Friday, February 06, 2009

The Business of Being Born

A little support would be nice. I mean, the woman IS my mother. One would think that she could keep it to herself that she's not in favor of my having a home birth.

Yeah, right. In typical fashion, I'm sure she's only focused on EVERYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG.

And yeah, sometimes stuff does happen. Most of the time, however, the only stuff happening is normal birth. Frankly, hospital births are statiscally much more dangerous.

To help my mother out, I recommended she watch The Business of Being Born, a documentary produced by Ricki Lake in 2007.

I'd wanted to see it since it came out, and finally got to last week. It is, to put it mildly, startling. Some of it I already knew, but jeebus, people. It's crazy how out of hand the baby industry - oh yes, birthing those babies is a billion dollar business - has become.

Did you know our country has the highest rate of C-section in the industrialized world? Actually, that's probably in the entire world. And guess what? Our rate of maternal and infant mortality is right up there, too.


Add to it that only 1 percent of births here take place at home, vs. almost the opposite everywhere else.

I don't mean to get all preachy, but it's really stunning when you think about it. For instance, no one knows for sure what the effect is of all the drugs that get pumped into women in labor. They used to do all kinds of things that they later realized were not so good, such as pelvic x-rays of pregnant women - until they figured out why the babies were getting cancer. Then there's that lovely drug, thalidomide, that caused all kinds of birth defects.

There's a reason why they're looking into pitocin - a drug routinely given to women either to induce labor or to hurry it along - as a possible contributor to autism.

Now, obviously, there are high-risk births that definitely need to occur in a hospital. And yes, sometimes things do go wrong. Doctors specialize in the 2 percent of those cases. But for the majority of low-risk births, doctors are there to catch the baby and that's it.

I think a lot of people don't really get what a midwife is. They either think she's an old wrinkled lady in a babushka who comes with her magic potions, or just some woman off the street who shows up with a towel and a pot of boiling water.

The reality is my midwife is licensed by the medical board of California. She's delivered more than 300 babies. This is what she does. And you know, she's real good at it. She comes with lots of equipment - and a real understanding of how a woman's body works during the process of childbirth.

She can deal with a cord wrapped around a neck, shoulder distocia, resuscitation, hemorrhaging. She's got no hero complex: if she feels the birthing is not going well, she will transfer me to the hospital before there's any chance of a true emergency.

I encourage any woman who is pregnant or wants to be to see this film. If you belong to Netflix, you can stream it to your computer for free. Ricki Lake is no Michael Moore (despite my mother saying the film is "propaganda" and that it shouldn't be in a video store since it's not appropriate for a 13-year old to rent, unlike all the violent movies out there) but it still gets the message across.

At the very least, you get to see babies born. And there's nothing in the world more beautiful than that.

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