dad from day one: The Business of Being Born

Fourteen weeks.  Second trimester.

For the past several weeks, my wife has been toying with the idea of “going natural” for the birth.  In other words, no pain medication.  And I’ve been impressed just by her willingness, because I know if it were up to the men of the world to continue the human population by giving birth instead of women, the human population would have died off thousands of years ago.

I had been seeing The Business of Being Born keep popping up on my Netflix as a recommended title that I would enjoy.  Then recently, a writer friend ( also told me I should see it after she read about our disappointment with our first two appointments at a standard hospital.  (Of course, we ended up switching to midwives and are so happy, though I had no idea what a midwife really even was when we first met with them.)

So last night we watched the documentary, The Business of Being Born, directed by Ricki Lake and produced by Abby Epstein (yes, they are both Jewish).  I went into it thinking it would be a tiring movie telling how much money is made off of strollers, cribs, daycare, etc.

Instead, it is a one-sided film about the importance of the long-lost tradition of natural births.  And we loved it!

I took notes:

-Induced labor increases the chances of C-Section by 50%

-In Japan and Europe, 70% of births are delivered by a midwife.  In the US, only 8%

-The US has the 2nd worst newborn death rate in the developed world

-The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among all industrialized countries

-Since 1996 the C-Section rate in the US has risen 46%; In 2005, it was one out of every 3 American births

While there are obviously certain situations where a C-Section is absolutely necessary (like the baby being “breach”), it is a major surgery that has become the new norm.

Interestingly, in the movie, a group of young doctors are asked how many live births they have witnessed.  Basically, none of them had.

And to me, that’s scary.  That it’s easier, less time consuming, and more profitable to induce labor and perform a C-Section that it is to let the baby born naturally.

In the documentary they explain how the peak times for American babies being born is at 4pm and 10pm, the times at the end of the work shifts so that doctors can go home.

For me, the desire to have a natural birth all comes down to observing the downward spiral of having a baby in a hospital, with a doctor, the American way:

The mother is given Pitocin, to induce labor.  Which causes longer, more intense contractions and cuts off oxygen to the baby, putting both the mother and the baby at risk, as well as potentially causing birth defects (even ADHD or Autism in the child later on, though not enough evidence can back this yet, but I won’t be surprised when it can).

So inducing labor increases the chances of having a C-Section by 50%, which puts both mother and child at greater risk.  And the epidural slows down the birthing process- which in addition to the Pitocin, is another drug that may also affect the health of the baby.

Until last night, I had never witnessed a live human birth.  But now I’ve seen at least four or five.  All of them natural.

It’s pretty interesting to watch.  I didn’t think it was gross, and I’m not artistic enough off a person to go on and on about how beautiful it was.  It just seemed natural and normal.  Like watching someone poop.  But a baby came out instead.

The Business of Being Born does contain a large amount of nudity, as most of the mothers are nude while giving birth.  But we were so intrigued by watching the births, that it didn’t register, “hey, this is porn”.  It was just a woman giving birth.  The documentary is not rated, because if it was, it may have to be rated NC-17.  But to that I say, What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?

One of the major reasons I now support natural birth (and denounce induced labor by a doctor, with certain exceptions) is the fact that in a hospital, the mother lays down flat on a bed.  Common sense tells us that gravity will naturally help pull the baby out.  Plus the fact that by having the mother lay down flat, it gives the baby less room to come out.

I also learned that when a baby is born naturally, “a love cocktail of hormones” is released by the mother, causing a unique bond to occur between the mother and the child.

This is where we’re headed.  This is what we will attempt.  A natural birth overseen by midwives.  Yet just down the hall from an M.D. in case something goes wrong.

We just have to be weird, don’t we?

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



6 thoughts on “dad from day one: The Business of Being Born

  1. You’re not weird at all! Going into labor and delivery educated is the best way. From all my years working on the OB floor I know exactly what I want and don’t want. I plan to go natural also, and stay at home as long as possible. I will deliver at a hospital – mostly because I work there and feel comfortable with the surrondings (there are also some financial perks to use the facility that employees me!) By staying home as long as possible I can practice my own method of pain control and be free from the pressure to deliver by “shift change.” I’m excited that you and Jill have decided to go natural. I encourage you!


  2. I’m so glad to hear that! I think midwives are the BEST way to go. We did it that way–birth overseen by midwives in a birthing center, where an MD was down the hall, “just in case.” I know to some it does sound crazy to go “all natural” and refuse pain meds, but like you said, it really does create a special bond for mom and baby when she has the sensation of the baby being born. Although it’s painful, I’m so glad I was able to FULLY experience my children’s births, instead of being doped out and not fully aware of all that was happening.
    Just one more thing: at first I also thought giving bith in an upright position would be good, and made sense, but by the time I got to the pushing stage, I HAD to lay down. Jill might find that out as well. I anticipate hearing more about your own journey! Thanks for sharing with us.


  3. So glad you guys were able to watch it, I knew it’d be right up your alley! It really shattered my preconceived notions about birth, especially since so much of my knowledge came from births on TV (gotta love growing up in the 80’s). This movie really put me in drive to do research on natural birth, and its one of the things that got me started on living naturally as a whole. One day (hopefully not too far from now) when we have children, I definitely plan on going the natural with-a-midwife route. I’d love for it to be at home as well, but I’ll have to do more research about birthing center possibilities before then.

    One of my favorite parts of the movie (and by favorite I mean mind-blowing) is when they have the nurses gathered together, looking at the chart of women giving birth, and they’re going down the list—pitocin, pitocin, pitocin…absolutely crazy.

    Also, add Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth to your pre-baby reading list. Great book from a midwife who has attended over 2,200 natural births.


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