The discussion guide, written by childbirth educator, doula, and author Ceridwen Morris, CCE with filmmaker Sara Lamm, includes an instructor section with questions and a participant writing exercise, as well as an additional reading packet which can be made available to all students enrolled in the class. The readings feature selections from Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Matters, Jennifer Block’s Pushed, and several other articles, suggested links, and books.
Birth Story depicts one particular community’s birth culture, in which birth is understood to be a normal, physiological event. This can be an eye-opener to many people who imagine that birth is, and should be, a highly managed, medical (and often scary) process. Looking at the contributions of Ina May Gaskin and The Farm midwives can help viewers see how approaches to childbirth both reflect and shape a society’s ideas about women, medicine, power, body image and technology.
We hope that this guide will trigger a lively discussion and help audiences examine their emotional responses to birth and the personal and cultural narratives that inform them. So much of what we know, or think we know, about birth comes in the form of storytelling, from both our local communities and the mass media. Ina May and her colleagues at The Farm introduce another layer to these stories, and offer a way of thinking that differs from the dominant culture’s approach. Can their work inform, inspire, and make a positive impact on birth experiences that occur, not just at home or in birth centers, but also in hospitals? We hope so.
It’s important for students to feel that they can express whatever response this movie triggers in them — whether it’s shock, enthusiasm and curiosity, or skepticism. This discussion guide is structured with questions, but there are no “right” answers. Instructors should be especially conscious of holding a positive space for students who are uncomfortable with the idea of “natural” birth, still formulating their own birth plans, or who have had complicated or difficult birth experiences. As filmmakers we’d like to encourage respectful conversation and do not want to add to the pressures that women already feel when it comes to giving birth.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Described by The New York Times as “a childbirth educator and noted crunchy-but-generally-reasonable voice on birthing topics,” Ceridwen Morris has been teaching about childbirth and baby care since 2009. She is the co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Uncensored, Totally Honest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent (Three Rivers: 2007). She spent many years as a columnist and blogger for Babble.com, as well as writing for Huffington Post, Elle, Parenting, and Fit Pregnancy magazines. Ceridwen has taught at Realbirth, Pregnancy & Parenting and City Births, and has served on the CEA/MNY Board of Directors since 2008.
Sara Lamm is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, producer, and performer whose first documentary film, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox was released theatrically in 2007 and had its television premiere on The Sundance Channel. Her work has appeared at MASS-MOCA, The American Visionary Art Museum, on Public Radio, and in performance venues throughout New York City. In 2010, she was one of 25 emerging artists recognized by AOL’s 25 for 25 grant. Her most recent film, Birth Story, co-directed with Mary Wigmore, has screened in over 350 communities around the globe.