Abby Epstein’s LaborSunday, February 7th, 2010
Abby Epstein, Ricki Lake’s co-producer in the film, The Business of Being Born, who was also pregnant, had planned for a homebirth with New York midwife, Cara Muhlhahn. Ms. Epstein was being followed closely by a physician during her pregnancy due to her baby being seriously growth restricted (IUGR). IUGR means that the baby has stopped growing appropriately and can be caused by a number of factors, most commonly a problem with the placenta or a medical condition that has developed.
Ms. Epstein spontaneously went into labor prematurely with her very small, breech baby and, although initially not planning to film it, does so. We see Ms. Epstein laboring at home and being checked by Cara Muhlhahn. Disturbingly, she does not call a back up physician (she does not in fact have one) or initially stress the importance of moving to the hospital. Finally, we see them taking a cab to the hospital with Ms. Epstein in very active labor.
In watching the movie, I was stunned at the lack of concern or alarm expressed with her very real possibility of giving birth to a premature, very small baby, outside of a hospital setting that could safely care for him. In her discussion afterward, Abby Epstein expressed disappointment that she didn’t have the experience she wanted and that she had needed to have a c/section.
Of course her emotions are valid but there is a serious disconnect here. Her baby weighed barely 3 lbs. She now has a healthy son who was fortunate enough to be born in an environment where his medical problems were both known and able to be dealt with. Where is the reality check of what is really most important here? Birth truly isn’t predictable, things really do happen, plans do, very much change. I have to ask, “Is labor and birth really just about getting what we want? About what the “experience” is like?” Is there not a baby? An incredible human being. A gift. A miracle.