The Business of Resurrecting Midwives

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The Business of Resurrecting Midwives

I have no children, I’ve never been pregnant, and the idea of having children at this point in my life scares the living crap out of me … more than ghosts—and I’m really, really scared of ghosts. I relish the concept of having kids somedaysomeday being the key word. Having a tiny being grow in my stomach for nine months, only to push its way out of me and cause me unimaginable pain, and then having to deal with it crying and pooing all time, is really the last thing on my agenda right now. As magical and amazing as I am sure it is, thanks, but no thanks. Honestly, I can hardly take care of myself right now, let alone another human being. Basically, I don’t entertain the idea of having kids or getting pregnant, usually it’s more along the lines of planning how not to get pregnant.

With that said, when I saw the San Francisco premiere of the documentary The Business of Being Born, my eyes were widened to a whole spectrum of ideas about pregnancy and delivery I never even knew existed. It really amazed (and embarrassed) me how uninformed I was about the whole birthing business. I never even considered that there was a business aspect of birthing.

The Business of Being Born takes you on a visual journey with producer Ricki Lake and director Abby Epstein to question and scrutinize the way American women have babies. It transports you on a long, emotional roller coaster of diverse women who have chosen to have midwives, and follows them to the actual delivery of their babies. When director Abby Epstein coincidentally finds out she is pregnant during the filming of the movie, it adds an even more personal and poignant touch.

Before viewing the movie I had an archaic understanding of midwives from the little education I had on the topic. Basically, squealing babies being born in barns in middle-of-nowhere Arkansas circa 1930 came to mind. I know that sounds ridiculously dated, naïve, and let’s face it, pretty stupid, but with the lack of information provided on the subject, how was a twenty-something who’s never been pregnant to know any better?

From the documentary I discovered that a midwife is someone who aids women throughout the normal succession of pregnancy and childbirth. Doctors are trained to treat sickness resulting in a focus on what can go wrong which makes for unnecessary interventions; while midwives believe medical intervention is only required during an emergency and focuses more on the natural process of giving birth. I always thought that women just fled to the hospital to pop out their newborns, and that epidurals and C-sections were a standard part of having a baby. Apparently, most women are in the same boat as I am.

What we don’t know, and what the movie eloquently portrayed, was statistically speaking, it is actually safer to have a baby at home with a midwife than in a hospital. It may be true, however, as Lake’s movie states, that doctors are quick to intervene unnecessarily with preventable C-sections and avoidable drugs that induce labor and potentially harm the baby and the mother. It’s somewhat of a huge political debate, where women are not given the proper information about their options in order to benefit hospitals and greedy insurance companies. It seemingly has transformed into a nasty turf war between doctors, hospitals, and midwives. It was shocking to see the history of birthing in America, and images of women tied down to their beds while giving birth in hospitals because the drugs doctor’s gave them made them “crazy.” Sigh, I never realized that it could all be so complicated.

I am not a fan of the phrase, “no pain, no gain.” I’m pretty sure a man wrote it; he doesn’t have to give birth after all. Though having a baby hasn’t been something I contemplated frequently, I always thought that if and when I have one, I would probably go to the hospital and have an epidural. Enough said.

After seeing the movie, I’m not so sure. The footage of women giving birth to their babies naturally in the comfort of their own homes, looked like this euphoric, beautiful, and other-worldly, albeit painful and scary, experience that a mother can only really have when it’s done au natural. On the other hand, the footage at hospitals looked terrifying, horrible, and not something I want to experience … ever. As this is a movie that promotes midwives, it does seem a bit biased, but regardless, and at the very least, I came out of it enlightened and realizing that I have options. I truly believe this documentary will be a powerful tool for expecting mothers and fathers, not to mention anyone who has ever even thought about having a child. After knowing the truth about statistics and how midwives can play an important roll in the birth and pregnancy, I am definitely going to think twice before I take myself to the nearest hospital if and when my belly starts to expand (from a baby, not from eating too many slices of pepperoni pizza!).

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