In a nutshell, Ricki Lake (the talk show host) had her first baby and went through the system had the epidural etc, and felt that she didn't have the birth experience that she was after so before she had her second child she went and did her research to find out more. The result of that research is this documentary.
I desperately wish that I had seen this before my pregnancies. I had such a horrible time and I think that things could have been better if I knew then what I know now. But the only way that you can find this kind of thing out is either by seeing other birth experiences, or seeing a movie like this. My only experience with birth was seeing those movies in sex-ed where their goal is to prevent teenage pregnancy. Also those documentaries always show it from the POV of the clinician (ie watching the crowning) which is not what a woman actually sees. And in fact, nobody needs to see it.
The documentary shows a few homebirths, with one which ends up in a hospital. It also shows some hospital births. It explains the intervention cycle, which I never understood before, and also the hormonal implications of Caesareans. Put simply, the intervention cycle shows that once you add an artifical hormone to induce birth, then that causes labour to be harder and more painful, which increases your need for an epidural. But an epidural slows labour down, so the hormone is topped up, which causes painful contractions, so the epidural is needed again. Etc. So then what happens is that the baby gets distressed because the contractions are too strong, and so then the doctor uses forceps, vacuum or caesarean. And the statistics on those interventions clearly shows that the doctors often make their decision based on "quitting time".
The film is US-centric, so I don't know how similar it is to Australia, but it clearly showed that it doesn't matter what stage in labour that a woman arrives at the hospital, if she hasn't progressed by a certain time, then pitocin (hormone that brings on labour) is introduced. The doctors work to a timeline. I had no idea.
I thought that trusting the system was the right thing to do. That they had all the research, that they knew what they were doing. They don't. I am so disappointed. After I had an emergency Caesarean, I thought I was doing the right thing by having an elective Caeserean for baby 2. I asked the doctor and midwife whether going through the elective Caserean would be a problem because I wouldn't be experiencing the labour hormones. They said it didn't matter. This film shows that it does matter. And that I should have trusted my instincts. It impacts the bonding immediately afterwards. It impacts the success of breastfeeding.
I feel stupid, because I had read online that it would impact these things, but I trusted the system, and I feel foolish for doing that. I will never trust the system again. I am so disappointed.
Now if I had hired a private midwife, then maybe things would have ended up the same, but maybe they wouldn't. Maybe things could have been easier with baby 2 with breastfeeding. Maybe I might have bonded more easily with him. Maybe I wouldn't have got the severe PND that I got. And this movie has made me question all of that.
This film hasn't made me a convert to homebirth, but it has made me a convert to consistent midwife care throughout a pregnancy and birth and afterwards. I think that the model of having birth centres is a good one, where you have access to the hospital in case something goes wrong. But most women don't have access to birth centres.
I would like to have seen more about how there is not enough reassurance of women's fears and anxieties about childbirth. That nobody questions you about what your experience of birth is. They simply have a PND checklist, and then say "yes you are high risk". But nobody followed up.
I'm angry, sad, devastated. And I want to make a difference. So I'm now a member of "What Women Want", the new political party.
"The Business of Being Born" is not on at the cinema yet. It's been shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, and at grassroots screenings. I am hoping to organise a screening of it, and I will communicate it out if it happens.
So, now I have two pieces of advice for anyone considering pregnancy or who are pregnant:
1. Join the ABA and go to a meeting while pregnant.
2. See "The Business of Being Born" before deciding conclusively how you plan to have your baby.
If you are on Facebook, check out the group "What Women Want"