Monday, April 15, 2013

The Business of Being Born

Before Shepherd was born and I was toying with the idea of having a VBAC instead of a repeat c-section, I had heard of this documentary "The Business of Being Born".  I was really interested, but Justin was pretty much like..."Do not watch this".  I figured, God gave Justin to me to take care of me so I submitted and didn't watch...and I am pretty glad I didn't.

This was put together by Ricki Lake after having a less than desirable hospital birth and then a "life changing" home birth experience.  I am going to try to be really objective and not judge-mental either way...that being said I have had 2 very different birth experiences and will be drawing from that and God's truth in my critique of this documentary.  In full disclosure I have had 2 hospital births.  1 emergency c-section.  I also had a medicated VBAC.

There is very many stats that are alarming. There is a huge increase of c-sections in the US and also maternal/infant mortality rates in the US are the highest among all developed countries and also have the least amount of births attended by mid-wives...however.

However, my problem with this documentary is how it seems to judge others who don't chose a home birth/unmedicated/natural birth or as the documentary calls "normal". I think its because they have had wonderful birth experiences, and I am so happy for those women. But it leaves you thinking that you can't have a wonderful birth experience in the hospital or be medicated and that those experiences are "abnormal".  They do seem to want the best for women across the country, but they assume the best for most women is unmedicated/natural/home birth.  Here is a direct quote from the documentary:

"I have so many friends who only want the end result of the healthy baby in their arms, and they don't care how it got there.  They are missing an amazing opportunity for a life altering experience.  So much of who I am today comes from that experience". She then goes on to say "nothing compares, nothing".

This quote (in my opinion) is the problem with this documentary.  It is said sooo condescendingly.  As if those women who don't care about their birth and only their baby are to be looked down upon and "missing out".  This is exactly the lie I believed with Inara---I didn't get my "normal" and "life altering" experience.  This lie I believed led me to be so depressed over what I "missed out on" and seriously obsessed with my abnormal much so that it was hard for me to enjoy my perfect, healthy, wonderful, miracle of a baby.  Which if you didn't know...having a baby is the goal of pregnancy. Period.

Here is another quote from the movie:
"The best thing to do is to get the hell out of the hospital".

I will say they have valid points in the documentary, but they take their points to the extreme by making it seem their experiences/facts apply to all women.  One example is the example that one intervention (using pitocin), leads to another intervention (epidural for too strong painful contractions), leads to another (slowed labor), leads to another (c-section).  You know what, that is how it goes sometimes....sometimes.  But not all the time and not all interventions are bad or end badly.

I have a friend who is wanting a home birth.  She said the stress of a hospital scenario she feels would make the pain worse for her...all the beeping...staff...interventions.  So for her a homebirth seems to be the best option.  It isn't for me....and that is OK!  For me it would be the opposite, the thought of not being right next to an OR where my baby could be delivered via emergency c/s in 7 minutes would stress me out.  Not having a ginormous 18 gauge IV in me in case I need blood stat...that would stress me out. I know that for me a home birth would not be something I would be able to relax enough to actually do...and it is OK!

I trusted all the OB docs in my office.  They were supportive of me wanting a repeat c-section but told me the risks and then continued asked me at every appointment if I wanted to try a VBAC.  They were supportive when I wanted a non-traditional induction but always reminded me the health of the baby is the number 1 priority.  And after having a real scare with Inara and almost losing her, that was my priority too.  I didn't care how he got here...just as long as he arrived safely.  But the point is I trusted them with one of my most precious lives.

I think as women we do need to be informed about what the labor and delivery experience could be like and ultimately we need to be trusting our providers...whether is be a Midwife or an Obstetrician.  Any my problem with this documentary is it leaves you feeling the only one to trust is a midwife for a home birth.  I know there are some OB doctors out there who aren't trust worthy.  Hearing how some friends have essentially been forced into having a c-section by their OB for silly reasons, is seriously a major bummer.  But the problem isn't hospital births or interventions, the problem is they had a provider they couldn't trust. I have also read stories of home births gone bad--really bad (I would encourage you to follow the link as another source of gather information).  In most cases, the midwife was unconcerned and/or uneducated about newborn hypoxia, chose to allow a homebirth even though the mom was a high risk and not ideal home birth candidate, or simply unforeseen circumstances that would have been caught and treated at a hospital.  But once again, the problem (in most cases) wasn't home birth, but rather providers who shouldn't have been trusted.  

So here is my advice (if you really even care), whatever method of birth you choose be educated.  If its a homebirth then ask your midwife if they are actually a certified nurse midwife? (apparently some midwives have minimal medical training) What is the emergency plan?  Do they have a working relationship with an OB office? How quickly can they get you transferred to and OR?  What supplies do they bring in case of an emergency?  Have they had infant/maternal deaths in the home?  What were the circumstances?  How many babies have they delivered?  If you choose an OB at a hospital...ask them questions too.  What is their c-section rate? Do they allow VBACs?  Can you labor out of bed?  If you want is their a tub available for delivery?  Are they comfortable/supportive of your preferred birth plan? (whether its medicated or unmedicated)  How often to they use a vacuum or forceps?  Do they do an episiotomy routinely?

*Also side note, I don't understand why every home birth the women are naked? :-)

After I watched the movie and wrote this post I found there is a "More Business of Being Born" which is a little mini-series of 4 episodes.  They said they received so much feedback and more questions from viewers they really wanted to expand on the topic which they simply couldn't do in a 90 minutes.  I would say they are not quite as judgmental  as the movie, it has a lot more helpful information, but I would still watch with caution.

The first episode isn't as "emotional" as the movie and they seem to have a lot more information.  The episode is about Ina May Gaskin's Farm Midwifery Center. The midwives they interview absolutely agree that you should be prepared to ask you potential midwife about how they handle emergencies, if they have a working relationship with an OB, etc. I was really excited about the second episode because it was all about a bunch of celebrity births (Cindy Crawford, Alyson Hannigan, Gisele Bundchen, Melissa Joan Hart, Laila Ali).  A homebirth, hospital birth, medicated, unmedicated, c-section all different stories. The third episode discusses doulas, hospital birth centers (which I had never heard of but sounds amazing) vs freestanding birth centers, and c-sections. The last episode is all about VBACs and HBACs. I did a lot of VBAC research, but they cover it much more in depth than I could find. I would say episode 4 is a great resource. (It also made me so happy my OB office supported and brought up the VBAC option for me, apparently its actually illegal in some states!)

Here are some links regarding homebirth : The Daily Beast, The Farm Midwifery Center, Slate, BMJ research article, Skeptical OB with CDC statistics (although I was unable to find ANY statistics on the CDC website), True Midwifery, Homebirth Death Statistics (lots of articles citing other studies), Mayo Clinic.
Here are some regarding VBACs: American Pregnancy Association,  Woman's Guide to VBAC, Mayo Clinic,  Consumer Justice Group.

But the truth is, there is no one size fits all birth plan and as women (and especially Christian women) need to support our friends in their decision. Because although we can help our friends be educated in their is their choice...not ours.  Shepherd was born and I got my birth experience I thought I missed out on.  It really was so wonderful.  I started crying as soon as I saw him and was so instantly in love and got that "high" everyone talks about. I am so incredibly thankful for the chance to have a VBAC! The memory of his birth brings such joy to my heart.  BUT, was it life changing...NO.  Life altering...NO.  Am I who I am because of my delivery...abso-freaking-lutely NOT.  Christ is my hope, he changed my life, I am a daughter of the King, redeemed, restored, and forgiven.  That is so much better than the "perfect" birth experience...I guarantee it.  

So here is my advice.  You should watch it. It does have some valid points.  Use it as a piece of your research as you look for what is best for your family.  And most importantly I urge you to hold your birth plan loosely remembering the goal of pregnancy is having a baby.  Do your research as cling to Christ (not your birth plan) with all you have.


  1. this was really interesting to read! i'm glad you wrote this. I haven't seen this documentary yet but I have read some articles about natural vs. medicated, etc. and it's totally true that so often people think their opinion is the ONLY way - makes it hard to do your research and find what's right for you. I do love me some babies...however they get here! I must have told like 100 mom's that my main thing was having a person I could trust their decision making who supported my 'hope' of how things would look. makes all the difference!

    1. I am glad you had someone you could trust! And now your cutie Emmie is here :) I just love her cheeks :)

  2. I love this post for ssssooo many reasons. Your perspective on it is great!

    1. I hope it was helpful for you Stacy. There is so much information out there for new moms! Sometimes is so scary :)


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