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Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
by Christina Elston
Ricki Lake just wants to get the word out – again. Because, even though the groundbreaking 2007 documentary she made with director Abby Epstein brought light to many dark corners of our maternity care system, women still had questions.
“During screenings of the first film, people were asking, ‘What is a doula? What is VBAC?’” Lake says. So she and Epstein decided on a follow-up to The Business of Being Born. Actually, they decided on quadruplets.
The More Business of Being Born DVD series includes four titles that explore different aspects of childbirth. All boast the same informative, entertaining, empowering tone the two women brought to their first film.
In Down on the Farm: Conversations With Legendary Midwife Ina May Gaskin, the woman who sparked Lake’s initial interest in home birth talks candidly about the latest birth trends, and pregnant actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley tours The Farm’s famous birth cabins in the woods and offers her own emotional birth stories.
Special Deliveries: Celebrity Mothers Talk Straight On Birth features boxer Laila Ali; models Gisele Bundchen, Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington-Burns; actresses Alyson Hannigan, Melissa Joan Hart, Kellie Martin and Kimberly Williams-Paisley; and singer Alanis Morisette.
Birth-planning guidance is the focus of Explore Your Options: Doulas, Birth Centers & C-Sections. Celebrity moms Alanis Morissette and Alyson Hannigan chime in on the advantages of doulas, Christy Turlington Burns shares the story of her unexpected complications at a birth center, and Molly Ringwald talks about how she avoided a cesarean birth with her twins.
The VBAC Dilemma: What Your Options Really Are focuses on the fact that one in three U.S. mothers now give birth via cesarean section, leaving them to decide whether or not to attempt vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) if they have more children. Several women attempting VBAC – successfully and not – are featured.
Lake and Epstein raised $122,000 in donations to help market and distribute the films, $10,000 from an obstetrician in Wasilla, Alaska. Lake flew there in August to host a special screening of two films in the series, and a baby show for the doctor’s wife, pregnant with their third child.
Lake says she thrives on gathering as much childbirth information as possible and getting it out there in any way she can. The actress, television host and filmmaker wants women to know that as many as 300 hospitals in the U.S. will not let women attempt VBAC under any circumstances, and that using a doula can cut labor time 25%. She wants people to understand that 86% of obstetricians will be sued at least once during the course of their careers, pushing them to perform C-sections rather than risk complications. “Obstetricians are not the bad guys. I get it,” she says. “The system is very much still broken.”
But Lake also loves to celebrate progress, like the stories of the articulate, passionate women she talked with over the two years the series was filmed. Gisele Bundchen, for instance, shares the victory of her water birth. In her native Brazil, the C-section rate tops 90%. And then there are Lake’s own two birth experiences, the first involving “all these interventions that I later felt were unnecessary,” and the second at home, in the hands of midwives she trusted, “basically catching my own baby in the water. It stays with me every day. It stays with me through everything that I’ve done since,” she says.
Lake wants all women to feel so empowered, but says she isn’t advocating any particular way of giving birth. She wants to keep the focus on safe births, healthy babies and moms, and a chance for women to have the birth experiences they want. “Women should just know that they have options that are open to them,” Lake says. She hopes these films help women learn they have a choice. And, like any mom, she’d do it all again. “This has been a labor of love with capital letters,” she says.
The films in the series are available for online streaming rental ahead of their release as DVDs Nov. 8. But the first five people to email Editor Christina Elston (Christina.Elston@Parenthood.com, subject line “Being Born”) will receive a free streaming rental of part two in the series, “Special Deliveries.” Winners will be notified Sept. 16, so you’ll have a week to view the film.
Find out more at www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com.
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