The Business of Being Born

Next week is our last Bradley class (natural childbirth) and Chad and I had a small marathon today, finishing up a few borrowed birth videos, including The Business of Being Born (IMDb 6.9/10.0).

I liked the movie, but considering that Bella was born at home with a midwife and that we are anticipating another home birth (in six weeks), this documentary by Ricki Lake was preaching to the choir, because I think that it’s really meant to convey information to people who don’t know much about home birth. In fact, one of the dads interviewed revealed the appalling lack of awareness about midwifery in this country when he said that he thought a midwife was what you used when you wanted to give birth in a barn!

I wholeheartedly support birth with midwives and home birth and I think that it’s a damn shame that less than 1% of babies in the United States are born at home, especially when the rates are so much higher in western Europe and Japan (where infant and maternal mortality is lower. ) So, I absolutely support Ricki Lake in producing this film; however, I did have some issues with how the medical establishment was represented. I believe that the cultural biases towards scheduled c-sections, epidurals, pitocin, short “easy” labors – are just that: cultural biases, that stem from many different sources – but I am not convinced that the problems stem from doctors (or hospitals) wanting to make more money.

I come from a pretty medical family – by that I mean, both of my parents were doctors, one grandfather was a doctor, two of my uncles are doctors, four aunts (and uncles) married doctors, and two cousins are now practicing medicine. (Whew – I’d never counted that before.) And besides vacationing with doctors and their families most of my life, I also worked in the medical school applications office at Georgetown University one summer while I was in college. You know what I discovered? That doctors are just people. Generally, extremely hard-working, career-driven, focused people, true – but rarely were they greedy or lazy, which I feel this movie implies.

Doctors are highly trained and (hopefully) highly skilled professionals, and generally I think they try and make the best medical decisions for you when you are sick.

But seeing as I don’t consider pregnancy, labor, or birth to be in the realm of sickness, I believe that most of the time having a doctor attend a birth is overkill. Furthermore, I think that you are actually at risk of being treated as if you are ill if you do have a birth in a hospital. If you don’t want to be treated like you are sick, stay out of the hospital. I also believe that nobody is going to care about our baby’s birth as much as Chad and I do – I do not expect the doctor to care about much more than my physical well-being – so if I want my birth experience to be serene, nurturing, loving, and amazing, I consider it Chad ‘s and my responsibility to make it so. And the best place for for creating that kind of birth for us in in our own home.

I think the level of compassion we expect doctors to have is beyond reasonable, much in the same way we expect too much from public school teachers. When I was teaching, I could emotionally understand that a parent wanted the best for his or her kid, but realistically, that kid was one of 150 kids I had in class each day. I could give a kid only so much before it started to subtract from what was going to another kid (or my own at home). For a doctor too, you are going to be one of many, many patients he or she will see that day. I think that’s just the reality that needs to be faced when you see a doctor. This does not mean that a patient (or student) should not be treated with utmost respect, but just that if you want a specific, individualized (read: with high spiritual or emotional content) experience, you’ll probably have to make it for yourself.

Darn – I did not intend to rant. Kudos to Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein for making this film; however, I guess I was a little disappointed in the depth of coverage. We need another film: one that goes beyond doctors/hospitals = bad; midwives/homebirth = good.

And WHY would they end a pro-homebirth documentary with a homebirth that ended up being an emergency hospital transport? (The mother went into labor six weeks in advance of her due date – that fact has been haunting me today, because I’m six weeks away too. Stay inside a while longer little baby!)

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