Reviews and clips of "Outlaw Births"


The unassisted childbirth documentary “Outlaw Births” aired in the UK on Wed. night and by all accounts was an interesting program! As usual, there were numerous negative comments throughout from medical professionals but that’s to be expected. There was also too much emphasis (by most accounts) on the problems one American woman, Heather, had on delivering her placenta. The placenta was slow in coming so Heather went to the hospital. While this actually wasn’t an emergency, it was presented as such in the program. Still, in most people’s minds this didn’t overshadow the beauty of Heather’s homebirth.

Two clips have been posted on YouTube. The clips feature UK UCer Clair and her partner Yasmin, but in the beginning of the first clip you’ll see 2-second shots of 2 other UC’s – Josephine’s and Monique’s. There is also a shot of my friend Cassie looking euphoric as she holds her baby just after the birth, and a few shots of Heather and another UK UCer, Clio in labor. Click here and here.

I’ve already received numerous letters from people around the world who would like to watch the program. Unfortunately at this point it isn’t for sale, although I’ve been told that eventually it will be shown in other (as of now unknown) countries. Those who live in the UK can view the program free here.

I’m enclosing two reviews below, one from my UK friend Cassie, and another by a writer for the Guardian newspaper. Unfortunately the production company has yet to send me a copy so I can’t add my own comments.

From Cassie:
Channel 5 is one of 5 channels available to everyone within the United Kingdom with a TV set. I was extremely pleased and impressed by the program overall. Three births were shown. Clair, our very own Heather and also Clio of Evolution Expands Consciousness.

It started out badly edited really, chopping between Clair (ex nurse in London planning a UC) and three medics - one head midwife from Colorado, a male consultant here in London and a female consultant also based in London. The three medics were obviously saying how dangerous it was, how women die, how "interventions make birth safe" and that the tools they have prevent mothers and babies from dying in childbirth. They also said about 50,000 people each year suffer from PPH (post-partum hemorrhage) in the UK. Didn't mention the fact this was probably due to them yanking out placentas and cutting women up with episiotomies whilst they were strapped to their backs and immobile through epidurals....

The program hinted for a good part of the hour long documentary...that the practice may not be legal in the UK. They even avoided having their own film crew at Clio's birth...just in case the film crew was prosecuted. This continued right up until Clair went to see Beverly Beech, Chair of AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services). At that point Beverly said quite clearly that anyone telling a pregnant woman that UC was illegal was either 'ignorant or lying.' The program misquoted the wrong piece of legislation associated with possible prosecution...saying it was 1997...when in actual fact it's 2001.

Clair I felt was featured most centrally. She is an ex nurse and also a lesbian. They didn't make as big of an issue out of this as I had expected them to, which was nice. She put herself across on the documentary quite well, being very honest in her fears and her hopes. She went for a class with the British Red Cross...and the man who gave her lessons on how to resuscitate a baby did not at all seem phased when she pointed out there would be no midwife at her birth. He just made sure she understood what he had taught her and seemed quite confident he had equipped her with the knowledge to save her child, should the occurrence arise. She birthed at home with her partner alone. Bit of screaming when the head crowned, but she was ecstatic and far happier it seems with this birth than her previous two experiences.

Clio - was AMAZING. Quiet, serene, peaceful. Positively empowered and never uttering once about negativities.

Heather - beautiful! Was filmed with our dear Laura at a gathering that was held at Laura’s home with other women. The birth was beautiful. Unfortunately out of all of them, this is where the negative spin came when Heather still hadn't birthed the placenta. The ominous narration of 'this is the most dangerous time and Heather is seriously at risk from PPH and infection of her and her baby.' It was the only time I yelled at the TV. Of course everything was fine but it almost gave the impression of 'thank god...see how lucky she is.' It also showed Heather, checking her blood pressure in Wal-Mart lol, and her meeting with a midwife to learn how to resuscitate a baby if needed. The midwife was quite negative when interviewed afterwards and said she needed more support. I wanted to slap her a bit lol.

Laura was interviewed. The website shown and apparently...Laura...you have a 'cult' following. There was footage shown of Laura’s birth back in 1978. The interview bits that were shown of you were not as choppy as some of the others done with 'experts.' You probably got as much if not more coverage as the female UK medic. A basic view of UC came across very nicely from you, as well as your additions on what you hoped Dr's, midwives and doulas should learn about supporting women. ALSO the UK female medic acknowledged the fact that women were turning to UC because the standard of care they received in NHS hospitals was poor and that needed to change!

So it wasn't a parade of freaks as some of these documentaries tend to do. It portrayed 3, educated, empowered and confident women giving birth to their babies without assistance. It showed their fears, concerns, hopes and dreams through their plans and births. It also addressed the legal and medical concerns surrounding UC. Overall...as I said....a very good piece on unassisted childbirth.

It also has the net in a spin. I have been dropping hints about the programs on a number of mainstream boards. They are buzzing about it. Even though many of them wouldn't personally choose to go UC themselves, they admire the births, do not condemn women for choosing to go UC. I can count on probably 1 hand the negative comments I have seen made after the airing of the show (so far) and all of them can generally be put down to that individual’s own personal horrific hospital experience. Well done and congratulations to everyone who was involved in the making of the program!

From Anne Pickard of the Guardian newspaper:
The women in Outlaw Births weren't criminals. They just delivered their babies their own way
Thursday July 10, 2008

Anyone wondering if childbirth really is as painful as everyone says would have found their answer in Extraordinary People: Outlaw Births (Five). In at least two out of three cases, yes, it really did look that painful. And messy. And not for the squeamish. But it was at least a real and unflinching portrait of natural childbirth - as well as a reminder of how unusual it is to see uncensored images of women giving birth and breastfeeding on primetime TV.

Of course, to get it into the schedules, it had to be given a stupid name. Outlaw Births? The programme highlighted the fact that unassisted births in the UK exist in a legally grey area - but "outlaw"? I half-expected to see mothers popping out little black-hatted baddies with sawn-off shotguns shouting: "Put 'em up, this is a robbery!"

Clair MacVean, a quietly passionate ex-nurse, was sad that her friends thought her mad and that her grandmother would worry. But she wasn't to be shaken out of her opinions. "Births are overmanaged, over-medicalised and midwives seem to have lost their empathy," she said. When her NHS trust refused her a home-birthing kit after she refused their midwife, she took herself off to a medical-supplies shop to buy sterile scissors for cutting the umbilical cord. "And who's going to do it?" said the nice lady in the medical-supplies shop. "Me, probably!" Clair replied, cheerfully. "Oh!" said the nice lady, lost for words.

Two other women shared their experiences and, even though you sensed that nothing bad was going to happen, you knew that it could. And you knew they knew, too. Clio Howie gave birth in the company of her husband and children in a remote cottage in Wales, half an hour from the nearest doctor. In almost complete silence, her baby slipped into the birthing pool and emerged the right way up, the right colour and softly crying as he was laid on her breast.

Clair and the third freebirthing mother, Heather, fared less well. They spent hours screaming and contorted, but both ended up with a tiny, perfect person. Every now and again, an obstetrician or a high-ranking midwife appeared and said: "Our problem with this is that it could be dangerous and someone could die and we don't want mothers to put themselves and their babies in situations of unacceptable risk."

Their unsupportive attitude became shockingly clear when Heather, worried that the placenta had not followed the baby out, took herself off to a hospital. There she was treated with disdain. "Well, what do you expect us to do now?" her doctor said. Still, whether you believe these women are taking unacceptable risks or not, their calm dedication made for an absorbing film. "I've had several cups of tea, he's had several little breastfeeds; it's been a lovely morning - wake up, have a baby, and ... " said Clair, waving her hands, "this is the way it should be. Birth is part of life."

Posted on July 12, 2008 and filed under unassisted childbirth.

Outlaw Births


The British documentary “Outlaw Births” will be airing in the UK tomorrow (July 9th) on Channel 5 at 9pm. The film deals with unassisted childbirth (also known as "UC," "unassisted homebirth," and "freebirth"). I was interviewed along with nine pregnant women who were all planning on giving birth at home, unassisted. I'm pleased to say that all nine succeeded! The film focuses primarily on three women, Clio, Clair and Heather. Footage from all of their births will be shown.

An article about the documentary was published today in the British newspaper The Independent. The article features lovely photos from Clio's recent UC! In the months to come, the documentary may be shown in other countries. I'll be sure to post information on this as soon as I get more details.

Concerning the title, the term “outlaw” refers to the fact that women who choose this route often feel ostracized by friends, family and society. While the UK laws are vague, technically it is not illegal for a woman there to have an unassisted birth.

Posted on July 8, 2008 and filed under unassisted childbirth.

The Homebirth Video That's Too Hot for YouTube

The amazing disappearing lady has disappeared once again. For the third time in less than a year, YouTube has deleted one of my unassisted homebirth videos because it "violated their community guidelines." They've also threatened to permanently disable my account.

WHAT IS SO OFFENSIVE ABOUT THIS VIDEO ??? While it's currently posted on Jumpcut, it's already been flagged, although not deleted (yet). Google, MySpace and several other video hosting sites deleted it within hours of my posting it. When I've asked friends about this I've gotten the following responses:

-It makes people uncomfortable because it's too sexual. It takes place in a bedroom, and the sounds she's making are similar to those of a woman having sex. She almost sounds as if she's enjoying giving birth!

-It makes people uncomfortable because they're afraid to see birth outside a hospital setting. Most people are convinced that birth is inherently dangerous, and needs to be managed and controlled by "experts."

-It makes people uncomfortable because the woman is far too independent. No one is there telling her what to do. She actually has the audacity to think for herself and believe in her own abilities.

Of course, I'm not the only one that has been targeted. As I wrote in my previous post about Censorship on YouTube, other homebirth videos - both unassisted and midwife assisted - have also been deleted. Hospital birth videos, however, no matter how graphic (and disturbing, as far as I'm concerned) are perfectly OK. Click here and here.

The upside of this is that I no longer have to spend time everyday deleting angry comments from people who didn't approve of the video. On the other hand, I no longer get to read the lovely comments from people whose lives were changed for the better after watching this beautiful and inspiring NATURAL event.

Posted on July 1, 2008 and filed under unassisted childbirth.

Associated Press TV segment on Unassisted Childbirth

Tomorrow, March 24th, somewhere in the world, at some point during the day (am I being too vague?), the Associated Press TV segment I was interviewed for will air. Stations around the world that subscribe to AP video can air the 3 to 5 minute segment if they choose to. They can also air part of it, or show the footage but with their own voice-overs. I believe there will also be a 2 minute segment which can be posted online by newspapers that subscribe to AP video. I’m hoping that if it doesn’t air locally (or even if it does) I/we can view the video online, but I’m not sure if that will be possible. In addition to a short interview with me, the segment will also include an interview with my friend Liberty, and comments from a physician (I think we all know what to expect). It’s hard to say how many stations will choose to air the segment, but if anyone out there sees it please let me know. A short blurb about the segment is posted here.

Interestingly enough, this segment was 9 months in the making, and tomorrow is my husband David’s birthday. It seems very fitting to me that it should air then, as David was the one that started me on this path. While he only witnessed the birth of one of our children, he was very much with me in spirit each time, and like me, views this as his life’s work (actually, our work is much larger than UC, but this is our primary focus right now). My book, Unassisted Childbirth, was very much a joint creation. Certainly David hasn’t been as vocal about birth as I have, but he’s slowly coming out of his shell. He was interviewed by the AP TV producer (as were two of our children, John and Joy), but unfortunately their comments weren’t included. I hope you will be seeing more of him in the years to come. The man has read thousands of books in the past 35 years, and is a walking encyclopedia.

In other news, I added two lovely, inspiring videos to my main page this past week, “My Birth Path,” by Sarahjeanne, and “My Birth Journey,” by Reyvene. Stop by and have a look!

Postscript: The Today Show in Australia aired an edited version of the segment. Click here to view it.

Reflections on the Trust Birth Conference

I’m happy to say that the Trust Birth Conference far exceeded my expectations! It was wonderful to connect with so many people I had corresponded with over the years but never met in person. All the sessions I attended were excellent. Each of the speakers stayed true to the Trust Birth slogan: Birth is Safe; Interference is Risky. Speaking of which, apparently the sign we had posted in the lobby (which bore the slogan) did not go over well with some of the hotel guests. A group of surgeons complained to the management, and asked that the sign be taken down! The surgeons felt we should not be able to make a political statement (dare I say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet?!). Fortunately, the sign remained. :)

I wish I could say I took lots of pictures but I didn’t. The reasons for this are as follows: when it comes to photography, I suck, and I truly wanted to immerse myself in the experience and not be concerned with documenting it. Believe me, I was there! Thankfully other people took pictures. Click here to see Brenda Capps’ pictures, and here to see Gloria Lemay’s.

One of the MANY highlights for me was the panel discussion on “Why Women Stay Home...Alone!” Several of us on the panel had been a bit concerned that we might endure criticism from midwives, but I can honestly say that not one of the midwives in the audience had anything negative to say about UC (unassisted childbirth). After my fellow panelists (Melissa Collins, Heather Cushman-Dowdee, Jody McLaughlin, Rixa Freeze, Heather Brock and Emily Reeves) and I shared our reasons for choosing UC, the discussion turned to how we can build a bridge between UC and midwifery. I was thrilled to learn that there are many midwives who truly want to help women in their quest for a UC, whether that means being a back-up, doing prenatal care, offering knowledge and support during the pregnancy and/or checking on the mom and baby after the birth. I never felt I needed this but I understand that some women do, and so I’m thankful there are midwives who are willing to provide this service. The discussion was so productive that midwife and UCer Kristi Zittle set up a Yahoo group with the following description: “An elite group of women joining together to find a common bond between hands off midwifery and the power of the unassisted birthing woman. Our goal is to meet the needs of all women without interfering with the natural processes of birth; and, through the dispelling of birth fears!” To join the group click here.

Of course I know that not all midwives support UC, and even some who do are reluctant to help those UCer’s that request it for fear of losing their licenses should something go wrong with the birth. This is why my midwife friends (and I suspect many of the midwives in the audience) have tended to fall into the following categories: no longer practicing (either by force or choice), unregulated, underground, or licensed and regulated but willing to break the law. As several of the midwives pointed out, a midwife basically has to decide who she’s going to answer to: the woman or the state. Those who decide to answer to the state may be able to help women that have text book labors, but they will hinder women whose labors deviate from “the norm.” Does a woman truly need to transfer if her water has been broken for more than 12 hours, or her placenta isn’t delivered within an hour of the birth? In most cases, I don’t think so. But a midwife who answers to the state will do this in spite of the fact that she knows it's unnecessary.

There is so much more I could write about (and so many people I could thank/praise) but I’ve been home for a week and I'm still trying to catch up on email, work, etc. To those who would like to read more about the conference click here.

As you’ll see, I’m not the only one who didn’t want it to end! In fact, conference organizer Carla Hartley (who will forever hold a place in my heart) is already talking about having another conference in 2010. I’ll keep you posted! For those of you who weren’t able to attend (and even those who were) recordings of the sessions will soon be available for purchase here.