A response to Dana Stevens: Movie critic, Ignoramous, and all around Boobie from SLATE

Push!
Ricki Lake’s valentine to the home-birth movement.

By Dana Stevens; Movie Critic, Ignoramous, and all around BOOBIE from SLATE
A Response from Birth Activist, Jenny Hatch (My response comments are in ITALICS)

“The Business of Being Born, a documentary directed by Abby Epstein and produced by talk-show host Ricki Lake, is a generous-spirited tribute to the practice of home birth. It’s full of moving (and surprisingly ungross) filmed deliveries, including those by Epstein and Lake themselves. Unfortunately, the movie is also a propagandistic brief on behalf of the home-birth movement”

Whoa Baby, stop right there. From the Kings and Queens of Medical Propaganda who have had control of the American Mind regarding Birth since the days of Radio Soaps, when housewives were “sold” on Doctor God as a knight in shining armor ready to save them from certain death on his noble steed of protection, sterile white coat, and shining blades of steel forceps and knives….you want to talk about propagandistic briefs? Turn on any soap (day or night) set in a hospital where families are being propagandized in the worst sorts of “doctor saved the day” nightmares around birth, and this one little documentary produced by two women who simply want mothers to understand they have a choice when it comes to birth, and you call that Propaganda???? Time to take your proverbial head out of your butt.

“Lake was inspired to make the film after a disappointing experience giving birth to her first child in a hospital (exactly what was so traumatic about it we never learn).”

Uh, she and those of us who have made similar choices do not have to justify ourselves to you moron.

“but her movie’s gauzy idealization of the home-birth experience may have the opposite effect from the one she intended.”

In her dozens of interviews she has made it clear that she simply wants women to know they have a choice in how they give birth. How could a positive documentary about birth have the opposite effect?

“this film’s roster of talking heads (many of them professional advocates for the home-birth movement) compresses that whole range of experience into a simple either/or dichotomy: The sterile impersonality of hospital births (satirized in a clip from The Meaning of Life in which John Cleese shushes a laboring woman while demanding a nurse for “the machine that goes ping!”) vs. the sacred beauty of laboring at home.”


Classic Scene from Monty Pythons The Meaning of Life

And are we not at a point in our society when those two extremes are in fact the opposite ends of the spectrum, and it is up to women to decide which end of the spectrum they are willing to move towards??

This end of the spectrum, which a million women in America experience every year.

C-section birth
I would much rather experience the awesome power of a home birth as this couple did after three sections.

Our Journey to Home Birth

“It’s true that the popular portrayal of birth as something out of a Cronenberg movie, best managed by all-knowing doctors and discreetly placed sheets, creates a needless culture of fear. But positing a conspiracy on the part of the medical establishment to rob women of their autonomy does nothing to dispel that fear.”

OK, with that quote you have now moved up from being a moron to simply a shill for Big Pharma. Let me give you a little analogy to help you understand the definition of CONSPIRACY. Since you are a movie critic, maybe a movie analogy will help. If doctors and the birth machine were a movie production company, and the doctors not only directed the show, but produced, starred in, and did all of the scenery, props, makeup, sets, and lights, and then that same group of doctors, wrote the reviews, charged the prices for tickets, and then said to everyone in our society, Everyone who wants to see a show, has to come see OUR SHOW, and if those people who did not want to see that show refused to come, they had the power to force those people through the most unbelievable scare tactics possible to come see that show, I think as a movie critic you would assume that those people were nuts, right?
Home birth advocates believe that during Birth, the BABY, not the doctor, should be the star of the show. The parents should be the producers and the directors, and they should be ENCOURAGED by society to hire any production team they desire to help with the making of the movie of their birth. You seem to have a problem with some of these parents taking the time, money, and energy to write their own review of this birth, and because it has not been “peer reviewed” and scientifically endorsed and studied by the Birth Machine Production company it is suspect in your very very clouded eyes. But the analogy fits. And I would challenge you to understand, that those parents who have stepped away from the Birth Machine do have some powerful stories to share. Stories that indeed will turn the medical profession upsidedown. But its time sister, it is simply time for things to change.

“The natural childbirth mantra that “Birth is not a medical event” ignores the unfortunate fact that, in that percentage of cases in which something goes wrong (as Lake herself says in the movie, about 1 case in 10), things can get very medical very fast. Studies in the United States, Australia, and Britain have suggested that the fetal death rate in home births, while still extremely low, is approximately double the rate for hospital births. A statistic that Epstein and Lake would have been free to contest—had they bothered to address it at all.”

Why should they bother to address a statistic taken out of context and ballyhooed around the globe as if it was scripture sent down from Mount Sinai written by the finger of God?

“There’s so much to critique about this documentary: its unacknowledged classism (Epstein and Lake, like all but one of the mothers whose births they document, are white women in a financial position to customize their birth experiences)”

or in other words, all you home birth advocates are racist bigots who do absolutely nothing for women of color (while the medical profession, on the other hand, kills off minority women at a rate 4X higher than that of white women when “helping” them give birth).

“But it feels cruel to be too hard on The Business of Being Born, which, in spite of its idealistic quest to present home birth in the best possible light, concludes on an unintended counterargument. The director herself, who became pregnant unexpectedly in the course of filming, goes into breech labor a month before her due date and is sent by her midwife directly to the hospital, where she undergoes an emergency C-section. In the movie’s last scene, giving her healthy baby a bottle 8 months later, she seems fine with the subversion of her expectations: “Maybe that’s the way he needed to come.”

But IF Ms. Epstein had had the gall to give birth at home, well, I would have had no problem completely dumping on her movie any more than I already am.

“What bugged me most about The Business of Being Born may have been Ricki Lake’s insistence that home-birthing advocates, happy as they may be with their own experiences, know what’s best for the rest of us.”

As a home birth advocate, I don’t claim to know what is best for anyone but myself, but like Ricki Lake and the many birth pioneers she took the time to interview and edit into her movie…we do have a MAJOR problem with an all encompassing medical profession who thinks it knows what is best for me and my children. Come down off your high horse Dana and look at the absolute absurdity and irony of your words.

“So many women are missing this amazing opportunity and this life-altering experience,” she lectures early on, explaining her motivation for making the film.”

hey lady, you yourself just gave us the numbers about how many women are missing out on the JOY of giving birth rather than being “delivered” by drugs and surgery.
“But who’s to say other kinds of births—in delivery rooms, ORs, or, God forbid, taxicabs—can’t be amazing and life-altering too?”
and I would agree that those types of birth, any birth, where a child is born is a joyful day for the parents. The question is how much distress and trauma will accompany that joy for the parents as they welcome the babe into their life??? Recovering from being gutted like a fish and then stapled back together makes it awfully difficult to “enjoy” the new baby in the early days after birth.

“Maybe some of us want our birth attendants to assure us, in the words of Epstein’s midwife, Cara Muhlhaun, that they will be “the guardian of safety and the witness of your process.”

And maybe some of us want all birth professionals to get the heck out of our bedrooms and give us back the freedom to give birth alone.

“Others might prefer to hear something like, say, “I graduated first in my class at Johns Hopkins.”

Which will almost assuredly mean lots of drugs and lots of surgery when the babe is ready to come into the world.

“Ultimately, the business of being born ain’t nobody’s business but our own.”

What a stupid way to end a critique of the greatest movie about birth made in a long, long time. What Dana is saying in not so many words is, “Uh, Ricki, your movie made me question every assumption I ever had about life, and it leaves me feeling overwhelmed and off kilter somewhat, and I’m not quite sure how to respond except to say that people like you who have broken free from the Birth Machine MUST be crazy bigots who just want to shove it in my face that I don’t know as much as you do about birth, and that makes me feel insecure and bad about my life choices, HOW DARE YOU??? So, ultimately, you suck and the people you interviewed in your movie, although dedicating their whole professional lives bucking the establishment, are a bunch of crackpots, and we all know only rich white women can afford a midwife, so really, you are all a bunch of judgemental bigots who think you know everything, but you are wrong, I am the one who knows everything because MY DOCTOR graduated top in his or her class at John Hopkins and so that means I am really really smart…and WHY DON’T YOU JUST SHUT UP!!!
Jenny Hatch
Dana Stevens is Slate’s movie critic. You can write her at movies@thehighsign.net.

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