When I was pregnant, I really didn’t consider that I would deliver anywhere else except in the hospital with an epidural to numb the pain. I knew there was a chance I might have a C-section because I was having twins. And as many of you know, I even selected the theme song from Rocky as my labor soundtrack. The reality is that I’m the mom who was asking her OB whether she could arrange to give me Valium or something else to calm me down because I was convinced I would be a nervous wreck on the big day. And then my husband and I sat through the childbirth film at our Lamaze class. If I wasn’t terrified before, the movie clinched it. I just wanted the birth part to be over.
I did not consider that labor and delivery could be as life changing as motherhood itself.
The experience turned out to be transformational on many levels for former talk show host Ricki Lake, a mother of two and the executive producer of the new documentary, The Business of Being Born. Lake delivered her first child with the aid of a midwife in a hospital and gave birth to her second baby at home in her bathtub. She says the experiences revealed to her the power of her own body and gave her the courage to face her demons.
“I healed myself. I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child and I grew up fat … The miracle of giving birth made me love my body,” she told The Well Mom in a recent telephone interview. She said the whole experience spurred her widely publicized weight loss and new focus on fitness.
It’s why she’s become a passionate advocate for improving maternal care and for educating women about birthing options, especially midwifery. Lake even trained to become a doula herself.
“The movie is about choice. It is about women being empowered and educated and to care about the process of birth,” Lake said from New York where she was preparing for the film’s debut this week.
The film, directed by Abby Epstein chronicles the pregnancies of several women (including Epstein herself) as it delves into the evolution of birthing in the US. In eighty-seven minutes, the movie raises some provocative questions such as why Cesarean sections are the most commonly performed surgeries in the US and rising; why less than 8 percent of American women turn to midwives for birthing; and why the US has the second worst infant mortality rate in the developed world?
Despite the compelling and intensely personal nature of the material, it wasn’t easy to get the film made. Lake ended up financing the project herself over the last three years. Epstein says some TV networks thought it was just too controversial to take on the medical establishment.
“People don’t understand the topic and people perceive this as the ‘Brown Rice Moms,’ those crunchy moms trying to push their agenda on other moms,” Epstein explained to me. Instead, she underlines, “The film is about empowerment and about women being robbed of an amazing transformative experience that women deserve to control.”
That was the message I took away from the movie. Looking back, I’m not sure I would have traded my epidural. But I might have considered bringing on a midwife or a doula into the process had I been a bit more enlightened on the subject. And I might have gone into the hospital with a more positive, empowered outlook. I think The Business of Being Born will spur some candid discussions among girlfriends, patients and physicians, husbands and wives, and mothers and daughters about the potential for really positive birthing experiences. Let me know what you think!