The Birth of A Nation

28 Mar 2010 by Lewis, View Comments

Sometimes, there is SO much to say about a person and the work they are doing to change and transform lives that you really don’t know where to begin. And that is exactly my experience of my time with Ricki Lake this weekend. I, like many of you, knew about Ricki from her work in film and television. Of course, she is the original Tracy Turnblad of John Waters’ Hairspray. I knew she hosted a talk show for many years, and I had seen her in several other films. My experience of Ricki was that she had a infectious energy and positive outlook in all she did. That was BEFORE I met her in person. Thanks to my friend photographer Mark Leibowitz, I had the benefit of spending much of this weekend in her company. And I was moved beyond my expectations.

Mark had told Ricki about the Women Saving The World Now website and my desire to open a dialogue between men and women. Ricki, immediately reached out and share with me the work of two courageous and inspiring women – Ina May Gaskin (a leader amongst midwives) and her own nanny, CNN Hero Marie Da Silva. I look forward to featuring the amazing work of both of these women in an upcoming website post – but I want to take this time to shine another light on the courage of Ricki and her co-creator and director, Abby Epstein, in putting action to voice in the documentary film The Business of Being Born. Many of you will know Abby from her work as director of Until The Violence Stops, the 2004 documentary film on the work of Eve Ensler, creator of V-Day and the Vagina Monologues.

I did my research before our meeting and learned about Ricki’s mission to make and produce this film, after having two wonderful birth experiences – one in the hospital and one at home. She knew the joy involved in having the option of a natural birth and wanted to help educated other women about their choices. So she team up with director Abby Epstein and produced the film and created a complimentary book and social network, My Best Birth – a brilliant site which features interviews and discussion from women about their birthing experiences. And the great thing about Ricki is that she is not forcing her views on anyone else. She simply wants to educate and help women make their best informed decision.

When my own brother John (who became a first time father a year and a half ago) told me how he views Ricki as a hero for co-creating this film and using her voice and celebrity to advance the very important discussion of birthing in this country, I knew her impact moved beyond just women. So tonight, I watched the film myself. I am neither a parent nor an expecting parent, so I viewed this film with a fresh set of eyes and relatively detached from the subject. I was blown away. This is another example of how we are controlling lives in this country in a completely unnecessary way. From Michael Pollan and Robyn O’Brien, I learned that the FDA can’t be trusted and from Ricki Lake I now see that the AMA can’t either. We lose more Mother’s in this country in childbirth than in Japan and most European Nations where midwives are used in over 80% of births. In the US, it’s less that 8%. The US also has the second highest newborn death rate amongst developed Nations. Not to mention that Cesarean birth has risen by 46% in the US since 1996 (in 2005 it was one out of every 3 births). Birthing has been standardized and systemized and it is nearly impossible to deliver in a hospital in a manner other that the one track provided which includes heavy sedation and a plethora of drugs. A cascade of interventions can actually create stress in the baby and lead to a required c-section. What is a natural process is now chemically controlled. And what Ricki shared with me is that the natural process produces a high that lasts for days. She said for her there is nothing like it.

Today, I was asked by a friend how I saw Ricki and Abby’s work fitting into Women Saving The World Now. To me this is quite clear. The act of giving birth is one of the most sacred moments in the life of a women and certainly of the baby. If we are controlling her right to have her child in any manner which best serves her, then we are continuing to suppress her rights to her body and to be the most fully present creator of life. I believe we have only just begun to understand the science behind HOW we enter this world. The film even speaks to the mother’s intuitive knowledge of what is happening to the baby when it is being born. And the ability to enter with passion, love and grace, instead of being chemically numbed out or over-scheduled, as my brother said, “like air traffic control.” For thousands of years, we came into this world naturally, and if a woman choses to do so now with the aid of a midwife and doula, then she should be fully supported by her medical team – whomever that is. And the other very important point the film makes is that in nature, mothers who are not allowed the natural hormonal connection (or “the cocktail of love hormones”) with their babies during birth do not take care of their babies in the same way after the birth. So the question is posed – on what level have we been compromising the human race for the last 100 years? Or at least the humans in this country?

After this weekend, I now know Ricki Lake as an author, documentary filmmaker and champion of women. I look forward to following the future career of Ricki as she brings more of her heart and life experiences to the world. Thank you dear woman for your offering to us all. I have asked Ricki to contribute to the site in the future and I look forward to watching that materialize. Thank you Ricki.

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  • Ricki is an inspiration to many of us in the birthing world! After some pretty horrid hospital experiences, including an unnecesarean, there was not a doctor in the country who would have let me birth naturally, but my midwives trusted birth. In January, I birthed my 5th baby (who was 11lbs) safely & gently at our home, surrounded by my other children and my incredible midwives. Families need to be making these choices with the advice and support of their care-providers, not ultimatums from institutions and insurance companies. And as a parent educator, I can attest that birth experiences do make a difference in how parents feel about parenting. An educated, empowered birther becomes an educated empowered advocate for their children's health, education and community. I blog about my births, my children, and my work at

  • Justine, I love your website What a lovely testament and service. Thank you for posting on Come back!

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