Should We Push for Better Birth on Television as Well?
Not every woman cares to watch television or even to have one in her home, but many of those who do, choose to watch the wide variety of birth shows available to them. But is there really any true variety to these shows? The answer is no. Many of the birth stories on shows such as The Baby Story, Babies: Special Delivery, and the new show, Deliver Me, are told in a way that dramatize and sensationalize the experience, especially when there is some sort of a problem. Everything from the narrator’s voice to the music played in the background and the clips chosen evokes anxiety in the viewer. Even worse, the shows rarely focus on the rarity of the circumstances they present, even the one percent situations.
Enter House of Babies, the only series I am aware of that tells the accounts of natural childbirth. Other shows might include the occasional, rare homebirth, but when they do so the title of the episode becomes “Unconventional Birth.” What is so wonderful and so beautifully normal and natural is deemed abnormal! In House of Babies, however, women finally receive a show that promotes normal, natural birth:
“In 2006, the Discovery Health Channel premiered a new factual show about natural childbirth, called “House of Babies,” shot at Shari’s Miami Maternity Clinic. The 26-episode, fact-based series follows the stories of Shari, other midwives and midwifery students, and parents as they experience the day-to-day joy and drama of drug-free childbirth. The footage of the births is raw and real; the pain and hard work of labor is evidenced.” http://www.houseofbabies.com.
Seeing as television has such strong influence in our society, it is good that shows such as House of Babies are out there, and that some women are willing to share their intensely personal birth experiences in an effort to educate about birth options. But there are only 26 episodes in this program, they are already becoming outdated, and I know of no other program other like it. Is there a place for a show that educates not only about midwifery, but about homebirth as well? A show that will educate and celebrate the safety, beauty, and normalcy of homebirth, and take the time to explain what is not being articulated to so many women as they sit and watch anxiety-provoking stories of hospital births with obstetricians?
Deliver Me, the newest of these shows, is particularly disappointing. All three obstetricians are women, which initially offers a glimmer of hope, but the medical model of care is clear as day as the story of each pregnancy and birth is told; The doctors are quick to offer intervention and equally as quick in their conversations with their “patients.”
Perhaps what women need to see instead are many different midwives, in many different homes, delivering many different babies to many different families, treating each one of them as though they are the only one in the world, their birth the only birth. Can television be a place for this? For those of us committed to the cause, inspired and empowered by our own natural births and those of other women, the stories we know are enough. What can we change in this realm of the media for the women who do not yet share and delight in the secret of all of this, to make it not so secret after all?
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