Saturday, January 23, 2010

"The Business of Being Born" and "Orgasmic Birth"

I finally watched "The Business of Being Born" and I LOVED it.  Everyone should watch it!  In fact, after I turned it off I said, "I'm going to watch that again."

The movie talks a lot about maternity care in the US, sort of a surgeon (obstetrician) vs midwife or hospital vs. birth center type thing. I think if even if you've already decided you don't care about the midwife/home birth side of it and you're hospital gung-ho, you should still watch and see exactly what goes down at both the hospital and the home birth.

Its really a well-rounded investigation, including interviews with all types of people involved in maternity care - male and female obgyns, lone midwives, midwives in a practice, pregnant women in a variety of situations, women attending birth classes, childbirth educators, labor and delivery nurses, researchers, professors, the former director of women's health form the World Health Organization, and so forth.  Oh! and my favorite Medical Anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd and the nation's leading midwife Ina May Gaskin.

The movie is made by Ricki Lake who wanted to explore the system of birth as a result of her own births, and the director Abby Epstein who actually gets pregnant while making the movie and includes her birth. They show everything that a hospital birth entails, and everything that a midwife-attended birth entails.  If you thought a midwife only brought some towels to a home birth you will be surprised to see how much equipment she has ready.

The movie's big question: Is our system really whats best for women and babies?
The United States has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.
The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries.

I can't emphasize enough how much information is in this movie. Its everything I wish I could tell women that you just don't learn from our culture and our media.  Its what I keep hearing over and over from moms, doulas, nurses, and so forth.

"A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth."

"Orgasmic Birth" only starts out about how birth can be sensual and sexual in general. If you can get past the beginning (where I feel like if you already thought that home births were only done by hippies than it is only going to reinforce that idea) than you can get into the really great parts of the video, much of which overlaps with The Business of Being Born.  What's nice is the contrast shown between a hospital birth and home births, in both videos. In Orgasmic Birth they really show how much more relaxed and pro-active the women are when they're birthing at home not pressured by anyone to do anything but be in labor. The movie isn't really about orgasm at all, except maybe the sounds the women are emitting (I can guess what my neighbors were thinking if they overheard me watching it), but about finding your own moment of ecstasy.

I don't know if I was really buying the sexual/orgasmic side to birth before watching this video, but I can see now how it can be sensual if you let it be.  I think it has a lot to do with your mindset, your emotions and feelings of safety and comfort and relaxation. You're not going to feel sensual in an unfamiliar, loud room full of people you don't know and tons of interruptions. That's not an intimate space, and you're not going to feel like getting intimate. And the only way it gets sensual is if its intimate - touching, kissing, and so forth. You can't be afraid to relax your body and to moan, just like when you have sex. I see how it can be possible, but improbable for most women who do not give birth in that kind of setting.

My favorite part about the entire movie was the woman laboring with her husband on her lawn. It was so peaceful - quiet, sunlit, and surrounded by trees. Then she moved up onto her back deck to actually have the baby and it all looked so serene. She said "I love being outside. I love having sex outside. I'm pretty sure one of our children was conceived outside." I now totally want to labor on a sun-dappled lawn listening to the wind. (starting to cross my fingers now for a normal, no-risk pregnancy and birth that allows me to have this scenario)

The best part about both these videos is not only all the information that all women should know, but the fact that birth can make you feel powerful and proud and accomplished! That it can be enjoyed, not frightening, and you can feel empowered.

A note: There are birth scenes in both videos, so if bodily fluids make you queasy, don't eat while you watch. I had an observation: it felt like the out-of-water births took quite a long time for the baby to make its way out, whereas in the water births it was like bloop! and baby slid right out. I wonder if that's just my perception or if that's true...

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