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The Business of Being Born

Posted by ncnaturalfamilyliving on February 28, 2009 at 5:08 PM


This is a really beautiful and thought provoking film from Ricky Lake (yes, the talk show host) and director Abby Epstein. The documentary explores how and why giving birth has "progressed" in our country in the past 100 yrs. It follows one midwife in NYC in particular and talks with various people in the business of birth, OB/GYNs, nurses, midwives etc.  In one scene three OB/GYN residents are asked how often they get to see a natural birth occur. They seem at loss and then one answers 'rarely', another 'almost never'.

During the course of making the film the director becomes pregnant and plans to homebirth (Ricki Lake's second child was born at home and you do get to see clips of that birth). It follows two other couples, one of which gives birth at home, the other in a birthing center.

What is startling about the film are the frequent statistics that are given throughout. Many I was familiar with, some not.

The US has the second highest newborn death rate in the developed world.

The US has one of the highest maternal death rates among all industrialized countries.

In 1900 95% of births in the US took place at home. In 1938 half of all births took place at home and in 1955 less than 1% of births took place at home and it remains that number today. (This is actually a shock to me as, for myself, it just seems seems so common place and natural, I really thought that number would be at least a little higher.)

Since 1996 the cesarean section rate in the US has risen 46%. In 2005 it was one in three births.

These are just some of the statistics. The film also talks a great deal about the 'cycle' of intervention that happens in hospital births and how the end result is often a ceserean section.

I only ever seriously considered homebirth for either of my births. But watching this film made me think how can it not be obvious that a hospital is not an appropriate or desirable place to give birth. Perhaps I am biased. Either way, I think it was beautifully done. I watched it with Kaiya, my oldest (she will be four in May) and she was completely entranced by the birth scenes. She has seen births before on Discovery Health Channel's 'House of Babies' about a free standing birth center in Miami Florida. She becomes so still and her little eyes get so wide. She loves to just watch them again and again. They are censored, of course, so this film was the first time she had ever seen it so graphically before. I think it is so important for my girls to see birth happening naturally and without fear. For me, watching women give birth naturally really stirs something within me, causing me to think back to my own two homebirths. These are such wonderful memories.

A note, though, in case you do let your children watch it; there is, of course, quite a bit of female nudity and one close-up shot of a head crowning. This kind of nudity I consider completely tastefull and do not mind my children watching (they are girls but I feel the same about boys). Also there is a smattering of profanity (honestly, who gives birth without letting some swears fly?), not much but this does include F****. I did not realize this and decided to simply point out that "that lady said an ugly word". Regardless, it's really a wonderful and inspiring film and I highly recommend it.



Categories: Birth

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Reply Lerin
8:28 PM on February 28, 2009 
"honestly, who gives birth without letting some swears fly?"

To answer that question for you- me, myself and I.
Reply Julie
8:53 PM on February 28, 2009 
Ok, perhaps some do. I am not one of them. :p
Reply Lerin
9:41 PM on February 28, 2009 
Why isn't my avatar showing on my first post?
Reply Julie
10:45 PM on February 28, 2009 
Lerin says...
Why isn't my avatar showing on my first post?

Don't know! I was wondering that myself, but you're here now.