Babies, hippies and puppies

Earth Day was a couple weeks ago, and with that came the Earth Day Festival that’s held in Columbia’s own Peace Park. I’ve been going to Earth Day since I was a little tyke, and I like to go back as often as I can. This year the weather was particularly beautiful, 70 degrees and sunny, and the copious display of babies, hippies and puppies filled my heart’s content. They are, after all, three of my most favorite things.

It’s interesting then, that when two of these (sort of) appeared in the documentary we watched in class called “The Business of Being Born,” I wasn’t too keen on what they were talking about: midwifery.

Well. I can explain.

I’ve long struggled with the idea of me ever being a mother. I’m super open to the idea of adoption, but the thought of carrying a fetus in my own uterus doesn’t exactly send me to the nearest baby boutique to coo and coddle the most recent infant that’s been popped out into this world. I honestly think some of that has to do with what I’ve been led to believe pregnancy is, like the documentary mentions. I’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy. I know about Private Practice. That show “I was pregnant and didn’t even know it” terrifies me. What I’ve seen from popular culture about the birthing process (since I don’t have any relatives or friends who have gone through that, really) is scary as hell. So when I heard that we were going to watch a documentary about that very topic, I was apprehensive to say the least.

My mother gave birth to me at University Hospital. Three and a half years prior, she gave birth to my older brother at Boone Hospital. Pretty much anyone I know who has given birth did it in a hospital. Midwifery was something hippies with somehow a lot of money, or celebrities even, did.

One of my guilty pleasures is The Mindy Project, in which the protagonist is an OB/GYN. Several plot points deals with the competitors of her practice, a midwifery firm run by the Duplass Brothers. They are described as zen-like, hippie-ish and altogether unknowledgeable about the medical issues about giving birth. Sure they’re great about making the women feel comfortable and at one with their body, and therefore baby, but what happens when a medical emergency strikes? According to Mindy, the mother’s are done for unless they have an OB/GYN on their side.

So yeah, I was apprehensive about watching the Business of Being Born. But I’ve gotta say, I enjoyed it. And it honestly did change my perspective on things. The documentary made me realize that my mere understanding of pregnancy and birth are very institutionalized. Here are some thoughts:

First, it’s hard to think about the hospital, where lives are supposed to be saved, as a business. But then again, a business to me is when goods and services are exchanged for one another. So duh Jennifer, hospitals and providing pregnancy care is a huge business.

On a related note, I was surprised to learn that giving birth with the help of a midwife is less expensive than giving birth at a hospital and consulting with an OB/GYN. You would think that personalized attention would be worth its weight in gold regarding ensuring a successful pregnancy. But then again, everything about the medical field reels in dollar signs and huge fees. So what does our society value more, something natural and personal, or something medicated and backed up by an expensive medical degree?

These two ideas really hit home the idea of women not being in control of their bodies at the hospital level. They are told that medicine treatments are necessary for them to have a healthy birth, that them taking a long time isn’t normal, that it’s for the sake of the baby. That whole section got me thinking about how, you know, birth has been around for way longer than a lot of these technologies and medicines. But we’re told that these innovations are for our own good, when really, are they? They’re more “effective,” and in today’s world that means they’re faster. So that again, as the documentary showed, shows that this is totally an institution for efficient exchange of goods and services for something else of value.

But after seeing the different scenarios being played out in the chaotic hospital room versus the calming kiddie pool in a hipster NYC apartment, I’ve gotta say the latter seemed more appealing. As hippie-ish as it might sound, natural birth in this portrayal makes a lot of sense. Of course that was the documentary’s agenda, and I would have a lot more research to do before I ever considered going through any one of these processes. However, the Business of Being Born really opened my eyes into what benefits could come from midwifery.

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