02 March 2008



Last night, I went to a screening of Ricki Lake's new documentary, The Business of Being Born. After having an unsatisfying hospital birth and then a life-altering homebirth, Ricki wanted to do something to educate and empower women in regards to homebirths and modern childbirth practices in North America. At first she looked into becoming a midwife but she realized that with the years of education required she would make a quicker and perhaps larger impact by making a documentary.

Edmonton's Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) hosted a screening at the Whitemud Crossing Library last night. I excitedly attended with some friends after having read many positive and negative reviews. The tiny theater was stuffed to the brim with people filling each seat and sitting on the stairs and stage while children around in any empty space they could find.

The documentary examines childbirth in North America and compares it to that in other countries. It highlights some significant statistics about the incredibly high cesarean rate in the U.S. (33% nationally, but as high as 40% in some hospitals) as well as the high induction and epidural rates. Also discussed are the relatively high infant and maternal mortality rates and the enormous amount of money spent on hospital childbirths.


The homebirths portrayed in the documentary were beautiful. Women were shown swaying, moaning, and cursing their way through labors, and babies slid out into their mothers' hands in bedrooms and bathtubs. Contrasting this was footage of both 1950's hospital births where women were strapped into beds during "twilight sleep" and modern hospital births where women's labors were managed with drugs and surgeries.

While I've felt for some time that natural childbirth is possible for the majority of women and healthier for both mothers and babies, this documentary got me thinking of birth more from more than just a physical point of view. One interviewee explained how that sense of "I just gave birth. Now I know I can do anything" in new moms is something that we all have the right to experience. When the vast majority of women are having labors that are artificially induced, numbed through epidurals, or even outright preempted through surgery, women in our culture are not experiencing the empowering and rewarding rite that has been a part of womanhood since time began.

Also discussed is the idea of how the hormones released during labour facilitate mother-baby bonding. The "love cocktail" as they call, it helps mothers to respond to their baby's needs and enforces the instinct to protect and nurture their child. If cesareans or inductions stop this hormonal surge from taking place, there can be ramifications in the relationship. The documentary draws a link between the high rate of disrupted bonding and the problems in our society.

I found this to be a very thought and heart-provoking documentary which presents a stark view on modern childbirth in North America. I think it has the power to reach many women and to really lead to a lot of questioning of modern birth practices. As women, we should be educating ourselves about childbirth and not simply going along with the status quo, thinking that putting all our faith in our doctors is the way to ensure the best results. Cesareans, inductions, pain relief, and other interventions are all very valuable tools which have their places in emergency or medically-necessary situations, but birth is a normal and healthy process which women have been experiencing since the beginning of humanity.

The Business of Being Born can now be seen through Netflix and will be available for purchase in May. Go watch it.

3 comments:

El Cliff said...

The thing that I've always found odd in a few news stories I've read about the ride in C-sections is that a lot of women do it for purely cosmetic reasons. Rather than have to face those 'unsightly stretchmarks', they'll have their stomach slashed open, and get a gnarly scar for the rest of their lives. It's crap like this that really makes me wonder where humanity, as a species, went completely off the rails.

Cliff said...

It seems me posting something half-assed intelligent has brought all semblance of conversation to a screeching halt. Allow me to rectify the situation...

The chick in that top picture is kinda hot...you know, if you take away the bloody kid.

KimProbable said...

My ignoring your original comment had less to do with the type of comment and more to do with my experimental bogging. I was mucking around on Wordpress and considering ditching this blog.

As it is, I'm still not all that sure what I'm doing. But at least I've posted an update!

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