Saturday, March 17, 2012

documentary: the face of birth

On Wednesday night I had the privilege of seeing the new Australian documentary The Face of Birth. I was in a cinema full of midwives, mothers and pregnant women. We were all eagerly anticipating a series of interviews with the world's leading birth experts - Michael Odent, Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitzinger to name just a few. 

The Face of Birth offered a balanced discussion about birth - regardless of where or how you birth your baby the experience can be empowering. Its very essence was this: "If you are pregnant, take the time to prepare so you can make informed decisions - take responsibility for your journey."

I can't and won't go into every aspect of the film because there's just no way I can do it justice. But there were a few points that really resonated with me...
  • Home birth is a safe option for healthy, low-risk women
  • Contrary to popular belief, private hospital care limits your birthing options
  • The amount of women suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after birth is on the rise - does this suggest that birth, for some, is a battlefield?
  • We are living in the 'labour bypass era' where many women don't think they have to do their labours.
  • Women, in general, are terrified about giving birth
  • "For the first time in the history of mankind the number of women who give birth to the baby and the placenta thanks to the release of a cocktail of love hormones, this number is approaching zero" - Michael Odent. 
  • "There's a perception that only strong women have homebirths...which I find extraordinary because I think that all women are strong." - Noni Hazlehurst. 
  • Women who are proud of their birth experiences stay silent for fear of judgement
  • Aboriginal women have a right to birth on their land, in their community. At present, there is only one part of Australia that allows this to happen. In most cases the pregnant woman will be flown to the nearest hospital at 36weeks and will wait to have her baby. This time period is called 'confinement.' (I find this absolutely appalling).
  • "We don't lose many babies in Australia; we're very lucky because we've got good nutrition and good social circumstances. But what we do lose are a lot of marriages and a lot of relationships and a lot of people's mental health after childbirth" - midwife, Jan Ireland - thanks for the reminder Jess.
  • For more information and statistics, read Co-Director Kate Gorman's letter here
It was wonderful to see so many of my past and present students there on the night. One of them, Selena, was 41weeks pregnant. She left the cinema at about 10pm and told her midwife that she felt nothing but inspiration for her imminent birth. At midnight her waters broke and at 3.09am she birthed her baby boy on her yoga mat - in the comfort of her home. 

I'm still considering posting Poet's birth film on here. Some days I feel completely confident about sharing it in the hope that it will offer inspiration to those planning a water birth. But I also feel that it's a deeply personal capture that needs to stay within the walls of our family home. There's also the fact that I'm mostly naked and, as a rather modest being, I find it a little nerve-wracking to put it on the internet; share it with the world. We'll see...

Update: I have deleted some of the sentences from the original post.  Perhaps my passion can sometimes get in the way of my statements - hence they can come across as judgements which I would never, ever intend to make. I write about birth to offer information and, perhaps, inspiration.  I don't think, as mothers, we are ever going to have the same stance on birth and I would never expect my readers to agree with everything I say here.  I write as a mother, pre-natal yoga teacher and journalist. My discussions are by no means objective but they are informed. 


  1. Inspiring post Jodi! I would love to see that film. I had two very different but equally wonderful births. And several of your points really hit home.

    Point 3 - a lot of women I meet/know have had a terrible time during their childs birth. Many have only had one child as the thought of doing it again is too much.. All of these women felt out of control, scared and were forced into birthing in a way that suited the NHS rather than themselves.
    Point 7 - I agree wholeheartedly - All women are strong!
    Point 8 - I am that women who stays silent.

    I have had one hospital birth and one home birth - and would highly recommend a home birth time and time again. A truly wonderful experience.

    1. I've just watched the film again - Michel Odent is awesome. He nearly made me cry at the end... thank you Jodi! x

  2. Thank you for posting this Jodi - hopefully more women will be encouraged to see the film, or at the very least think about its contents and what it represents. I'm on the committee of the Homebirth Network of SA and we are hosting Adelaide's screening tomorrow. I wasn't going to post about it on my blog but after reading this I feel like I should - I hope you don't mind me linking back to this post, as you raise many interesting points. As a Mum who planned a homebirth because I knew it was the best location for me personally to achieve a natural intervention-free birth, and who firsthand experienced the negatives of a hospital environment after transferring and being coerced into a caesarean, this film resonates deeply with me. Thank you for posting. Jess x

  3. I'm planning to see it tomorrow. I have actually been reading your birth story lately, jodi. It is such an inspiring birth, I am using it to strengthen my mind for my upcoming birthing journey! xx

  4. Oh, thank you for posting this, Jodi. I've got tickets to one of the Newcastle showings. I too am inspired to post about it now. I do talk about my births to people. It'd be too hard not to once the topic comes up! I think I'm still on a high from my homebirth nearly 18 months ago.
    I've been hoping you would post Poet's birth film since you mentioned you had made one, but obviously you need to feel comfortable doing so. I just know it would be beautiful.

  5. Beautiful words Jodi.

    I can certainly relate to the feeling some women have that they must stay silent when proud of their story. In the two months since I birthed Lucas, my positive experience has been dismissed by many as me either glorifying it or that I "just got lucky to have an easy labour". At first I would just smile and nod, but after a few weeks I felt the need to speak up and explain that although I was extremely blessed to have avoided complications, the labour was by no means "easy" but just an experience that I had made a conscious decision to be grateful for instead of fearing or resenting.

    On top of this, the suggestion that it was all "luck" is something I have learnt to correct. Before falling pregnant I was one of those women who feared labour but thanks to my time doing prenatal yoga with both yourself and Mardi, by my second trimester I strongly believed it was my role as a birthing mother to prepare myself, both in body and mind, so as to be equipped to have the most positive experience as was in my control. As a result, I went into my labour physically and mentally stronger than I had ever been prior.

    Now I am very vocal about my enjoyable labour, but also about the work I put into preparing for it. I am so appreciative that there are people, such as yourself, out there encouraging woman to believe in their ability to have a birth they can be proud of, and I hope that by sharing my own story in the years to come, it may help others to believe in their own strengths like your story helped me believe in mine!

    Look forward to downloading the documentary once it becomes available :)

    1. Oh Mel, I hear you. And I wholeheartedly agree - it's so important to share the 'whole' story, the many months of preparation included. Give Lucas a little squeeze from me...see you in class x

  6. a thought provoking post and documentary, jodi. I was nodding with you on some points, and shocked by others (the number of women having completely natural births approaching zero). I was a private patient in a public hospital and was lucky enough to have my obstetrician deliver all three of my babes, managing to deliver when he was already at the hospital as I birthed all of them during the day. I was incredibly lucky with the midwives I was assigned to - obviously never knowing them beforehand. they were amazing, supportive and confident in their roles and I had positive, completely natural, birth experiences each and every delivery. I do feel very blessed to have been able to do this, and I am certainly in the minority. of course people have commented I have had 'easy' labours.. while they were fast in labour terms, that kind of pain is never 'easy' no matter the length of time you are subjected to it. I certainly fear what the discussion surrounding labour and birth will be by the time my daughter comes to having her own children.. it all seems to be heading in the wrong direction for me. choosing to bypass labour without medical need? I just don't understand why women want to do that. But in a world of choice, choice and more choice, I can't see it changing. and that makes me sad x

    1. Now that I have a daughter I too am concerned about what her choices will be when the time comes. I think the experience of labour for me was the perfect entry into motherhood. I had to completely surrender - and now that I'm a mother I surrender, surrender, surrender. I understand that some women choose to have caesarian births and I'm not going to judge them for that - there are always a plethora of reasons and usually they are personal ones. But it makes me sad to think that women would choose that option because of fear.

      Regarding Michael Odent's comment about natural birth...he defines natural birth as the birth of the baby and the placenta without any intervention - the cord is cut only when the placenta is delivered.

      Thanks for sharing your birth experiences too....but remember that YOU and only YOU delivered your babies. Your obstetrician 'caught' them ;) (This may seem trivial but it's been proven that words have such a strong affect on a woman's labour...) x

  7. Jude and i had a beautiful birth experience. Thank you for helping me with letting go of my fears and worries and trusting in myself. My San Kalpa (I'm not sure if that's how you spell it) was 'I am happy, i am peaceful, I am strong.) I'm glad i am one of the women who can hopefully inspire other women to know that a completely drug free birth is possible and achievable. I birthed Jude and my placenta naturally, to my relief. It was the hardest thing i've ever done. I think all women who carry their babies should be so proud of themselves, whether it ends in caesarians, with the help of some pain relief... it's such an amazing thing to give life, however you give it - it's beautiful.

    I would have traded ALL OF IT, my beautiful and natural birth though - if i didn't have to go through the horrid caves of anxiety, fear, panic, depression and self doubt that i trekked through after Jude was here. It definitely made our first few months together tough, i was so hard on myself. But oh i loved and love him so.

    "We don't lose many babies in Australia; we're very lucky because we've got good nutrition and good social circumstances. But what we do lose are a lot of marriages and a lot of relationships and a lot of people's mental health after childbirth" - midwife, Jan Ireland - thanks for the reminder Jess."

    This comment really struck a chord with me. My marriage is over, we are still friends, we are still a family but there is a loss, a loss that we all feel at times. My self-worth and self esteem took a beating. I'm not sure what i could have done differently to make things work out..

    Ah don't mind me. Just feeling reflective after a beautiful but tiring day. Inspired by a message i believe in too i guess...


  8. My Mum is a passionate midwife, she went and saw this on Thursday night, she came home and was so happy about it!! Although she works in the public hospital n ante natal clinic where we are, she continues her push for home birthing rights and acceptance as well as the midwife based care, women should have a right to choose how they birth!! x

  9. Sorry I got cut off there by my toddler, oops...

    I was hesitant to post it on my blog but because of the backlash after Caroline Lovell's passing, I wanted to post about 'Face of Birth' anyway. I have spoken to a Kiwi midwife and read about Midwifery in Europe and it seems other countries are progressing in homebirth numbers but it's Australia who is lagging behind?

    Jodi, your words are sincere and heart-warming. You also reach so many Mothers out there I just knew you would post this video. So glad you did :)

  10. Just watching the 4min teaser has made me want to go see the whole documentary, With my first pregnancy which was high risk as dr call it we got to know our midwife, she was with us all the way until the birth.
    Now with our second I have no idea who will be in the delivery suite, I wish I had more choice in that.

    I wish my partner was more open & was okay with the birthing center or home birth, but all he has ever heard are the bad things.

    I hope that next time we get pregnant he is more willing to learn/try something different or at least support me.

  11. thanks for posting this, Jodi. i wish i could catch a screening, but i get back to Perth on the 25th so I just miss it.
    i had my daughter in the private system and it was an easy, no complications birth. but i went into it so unprepared with regards to my options and my mental preparation. so despite the fact that i really didn't need it, they ended up giving me the drip (pitocin?)to speed the labour along, at which point i asked for an epi and at the end the doctor used forceps to assist the delivery.
    in my circle of friends, my experience was completely normal. and yet i felt a bit cheated of the whole birth experience. i was so numb after the birth, i never got to experience the whole rush of love hormones that comes with a natural, drug-free birth.
    i find myself devouring stories of home births, wishing for something so raw and beautiful, instead of the clinical, numb experience that i had.
    i know my hubby isn't really comfortable with a home birth, but i've already told him that next time round, we're going through the public system, so that i can have midwife based care, and more chance of a birth with no medical intervention.

  12. This is such an interesting post - I really enjoyed reading it, and everyone's comments too. x

  13. Thank you for bringing this to light. I can't wait to see this documentary!

    As a mother of three boys and natural childbirth advocate, I cannot stress the importance of informed decision-making to expectant moms. I chose to deliver all three naturally (one at home) and had amazing experiences, each so empowering. I feel so sad that so many women do not question the current system and opt for inductions, c-sections, and epidurals without fully understanding what they are getting themselves into.

    I think ALL women should see these films!

    By the way, I am relatively new to your blog and LOVE it! Every. Single. Post.

  14. Very interesting post. Great timing as I am due to have our second child in a week! I didn't have a natural birth the first time, although I got through 18 hours with nothing and am proud of that. I am embarassed to admit I did have pain relief in the end because of those I meet, I am rare (most have had completely natural births). I found Juju Sundin's book amazing! Apart from that, I found it very hard to get any insight or help about how to birth naturally or how to cope with labour. The ante natal classes were all about the drugs you could take. If only I was in your neck of the woods! Eliza

  15. Thank you for posting this Jodi. I have literally spent a few hours this afternoon (Josephine has mastered the daytime nap now!) finishing our birth story, so loved watching this.
    I'm so proud that Richard Porter is included in this programme, as the Director of Maternity at the hospital Josephine was eventually born in. I'm so lucky to live in not only a progressive country when it comes to home birthing and birth centres, but also such a progressive area of the UK, where the rates of home birth and birthing at midwife-led centres is above the national average, and where both options are positively encouraged as great choices throughout pregnancy.
    Ben and I, from our first appointment at 8 weeks pregnant, were given advice on all the options available to us when it came to choosing our place to labour and give birth; from discussion groups to attend to literature to read. It allowed us to make an informed decision that was entirely our choice, and we were blessed to be wholly supported in our decisions by the health service in our area. I only hope that more women are soon in such a lucky situation.
    While Josephine's birth didn't go entirely to plan (as you'll read next week!) it was a beautiful experience that Ben and I will both cherish forever, and I'm sure it was because we were given the right to exercise freedom over the decisions we made in the run up to, and during, our labour.
    Today I spoke to two of my favourite girlfriends, who were meeting Josephine for the first time. As both are considering taking the step into parenthood in the coming year, they had plenty of questions about the labour. While ours is not an easy story to boast of, they both adored how positively we spoke of the experience and admitted to how they'd never heard this point of view before; that they'd only heard of negative experiences and labour as something to fear. I hope films like this help expel this myth and that positive birthing stories encourage more women to use their right to choose where to give birth.
    Thanks again Jodi - as always your posts are inspirational and thought provoking xx

    1. Richard Porter was amazing! He's got a great sense of humour. I encourage you to download the entire documentary (this option is available soon) because there are interview's with some of the midwives from Richard's hospital too. It makes me so happy to hear that you and Ben can share your story in such a positive light. I can't wait to read your birth story Nell. x

  16. I find this hard. I had my first baby by emergency c-section. I have a large degree of medical knowledge - we both would have died if I had continued to try and have him naturally. It was a very traumatic birth and he was a very unsettled newborn as a result (I too believe how you are born affects you). My second I had by elective c-section. It was the MOST amazing birth - both my partner and I loved it. She fed beautifully in recovery and stayed with me and my husband continuously. I am now pregnant with my 3rd baby and will have another c-section. I hardly tell anyone how amazing her birth was or my plans for my 3rd birth - I am judged always. I breastfeed both my babes til 14mths and co-sleep. But I am judged because I did not have a 'natural' birth and did not labour with pain. I believe in choice and knowledge. My choice was not to risk a VBAC, even though there was no increase in probability that I would end up with another emergency c-section. It was my choice, I stand by it, and think it was the best decision for me, us. Interesting video, I wish it added the other side.

    1. It does offer the other side! There is an interview with a political journalist in Canberra who elected to have two caesareans and found both births to be both beautiful and empowering. She too claims that she is often judged for her decision and questions the "too posh to push" mentality.

      I often talk to my students about the power of language surrounded birth. I encourage you to use the term "caesarean birth" as opposed to "c-section." C-section sounds like an operation, when, in actual fact, you are birthing your baby. Blessings for your third birth, may it be both safe and joyous x

    2. That really is a lovely way to say it, a caesarian birth - i agree! It is definitely a beautiful thing too. I'm so sad that people have made you feel that way, anon. A lot of my friends (who have had caesarian births) feel judged too. I'm not sure what the answer is.

    3. I think when it comes to the way we birth and the way we parent, fellow mothers can sometimes do more harm than good. Mother's Groups can be fabulous support but they can also be a boiling pot of heightened emotions and harsh judgements. x

    4. I look forward to seeing the movie Jodi - I am glad it talks about how not all caesarian births are about avoiding natural labour.
      I think natural birth is a wonderful thing - a part of me wishes I had that. But I didn't and I am okay with that. It is great to have options and information - but in the end we do what is best for us and our little families.
      I call my daughter's birth - a beautiful birth - that is what it was for us, beautiful :)

  17. A woman's choice should be respected. I had the natural birth I was hoping for, yet felt completely let down by the hospital. I chose to have my baby in the family birth centre, I was passionate about having a natural birth with little chance of intervention, in a home like environment yet with the security of a hospital down the hall. I felt 100% happy with my choice, it stood for everything I believed in when it came to birth. I felt safe and well looked after.

    Mid labour I was told by my midwife that in an hours time they were going to CLOSE THE BIRTH CENTRE for the night and move me down to the hospital birthing suites - the one place I wanted to avoid. I was the only woman labouring in the FBC that night you see, and the reason I was given was that it was due to 'staffing logistics' ie. it wasn't worth keeping it open for only one woman and one midwife. To make matters worse I was also handed over to a new midwife whom I had never met (who, despite all this was fantastic). Yes, they made it as 'birth centre like' as possible but it left me feeling completley insignificant and utterly let down and I know it slowed my progress. I understand why women chose to birth at home. As it turned out, I had a retained placenta which needed to be manually removed (just how you want to celebrate the minutes after your baby is born) so I would have been transferred out anyway but that's beside the point!

    Despite all this the birth of my boy was nothing short of amazing. It was the hardest thing I have ever done - nothing could have prepared me for the intensity and power of labour. The feeling of empowerment and pride will stay with me forever and everyday I am overcome with emotion when i think about it.

  18. Dear Jodi,

    If asked which were the two best days of my life - and there have been quite a few fabulous ones - I would say the birth of my second and third children in France: both VERY different and interestingly both reflected the nature of my children in so many ways. I look back on those two MAGICAL days and feel moved to tears of joy. They were hard work, obviously, and involved a large degree of uncertainty (my son was almost born on a Parisian pavement in the dead of night) oh but the JOY, Jodi. I feel huge gratitude to my carers BUT I feel I should stress here that the medical magicians who helped me birth my babies were strangers to me and, well that's where their abilities shine through, it didn't hinder my progress or complicate matters for me in the slightest. (Both were men. I was full of admiration for the young male midwife who assisted me during my third labour.)

    Wonderful. I am shivering with the emotion of it all as I write these jumbled words two and eight years down the line.

    And what of my precious eldest child's birth sixteen years ago? Certainly not one of my most joyful moments. It was a hard slog and I felt at the time my body had let my baby down. Highly medicalised and an everchanging and overly tired cast of medical carers in one of the UK's best hospitals, the John Radcliffe, Oxford. Not pleasant. The upside of this terrible birth is that it did not impede the full-blown love I felt for my child from day one and I felt a wealth of gratitude when my body knew exactly what to do eight years later second time round.

    One final point. Our obstetrician in Paris told me during my pregnancy he ALWAYS respected his co-midwives judgement during all births. "Their instinct and experience often outshine our desire to step in and intervene medically", he said.


    ps Please forgive the mistakes I might have made whilst writing this. I am suffering from the aftermath of a migraine but this topic seemed too important to ignore!

  19. I was so looking forward to the screening at our Uni last week....I have been sharing the trailer to this film on my Facebook every chance I get. I love giving birth and love talking about my 2 amazing experiences. Unfortunately 2 weeks ago I miscarried at 12 weeks and just felt that it would all be too raw. I look forward to downloading it when the oppurtunity comes. I would love to have a few girlfriends around to watch with me!

    1. So sorry for your loss Shara. I hope you're taking good care x

  20. Jodi I thought you would have got to a screening :-) Wasn't it awesome.
    (I've just posted on it too.)
    With sharing your birth, I completely understand that part of wanting to keep it private and the other part of wanting to share it- if only to inspire/encourage just one person in their own birthing journey. I also have to say, seeing or reading natural births really does help to 'normalise' the whole process, and the internet is wonderful medium to do just that.

  21. I'm so passionate about women and birth and I loved reading this post. Beautiful words on an emotive topic. It needs people like you to write with such clarity and heart. Thank you.

  22. It looks like a great documentary and I can't wait to see it. My approach to childbirth is very different now than it was a few years ago. My two births could not have been more different from each other if I had made them up!

    The only thing that I always want to stress is that a hospital birth is not always a highly medicalised procedure that leaves women feeling disempowered. I always feel like there is a culture of believe that home birth is the only option for women who want control over their experience and I don't think that is true. With my first birth, I gave birth in the local birth centre and it was the most amazing and empowering experience that I have ever had. There was a birthing pool, bean bags, a double bed, dimmed lights and after a beautiful, natural labour I went home the same day feeling like the strongest woman in the world. I could not have imagined a better birthing experience.

    I have to say though, that I did not find it was important to have a caregiver that you know and trust at the birth, because for me, I was so focused on my breathing and working through the pain that I had very little interest in who was in the room. My thoughts were completely internal and i was so focused on my own body. I often joke with my husband that there could have been a 20 piece marching band in the room and I would have had no idea.. I was in some kind of zone.. Completely focused on my own body and nothing else. Throughout the pregnancy I had considered having a doula and I'm so glad I didn't because we would have paid her to stand in the room and do nothing. But I understand that this was my own personal experience and for others it may be very different.

    As for home birth, I now have very conflicting feelings. I used to support home birth but I'm cautious now. Firstly because I had such an amazing experience at the local birth centre that felt so much like being at home (no doctors, no fluro lights, just me allowed to move between the birthing pool and the bean bags) I don't really understand why people would choose to be at home when this place feels so homely, yet is so close to help if it is needed.
    And secondly, since my second child died during the birth, I can't imagine what that would be like for someone who choose to birth at home and have that happen to them. I mean, would you ever be able to forgive yourself and how would you ever set foot into your living room again?
    Obviously I am respectful of any decision that women choose and I think that having that choice is very important. I just feel very differently about birth now that I have experienced to worst possible outcome. To me, now, having a birth that ends in a baby that is alive is the most important consideration.

    1. I don't believe for a second that hospital births are all medicalised - I birthed Che in a hospital and Poet in a birth centre - both were completely natural and empowering experiences. I was really proud that the film addressed this issue too - birth can be empowering regardless of the location or the type of birth - natural, natural with intervention, caesarian.
      As for knowing your birth carer - it's something that is really important to me. While my belief comes from my own experience it is also informed by the stories of many of my students who were cared for by people they didn't like/connect with.
      My experience in a birth centre was similar to yours - amazing and I highly recommend them. In regard to home birth - I fully support a woman's right to choose to have their baby at home. Is it for me? It's definitely something I will consider for a future birth but I'm honest in saying that I still have my fears.
      Hope that baby of yours is growing beautifully Katie x

    2. Hi Jodi,
      I just wanted to say (after reading the post you wrote today) that I hope I did not offend you in any way. I thought it was a wonderful post you wrote, and as you say the documentary was about empowering every birth regardless of the situation.
      I did not mean to imply that you thought that all hospital births were medicalised, but that I often found that mentality in conversations about birthing.. which are, of course, always heated discussions!

  23. I'm so excited for this documentary! I think I missed the showing in our area though.

    I was really surprised to hear in the trailer that they considered Australia to be the last frontier of the Western World with such a hold by the medical system (not exactly word for word, sorry). I was living in the US for the first three years of marriage and working in a daycare so I had plenty of contact with new mums and pregnant mums and there was ALWAYS birth talk going around. Six months into living there, I swore to myself and my future children, that my babies would be born in Australia where I actually did have say over what happened. I would say 80% of my friends had no idea they could have any say over what they wanted in birth and just regarded the whole thing as a medical procedure. The other 20% couldn't find a doctor, hospital or insurance company that would let them give birth their way. It was terrifying to me actually.
    I had always thought I'd have a home birth but we came back from China to Australia to have our bubby so we didn't technically have a 'home' to have our baby in. I was devastated at first but I was really blessed to be birthing at Lismore Base Hospital where actually, I didn't know my midwife but she respected my every wish and whim and supported me well beyond what I even expected. My little boy was born drug free, with his daddy, grandma and me, completely present. I had such an amazing hospital experience! I never honestly thought that would be possible.
    I still would love to have a homebirth some day but seeing as how we are still living with my parents, I don't know when or if that will happen for our next one (hopefully, that next one will be an announcement we make soon!).
    I would LOVE to see Poet's birth! But of course I totally understands your thoughts about sharing...I just love birth being shared openly as a wonderful thing.

  24. Birth is the one topic that fires up every extreme emotion in me: everything from a sublime sense of joy to a white anger. I can understand your dilemma over your birth film. On one hand I understand why you would want to gift that sort of inspiration and on the other, to hold something close and keep it precious for your family. Think long and hard, lovely!

    PS. Good to hear the excellent Jan Ireland is still sharing her fabulous wisdom.

  25. I was born in a country where home births were the norm BUT if your doctor examined you and thought there was any danger to either you or your babe, you went to hospital. Women didn't argue because they had faith or trusted that the doctor had their best interest in mind. Is this a power thing now? Sometimes birth needs to become medicalised most of the time it doesn't.
    I had my babies in hospital here in Australia - one through the private system, two in a birthing centre. I didn't really think home birth was an option because of the cost involved - the birthing centre was absolutely free. My midwives were lovely, I went home four hours postnatally. I know that I was extremely blessed to be able to birth the way I did.
    I would love to see your video - but I understand your reservations. Personally I think giving birth is a very intimate thing - almost as intimate as the making of the baby.

  26. PS - My husband delivered our last two babies - we didn't even notice the midwife there!

  27. Wonderful post. Can't wait to see this film. Isn't Ina May so wonderful? Her books prepared me for life as much as birth. I'm staring at the very spot in my room where I gave birth to our youngest right now as I type!

  28. you already know my heart on this.
    i am deeply grateful for the maternity care options available to us in nz.
    keep getting the word out there... :)

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I'm going to leave here and share it with my blof readers on Twitter and Facebook and with my friends and family members "in real life." I had a natural birth with a midwife and it was a really wonderful and empowering experience. The US is not particularly friendly to women wanting a natural birth and some states are worse than others. I know that this is not for everyone but my wish for any woman finding herself pregnant would be (just as you said) to inform herself of her options and to make a decision based on more than just the cultural ethos that "birth is hard and the more medicated you are, the better." Perhaps that's not the ethos in Australia but it certainly feels like it here in the US.

    I hope I can catch the full film in the US. Thank you again for letting me know about this!


  30. New reader here...

    I'd love to see or hear more about the 'scientific' evidence that how you are born affects your life. I refuse to believe that in any class of 5 year old you'd be able to tell which ones were born what way.

    I believe this kind of statement completely disenfranchises and ostracises women who didn't have the kind of birth they hoped for. I'd say that how they (and their partners) parent once their child is earthside is 1000 times more important than how their child was birthed. But if you can show me the science (and I'm a scientist so will be happy to read it all)...then maybe I'll change my mind.

    For the record, I birthed my two kids in a private Sydney hospital and had full control over what I wanted and didn't want and have wonderful experiences. Didn't know the midwives - and couldn't have cared less who they were (hope that doesn't shock you too much!!). And am proud and loud about having an epidural during the first birth and none during the second - whatever. WHO my boys are is way more important than how they got here. Both my boys were born to feed and were happy contented babies. Mostly to do with their personalities than the route they came into the world.

    Obviously you had great births so it is easy to make blanket statements like that!!!

    1. Hi sarah,

      Thanks for your comment. Research I have read states the fact that the rise in allergies and behavioural disorders are linked to the rise in caesarian births. Of course, I firmly believe that the way we are born doesn't have full control over our lives as children and adults. Only yesterday, In the Sunday Herald, an article discussed the fact that vaginal births expose infants to protective bacteria that can help the child maintain a healthier weight later in life. Not for a second do I believe that this bacteria will outweigh the child's diet - that would be ridiculous.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you - the way we parent is incredibly important and I will go as far as to say that the way we parent is more important that the way we birth. But birth is so important too - at least it is to me. I understand that not all women have a desire or attachment to birthing vaginally or 'enjoying' their birth - and of course that's ok. But I don't think that should take away from the women who want to prepare for and enjoy their births.

      I never intended for my statement to be blanket. I'm a journalist and a pre-natal teacher. I speak from experience teaching over 400 women in the past few years. I speak from experience having talked to and interviewed countless midwives. My statement may not be objective, but it is informed.

    2. Comparing my emergency (as in out in 10min!) caesarian to my elective caesarian - I would say that it affected myself, my partner and my newborn very differently (even though they were the same procedure, just one with no warning and one with lots of time to digest and plan). My first babe was VERY unsettled for the first 6mths of his life - he is now a placid gorgeous 3yr old. My second babe - super calm and sleepy for the first 6mths, and now a social, busy 18mth old. Maybe it just affects them initially?

    3. Thanks for sharing your experience Anon x

  31. i agree totally with the above comment. i have been following this post for days now and have not stopped thinking about it. Just because i ended up having emergency caesareans with my beautiful boys does that mean they have been "affected" in some way?
    I tried really i did and often feel so judged.

    I don't believe it is just mothers who have amazing births that feel judged ... those who don't often feel like they have failed...their bodies have some how failed them and to be judged is the last thing they/we need.

    1. I'm sorry you feel this way Anon and please do not think for a second that I would be placing judgement on you. Birth is a complicated subject - it encourages fierce responses because well, we mothers are fierce. I posted the information because I believe it needs to be shared. Some people believe what I believe, others completely disagree. And that's completely expected. As I state in the post - caesarian births can be empowering, wonderful experiences for both the mother and the baby. We should be expressing gratitude that they exist in our society...a point I often discuss with my students.

      We cannot control the way we birth our baby. No one can. And often, while the mother may blame herself or her body for the need for intervention, that blame is unnecessary. I hope you understand that I use my blog as a means of offering information to hopefully educate and inspire. I do not write to cause judgement. x

  32. Oh Jodi, I am reading through the comments in a way I don't normally because of your postscript.

    I feel quite sad, that as women we aren't more supportive of each others choices, but I think as humans it's generally in our nature to feel we have to defend ourselves.

    I was born at home in the UK, a 10.5 pound baby, my mother's 5th, my brothers holding me moments after I arrived. It was not the only choice, but a normal unquestionned choice, and you went to hospital if you had complications.

    I had my first child in hospital after being induced and 2 days later had an emergency csection. It was scary and not an easy introduction. It was a wonderful outcome in that Ella was born gorgeous and healthy and I was fine, but emotionally I felt I'd missed out.

    I had my second daughter 3.5 years later, naturally, and that was incredible. Delivering our daughter is the single physical achievement of which I'm most proud. I loved delivering, I loved labouring, I loved it all. Perhaps that's because of the contrast with first time round, perhaps I have a higher tolerance for pain, who knows, but I loved it.

    I feel I can speak on the two choices csection/natural because I've done both. I'm not preaching about it, but whenever I hear of women choosing an elective csection or choosing to be induced, I feel sorry that they may do that because they feel it's the easy option. It isn't. Again, perhaps it's different if an induction leads to a labouring delivering, perhaps a selective csection means the after care and the processes at the end are different to when it's an emergency. All maybes that I'll never know the answer to. However, in my experience, a natural delivery was easier, more rewarding, more wonderful. I have two gorgeous girls and although there won't be any more for us, I would go natural all the way.

  33. I had three caesarean births.
    I loved each of them.
    Yes I wanted a natural birth but the choice was not mine.
    And I am fine with that!
    I love my children.
    They are no different to any other child in their age groups...if anything they are more determined and confident. Maybe that's just because of the way they've been raised.
    They are, however SO different to each other physically, mentally and in terms of health.
    More importantly than how they got here, is how they get THROUGH.
    THAT I am in control of.
    And THAT I intend on doing well.
    xxx Stacey

    1. well written. Everyone has a totally different experience hey?! I love your attitude and this " More importantly than how they got here is how they get through". I didn't have cesarean births but I did lay in a hospital bed with women who had and I admire their strength and bravery.

  34. Looks like a very interesting film. I really appreciated what Noni said about all woman are strong...she's totally right! :) Thanks for sharing this!

  35. I've birthed 3 bubbas at hospital. First started in the birthing centre but moved to the wards and became an emergency CS. Second on the wards but a (fought for!) successful VBAC. Third was an elective CS as bubba was breech.

    Women should have the right to choose how they birth, without judgement. The only time I question is when mumma seems determined to 'prove the doctors wrong'. I find that kind of attitude quite dangerous. x

  36. I did Direct Entry Midwifery in NZ in the hopes of becoming an Independant Midwife and although now as a mother of 5 I have strayed from that path it's still a subject very close to my heart.

    It wasn't until I experienced the Maternity system here in Australia that I realised and truly came to appreciate just how lucky women are to birth in was something I took for granted. We fought to have our children present at Kaizer's birth, as after four high risk pregnancies I had no choice but to labour and birth in hospital, and I am so glad we won that right as it gave our older children the chance to see how normal an experience giving birth can be. I do worry for our daughter in how things will be when it's her time to enter motherhood but the way I see it as long as she is able to make informed decisions there is no reason why she can't have an empowering and positive experience.

    Really looking forward to seeing this doco :)


  37. Since we're all sharing I thought I'd share my births.

    I was determined to have a natural birth with my first but went to the hospital far too early, found myself in a total state of fear and he was posterior (apparently most painful of all) so after 23 hours labouring I had an epidural and had him a few hours later. (very lucky they didn't wheel me in for a caesar as he was born some 30 hours after my waters broke).

    My second, a daughter, I was equally determined to birth naturally but after the first experience was also much more open to 'anything' and willing not let go of 'expectations'. I stayed home for 24 hours of labour before my waters finally broke and we rushed to the hospital. She was born completely naturally within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital.You can read in detail here:

    Both attached right away and both breastfed until they were 19 months old.
    All of this said, my son was a very settled, calm and peaceful baby. He rarely cried, slept and ate well.

    They have both always been developmentally 'ahead of the curve' (as in reached talking/walking milestones very, very early).

    But I remind you it was the second birth that was peaceful and natural. And let me tell you- this girl is ANYTHING BUT peaceful. Granted the poor thing is the younger sister of a rowdy boy. But she has also been riddled with allergies since birth- to the extent of anaphylaxis, she has a temper, she was very unsettled for the first 6 months, she has constant and chromic eczema, asthma and is unbelievably unsettled, clingy and moody a huge amount of the time (or maybe it's just this week and it feels like the longest week of my life... try me again in another week).

    I just wanted to point out that yes, I do believe that how you birthed affects your health and the health of your child, but it is also not EVERYTHING. How you parent, what you feed your children, genetics, family history, chance, luck, fate... what have you, also all play a part.

    I fully support having a natural birth- it was and surely will be the most beautiful and empowering experience I have ever had. But for those who haven't had one, for one reason or another, do not beat yourselves up over anything! If your child seems unsettled or has allergies I for one am not pointing a finger at you thinking it's because you had a caesarian birth or didn't breastfeed long enough. I know from firsthand experience, there are so many other factors at play, that we really don't know very much about.


  38. In no time at all did I believe the way my son was born had an affect on him and who he is. I was induced and had a rapid and fierce labour that had me panicking and losing control. I dilated so fast and he practically shot out of me. I was distressed and struggled so much in the early days and he was terribly unsettled newborn who I have come to feel was born before he was truly ready.
    I am 8 weeks away from birth number 2 and have taken steps to hopefully avoid the same situation this time.

  39. Love this Jodi. Can't wait to see the film. Can't wait to birth how my body and mind births. I will be in our local hospital as we don't don't have any birthing centres near where we live and home birth is flippin' expensive. The hospital and midwives are lovely though and I am (as you know) so excited for this experience!
    I love your love for the power in women and your incredible understanding of the passion behind each individual woman and her birth stories. I wish more women could have your understanding, compassion and knowledge. xx

  40. I have NEVER in the years since I have given birth known any woman to stay silent about their birth experience, whether it be good or bad. Its a topic that will engage any mother into hours and hours of detailed discussion. If someone can be so intimidated as to not talk about their birth experience in a conversation they are having with someone else,maybe they have a little bit of confidence or other self esteem issues to work on. I ended up giving birth in a foreign country with Doctors and mid wives I had never met before, although they tried to pressure me into having the Gas or Epidural (I think to quieten me down a bit) I REFUSED, and after about the 10th time of saying 'NO', they finally got it. Ultimately we have to put our feet down, and really the hospital staff are just trying to guide us in the direction, they feel is best. Although I look back now, and feel nauseous at my birth experience I am proud to say that I did it without any Gas or Epidural, and that my bouncing 9 pound 4 ounce baby arrived into this world without being pumped full of Drugs, I am just glad to be alive. It was really the most GHASTLY experience I have ever been through. Not because of where I was, I am actually glad that I didn't give birth in Australia. Its just the whole birth process, It's so INHUMANE, If men had to go through this process the Human Race would be extinct. Hence my child will be a one and only !!

  41. I want to watch all of this film. I am 24 weeks pregnant with our first baby. My husband and I recently watched "The Business of Being Born" and are now strongly considering giving birth with a midwife. My husband dislikes doctors and I know I don't want the semi-typical "laying down in a hospital bed, attached to monitors" birth, but that is me!

    I know things can happen during birth which change how the baby is born and requires a change of direction. I am not dead set on having this because I know things can change, but for now the plan is- the less intervention, the better.

    My husband and I were talking and he mentioned that women have given birth for thousands of years with out doctors and the majority of the time have been just fine....

    Thanks for this post.

  42. I believe that every woman who has given birth should be damn proud of themselves. What ever their experience and however their baby was born. I was "lucky" and had two natural deliveries and one assisted (venthouse extraction) delivery. One birth was induced, two births were not. All births were in a hospital and thankfully so, as one child was stuck and came out with a fist next to her head, the other was hassle free but fast and furious...and another resulted in severe blood loss and retained placenta. Each birth had their own issues and even after some minor difficulties, I still feel that I had the best births possible for me and my children. I was grateful for medical help each time as I would have been scared at home. Sometimes things just happen and ultimately we just need to be happy with the personal choices we have made. I do not personally believe that preparation before birth is what leads to a positive birth experience. I do not believe where we give birth necessarily results in a positive or negative birth. But I do believe that if you have supportive people around you before, during and after birth, that you will be much better off. Everyone has such different experiences and everyone makes the choices that are right for them at that time with the knowledge that they had. I had difficult pregnancies one IVF, I had severe morning sickness-hyperemesis and extremely low iron. I had hospital births that were I believe fairly normal and I have breastfed all my children successfully. That is my personal situation and I am damn proud...just as I would be if my pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding experiences were any different. I also am proud of all of the women in my life who have given birth...however that was! I think that it is great that you are posting information on your blog that you are passionate about. After all knowledge is power.

  43. Ahhh Jodi, how did I miss this post.

    One of my all-time favourites.

    I can't wait to see this documentary, with my homegirl Sheila!!

    I have been shouted down on my blog for "boasting" about my natural births, and that I shouldn't make other women feel guilty or bad for how they birthed. I don't hold any judgement - but why do I have to quieten down about my positive experience?

    If anything, we need to talk about this, bring it out in the open - talk and talk and talk.

    This is a great post Jodi. x

  44. I am sorry that you felt you had to 'edit' your original post. This blog is yours after all. Last month, I've read two other bloggers having to make apologies about their own posts, on their own blogs, and this saddens me because no matter what your learnings or beliefs are, one still can't write what one knows/feels. I had two emergency caesareans and both times our boys had to stay in NICU - the latter for almost 2 weeks. I felt like a failure going home with no baby in my arms BUT at no time in your whole post did I feel you were against other Mother's choices.

    Jodi, you are an excellent writer. Your blog is a great example of the marriage of words and images. I enjoy both!

  45. What a wonderful post. I think we have a very similar outlook on birth. I did my research and totally agree with your point about private hospitals limiting your options (and the percentage of births with intervention was so high). I actually wrote about one of my births on my blog earlier this month (on the six-month anniversary) - and was proud to share my experience. It was exactly what I was hoping for, natural, amazing, perfect. I didn't achieve that the first time round but even then, because of the birth centre I was at and my amazing midwifes, despite a difficult posterior labour and an epidural, I still managed to birth my son 'naturally', for which I am proud. I think I am perhaps in the minority of women who don't particularly fear labour (I have an amazing calm birth & yoga teacher to thank for that) and since my last experience, I absolutely can't wait to do it again. x

  46. Hi Jodi, I'm sorry you felt like you had to change your post. I read it the first time around and thought it was wonderful! I have been reading your blog for a while and not once have I ever been given the impression from your writing that you were the type of person to place any sort of judgement or criticism on anyone.

    I think the important thing is that women get to hear stories of all types of births and more importantly, all the options and choices that we do have when giving birth. When I was pregnant with my first baby women were knocking each other over to tell me their horror stories of birth. I found it frightening and didn't understand why women would want to tell another woman how horrific and dangerous and painful and horrendous birth was? It still doesn't make sense to me and since then, when asked, I have always told friends and family having babies what a wonderful experience birth can be, and how lucky we are that medical support is available (when needed). It doesn't matter what sort of birth I had, because the important thing to me is that I did what was right for my baby, myself and my family. I'm now pregnant with our second baby and feel blessed that I once again have supportive people around me and the knowledge to make informed choices about how and where I will give birth.

    Ultimately, if we get to make an informed choice then it doesn't matter what the choice is or the path it takes us on, because it's the right one for us and us alone.

    Please keep sharing your thoughts on birth!! It is so important for women to hear positive thoughts and stories in a birth world that seems dominated by negativity, drama and catastrophe.

  47. Long time reader, i think first time commenter. I'm 20 years old, dont have kids (yet!) but I love reading your perspective Jodi its refreshing and makes me feel excited for future possibilities if I'm blessed enough to have my own kids, you're doing a great job xo