21st Century Dad
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Desperate Midwives – “The Business of Being Born”

October 15th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

The Business of Being BornThere are 5 expectant couples within my social circle right now. It’s an appropriate time to share my thoughts on this film.

My only experience with childbirth was a natural one attended by a midwife. When Renee asked me to go see “The Business of Being Born,” I thought, “I’m already a believer, why do I need to see it?” I’m glad I did. My own personal experience made me a believer. This film strengthened my convictions.

Intrinsically, I knew that a natural childbirth was best, but I wasn’t going to push it. It’s our baby, but her body. Renee would have the final say on this one. She chose a natural childbirth with a midwife and has elected to breastfeed for as long as it’s feasible. I am thrilled at her decision.

Childbirth In the U.S.

I always thought a woman could opt for an un-medicated vaginal birth in the hospital. The OB/GYN was on-hand just in case something went wrong. The film shows you that’s not the case. This is the typical chain of events that will follow after a woman in labor is admitted:

  1. An expectant mother is sick of being pregnant. She wants to get this baby out.
  2. She asks for an epidural.
  3. She’s so zonked out, she can’t push properly
  4. Pitocin is administered via IV to induce contractions.
  5. The baby isn’t coming out. More pitocin is administered.
  6. The contractions are so strong, the baby goes into distress.
  7. An emergency C-section becomes necessary.

The United States is supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation in the world yet it has the second highest newborn mortality rate in the developed world.

It seems like everything we do in the United States is backwards. (Don’t get me started on the metric system) According to the statistics quoted in the film:

  • 70% of births outside the United States is attended by a midwife. It’s less than 8% in the U.S.
  • In 1900, 90% of births in the U.S. were home births.
  • In 1938, the number dropped to 50%.
  • By 1955, it was less than 1%. It remains that number to this day.

When I did a search for Pitocin on Wikipedia, it takes me straight to the page on ocytocin. In all fairness, pitocin is the synthetic version of ocytocin. Rats. I thought I had uncovered a little conspiracy. However:

  • Ocytocin is produced in the brain. Pitocin is administered intravenously.
  • Ocytocin has a chance to act on the brain before it’s released into the bloodstream. Pitocin does not.
  • Ocytocin enters the bloodstream in surges. Pitocin comes in a steady stream via IV.

The C-Section Factory

I remember in school, during a discussion about childbirth, a student piped up and said he was delivered via C-section. The first thought that popped into my head was, “I always knew there was something a little ‘off’ about this kid. I didn’t realize how commonplace it is.

I understand that a C-section is medically necessary in certain situations. In cases where it’s a high-risk pregnancy (diabetes, multiples, other medical conditions) it’s the only option. There was no way Kate Gosselin could deliver the sextuplets vaginally.

Too Posh to Push

We live in a performance and results oriented society. Natural childbirth offers too much of a margin for some schedules. Celebrity moms, career-track moms, and many others are electing for the “scheduled C.” An even more disturbing trend is the c-section and tummy tuck package deal.

The motivation behind an elective c-section is often fear. Much of what we know is from the media we absorb. In movies and on television, 3-month old babies are cast as newborns. A 3 month old baby is significantly larger than a newborn. A woman might see that “newborn” on TV and think, “no way am I going to push something that big out of me!!!”

The Choice is Ultimately Yours

I’m only qualified to speak to you about this from the father’s point of view. I wasn’t the one whose body would be irreversibly altered by this experience. I wasn’t the one doing the pushing. I wasn’t the one who could opt to be medicated. However, I have made decisions in the past while disregarding an entire set of data that in retrospect would have changed the decision I ultimately made. Those decisions are insignificant next to the birth of my child.

The birth of a child is the most profound experience you will ever have. All of the options available to you are worthy of your due consideration.

Buy “The Business of Being Born” on DVD.

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6 Responses to “Desperate Midwives – “The Business of Being Born””

  1. comment number 1 by: Israeli Mom

    Let me start by saying I’m a HUGE advocate of natural birth and breastfeeding. I so wanted to go through that experience, and yet both my boys were C-section deliveries. In my case, I was amazingly fortunate to be in a hospital and with a doctor on hand, so while I am all for natural birth, I also know that we should be grateful to modern medicine for saving the lives of many moms and babies who do need the intervention. I mean, in 1900 90% of births may have been at home, but how many of these moms and babies didn’t make it, compared to today?

    My first baby was a breech. Try as we did, and we did, we couldn’t get the little one to get into place head first. I still wanted to try natural birth, even at home, believe it or not. My doctor, who is supportive of natural births, said that he would prefer to avoid “heroics” and to keep it safe, highly recommends a planned C-section. Well, I sure am glad I took his advice. Turned out that –
    a. the reason Ron never turned was that he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three and half times.
    b. on top of that, I had a rare complication called “placenta accreta” which meant the placenta had to be scraped from my uterus bit by bit.
    This was the kind of birth that would have ended in the death of both baby and mother in a home delivery. Had we tried natural birth, we would have ended up doing an emergency C-section with potential damage to the baby as well as 50% chance of me losing the uterus.

    This isn’t to scare anyone into going for an un-needed C-section. I still think that with birth and child raising, especially in the early stages, the more natural you stay, the better. We tried natural birth with our second baby, although in a hospital (there was a risk of a scarred uterus, so they wanted the OR ready next-by). I spent 14 hours of labor with no painkillers whatsoever, and I actually enjoyed in in a twisted sort of way lol. The doctor was getting anxious, but still let me go ahead with it till the very last moment. As the baby wouldn’t come down the birth canal, we went in for a C-section. Turned out his head was twisted the wrong way, and he couldn’t come out the natural way. By the time they operated, my uterus walls were paper thin, and the doctor just touched it with a finger and is burst open – yikes!

    Hope I wasn’t too graphic, and sorry about the long comment!

  2. comment number 2 by: 21st Century Dad

    @Israeli Mom: Yes, a natural childbirth is preferable, but the lives and well-being of the baby and mother trump is the #1 priority. The doctor’s choice to go with the justified C-section was the real heroic action.
    Graphic as your story may be, it’s reality. It’s a reality we all have to face if we’re going to have children.

  3. comment number 3 by: Dan

    Both my kids were delivered by midwifes without us ever seeing a doctor, and both without any pain medication at all.

    But it was nice knowing we were in the hospital and those things were available to us.

  4. comment number 4 by: Sophia Nelson

    I gave birth to 3 wonderful children, all came in less than 15 minutes, and I experienced no pain at all.

    As a matter of fact it was quite joyful!

    I created the Zero Pain Child Birth Blueprint. You can read about it here:


    or here


    Sophia Nelson

  5. comment number 5 by: Shannon

    Great info! I had no idea about the infant mortality rate. I had to have a c-section with my 3rd after the first 2 drug free. Why a woman would elect a c-section, I’m not quite sure. It took me a lot longer to bounce back and be 100% not to mention much more painful afterwards!

    Vogue Mum
    Rock Star Maternity
    Domestic Engineer’s Union

  6. comment number 6 by: B. Wilde

    I so agree with your perspective that parents should take the time to educate themselves so that they make an informed decision that is right for the mom, their baby and their circumstances. We have 5 children and spent a great deal of time looking into the various options. I feel very fortuante that the choices we made ended up being the right ones for us. Who knows, maybe they wouldn’t be though for someone else. It’s such an individual decision and it does require research and acquired knowledge. Thanks so much for offering this. I would have appreciated it had I come across your post years ago.

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