I recently attended a screening for the documentary, “Why Not Home?” along with my midwife and about 250 other birth workers in my area. The documentary was produced and directed by Jessica Moore, a family nurse practitioner who — despite the disapproval of her colleagues — gave birth at home. Though her story is rare, she is not the only maternity care provider who chose home birth. She interviews other nurses, doctors and obstetricians who made the same choice.
The film follows some of these women through pregnancies and answers why they would choose home birth when they know the risks involved and have access to the typical American maternity care system.
Moore points out that currently only 1% of babies are born outside of the hospital in the US, but that in other countries, home birth is much more common and the outcomes for mothers are babies are the same or better. She explains the statistics of home birth versus hospital birth and addresses the criticisms of one major study cited by many OBs. You can view a brief overview of that information here.
The perspective of the characters is intriguing enough, but the film is also beautiful and thought-provoking and captures the beauty and power of birth uninterrupted.
The screening I watched was also attended by Erin Wrightsman, one of the film’s Associate Producers, and she agreed to hold a Q&A after the film. I expected the audience members to stand up and ask questions about the logistics of the film-making process, where some of the filming was done, ask about some of the characters in the film, etc. But the conversation that developed was really more about how we can change our communities to serve women and babies better.
We talked about how to facilitate conversation with medical professionals and how to make an impact on our birth culture by informing mothers about their options and encouraging them to have those conversations with their care providers.
It reminded me of a book I read called Homebirth in the Hospital by Stacey Kerr, MD. In it, she explains her experience with birth in and out of the hospital and how, ideally, women can have access to the best of both of those worlds. Hospitals can and should see the benefits of movement in labor, eating and drinking in labor (which even the American Society of Anesthesiologists now recommends), the use of water and other natural pain management techniques and other policies that are often not allowed or not offered. Beyond that, she also encourages care providers to develop trust with patients by having open and honest communication and by valuing the patient’s input and goals.
It was obvious that many of the film attendees were inspired to think of new ways to build our network so that more women have safer and more satisfying birth experiences. And I believe that was the point of the documentary, above any other: To spread the word that birth matters and women have a right to mother-friendly, respectful, safe maternity care.
To host a screening, contact the Why Not Home? producers here.
photo credit: Erin Wrightsman, used with permission