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Film Review: The Business of Being Born

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October 4, 2012

I learn more from watching Netflix documentaries than I do at college. Recently my mind has been completely blown by the film The Business of Being Born . If you have a uterus, penis, or anything in between- I strongly recommend you view this film.

This film leads the viewer through the process of contemporary childbirth — something society seemingly has under control. Through this film’s exploration of the hospitalized state of childbirth, an incredible number of injustices were unveiled. Until today I never questioned childbirth taking place in a hospital — it’s a social norm. This film opened my eyes to the organic, natural, spiritual, psychedelic, and extraordinary experience birth was designed to be — and how “Western Medicine” has successfully taken this right of passage away from the modern woman. This documentary was informative, enlightening, entertaining, heart warming, heart shattering, and I cried a handful of times.

Someday when I have a baby I want to be able to reflect on that time using words like, “empowering”. How in the hell did the birthing process get taken out of the pregnant woman’s hands?

Not to give away the whole documentary — but here are some facts I found startling.

  • The United States has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates amongst the developed world.
  • Midwives attend over 70% of births in Europe and Japan (both have a more noble standing on the infant/maternal mortality rates chart).
  • In the United States, Midwives attend less than 8% of births.
  • In 1900 95% of births in US took place at home with a Midwife.
  • In 1938 50% of all births in US took place at home with a Midwife.
  • By 1955 1% of all births in US took place at home- and that is where it remains today.
  • Since 1996 the C-Section rates in US have risen over 46%
  • In 2005 1/3 of all births were delivered via C-Section, an all time high.

This documentary explains it’s the reasoning for these statistics in a fantastically unbiased way. It agrees that modern medicine and the hospital setting are completely necessary for certain births and certain women. The argument is that the average low risk mom and baby don’t need to be in a hospital. Being pregnant isn’t a sickness that needs to be cured and rescued — our bodies were built to do this dammit!

This film shows interviews with medical professionals from hospitals, Midwifes, pregnant mothers, and mothers who have had babies in a multitude of different settings. In particular, I found the interview with Ina May Gaskin (The Mother of Modern Midwifery) completely fascinating, refreshing, and compelling. Ina May Gaskin was a hippy in the 1970s and lived on a commune in Tennessee known as The Farm, where she began delivering babies on the commune. Ina points out that statistically she loses far fewer moms and babies at her Midwifery center compared to the hospital setting.

Her famous quote is, ““Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceroses, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” (link #2) Ina views birth as a normal part of the Earth experience — I love that.

This film discusses the drugs involved in the contemporary hospital birth. Obstetrics really has a terrible track record with drugs (anyone remember Thalidomide?) and chances are the ones they are using today aren’t much better. Economics are also discussed at length in this film. Midwives are almost always cheaper than a hospital birth. In comparing a Midwife and a hospital birth this films theme is without a doubt, “less really is more.”

This film really made me think — I love that in a movie. The Business of Being Born explains that birth is a part of nature, not a medical emergency. This film has a Feminist and Reproductive Justice undertone in saying that, “Give us the power back — my uterus will take care of pushing this baby out… just like it was designed to do!” For Eve, Childbirth was a curse — it doesn’t have to be for the rest of us.

It’s moments like this I step back and think, “I’m so glad my big brother lets me bum his Netflix.”

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