If you’ve never had bedside seats to a live birth, here’s your chance.
Raw, nostalgic, and lovingly-crafted, Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore’s feature-length documentary, “A Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives” captures the 1970s countercultural zeitgeist of its titular band of self-taught midwives. Grainy footage depicts the early settlers of The Farm, an intentional community in Tennessee, enacting a utopian mission to “be in community, to raise children in another way, and to take care of the planet.”
Spearheading this mission is Ina May Gaskin, the film’s heroine, whose own fraught encounters with the medical establishment during her pregnancy led her to reclaim childbirth as a community-based effort. Arguing that medical knowledge does not have to be the property of a select few, Gaskin inspired a renaissance of homebirthing culture on The Farm that challenged the dominant trend of unnecessary pre-emptive C-sections and empowered mothers to be more autonomous in their own birthing processes.
Since we're already piling up the posts about both mothers and
pregnancy, now seems like a good time to issue a call to action on an
issue that doesn't usually come up when we talk about reproductive
rights: home birth.
The 2007 documentary The Business of Being Born
was, for many women (and men) an eye-opening look at the increasing
medicalization of birth in America and a compelling illustration of the
way midwife-assisted home birth can be a powerful alternative to the
standard hosptial delivery. The film—which was produced by home-birth
advocate Ricki Lake—along with books like Jennifer Block's powerful and
well-researched Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern
Maternity Care, brought the subject of home birth out of the fringes
and into the mainstream. Soon enough, home birth was a hot topic in the
pages of the New York Times, Ricki Lake and BoBB director Abby Epstein's book Your Best Birth was published, celebrities like Cindy
Crawford, Demi Moore, and Lisa Bonet were testifying to their own
home-birth experiences, and birthing tubs were flying off the
Internet's virtual shelves.
I finally got around to seeing The Business of Being Born, which means I got very intimate with Ricki Lake and her female powers. Lake not only produced this documentary about the ever-increasing medicalization of birth in the U.S. but also included up-close-and-personal footage of the birth of her second son, at home, in the bathtub, attended by a midwife.