Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reviews and clips of "Outlaw Births"


The unassisted childbirth documentary “Outlaw Births” aired in the UK on Wed. night and by all accounts was an interesting program! As usual, there were numerous negative comments throughout from medical professionals but that’s to be expected. There was also too much emphasis (by most accounts) on the problems one American woman, Heather, had on delivering her placenta. The placenta was slow in coming so Heather went to the hospital. While this actually wasn’t an emergency, it was presented as such in the program. Still, in most people’s minds this didn’t overshadow the beauty of Heather’s homebirth.

Two clips have been posted on YouTube. The clips feature UK UCer Clair and her partner Yasmin, but in the beginning of the first clip you’ll see 2-second shots of 2 other UC’s – Josephine’s and Monique’s. There is also a shot of my friend Cassie looking euphoric as she holds her baby just after the birth, and a few shots of Heather and another UK UCer, Clio in labor. Click here and here.

I’ve already received numerous letters from people around the world who would like to watch the program. Unfortunately at this point it isn’t for sale, although I’ve been told that eventually it will be shown in other (as of now unknown) countries. Those who live in the UK can view the program free here.

I’m enclosing two reviews below, one from my UK friend Cassie, and another by a writer for the Guardian newspaper. Unfortunately the production company has yet to send me a copy so I can’t add my own comments.

From Cassie:
Channel 5 is one of 5 channels available to everyone within the United Kingdom with a TV set. I was extremely pleased and impressed by the program overall. Three births were shown. Clair, our very own Heather and also Clio of Evolution Expands Consciousness.

It started out badly edited really, chopping between Clair (ex nurse in London planning a UC) and three medics - one head midwife from Colorado, a male consultant here in London and a female consultant also based in London. The three medics were obviously saying how dangerous it was, how women die, how "interventions make birth safe" and that the tools they have prevent mothers and babies from dying in childbirth. They also said about 50,000 people each year suffer from PPH (post-partum hemorrhage) in the UK. Didn't mention the fact this was probably due to them yanking out placentas and cutting women up with episiotomies whilst they were strapped to their backs and immobile through epidurals....

The program hinted for a good part of the hour long documentary...that the practice may not be legal in the UK. They even avoided having their own film crew at Clio's birth...just in case the film crew was prosecuted. This continued right up until Clair went to see Beverly Beech, Chair of AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services). At that point Beverly said quite clearly that anyone telling a pregnant woman that UC was illegal was either 'ignorant or lying.' The program misquoted the wrong piece of legislation associated with possible prosecution...saying it was 1997...when in actual fact it's 2001.

Clair I felt was featured most centrally. She is an ex nurse and also a lesbian. They didn't make as big of an issue out of this as I had expected them to, which was nice. She put herself across on the documentary quite well, being very honest in her fears and her hopes. She went for a class with the British Red Cross...and the man who gave her lessons on how to resuscitate a baby did not at all seem phased when she pointed out there would be no midwife at her birth. He just made sure she understood what he had taught her and seemed quite confident he had equipped her with the knowledge to save her child, should the occurrence arise. She birthed at home with her partner alone. Bit of screaming when the head crowned, but she was ecstatic and far happier it seems with this birth than her previous two experiences.

Clio - was AMAZING. Quiet, serene, peaceful. Positively empowered and never uttering once about negativities.

Heather - beautiful! Was filmed with our dear Laura at a gathering that was held at Laura’s home with other women. The birth was beautiful. Unfortunately out of all of them, this is where the negative spin came when Heather still hadn't birthed the placenta. The ominous narration of 'this is the most dangerous time and Heather is seriously at risk from PPH and infection of her and her baby.' It was the only time I yelled at the TV. Of course everything was fine but it almost gave the impression of 'thank god...see how lucky she is.' It also showed Heather, checking her blood pressure in Wal-Mart lol, and her meeting with a midwife to learn how to resuscitate a baby if needed. The midwife was quite negative when interviewed afterwards and said she needed more support. I wanted to slap her a bit lol.

Laura was interviewed. The website shown and apparently...Laura...you have a 'cult' following. There was footage shown of Laura’s birth back in 1978. The interview bits that were shown of you were not as choppy as some of the others done with 'experts.' You probably got as much if not more coverage as the female UK medic. A basic view of UC came across very nicely from you, as well as your additions on what you hoped Dr's, midwives and doulas should learn about supporting women. ALSO the UK female medic acknowledged the fact that women were turning to UC because the standard of care they received in NHS hospitals was poor and that needed to change!

So it wasn't a parade of freaks as some of these documentaries tend to do. It portrayed 3, educated, empowered and confident women giving birth to their babies without assistance. It showed their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams through their plans and births. It also addressed the legal and medical concerns surrounding UC. Overall...as I said....a very good piece on unassisted childbirth.

It also has the net in a spin. I have been dropping hints about the programs on a number of mainstream boards. They are buzzing about it. Even though many of them wouldn't personally choose to go UC themselves, they admire the births, do not condemn women for choosing to go UC. I can count on probably 1 hand the negative comments I have seen made after the airing of the show (so far) and all of them can generally be put down to that individual’s own personal horrific hospital experience. Well done and congratulations to everyone who was involved in the making of the program!

From Anne Pickard of the Guardian newspaper:
The women in Outlaw Births weren't criminals. They just delivered their babies their own way
Thursday July 10, 2008

Anyone wondering if childbirth really is as painful as everyone says would have found their answer in Extraordinary People: Outlaw Births (Five). In at least two out of three cases, yes, it really did look that painful. And messy. And not for the squeamish. But it was at least a real and unflinching portrait of natural childbirth - as well as a reminder of how unusual it is to see uncensored images of women giving birth and breastfeeding on primetime TV.

Of course, to get it into the schedules, it had to be given a stupid name. Outlaw Births? The programme highlighted the fact that unassisted births in the UK exist in a legally grey area - but "outlaw"? I half-expected to see mothers popping out little black-hatted baddies with sawn-off shotguns shouting: "Put 'em up, this is a robbery!"

Clair MacVean, a quietly passionate ex-nurse, was sad that her friends thought her mad and that her grandmother would worry. But she wasn't to be shaken out of her opinions. "Births are overmanaged, over-medicalised and midwives seem to have lost their empathy," she said. When her NHS trust refused her a home-birthing kit after she refused their midwife, she took herself off to a medical-supplies shop to buy sterile scissors for cutting the umbilical cord. "And who's going to do it?" said the nice lady in the medical-supplies shop. "Me, probably!" Clair replied, cheerfully. "Oh!" said the nice lady, lost for words.

Two other women shared their experiences and, even though you sensed that nothing bad was going to happen, you knew that it could. And you knew they knew, too. Clio Howie gave birth in the company of her husband and children in a remote cottage in Wales, half an hour from the nearest doctor. In almost complete silence, her baby slipped into the birthing pool and emerged the right way up, the right colour and softly crying as he was laid on her breast.

Clair and the third freebirthing mother, Heather, fared less well. They spent hours screaming and contorted, but both ended up with a tiny, perfect person. Every now and again, an obstetrician or a high-ranking midwife appeared and said: "Our problem with this is that it could be dangerous and someone could die and we don't want mothers to put themselves and their babies in situations of unacceptable risk."

Their unsupportive attitude became shockingly clear when Heather, worried that the placenta had not followed the baby out, took herself off to a hospital. There she was treated with disdain. "Well, what do you expect us to do now?" her doctor said. Still, whether you believe these women are taking unacceptable risks or not, their calm dedication made for an absorbing film. "I've had several cups of tea, he's had several little breastfeeds; it's been a lovely morning - wake up, have a baby, and ... " said Clair, waving her hands, "this is the way it should be. Birth is part of life."

8 comments:

jessica said...

Although I love the idea of a home birth I dont think you should do it without a midwife present. Even if they are there just to observe and step in when YOU the birthing mother asks. Only because so much CAN go wrong. I had two births in the hospital but i told them to leave me alone and they did. I DONT think it should be outlawed though because that is just stupid!!!!!!!! Your birth is exactly that, yours and anyone can refuse what doctors tell you to do. Just because they say what needs to be done doesnt mean you have to do what they say, its a suggestion and only that. You have the right to take control of your care. Just protect your baby by having medical care redily available to you.

Laura Shanley said...

Thanks for your comment, Jessica! I'm glad your birth went well, but it's actually very hard to have a midwife or doctor attended birth where the mother truly calls the shots. Even in most midwife-attended homebirths midwives are required by law to check dilation, time each stage of labor, and transfer a woman to the hospital if she doesn't give birth or deliver the placenta within a certain amount of time. It's rare for a doctor or midwife at the hospital to allow a woman to forego ALL medical intervention. Yes, it would be great if doctors and midwives only intervened when necessary but too many times, intervention in birth is routine and the consequences can be deadly, or at least make it difficult for the mother to give birth in her own time and own way.

jessica said...

I agree but what happens when an unfortunate thing happens?Like the mother or baby dies?i hope and pray that doesnt happen but there are unfortunate things that can happen and they have nothing to do with medical intervention...ie: placenta previa...what happens when a birthing mother experiences this and the hospital is hours away and there is no one there to help?i pray for mothers every day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laura Shanley said...

Jessica - mothers and babies die in the hospital everyday. In fact, the maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past ten years. As I mentioned before, much of this is due to unnecessary and dangerous medical intervention. But if you read my book and the articles on my site you'll see that most of my work focuses on the psychological reasons for the problems some women experience in pregnancy and birth. Things don't "just happen" for no reason. Our thoughts and feelings are powerful. If we approach pregnancy and birth with fear, our bodies produce stress hormones and numerous problems result - like placenta previa.

You wrote that you pray for mothers every day, so I assume you believe in God. If so, then don't you feel that God knew what he was doing when he created women's bodies? If he has the ability to grow an egg and a sperm into a baby, he certainly knows how to complete the process - if we let him. The problem is, most women don't trust God or nature or the larger consciousness - or themselves. This lack of trust then triggers the release of stress hormones which essentially shut down birth. To learn more about this, please read the articles on my site.

Gaia said...

On a quick note, placenta previa is not caused by stress hormones. It is the development of the placenta low in the uterus either partially or completely occluding the cervix. This happens when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus in the earliest stages of pregnancy.

This particular misunderstanding of a possibly fatal complication of pregnancy and childbirth speaks to a possible ignorance of the pathophysiology of pregnancy and probable ignorance of some of the risks of childbirth that have nothing to do with medical intervention, or assistance with birth.

Placenta previa is one of the risks that women considering homebirth with or without assistance must consider. It is irresponsible to ignore the fact that there are in fact risks either way.

Laura Shanley said...

Psychological historian Gerald Heard writes in his book The Five Ages of Man that in the evolution of our self-consciousness, humanity goes through a phase where they believe that the physical is all that exists, and that our thoughts, feelings and beliefs have nothing to do with the health of our bodies or the events in our lives. Now, however, we are moving into a new phase of consciousness where we are beginning to understand that there is indeed an unseen world that is the source of this one, and that all disease begins in the mind. Sickness and/or problems during pregnancy and birth do not simply strike us for no reason. Instead they are the result of fear, shame and guilt, which manifest in our bodies in numerous ways. Placenta previa is merely one manifestation, but of course there are many more.

Those who are still stuck in what Heard calls the Humanic level of consciousness may think they are on the cutting edge of science, but in reality they are clinging to an obsolete and primitive way of thinking. I’m sure you mean well, Gaia, but rather than trying to frighten women into seeking medical help for a natural bodily process, I would encourage you to read my book, Unassisted Childbirth, as well as other books that explore the mind/body connection and the power of thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Ashley said...

I'd just like to say how moved and excited I am about other women's births that mirror what I want for myself. When I was 19 I went through several different doctors and kept changing because nothing felt right. I lived on a farm and had no cable or internet or much interaction at all with other women and their ideas. Do you want to know what I thought up all on my own without anyone telling me which direction to go? I thought, "I would give anything to have this baby right here at home. Imagine if I could just do that." So young and unsure I never considered it a possibility, just a strange desire that made me more different than I felt comfortable being. Now I'm nearly 18 weeks with my second child, 23, and I will be having this one at home on my own and fully excited about the adventure. Thank you Laura for calling my still small voice back into existance. Your amazing and a great example for women everywhere.

Laura Shanley said...

Thanks so much, Ashley! It sounds like you were wise beyond your years and still are! Have a wonderul birth!