May 23, 2009
87 Minutes
Abby Epstein

My wife had a baby a little more than six months ago. This documentary was right up my alley. Because I’m a closeted hippie, I wanted us to get a doula. My wife was skeptical, thinking that I wanted someone else to do the work that I was supposed to do. The breathing, the backrubs, the control in the delivery room. But what I wanted was someone to be her advocate so my wife could concentrate on the whole bringing a new human life into the world thing. She interviewed several and we hired Vanessa (if you’re in Santa Cruz or San Jose and need a Doula, e-mail me and I’ll give you her info.)

I bring our doula up here because one of the first things she asked us was “do you believe your baby knows how to be born?” which was exactly what she should have asked. I’m the guy, I’m not pushing a huge baby through my birth canal, but it seemed weird to me that, though human babies have been birthed for thousands of years with no need for medical intervention, lately in the United States, it seems like childbirth has become some sort of ordeal which needs to be “neutralized” or “made more comfortable”. Again, cave-women leaned against a tree, squatted, and a baby came out.

Of course many of these babies died in childbirth, as did their mothers, but the way that the baby industry has completely gone bonkers in the other direction is cause for some concern. I was shocked to learn how many ways medicine intrudes on the birthing process. Shots are administered, eyedrops put in crying babies’ eyes, umbilical cord cut too early, women placed on back with legs up in complete defiance of their anatomy, painkillers administered into the spinal cord area, and most concerning of all, the rate of cesarean sections increasing every year. In the USA. Not the rest of the world.

What is wrong with us? That’s the question that is taken on in this documentary. Ob/Gyn’s are interviewed, most on the side of medical science, a few on the side of nature. Midwives are heard from, expectant mothers, babies are born on camera, and the magic of childbirth is pretty accurately captured. We spend most of our time in Manhattan which lends a bit of an elitist vibe to the whole thing. Since home births are rarely covered by insurance, we can assume that most of these women had the means to pay their own way. We see organizations fighting with insurance companies. We see stats that compellingly tell the tale that we have a terrible rate of childbirth death for such a rich nation.

In America, childbirth is thought of as just another “quicky procedure” like liposuction or a boob job. Why wouldn’t the modern, busy woman schedule her delivery down to the half-day if she could? Why wouldn’t a woman who takes an aspirin at the first sign of headache also long for the numbness that a epidural can provide?

Because childbirth isn’t an “ordeal” to suffer through. It is probably the most alive a woman can feel. There is a whole bunch of spiritual earth-mother warrior-woman stuff I’m thinking of but won’t write out here. I’ll just say that babies know how to be born. We should as a country stop getting in their way using the medical industrial complex.

It must be said here that had my wife and I tried a home birth, or even a birth center, the complications that we had would have probably resulted in my wife’s death. So the home birth thing isn’t for everyone. But it should be for thousands of women who want to take their power of reproduction back. Labor takes time, don’t let the doctor limit that time. Eyedrops are unnecessary. Birthplans written in clear, polite but firm language, are a must. It is your day, your birth, your health. You get to be in charge.

One note for the squeamish. I didn’t find myself watching this doc through my fingers as I often do when I see other surgical procedures.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch porn and NASCAR to get my penis cred back.

6.3 Metacritic
7.2 IMDB

The Business of Being Born @ Amazon


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Written by Michael W. Cummins