In 2001, actress Ricki Lake gave birth to her second child in her home—in her bathtub to be precise—with the assistance of a midwife. She decided to birth at home after she experienced unwanted medical interventions while delivering her first child at a hospital birthing unit. This time she wanted birth on her own terms. Her experience became a documentary film, The Business of Being Born—a raw, potent testimony to the power of women’s bodies, and the power the medical system has over them.
Homebirth is more than a lifestyle choice, it’s a commitment to an educated understanding of a baby’s neurological needs during the birth process, and how a woman’s body perfectly and masterfully meets those needs. It protects a newborn’s need for calm and connection. This connection—which is compromised through various routine non-essential medical interventions—hardwires the newborn’s brain for love. In short, through ensuring a natural, intervention-free environment, homebirth helps create a peaceful and loving society.
The evidence points to a short and yet critical period of time just after birth which has long-term consequences so far as our future capacity to love is concerned,’ writes obstetrician Dr Michel Odent. ‘We disregard the consequences of…interfering with or otherwise neglecting the physiology of that critical period at our peril.’
Regardless of the reams of research into the positive outcomes of homebirth, for mother, baby and society, the medical system has convinced women in Australia that it is otherwise. Birth, we are told, is a medical condition. The majority of women are denied natural birth once they enter the system. Shockingly, now Australia has a caesarean section rate of 31 percent, double the safe level of 15 percent recommended by the World Health Organisation and higher than the UK and the US.
British childbirth guru Sheila Kitzinger, author of more than 20 books on the subject, accuses Australian obstetricians of ignoring women’s needs in favour of their own protection and profits. ‘The problem is that they [mothers] get forced through the hospital route by the obstetricians who don’t allow birth to progress naturally because of their workload or their fear of getting sued,’ she said in an interview recently.
Less than 1 percent of Australian women give birth at home, compared with 10 percent in New Zealand and 30 percent in the Netherlands. Yet research shows that babies are safer born at home. Extensive statistical analysis, accepted by UK Government policy makers, concludes that birth at home or in small GP units is safer than birth in obstetric hospitals for mothers and babies in all categories of risk.
Ricki Lake hopes to change Australia’s attitude towards homebirth, and reverse the soaring caesarean trend. Her transformative film, heralded as the ‘Inconvenient Truth of child birth’ and yet to be released in the US, is being screened to sold-out audiences around Australia.
Kindred magazine and Santos present the official Byron Bay preview screening of The Business of Being Born as a fund raiser for The North Coast Maternity Action Group. The event is at the Byron Bay Community Centre, Thursday, December 13th 2007, 6:30 pm. Q & A panel session will follow. Tickets on sale at Santos (Mullumbimby and Byron stores) and at the door. Buy your tickets early as space is limited. For more information call 02 6684 4353. To learn more about the film visit thebusinessofbeingborn.com
You can read more of Kelly’s writing at EQUUS, here.