Birth On The Big Screen

The new award-winning documentary, Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives, puts the spotlight on midwives and the natural birth experience.


During last week's Los Angeles Film Festival, I was invited to a pre-screening Q&A with filmmakers and working mamas Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore, the duo behind Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives. (See a sneak peek here.) In the words of Lamm and Wigmore, Birth Story "is about an incredible group of women who taught themselves how to deliver babies on a hippie commune in the 1970s." More specifically, the film tells the story of how Ina May Gaskin crossed the country on a bus, and on the way, began what would become her life's work as a midwife. The film follows her journey from then to now, and gives film-goers an up close and personal look at The Farm Midwifery Center in Summertime, Tenn., which Gaskin founded and where she is still delivering babies today.

The film was screened to three sold out audiences at the festival and—kudos (and congrats!) to Lamm and Wigmore—received the audience award for best documentary feature. Here, the filmmakers share their inspiration for Birth Story, what surprised them the most while making the film and how you can help support their, ahem, baby:

Fit Pregnancy: What inspired you to make the film?

Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore: A mutual friend gave us copies of Spiritual Midwifery when we were each pregnant with our first children. We both read it and thought, Wow this would make a great film! The stories in it made us feel less afraid [of giving birth]; it made childbirth seem like a great adventure and just part of life. We still find it incredible that this book has been passed from woman to woman over and over again for nearly 40 years. It uses language from another time but its message is still fresh today.

As filmmakers, we were also intrigued by The Farm as a community. It's incredible that this group of people came together to live their ideals, and because of the structure of the community, midwifery was allowed to flourish there. We wanted to explore how The Farm women worked together and we wanted to show the midwife model of care so people can see and be inspired by the work they do. We also think our film is a great opportunity for an audience to see unmedicated births with minimal interventions.

FP: You both gave birth before you made the film. What was your experience like?

S.L.: I had two unmedicated births with midwives in a hospital. One of my favorite things was getting to see my midwife in action. It was one thing to meet her in her office at prenatal visits, but when I got to watch her deliver a baby (my baby!) it was a real thrill. She was so smart and kind, and afterward I wrote her a thank you note that said, "All women deserve to have access to this kind of care." And it's true. My deep wish is for women the world over to have compassionate, intelligent care when they are in labor.

M.W.: I had an emergency Cesarean section. I was prepared to have a natural birth but it didn't work out that way and, of course, that's always a possibility. We have found in our experience, and in speaking with other women, that it's best to hold [the birth experience] lightly; you have to set your intention to birth in a particular way, educate yourself, and then be prepared to change if needed.

FP: Mary, you're pregnant. Has making the movie influenced how you will approach your labor and delivery the second time around?

M.L.: I will approach this birth with less fear and more confidence, knowing that my body was built to do this. Plus I have been so steeped in childbirth for the last three years, and it feels good to be armed with knowledge and surrounded by a wonderful group of care providers to support me through it!

FP: What was the most surprising thing you both learned while making the film?

S.L. and M.W.: (1) Birth can be fun! (2) One in 3 women in the United States today have C-sections, and (3) Men DO cry during movies, especially when babies are born!

FP: What are you hoping that viewers take away from the film?

S.L. and M.W.: That women will have a renewed confidence in their bodies, a better understanding about what midwives do and, hopefully, be enlightened by Ina May's fearless approach to childbirth.

F.P.: How can individuals support the film?

S.L. and M.W.: They can pre-order DVDs and donate to the film on our Kickstarter page. We have launched this campaign to raise funds for outreach, distribution and to pay outstanding bills—and every dollar helps. Also, we need folks to spread the word, so after you donate, post this link on your Facebook page or twitter page to encourage your friends to become a part of Birth Story, too.

A sneak peek of the film below.