mommy, their daddy and midwives, first in an hospital and then the other two at home. I was a believer but was unable to translate my experience into words. The documentary changed that for me, for it gave me the strength to spread my beliefs so clearly

Giving birth to my first was a revelation!

Why is it that no one, not even other women, told me how strong I was!? Birthing made me an activist! I needed to tell future mothers they could do this, pregnancy was not a disease, that they have the strength and medication was not the only option!

BOBB gave me credibility!

I could tell people: See? Listen! Someone did their homework, and they are numberous! Giving birth at home is not irresponsible, and I am a good mom because I followed my heart!!!

I will be forever grateful for that movie.

There is something wonderful about pioneers! And since home birth was almost eradicated from “developed” countries, the Business of Being Born, and us home birthers…we are pioneers!


Pascale is a sweet soul, wife, mother of three, and birth activist living in Montreal, Canada.

Guest Writers

A Film That Touches Lives

1 Comment 04 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Jessica English

A few months after I first saw The Business of Being Born, a midwife at a local hospital asked me if I’d be willing to help spread the word about a screening on their campus.

Yes, yes, yes!

I was thrilled to help, and so impressed that a hospital-based midwifery group was going out on a limb to show a film that was not so friendly to the hospital model – all in the name of getting our community talking about birth.

The lead-up to the screening revealed some internal hospital politics.

A beautiful poster was vetoed by the PR department at the last possible second and replaced with a much less eye-catching, photocopied design. I was invited to participate in the Q&A panel afterward, then the invitation was rescinded when it was decided that the panel should include hospital staff only.

Still…a local hospital was showing The Business of Being Born!

I was just so thrilled that our community would not only have a public screening but that it was being sponsored by one of our local hospitals. A hospital. A-MA-ZING.

About 100 people attended that night, and the Q&A afterward went well. It was a lovely piece of an ever-deepening conversation about birth in our community. I was, and am so grateful to Ricki and Abby for this film – an eye-opener and a conversation starter.

Today, many students come to my natural childbirth class already having seen The Business of Being Born.

A doula client’s husband won my heart recently when he told me in all sincerity and awe that there was this really great film called The Business of Being Born, and I really should check it out.

I have worked with a number of women who were planning a very traditional, medical route for their births… until someone suggested they watch this film. In some cases, their plans swung ‘round 180 degrees.

A small percentage of my students and clients choose to birth at home, and their extended families don’t always understand that choice.

In several instances, watching The Business of Being Born together has helped a family reach a mutual understanding, with respect for the new mother’s decision, if not total peace or acceptance (although occasionally that too). What a gift for these families.

All that said, I’m not an unquestioning adoring fan.

There are things that I don’t love about The Business of Being Born.

I’ve come to peace with the ending, but still feel it might have been pieced together a bit differently so as not to leave folks hanging with quite so much drama (as dramatic as the real-life situation of a hospital transfer must have been). After a movie so filled with peace and calm, I would have liked to have seen the film come full circle back to those images at the end.

Perhaps more importantly, if I could change anything I would refocus the movie to contrast “the medical model” and “the midwifery model,” rather than so much focus on “hospital” vs. “home.”

This is the complaint I hear most often from students and clients, too — that the film is so anti-hospital and they are just not comfortable making the leap to home birth. Although you can’t have a home birth in the hospital, I also know that with the right provider many women can certainly have beautiful, natural hospital births. I see them all the time! I am still waiting for the film that tells that story.

By and large, though, I am so incredibly grateful for The Business of Being Born.

I have seen it touch lives in a way no other media resource has been able to do.

In our global quest to change birth, I feel we are each called upon to use our talents and strengths to help make a difference.

Thank you, Ricki and Abby for using your amazing filmmaking talents to help create real and lasting change. At just under four years old, The Business of Being born is clearly a permanent classic. Bring on More Business of Being Born!


Jessica English is a mother of two boys, writer and owner of Birth Kalamazoo. Her group offers birth and postpartum doula services, natural childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and in-home lactation consulting, along with free monthly Birth Matters meetings and other community classes and events. You can learn more at Birth Kalamazoo’s website, Facebook page or blog.

Guest Writers

Illustrating the Need For Change

1 Comment 03 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Lesley Everest

More Business of Being Born, four more films by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, is about to be released on November 8th. I wanted to take a minute to reflect upon how Business of Being Born has impacted my work as a doula.

While I was in the middle of watching the original Business of Being Born at a screening here in Montreal, I was called out to a birth.

It was a first time mom, who had begun having contractions at about 37 weeks gestation. Right from the get go, things were speeding along, so I had to leave during the scene where the Woodstock hippies are dancing around.

I was disappointed that I had to leave what was going to be a great night complete with a long awaited birth movie and a panel discussion, but hey, a baby was on the way. The knowledge that I was going to see a new being into the world quickly soothed my disappointment. I arrived at the hospital and Baby Danica was born smoothly and naturally very soon afterwards to her lioness of a mom.

A friend of mine had bought a dvd of BOBB, so I had the opportunity to catch up on what I had missed.

BOBB has impacted my work significantly.

As a birth doula, my concern is with contributing to the necessary healing of our birth culture, which, in my humble opinion, is extremely challenged.

Natural birth is seen as radical, and even crazy to the average person. More and more healthy babies are being delivered of healthy mothers via major abdominal surgery, grossly overreaching the 15% Caesarean rate the WHO recommends. The epidural rate for first time mothers in many Montreal hospitals is 98%. The vast majority of women receive some kind of hormonal stimulation to increase the “efficacy” of their contractions. Woman are delivering in positions that are antithetical to the natural mechanics of their birthing bodies.

The way labouring mothers are engaged with intellectually, the room often filled with idle chatter or conversations which should be taken outside, when what they need is support for their primal brains to come to the forefront, impinges upon the natural flow of oxytocin, thus impacting a birth experience for the negative much of the time.

Birth is essentially contained within an environment which places far more trust in the technology and medications than in the process itself.

Ultimately, though, what frightens me the most is how the average woman views even the idea of normal birth as something actually unnatural, really having no idea of what the physical/emotional/and psychological benefits of normal birth are. When normal, physiological birth is held in contempt even by the women themselves, it is clear we have lost our way.

Business of Being Born serves as a critical and necessary change agent, illuminating the problems with modern North American birth practices.

It teaches us how despite our oodles of technological obstetric know how, medications, and hospital beds, our birth outcomes are inferior to countries such as Holland and Norway which use midwives to support normal birth, and obstetricians mostly for treating pathologies in birth.

The film shows evidence of the iatrogenic problems that can arise in birth when there is simply too much medical interference with a process that goes normally the vast majority of the time. We also get a necessary wake-up call by witnessing American women being interviewed at random in New York City, being asked if they’d ever have a midwife.

Not only do most say “no”, but many look startled and begin extolling the virtues of planned Caesareans because they eliminate the big messy unpredictability of childbirth.

I know many women AND obstetricians who watched this film with eyes wide open, the glimmering of an understanding of how essential change is if we want to protect the act of straight up, garden variety, un-medicated vaginal birth from becoming obsolete. Because honestly, in North America, we are almost there.

Not only does Business of Being Born depict the problems and illustrate the need for change, narrated by midwives AND obstetricians, it also lets us know how deeply moving, empowering, and incredible natural birth can be.

Yeah, it hurts. Fair enough. But how that wonderful dance of hormones and baby love transforms women into powerful mothers when the journey is over is at the heart of this film.

What I found most important about Business of Being Born was that it isn’t just a film which preaches to the choir. Sure, every “birthie” in town saw it, but so did many pregnant women and mothers who were not yet “converted” to regarding the possibility of natural birth as a desired thing. This film reached out to everyone, and many heard the message loud and clear.

Personally, my clientele increased because more women were now savvy of what to expect for hospital birth and wanted to come in with a presence who supported their desires for their experience, as well as honoured the safety net obstetrics and hospitals are seen to provide.

BOBB emphasises how critical the support of a doula is for birthing, especially in hospital birth. The presence of a doula helps to increase one’s chances of a more positive birth experience. Many of my initial contacts from my clients begin with their saying, “I watched this film called Business of Being Born, and I need your help to give birth within the hospital system”.

One of the greatest gifts of this film, I felt, was the sharing of the personal birth stories of the creators, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein.

Ricki Lake is a well-known public figure. She’s been in films and had her own talk show.

She discussed the birth of her first child, which was a hospital birth and not something she felt went the way she wanted. So she chose to have her second baby at home with a midwife. She honestly describes the struggle and pain of her natural birth, and her desire to quit a few times, as most of us do in labour, yet keeps on going with the encouragement of her partner and midwife. Ricki generously shares with us the image of her naked self in the bathtub of her home, birthing her baby, as something natural, beautiful, and absolutely triumphant, as an experience that helped her reclaim the power she felt she didn’t have during her first birth.

Hers is a story of healing and inspiration. Using her inspiration and her status as a public figure to illuminate the challenges of our birth culture, giving us a glimpse of how amazing birth can be by showing us her own story, has inspired thousands upon thousands of women to examine their own desires for their births. I wanted to stand up and applaud that someone whom, as a celebrity, celebrities being mostly viewed at the “too posh to push” types, was willing to share something so intimate for the purpose of illumination.

Abby’s birth story happens near the end of BOBB.

She goes into premature, very fast active labour with a breech baby. We follow her from her home where her midwife lets her know it’s time to get to the hospital, to the lobby of her apartment where she is on her knees of the floor vocalizing with her friend Ricki doula-ing her, to the cab in which her waters break. She makes it to the hospital in time to have the Caesarean she and her obstetrician have agreed upon, and delivers a baby who is very underweight and with major breastfeeding challenges who has to spend time in the NICU.

While she is sad that her experience was not the birth she was hoping for, this part of the film does clearly embrace the fact that problems DO occur in labour, and that our safety net of hospitals and obstetricians are clearly a good thing that we can celebrate, even as we move as a culture towards the idea of exploring more natural options for birth.

Business of Being Born presents two distinctly different worlds: midwife attended natural births, mostly at home, and highly medicated hospital births with obstetricians.

One of the criticisms of the film I encountered was that it gave Medicine a bad rap.

Some of my doctor and nurse friends felt hurt. While they know there definitely major problems with the hospital system, their intent is never to do “bad” to mothers. As a developed nation, we do have the luxury of embracing home birth as a great option because of the safety net obstetrics provides if complications occur. They felt there was a suggestion in the film that midwife attended home birth is mostly good, and OB attended hospital birth is mostly bad. I would like to see a world in which both choices can be consistently fantastic and meet every mother’s personal needs/desires.

As a doula, my challenge is to strike a balance between the two worlds and embrace the possibilities in both.

While I do get to work with midwives outside of the hospital, the vast majority of my clients are hospital-birthers. Many of these women wish to have, or must have due to health risks or lack of midwifery resources, their babies in the hospital. There are no pools to birth in, no opportunities to birth on the floor or a bathtub or by the side of the bed, and a lot of interruption from strangers. My goal is to bridge this gap, to facilitate the best, most natural birth process we can within this challenging hospital environment. A lot of the time, while women still receive the benefits of my tlc, they don’t have the birth they wanted because they simply didn’t have the control over the environment they wished to. I can do my best, but it takes two to tango.

For the best hospital birth possible, medical caregivers need to be on board and respectful of the mother’s wishes.

There must be more openness to the mother’s desire for more control over her environment, such as remaining quiet and observant whenever possible, following the mother instead of insisting she do what is easiest for the caregiver, and encouraging un-medicated birth if the mother wishes as well as unrestricted bonding with the newborn. The wonderful thing is that an openness is just beginning within the hospital system, as evidenced by many of the happy births I have been witnessing of late.

This is the exciting thing: several doctors I work with have seen BOBB as well.

While it is never easy and can make one initially feel prickly to be lumped into the collective “problem” and negatively scrutinized when all you’re trying to do is your work of keeping everyone safe and actually doing some great life-saving work, I have certainly seen the acknowledgement of the need for change, and some changes in action.

I have seen a general shift of more consciousness towards protecting the experiences of the family, more openness to women birthing naturally and in different positions, and more compassionate treatment.

Many of the physicians I work with agree that the medical system is extremely challenged. While they are going to continue doing what they do, there are more who are trying to do it in a way that honours the importance of the experience of birth, not only focusing on a good clinical outcome. Obviously, as a mainly hospital birth doula, this shift in consciousness impacts my life immensely for the positive. While challenges are still rampant and there is much work to be done, I do feel the tides turning slowly.

In my lifetime, I doubt I will see a mass exodus from the hospital back to a homebirth majority.

But hopefully I will see an environment where women can have what they feel is the best of both worlds: mostly un-interfered with, undirected births, but with quick access to the medicine and technology they want close by. If Dr. Michel Odent could create this environment within his clinic in France and enjoy both fabulous clinical outcomes and triumphant new families, maybe, just maybe, we can dream this hope into reality in North America for those who want and/or need a hospital birth.

I am myself a home-birther. This is where I feel safest and most confident. I am an avid supporter of the midwifery model of care, and hope there will soon be enough midwives in and out of hospital births to meet women’s demands for them.

But most women don’t feel this way in North America. These ladies who prefer the hospital make up the majority of the beloved clients I provide support for. For the sense of security they get from being in the hospital, which is essential to their personal sense of safety, it is my wish they should never have to pay the exorbitant physical and emotional price of having their decent birth experiences potentially put at risk with an often overuse of medical interventions without proper informed consent, an impersonal environment, and caregivers who are sometimes unaware of good birth etiquette. So instead of dividing the two worlds, for the sake of most women and not just the ones who are on either end of the majority, I strive to work on healing the divide so that everyone can have the best chance at a beautiful birth.

It is my greatest hope that this impetus towards a healing of our birth culture continues.

The more awareness we bring to issues in and potential of birth, the greater the healing will be. I offer many thanks to all the creators and participants of Business of Being Born for having generated this necessary awareness on a huge scale, and am very much looking forward to More Business of Being Born to keep the momentum going.

Lesley Everest is a wife and mother of 4 living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. “I support women in birth and mothering, as well as those who love them and those who provide their primary care. I advocate for babies. My path is to contribute to the healing of our wounded Birth Culture, one mother, father, and baby at a time.”
Find out more about Lesley at MotherWit Doula Care and her blog, MotherWit Doula

Guest Writers

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3 Comments 02 November 2011

This post is part of a week long series leading up to the release of More Business of Being Born on November 8th. Come back to the Bring Birth Home blog daily to read the personal stories of seven women as they share “How The Business of Being Born Impacted My Life.”

by Tiffany Gray

Let’s begin here with a small bird’s eye view into me:

I am your average 30-something
suburban mama who is trying to leave
an impression on this earth by raising three unique young souls who will grow to have a grand & great appetite for all things good in life.

I have experienced three different types of birth; one which was induced with many unnecessary interventions, one with slight interventions, and one all-natural empowering birth.

Let it be known that I felt satisfied, honored, and elated at the birth of each of my children.

I feel blessed to have embraced both ends of the spectrum as each birth graciously gifted me with something different that has been vital in my course I like to call: Magical Motherhood.

Lastly, I am not anti-OB, anti-hospital, anti-pitocin, anti-cesarean, anti-cervidil, anti-episiotomy, anti-forceps, anti-induction as there can be a place and purpose for everything. I am advocate for natural birth because I am passionate about the health and happiness of mothers and their innocent babies.

Most importantly, I am an birth activist of TRUTH because I know it really will set you free.

The documentary, The Business of Being Born, opened my eyes wide to birth being a women’s right issue; as something that needed to be protected and fought for.

I have always considered myself a bit of a feminist; I like the notion of raising my daughters to believe in their female power and capability.

This film brought to life that women all across this country are being told a series of destructive, appalling lies. They are being told that they do not innately know how to birth. They need help, they need assistance, they need drugs, they need constant monitoring, they need interventions, they need forceful direction – and the truth is – they need none of it.

Birth belongs to women and not to their birth attendant; we should be the only ones who “deliver” our offspring.

We now know that interfering and meddling with the birth process increases risks regardless of where the birth takes place. I want women to unite together and fight to preserve the sacred rite of passage called: BIRTH.

Innocent babies are being robbed of a peaceful environment in which to enter the world. The media sends us messages that birth is scary; it is something to be greatly feared and all that matters is that baby comes out pink, crying, and “healthy”.

We no longer care about the basic needs of a woman in labor but instead we are consumed with doctors’ schedules, timed performance, quick outcomes, and particular protocol. Women have fallen to prey to believing that they are not capable enough to birth when this is what our bodies were meant to do. They have been severely bullied and manipulated.

We were perfectly created to grow, carry, and birth our children.

It is an amazing honor; a huge responsibility and something that defines us as females.

As women, we have the privilege of being able to give life; there is nothing more powerful and prevailing than that.

The Business of Being Born taught me that the staggering cesarean rate of 1 in 3 is more than just a disgraceful statistic; that the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world is more than just a shocking fact – it allowed me to see that the glory and perseverance of birth is being tainted and lost.

Women are allowing their birth experience to be taken from them. I know firsthand that you will be transformed forever by your birth(s) so why not be proactive and make it the absolute best.

It still amazes me how often I sit and reflect on the birth of my children.

My natural birth left me on a high for weeks; it was truly my greatest accomplishment. I remember looking at myself naked in the mirror the day after having my son and exclaiming aloud as the proud tears streamed down my face: “You did it. You now know that you can do anything!”

It is THAT feeling, that precious moment, that invaluable high that can never be taken from me. Nothing ever in my life has topped my natural birth; it trumps every luxury vacation, coveted job offer, intense love affair, anticipated purchase, and pursued goal.

Someone in the film described their birth as seeing the highest wall you have ever seen and scaling it; someone else describes it has finally feeling alive.

It saddens me that THIS feeling is what the health care industry is stealing from mothers. We must take back the vision and reality of “normal” fearless birth and lay our claim to victory by saying: enough is enough. Birth is a natural function of life. There is no time like the present so let change begin now. Let us be accountable and take authority for our own birth. It is simply too imperative and critical to allow someone to take it from us.

The Business of Being Born allowed me to believe that I have been given all the tools I need – physically, emotionally, & mentality – to conquer any obstacle that life may throw my way.

This belief began to take shape once I was able to achieve my own ideal natural birth.

My favorite part in the film is where Ricki is talking candidly about her homebirth. She describes what she is feeling after her son was born and the high began to set in. I remember her saying, “Finally! Now this is what I was searching for!” and how that feeling was EVERYTHING.

It is everything because birth matters. It leaves a thumbprint inside of every woman. Birth does not discriminate; it is the gateway to motherhood. It is a universal sacrament that is transformative on a woman’s walk through life. You are worth enough to be answerable for your birth; please own it with pride and honor.

I will end with some wise words from the great admired feminist, Joan of Arc: “Do not be afraid. You were born to do this”.

Tiffany Gray is a spirited woman and wife, a mother of three and freelance writer living in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

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