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Former TV host Ricki Lake’s older son, Milo, was born 12 years ago in a New York City hospital. “After so many months of preparation . . . I was never in control. I had wanted to feel everything, but all I remembered of labor was fear and panic,” she writes in the preface to Your Best Birth. Shortly thereafter, Lake became a self-described birth junkie; and five years later her second son, Owen, was delivered at home, in water, by a midwife. “I chose to go against much of the advice given to me and did what I wanted, and it turned out even better than I expected,” she writes. Lake spoke with us recently about how she hopes to help other women have the best possible birth experience.
Fit Pregnancy: There are so many books out there on having babies. Why did you and Abby Epstein write Your Best Birth?
Ricki Lake: When screening our movie (The Business of Being Born) across the country, I thought the film was very thorough in explaining things like what a midwife does and what a doula is, but those questions were asked after every session. So we decided we should create another way to get this information out to the public.
F.P.: What did you learn when researching the chapter on induction?
R.L.: It’s getting more and more common when you go into a hospital setting to be given some sort of intervention, such as Pitocin, to move your labor along and speed up the process. But women need to know that if they are given one intervention, the chances of them needing another to combat or accompany that increase.
F.P.: What message do you hope women will take away from the book?
R.L.: I really hope women get the information they need and, as a result, are able to have a better birth experience. We want readers to know that they have choices and that whatever their choice is, as long as it’s an educated one, it’s the right one for them.
FP: Soon after the release of your film, The Business of Being Born, the American Medical Association (AMA) came out with a release stating that all home births were unsafe. Had you anticipated that might happen?
RL: No. If I did, I might have been nervous about putting myself out there. But, at this point I take it as a compliment. It was a very small movie that I didn’t think could be on the level of potentially threatening the AMA. It wasn’t my goal to shake things up, but the fact is the movie has raised a lot of important questions that I believe should be asked by everyone who is considering having a baby in the United States, such as why are Cesarean sections on the rise? And, with the current health care problems we are facing, I believe the midwifery model of care is logical, potential solution: It’s cost effective, safe and something all women should have access to.
FP: Knowing what you know now, do you find it hard to remain free of judgment when talking to women about their birth choices?
RL: I try really hard not to judge. And, I don’t ever want the message to be that I am preaching about what is best for everyone. What I want people to take away is that they should do their homework and then decide what is best for them. I’m glad we live in a country where we do have choices about how we give birth, even though some of those choices are slowly being taken away, such as the number of birthing centers that are being shut down.
FP: Do your children have any idea how their births have impacted your current projects?
RL: None of this would have happened without them and the way they came into the world. People assume that I had a bad birth experience with my first child, Milo. But, I didn’t. I just had a different experience. And, I learned a lot between my first birth and my second. I’m hoping that when they grow up they’ll understand that being born did not just make me the happiest person, but spawned a movement.
FP: What’s next?
RL: We are working on a second documentary about birth that will be out this fall. We interviewed midwife Ina May Gaskin at length for the film and toured her facility, The Farm Midwifery Center, in Summertown, Tennessee. For me, meeting Ina May was like meeting Gandhi. The film also features the birth stories of Christy Turlington Burns and Allison Hannigan of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother. You can see clips of the film on my social networking site, mybestbirth.com.
FP: What have you learned from this experience?
RL: This is the book I wish I had access to when I was first thinking of having children. And, I feel the same way about the film, The Business of Being Born. I feel privileged that I get to deliver this information to the public. It’s so fulfilling to be a mom, but the fact that I am doing something that can benefit all women feels really good. This work is really important to me. My hope is that it gets people thinking.
Read an excerpt from Your Best Birth
To see a trailer or to download a copy of The Business of Being Born, go to www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com