Thoughts on 20/20's Extreme Motherhood show

Last Friday, "20/20" (ABC TV) finally aired their "Extreme Motherhood" show. All of the segments are now online (click on the videos in the articles): Unassisted Childbirth and Homebirth with Midwives, Orgasmic Birth and Long-term Breastfeeding. (There were also segments on "fake babies" and "serial surrogates" but they didn't interest me and I didn't watch them.)

The homebirth piece was quite short (5 minutes) but I was happy with how I was presented, and felt that the essence of what I wanted to convey came through! The beautiful opening shots of the mountains were taken near my home in Boulder.

There's been somewhat of an uproar in the homebirth community because there was no distinction made between unassisted and midwife assisted homebirth. This surprised me, as the producer had read my book (Unassisted Childbirth) and spent several hours (both on and off camera) interviewing me. I'm sure she knew they were two different things. Perhaps it was an editing mistake, or maybe they didn't feel it was important to distinguish between the two approaches to birth. Yesterday I wrote to ABC and encouraged them to do another show, specifically about unassisted childbirth. Actually, the producer that originally contacted me last year had hopes of doing an hour-long show completely devoted to unassisted childbirth. But apparently the higher-ups nixed the idea.

Most homebirthers were also disappointed by how Abby Epstein's birth was presented. Abby directed Ricki Lake's film The Business of Being Born. Because Abby transferred to the hospital (after going into labor prematurely and discovering that her baby was breech), her story was used as an example of a homebirth gone horribly wrong. While it's true that Abby was fairly panicky in the cab ride to the hospital, in the actual film I didn't get the impression that she or her baby were in grave danger. Her midwife felt there was a problem, and they headed to the hospital. In any case, I was glad to see the film mentioned, and thought Ricki did a nice job answering Elizabeth Vargas's questions.

The orgasmic birth segment was excellent! Debra Pascali-Bonaro, producer of the new film Orgasmic Birth, did a great job explaining the concepts behind the film. Amber Hartnell, whose incredible birth was featured in the film, spoke eloquently, as well, as did Christiane Northrup, MD, author of "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom." I was interviewed for this segment also, but didn't make the final cut. A couple good articles have been posted about orgasmic birth in the past few days: Orgasmic Birth: The Natural Reality Behind The Hype by Lee Stranahan for the Huffington Post (I was interviewed for this one) and Orgasms During Childbirth? It Happens by Yvonne Fulbright for Fox News.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my dear friend Veronika Robinson, publisher of the Mother Magazine (UK), in the breastfeeding segment! I didn't feel this segment was as positive as the others but Veronika spoke beautifully, as usual.

While the show left a lot to be desired, I was happy to see these subjects dealt with on national television. It was a good introduction, if nothing else.

Posted on January 6, 2009 and filed under unassisted childbirth.