The Business of Being Born: A Critique

The Business of Being Born is in the news this week. This article specifically talks about the skyrocketing number of c-sections.

Incidentally, Christina Aguilera, despite being warned by Jennifer Block, the author of Pushed, joined the ranks of other stars who are too posh to push and went ahead with her scheduled c-section to avoid the pain of childbirth. However, it would seem that she did not escape the pain of childbirth by undergoing major abdominal surgery.

I saw a screening of The Business of Being Born last night. It was at a college campus in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was sponsored by an organization called Ten Moons Rising. Overall I thought the film was good, it was full of educational information, touching scenes of births, not so touching scenes of births, and several bits of humor thrown in as well. It was a well made documentary and would appeal to many types of people.

Spoiler Alert: If you’ve seen the movie and want to read my more in depth review click the “read more” button under this entry.

I thought this movie told a great story, gave a great history, and presented it’s information thoroughly and accurately. There were difficult parts to watch, touching parts to watch, and funny parts to watch, which are the essential ingredients in any good film.

There were some parts of the film that I was confused by, frustrated by, and thought could have been made much clearer. They show a few home births attended by CNM’s in New York city. They followed one CNM in particular and I was not too happy with her style of practice, though I agree it is a vast improvement than what you would get at any hospital. I didn’t understand why she felt a need to touch the babies as they emerged, she even had her arm wrapped around the water birthing woman and had her hands in there touching the baby’s head as it emerged and lifting the baby up to the surface herself instead of allowing Mom or Dad to do it. Just why does she think this is necessary? This same midwife also turns into “Chatty Cathy” every time a baby is born. She stayed in the mothers space and chatted just seconds after birth, touching the baby, rubbing the baby, insisting on looking at the baby’s face and hearing the baby cry. I was confused as to why she thought this necessary. In a hospital the cord is clamped and cut almost immediately so it is imperative that the baby breath right away. During a home birth the cord is generally left intact for a period of time, so the baby is still receiving oxygen through the cord, and so these intrusive methods at getting the baby to breath are just an interruption of the delicate postpartum bonding time, and do nothing to “help” the baby along. They even show a clip of Michael Odent talking about how birth should take place with a motherly “low profile” midwife in attendance, and they then cut to “Chatty Cathy” talking all over the family’s experience, touching the baby as it comes out, handling the baby, rubbing the baby, etc. I found this to be an odd cut. Was I supposed to think “hmm, this midwife isn’t a low profile midwife, she isn’t doing it right” or did they really think I was going to place this particular midwife in the role of a “low profile” midwife? Um, no, sorry Chatty Cathy, but I wouldn’t want you talking all over my birth experience.

Also, their is a story in the film of the director, Abby Epstein’s, c-section. Abby Epstein goes into pre-term labor. It isn’t obvious in the film that she is in pre-term labor, but it is obvious that she is in labor. So, her baby is in a footling breech position, and she is in PRE-TERM labor, yet her midwife takes the time to check her and they all sit around for awhile before deciding to take a horrible ride to the hospital where her labor progresses rapidly and she seems to be in terrible pain. What was the delay for, I didn’t get it? They never explained anything about the baby being breech, whether the midwife could deliver a breech baby or not, or whether the hospital would automatically give her a c-section for a breech baby. They also state that the baby wasn’t growing or gaining any weight while she was pregnant, but I wonder why the doctor or the midwife she was seeing never noticed this? The baby was so tiny and she looked so obviously small that they even show in the film how Ricki Lake commented on her size the day before. You would think either her doctor or her midwife would pick up on this, you know, if Ricki Lake did.

Overall, I thought the film did a great job at showing the option of home birth, even though I wish they would have followed a few midwives with different styles instead of just one. I also wish they would have spent more time on the hospital system and how it functions, though they did do a great job of showing this with the scenes they did show. I think there was just so much they could show they couldn’t fit it all into two hours. I think Ricki Lakes main message was one of, “hey women, you have other options, you don’t have to go to the hospital, look at what professional competent women can help you do in the privacy of your own home. And I think that is a great message and a step in the right direction.

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