The Business of Being Born: Some Thoughts on the Documentary and Natural Childbirth

The barista asked if I wanted decaf espresso in my Americano this morning. I consider this a milestone in pregnancy – the point at which other people have noticed the protrusion in your abdomen and become paranoid at the amount of caffeine in your coffee. Oh regular is just fine, I respond, for the first but certainly not the last time in this pregnancy. No, I am not a purist. I strive for moderation when allowed, and my doctor has told me one to two cups of coffee a day is fine. I do, however, make adjustments here and there and certainly spend hours researching pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care in addition to my regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments.

To be honest, nothing has peaked my interest more than the birthing process and babies in terms of research outside my field of interest/study. The other night I forced asked JD to watch a documentary with me called The Business of Being Born. I heard about the documentary from other mommy bloggers and wanted to watch it for myself. Besides, I’m going to need some serious propaganda to remind me why I loved having a natural delivery. I see those raised eyebrows – just go ahead and raise them. I know what I said.

We nestled into bed with the laptop and began watching a documentary about childbirth in America (how romantic, right?!). As with any documentary seeking to expose the good, bad, and the ugly, this documentary was bent toward homebirths with a midwife and against medical intervention when unnecessary. I knew it was a hotbed for controversy before watching the film, so I approached the viewing with objective eyes. JD had no clue what we were about to watch, only knew the title and was already merely obliging his wife’s plea. It was pretty hysterical to watch his expression when he walked out of the bathroom and saw a violent C-section on the computer screen. “What are we watching!?!?!”

After the film got going, and its immediate biases apparent (most of the hospital/birth stories hail from New York and both JD and I commented on how we felt like even our high-medical-intervention hospital in Honolulu was more laid back than what we saw in the film), we were sucked in.

Before I go any further, I will tell you where I’m at on this issue: I really appreciate medicine. I am thankful for doctors. I have close friends and family in the medical world and I think highly of their education and training. I have friends and family who’ve had C-sections, epidurals, natural hospital births, and home births and I support them all. At this point I’m not ready to try a homebirth, even though I am low risk. I actually enjoy being taken care of in the hospital! I switched doctors after giving birth to Ellie because 1) this new doctor is the number one recommended doctor by my Bradley instructor who has worked along side women and doctors in Kailua for years, 2) he delivers at the hospital that is literally two blocks away (I could walk there while in labor people! JK Now that would be a sight) 3) the hospital is known for its nonintervention and relaxed approach to childbirth, and 4) my family history indicates I will go late, and many doctors want to induce one week after the due date. NOW… If I were high risk or had special needs, my butt would be headed over to Kapiolani where I delivered Ellie and where they specialize in high-risk pregnancies.

That being said, I loved the documentary and would recommend it to anyone who is pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, going into medicine, or is already in medicine.

The beginning was a bit choppy and extreme – both JD and I, who hold the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” were rolling our eyes at the crazy banter and nightmare images of birthing-gone-wrong (not because it’s unimportant but because we’ve been trained to catch extremism and proceed with caution). About half way in, the film began showing what I hoped I would see a lot of – natural childbirths. And if you ever wanted to see Rikki Lake’s live water birth, well by all means, get this film! In all seriousness, they showed several beautiful births (even JD said, awww) and I was pleased when they ended the film with a necessary C-section for a breech-baby who was four weeks early. The film would have done a disservice to itself had it not shown necessary medical intervention and the benefit of modern science for complications.

Watching the film allowed me to reflect on my own experience in a hospital through a different lens. My nurse, whose only experience with Bradley patients were the people who looked it up online and did a little reading beforehand, tried hard to keep my experience natural. I found it strange then, when she suggested we double the pit (pitocin) and break my water two hours after the initial IV. This is not at all natural, I thought, but hey – she said it would keep me from getting a C-section… I now realize in the context of that particular hospital, had my labor not progressed as quickly as it did with the pit and giant popsicle stick that broke my water, new nurses might come in and suggest further intervention… which is why my first nurse (who is also the reason I was able to refuse an epidural because she was so great at getting me in my zone) was quick to move me along. A little backwards perhaps, but I get it now.

I am thankful the film exists, because no matter how a woman chooses to proceed with her baby’s birth, I am highly in favor of asking questions and researching options. Personally, delivering without pain medication was the single most empowering experience I’ve ever had. Hands down, no questions asked. It’s certainly not the only way, and if I have to get induced with pit right away again I can’t promise I won’t ask for drugs 😉 The bond between mother and baby is profound, no matter the birth procedure (I say this because even though bonding can take longer with a C-section or other complications, it still exists and mothers should not feel guilty if they need a C-section or epidural, nor does it bear any weight on their mothering skills… one of my closest friends has had three C-sections and she is my hero. I am astonished at her devotion, patience, attachment, love, and mad skills with all three of her kids). As with any point of view, grains of salt please.

I will end this insanely long post with an explanation for why it was written in the first place… I love me some babies being born. If I didn’t feel so connected to ministering to youth with JD and didn’t have such a strong aversion to poop (seriously – I can’t even handle my own baby’s poop, let alone some stranger’s), you can bet my application for nursing school would be in the mail and I’d be taking physiology at the local community college for pre-reqs so that I could be a labor and delivery nurse. Alas, the Good Lord has instead given me a love for teens and a hatred of poop so as to keep me going steady where I’m at right now…  a crazy pregnant youth director who is perhaps overly obsessed with birthing.

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One thought on “The Business of Being Born: Some Thoughts on the Documentary and Natural Childbirth

  1. Oh my goodness this cracks me up because my sister in laws mom is one of the ladies that gives birth in that movie! Ever since I found that out I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it. Haha! I’m due with my fourth child in a few weeks and I’ve been reading all your posts on natural childbirth. I’m not sure I could ever do it, but I do love reading about others’ experiences all the same. Thanks for sharing!!

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