High hopes for The Business of Being Born

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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 can add it to your Netflix queue at any time.

Contributing editor Amy Gates also blogs at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.


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