Tonight I saw the Business of Being Born at the Seattle Film Festival. I had heard lots about it before finally seeing so I'd like to address some of the complaints I'd heard.
One: At one point in the movie, Michel Odent emphasizes the importance of low profile, fly on the wall type midwives. The next birth sequence shows a mother birthing her baby and the midwife reaching for the baby and bringing into the mother arms, grabbing a towel, placing it on the baby, performing a quick once over and saying "Don't mind me, just go about what your doing" (paraphrase).
The complaint I heard was that the midwife wasn't the shining example of the low profile silent midwife that Michel Odent had described. But when I watched the movie, I think I see why the film was editted in such a way. I think her statement was an effort to encourage the new mother to be absorbed in her new baby, and to allow those moments of introduction and bonding to be uninterrupted or rushed. However, I will say she wasn't completly hands off and could have been more low profile. Overall, though, I don't beleive she was a poor example of the point the movie and Odent was trying to make.
Two: I had heard the complain that the movie did not explain the director's (Abby Epstein's) preterm labor and baby's premature birth very well. Maybe since I had heard this complaint prior to seeing the movie, I was very viligant in tracking as many facts as possible. I believe it was all there--she was 4-5 weeks before her due date, Ricki Lake (not Epstien's doctor or midwife interestingly enough) noticed that her adodomen seemed unusually small for the gestational age, they transferred to the hospital because of preterm labor and because the baby is breech, and a C-section took place for that reason. I thought that sequence of events was explained pretty clearly.
Of course, I could only wish that breech delivery was a more socially acceptable method of birth than it currently is in the US, so her baby could have been born vaginally in the hospital as her baby, Matteo, still would have needed some special care due to his low birth weight (a little over 3 lbs).
Apart from addressing those complaints, I was pleased with the presentation, the history of birthing practice in the US, and the factual information given about the unnecessary interventions in use routinely today and their risks. Homebirth and midwifery practice were firmly explained as the ideal birth setting for the majority of births. I think this documentary and clips from it will be tremendous assets to the birth activists, so I am excited to receive my copies of the DVD.
I have two highlights of the show I would like to share. One was the plush pelvis and baby demonstration showing how the baby rotates into position and spirals out while navigating the pelvis during birth, at the same time showing how the pelvis expends to accomodate the baby. This was used as an illustration on helpful birthing positions and how the lithotomy position is the worst possible.
The other is being able to attend with a friend who is beginning to change her views on birthing practices. About three quarters of the way through the film, she rummaged through her purse, pulled out paper and pen and started writing a list of questions which she then grilled me about after the movie. That was a very gratifying experience for me because I saw the power of this film: it is getting women to question the maternity care system and to consider the alternatives to medicalized birth.