Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thoughts on 20/20's Extreme Motherhood show

Last Friday, "20/20" (ABC TV) finally aired their "Extreme Motherhood" show. All of the segments are now online (click on the videos in the articles): Unassisted Childbirth and Homebirth with Midwives, Orgasmic Birth and Long-term Breastfeeding. (There were also segments on "fake babies" and "serial surrogates" but they didn't interest me and I didn't watch them.)

The homebirth piece was quite short (5 minutes) but I was happy with how I was presented, and felt that the essence of what I wanted to convey came through! The beautiful opening shots of the mountains were taken near my home in Boulder.

There's been somewhat of an uproar in the homebirth community because there was no distinction made between unassisted and midwife assisted homebirth. This surprised me, as the producer had read my book (Unassisted Childbirth) and spent several hours (both on and off camera) interviewing me. I'm sure she knew they were two different things. Perhaps it was an editing mistake, or maybe they didn't feel it was important to distinguish between the two approaches to birth. Yesterday I wrote to ABC and encouraged them to do another show, specifically about unassisted childbirth. Actually, the producer that originally contacted me last year had hopes of doing an hour-long show completely devoted to unassisted childbirth. But apparently the higher-ups nixed the idea.

Most homebirthers were also disappointed by how Abby Epstein's birth was presented. Abby directed Ricki Lake's film The Business of Being Born. Because Abby transferred to the hospital (after going into labor prematurely and discovering that her baby was breech), her story was used as an example of a homebirth gone horribly wrong. While it's true that Abby was fairly panicky in the cab ride to the hospital, in the actual film I didn't get the impression that she or her baby were in grave danger. Her midwife felt there was a problem, and they headed to the hospital. In any case, I was glad to see the film mentioned, and thought Ricki did a nice job answering Elizabeth Vargas's questions.

The orgasmic birth segment was excellent! Debra Pascali-Bonaro, producer of the new film Orgasmic Birth, did a great job explaining the concepts behind the film. Amber Hartnell, whose incredible birth was featured in the film, spoke eloquently, as well, as did Christiane Northrup, MD, author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom." I was interviewed for this segment also, but didn't make the final cut. A couple good articles have been posted about orgasmic birth in the past few days: Orgasmic Birth: The Natural Reality Behind The Hype by Lee Stranahan for the Huffington Post (I was interviewed for this one) and Orgasms During Childbirth? It Happens by Yvonne Fulbright for Fox News.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my dear friend Veronika Robinson, publisher of the Mother Magazine (UK), in the breastfeeding segment! I didn't feel this segment was as positive as the others but Veronika spoke beautifully, as usual.

While the show left a lot to be desired, I was happy to see these subjects dealt with on national television. It was a good introduction, if nothing else.


~L~ said...

I am an extreme mother??? Really???

Where's my pin!?

I didn't know you had a blog-- may have been under a rock for a while-- but I owe you, specifically, a very large debt of gratitude. My first child was born medically induced and labor very quick and pleasant, despite the induction. Based on the events, my very mainstream OB told me to be prepared for my next child to be born in a precipitous childbirth(He was--2.5 hours from start to placenta), and prepared me for the possibility of a surprise homebirth.

I spent two years reading up on my alternatives, including spending a LOT of time on your Bornfree site. I chickened out at the last moments and made it to the hospital just in time-- he was born 15 minutes after I arrived. It went horribly and was a complete contradiction to the pleasant first experience I'd had there. It made me a believer. He was my only painfree birth, and the spastic hospital staffers shattered the experience. He didn't hurt me, but they did.

I spent the next two years regretting that decision before I had a healing homebirth in another state. Your efforts are more than partially responsible for that, and I did need to thank you.

Laura Shanley said...

Thanks for your nice comment L! I'm sorry (but of course not surprised) to hear about your hospital experience. I'm glad I was able to help you create something better! Good for you, "extreme mama"!

Leanne said...

I just caught a repeat showing of the Freebirthing special on Discovery Health. I am so pleased that I am part of the "extreme mamas" group. I have had 3 hospital births and 1 uc. I hope to have my 2nd uc this spring. It is nice to know that there are others out there who feel exactly as I do even if there are different reasons behind it. Thanks so much for bringing some attention to the different choices that a woman has when it comes to birthing. Much respect!

Laura Shanley said...

You're welcome, Leanne! Have a wonderful birth!