Ricki Lake has been an actress, talk show host, documentary filmmaker, author (Your Best Birth) and, most recently, a major hit with TV audiences on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. But her real passion is educating women about their childbirth options.
In the three years since Lake and Abby Epstein’s first documentary, The Business of Being Born, was released, the number of home births in the United States has increased by 20 percent. The moviemakers don’t take credit for this rise, but many recent mothers have cited the role of this eye-opening film in challenging their assumptions about non-hospital births as well as other alternatives. We talked with Lake recently about her and Epstein’s new four-part documentary, More Business of Being Born.
Fit Pregnancy: Tell us about the new DVD series. How is More Business of Being Born different from your first documentary?
Ricki Lake: The original had a narrative—it told the stories of a few women who were having babies in New York City and exploring their options. But this one is broader in scope and more “educational.” In the first part, Abby travels to Tennessee to meet legendary midwifery pioneer Ina May Gaskin at her commune, The Farm. Abby goes there with actress Kim Williams-Paisley, who is pregnant, and it’s very fun.
The second part is about the role of doulas, C-sections, inductions, VBACs [vaginal birth after Cesarean section] and other such issues. We found that after the first film came out, people were still asking so many questions about these kinds of topics that we needed to get the word out even more.
In part three, we interview celebrity moms, including Gisele Bündchen, Alanis Morissette, Molly Ringwald and Christy Turlington-Burns, and get their birth stories. So many of them really felt the first film had a lot of influence over their desires to have a positive birth experience as well as their decisions. They seemed to strongly feel our message: We can take our power and see what we are able to do with it, and not feel we have to be “saved” by the medical community.
FP: What has drawn you so strongly to this subject?
RL: I had two babies in very different settings—the first in the hospital, and the second at home. Both were healthy, but the experiences were so different. I think how we bring our children into the world is really important. It’s not always going to happen the way we envision, but we need to be informed. I am pro-choice when it comes to birth.
FP: What message do you want the viewer to get from watching the new series?
RL: Despite all the information out there, women are still uninformed about their birth choices. When I was first pregnant, I didn’t really think about it that much. I wrote a birth plan, but I spent more time researching strollers and layettes. We should be taking that same amount of time thinking about how we see ourselves having our babies: who we want to be there, whether we want to be skin-to-skin with the baby right away and things like that.
FP: Your first documentary seemed to be very pro-home-birth. Do you have an agenda about this?
RL: Our agenda is to give women the information they need regardless of where they want to give birth. The majority of women are still going to have their babies in hospitals, and we want them to know that they might have more rights and choices than they are aware of. We want to counteract the images people have of both home birth and hospital birth. For example, the women in the first film who gave birth standing up or who delivered in a tub of water were in the hospital.
I want to be clear that I am not pushing home birth; I am pushing choosing to have a safe, informed birth wherever and with whomever you choose. One way to support this would be to have midwives be licensed in every state. But many women who want a more “natural” birth experience don’t realize that many OBs support such choices as well. You just have to know how to find one.
It’s our mission to let women know that they can have an empowered birth experience. I did with my second baby, and it’s something that’s going to stay with me for life.
More Business of Being Born is being released Nov. 8; for purchasing information, go to thebusinessofbeingborn.com.