The Business of Being Born

The Business of Being Born was amazing!

Before I even begin to talk about the movie though, I have to thank Toshia Parker and Stacey Feiner for inviting me. I also want to say, if you are anywhere near SW/S Central Wisconsin, please attend any event these women are hosting! They are exceptional women bringing great things. They inspire me.

Stacey runs Harmony (a non-profit group promoting natural birth) with two equally phenomenal women; her sisters Renata and Nicole. They are three moms with three different birthing stories who bring a wealth of experience to their endeavors to help women create their own best births. I'm honored to know them. Toshia, like me, is a HypnoBirthing educator and hypnotist. Her business is Wellness from Within.

Anyway, the movie is a must see! If it is showing locally, please go see it whether you are pregnant or not! We are all either mothers, or children of mothers. As such, this topic does impact all of us, even if it doesn't seem to at first.

What did I like about it? Finally a voice for sane birth that more people will listen to! Good or not, people tend to listen to celebrities. One thing the film pointed out was that the celebrities that have been vocal about their elective cesareans are impacting choices right now. We need homebirth celebrities to be as vocal! Joely Fisher and Thandie Newton have been, as has Cindy Crawford and obviously Ricki Lake, but did you know that Demi Moore & Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep, Micheal Landon's wife, Noah Wylie's wife, Carrie Ann Moss, Laura Dern, Patricia Arquette, Stephen & Tabitha King, Lucy Lawless, Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee (also HypnoBirthers!), John Leguiziamo's wife, Lisa Bonet & Lenny Kravitz, Kelly Preston & John Travolta, , Charlotte Church and Julianne Moore all had homebirths?

Therefor, I love that this movie will get people talking.

I have heard complaints that the movie is 'biased' because it didn't show that people have 'good' births in the hospital too. I guess my question there would be, "Does your OB tell you that the midwives down the street might be a better fit for your low risk situation?" Do hospitals have pictures of wonderful homebirths in their waiting rooms? Of course not. It's a business. Why would they send you to their competitors? The Business of Being Born is an expose' of a broken system, and as such it is as even-handed as it can be and still provide the facts. It shows, through Abby's birth, that technology is lifesaving when used appropriately. However, it also gives evidence showing that it is NOT used appropriately, nor is current practice based on science, and what's more, it shows what the consequences of this mix are. It advocates for a system of choice between viable options, nothing more.

Having said that, I also didn't find it perfect. I realize that subject is enormous in scope and it isn't possible to to address every issue. However, I was disappointed that that every birth was such agony. Because most women believe that is what birth must be, maybe they didn't want to challenge too many core beliefs at one time. Maybe because that was their experience of birth, they also hold that belief, and what they wanted to convey was that there is empowerment in beating the pain. In fact, Robbie Davis-Floyd says something to the effect that there can be no empowerment without the pain. Now, don't get me wrong; I love Robbie Davis-Floyd. I just disagree with her on this point. That is why I was disappointed to see all of the births playing into the fear that most women have already: That birth is so excruciating they feel like they are going to die. The reason women say they want their epidural at the door is because they are sure that's what they will face, and they really don't care about empowerment.

Make no mistake, some will experience that, but not all. Knowing what creates pain birth (and it's not always the birth process itself) means we can avoid the pain, or at least control intensity if we can control the variables that create pain. HypnoBirthing mothers do it all the time. Sometimes homebirth mothers encounter painless birthing accidentally just by controlling some of the variables. Again, not all. I had a homebirth, and I did experience pain. (Long before HypnoBirthing.) I did find empowerment, I did NOT suffer, and found it a spiritual turning point in my life. Since that time I've just seen too many ways in which our beliefs create that experience. So now I believe that women have to know what is possible in birth. You CAN have the empowerment without the pain.

Suggesting that painless birth is possible, perhaps part of our perfect design, does not negate the experience of women who perceive birth as painful. There are historical references to painless birth and there are stories of painless birth from around the world, yet pain can be, and has been, painful for most women. Far too many. We can change that though.

There are many satirical works comparing sex and birth. The comparison is valid considering both can be altered by similar factors. I'd like to take that comparison one step further.

Women's experience of sex:

Some women enjoy orgasmic sex
Some are multi-orgasmic
Some are non-orgasmic
Some experience female ejaculation
Some experience painful intercourse

Some have perfunctory sex

Women's experience of birth:
Some enjoy orgasmic birth
For some birth is painful
For some, long births are normal
For some, short births are
For some giving birth is just a means to an end

In both cases 'position' (in the case of birth both mother and baby's position), partner (in the case of birth, both the actual partner and anyone on the birth team) and practice (in birth today women may only have one or two children, so a fact-baased childbirth class like HypnoBirthing class would have to take the place of life-experience) play a huge role in how events unfold. A woman with vulvodynia is likely going to find sex painful. A virgin is likely to find sex painful. A women who is being raped is going to experience pain. A young girl who is physically immature is going to find sex painful. A physically mature woman who is tense is likely to find sex painful. A woman who is with an unexperienced partner may find birth painful. A woman who is not producing lubrication due to a hormonal imbalance may find sex painful. That doesn't mean sex is painful, yet no one would deny that these women experienced sex as painful. No one would argue that sex is painful by design or that women who enjoy sex are somehow just lucky or somehow exceptional. I don't know anyone who would argue that sex is painful for a lot of women because there is some inherent design flaw, and then set about 'proving' it without questioning why some women find it painful while others either enjoy it or least find it not completely objectionable.

Women who experience sex as painful, who want to enjoy sex more fully (and not everyone does...some women are perfectly happy with their sex lives even if they've never experienced an orgasm, maybe because they don't know what they are missing, poor things) can fix the underlying problem to improve their sex lives. In the case of a medical problem, it would be fixed if possible. If it was an emotional issue from a past experience, that would have to be addressed. For a woman who just didn't know what 'makes her tick', education and exploration would be key. For a women who is simply incompatible with her partner, a new partner could change the experience.

Suggesting that women can have a more enjoyable experience doesn't mean it is expected that every woman will have the SAME experience. It simply means that if you learn how your body works and control the variables, you can improve your experience IF YOU WANT TO. If you knew the secret to mind-blowing orgasms, and later your friends found out that you knew this and didn't share the secret, do you think they'd be upset? Yet when people like me try to share the secret of mind-blowing birth, we are sometimes told we are judgmental, or trying to inflict guilt or that we're being biased. I find that odd. If we told a woman she could have a better sex life, we wouldn't be accused of telling her she was doing it 'wrong' before. Why is it any different for birth?

In the case of birth, it is slightly different because we are talking about improving the experience for both mother and baby. Not only that, but many of the variables that contribute to a fearful, painful, dangerous situation in birth can be long lasting in their consequences to the baby.

So I have to wonder, if the difference between a comfortable natural birth and excruciating natural birth (or putting babies at risk) is simply a matter of learning what makes birth painful so one can avoid it, why don't more women want to know? Perhaps not every woman will have an orgasmic birth, or even painless, but quicker and more manageable is surely possible...without drugs. AND women would still get the 'love cocktail' that The Business of Being Born talks about. How great is that?! Why wouldn't women want to know this?!

Perhaps just seeing the ecstasy that comes from un-medicated birth will help us reach a tipping point where women will choose natural birth and experience painless by accident. Maybe that's enough for now. Maybe that's all this movie will do, because it does show the ecstasy of natural birth. It does show a little bit about how our culture came to view birth the way we do (as a dangerous medical event) as a result of a very well planned smear campaign. It also uses valid statistics to show that it has been to the detriment of women and babies that we do see birth this way.

It breaks up these sobering facts with humor in all the right places. It really was enjoyable to see the audience respond to the film. Both events had decent sized crowds, and both were very well orchestrated. There were expert panels for questions following the showing, and opportunities for more education and ways to become active in expanding women's options.

I'm so glad I was able to attend!

1 comment:

Laura Shanley said...

I agree with you completely! I, too, loved the film and think it will open many eyes. But I know that sooner or later the pain issue has to be addressed by the homebirth community (more than it is being addressed now). We can show women the dangers of medical intervention and tell them about the safety of homebirth, but if they still believe pain in birth is inevitable, most of them will opt for a hospital birth because they're convinced they "need" that epidural.

I had very little pain when I gave birth, and while some claim I'm simply lucky, I know it was because I worked on eliminating fear and trusting my body to work the way it was designed. I didn't know about hypnobirthing at the time, but this is essentially what I did. I share my birth stories with anyone that is interested. While some feel I'm bragging or putting down women who don't experience birth this way, I know my true intentions. Women need to know that they don't have to choose between a painful, natural birth and a medicated but managed birth. There's another choice. Thanks for helping to spread the word!