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DVD 1: Down on The Farm: Conversations with Legendary Midwife Ina May Gaskin

Executive Producer Ricki Lake and Director Abby Epstein travel to The Farm Community in Summertown, Tennessee to speak with pioneer midwife Ina May Gaskin. Getting to be a fly on the wall during this visit is a wonderful, enlightening experience. I learned a great deal in a short amount of time while watching this DVD. Ina May Gaskin is simply put, a genius when it comes to labor and delivery, and listening to her speak candidly on the topic was a voyeuristic treat. Passion and knowledge infuse every word she speaks, and the video features sequences of Q and A with the midwives at The Farm, covering hot topics including labor induction, ultrasound, and the cocktail of drugs many women receive during labor and delivery. What struck me as the most fascinating was the discussion that Autism may be linked to ultrasound and drug interventions during pregnancy and childbirth, and that of the 2,500 babies delivered naturally on The Farm, none are on the Autism spectrum (and as a sidenote, they also mentioned that no Autism has ever been reported in Amish communities). Ina May Gaskin also poses important questions: “Why do the insurance companies get to be the boss of birth?” And she offers, “I think we need to put a higher value on our mother’s lives, and then when we do that, automatically you’re going to have a safer health care system.”

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The final sequence of DVD 1 moved me to tears. Gaskin exhibits her Safe Motherhood Quilt which implores us to more deeply examine the rising maternal mortality rate in the US. She told stories of the preventable deaths of many of the young mothers who had died and were given a square on the quilt as an ode to their life. Ina May Gaskin’s quilt honors deceased mothers and babies and raises the question: Why are we losing so many mothers in this country due to negligence, unnecessary interventions, protocols put into place for the sake of convenience, and due to no after care or follow-up once mother and baby are home. Visit rememberthemothers.org for more information on The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project.

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DVD 2: Special Deliveries: Celebrity Mothers Talk Straight on Birth

While engaging, the second DVD in the series resonated the least with me. It featured the labor and delivery stories of several celebrities, all of whom at one point or another expressed that their experience giving birth was “indescribable,” yet then went forth to describe it in detail. (I know what they mean, as I can attest that childbirth is indeed indescribable), but I saw no need for the women speaking to be famous, and would have been just as captivated listening to any woman speak about her experience, which was more the case in the first film, The Business of Being Born. Of the actresses, models and musicians interviewed here, I connected the most with the stories told by Alanis Morissette and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Morisette was insightful, funny and extremely honest and relatable, and Williams-Paisley gave a tearful account of how her dream of a home birth turned into a C-section in the hospital — a situation no doubt many women experience. Her strength and good attitude were inspiring.

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DVD 3: Explore Your Options: Doulas, Birth Centers & C-Sections

I wish I had seen this particular DVD before my son (second child) was born, because I had to do all of my own research with regard to whether I should hire a doula and also how to go about finding a doula. Much of my research is shared here on Inhabitots in posts: Should You Hire a Birth Doula? and HOW TO: Find a Birth Doula. This DVD in the series explains exactly how a doula can help shape your birth experience for the better — empowering you and making sure your wishes are heard and your needs and desires validated – no matter where you are giving birth. You’ll also learn a great deal about birth centers, and even tour a wonderful LA based birth center with Ricki Lake. Diving beneath the surface, this DVD also delves into the rising rates of inductions and C-sections, the safety of these procedures, and how they may impact the health of mothers and babies. Celebrities weigh in again here, sharing their own experiences with doulas, birth centers and more — and model Gisele Bundchen discusses the cesarean epidemic in her native Brazil.

DVD 4: The VBAC Dilemma: What Your Options Really Are

This DVD should be mandatory viewing for every expecting mother who has previously had a c-section. It provides a thorough discussion of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), in which Epstein and Lake ask dozens of experts about whether women who have had c-section surgery must go on to deliver their other babies via c-section, or if a vaginal delivery is safe — “determining the surprising truth about VBACs.” The culmination of all this discussion really hits home when viewers are taken on a journey with several women, some of whom are successful in having a VBAC and some who are not able to deliver their baby vaginally. Abby Epstein’s personal delivery experience is also highlighted — as you may recall, her c-section was depicted at the end of the film The Business of Being Born.

In closing, The Business of Being Born and More Business of Being Born should be required viewing not only for couples expecting a baby, but for every health care provider who tends to women during childbirth, from gynecologists and anesthesiologists, to nurses, doulas and midwives. The imperative message and wealth of critical knowledge contained in these films is literally life-changing. I was humbled and privileged to take in all of the information that Lake and Epstein so flawlessly present and eloquently deliver, and I can only hope that their mission continues to make more and more women aware of their own inherent power and grace.

+ More Business of Being Born