March 4th, 2011

planet

Pregnant in America: a documentary I will not recommend

I watched "Pregnant in America" on Netflix this week. It promises to be a "motivational, and inspirational" documentary... yeah not so much. I'm gonna have to give it two big ol' thumbs DOWN for the following:

  • Fear mongering
  • Talking smack on my hospital
  • Way too many minutes spent dwelling on dramatic personal stories

If you are pregnant and want to scare the SHIT out of yourself, this is a good documentary to watch. The guy literally starts the film off in front of a chart that reads "hospitals are our ENEMY". When he talks about epidurals, he scrolls through a huge list of ultra-scary side effects, stopping at the MATERNAL DEATH at the end of it, in huge letters on a black background.

People, I know lots of women who've had epidurals. None have died. None were paralyzed from the waist down forever. If you choose to skip the epidural, I hope you don't do it because you're afraid it will kill you. In general I don't advocate making any decisions based mostly on fear.

At one point in the movie a family member of the filmmaker gives birth in Wichita, Kansas... I thought, "yay, a shout-out for the hometown!" There's some weirdness with her pregnancy, the doctor urges her to schedule an induction several weeks before her due date for sketchy reasons. I acknowledge that crap goes on, and it's crap. She refuses, as well she should, and goes on to have a non-induced drug-free birth at Via Christi hospital. But the filmmaker needs more drama so he shows up Michael Moore style at the Wesley Birthcare Center, where the woman's former doctor does births, to fire off questions about their policies and doctors and c-section rates.

This is where I had baby Jo... in the middle of the night, with my OB on vacation, in the hands of who-knows-what medical professionals I'd never met. And it went great! I don't remember the name of the incredibly patient nurse/cheerleader who spent two hours helping me balance in various positions to push, (plus however many hours of labor leading up to that) but she was incredible. In fact I was surrounded by a great supportive staff the whole time. Even the anesthesiologist there told me, "You can do this without me, you know that." as he was filling out the paperwork I asked for so I could get pain relief fast if I changed my mind (I didn't). Wesley is also where I took the lamaze class that prepared me for childbirth, even though my Bradley Method book specifically said NOT to take a hospital class. All I can say is that it worked for me.

Another more popular documentary, "The Business of Being Born", also paints this black-and-white story about how you either (1) have your baby at home surrounded by candles and doulas and bliss, or you (2) go to a hospital where they strap you down and cut you open. I'd still kind of recommend watching "Business of Being Born" because they do a good job of explaining the "cascade of intervention" concept, and it's not nearly as scary as "Pregnant in America". But with both documentaries I disagree with the "either or" view of the world, because it doesn't match up with my experience.

Final gripe... the drama, oh the drama! The filmmaker's wife does give birth at home, but then something goes wrong with the baby, she isn't breathing right, they opt to go to the hospital. I really feel awful for the couple, it's horrible to see this newborn being stuck and prodded, but they make it even worse with more suspenseful black screens of "we were praying" for a long time before telling you "and but in the end she was just fine". And through it all, the guy still hates hospitals, still wants to question everything they do and accuse them of being money-grubbing faceless corporations, even as they're working to save his newborn daughter's life! Hospital staffs didn't like that he was filming a documentary? Oh shocking, I thought everyone loved having their work filmed and picked apart later. Come on, man.

Is the c-section rate in America too high? Probably. Is natural birth a good idea? Yes. But you shouldn't do a homebirth because you're scared of hospitals killing you. I realize having one baby doesn't make me an expert, but I can say that during my birth I really liked having options. I felt like I was in a safe place, people were taking care of me. I certainly labored at home for quite a while and enjoyed that time by myself to marvel at the wonders of what was going on, but when we got to the hospital there was plenty of calm time there too where I just soaked in a warm bath between contractions, in a dim room with my husband and a kind nurse. I liked being unmedicated, able to move around and make decisions and feel like "myself", but I liked knowing that if I changed my mind I could get pain medication. I also really appreciated the large professional cleaning staff. Not going to say too much about that, but honestly that's the one thing that makes "hospital!" win over homebirth in my mind.

Conclusion: pregnancy makes you anxious enough. Don't watch scary documentaries.