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.