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The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition

Posted Oct 17 2013 2:54pm

I am in Santa Fe waiting for a baby and I am finally getting around to some of the things on my to do list.  At the very top has been reviewing The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition.  

The Business of Being Born is one of my favorite birth movies so I had high hopes for the Classroom Edition.  I was not disappointed.  I think the decision to have students do a presassessment before watching was a brilliant move.  I might add one more open ended question, which is a favorite of Birthing From Within teachers; What do you know to be true about birth?  In a Birthing From Within class, we generally have students write as quickly as they can, all they know to be true about birth. This question might help students to realize just how many assumptions they hold.  The multiple choice questions are fantastic and would pair nicely with this open ended question.

There are great clips in the movie that will expand students' ideas of who should attend a birth and how birth is medicalized in the U.S.  I am glad that they included the clip from Dr. Moritz discussing obtestricians and normal birth: "Midwives do a better job at the normal deliveries then we do.  For normal low risk women, it is over kill going to a doctor... a doctor's not really excited about things when they are normal."  My favorite scene from the full length Busines of Being Born of the nurses standing around discussing using pitocin on laboring woman is also included.  Many of the moms and partners I have worked with over the years describe this scene as critical in their understanding of the medicalization of birth.

As I watched the Classroom Edition, I marveled at the wealth of material for rich discussion, material that would work well with a variety of courses.  My advice to teachers is to take the suggestions in the Classroom Toolkit and run with them!  Here are a few more ideas...  If you teach a feminist course, discuss the connection between victim blaming and the blaming of women for high cesarean rates in the U.S. If you teach a course on journalism, explore how the media portrays birth.  If you teach a course on self growth, Cara Muhlhahn's comment on birth being a chance to face your darkest moment could lead to a rousing discussion on when student's have faced their own darkest moments and a discussion of the coping skills that got them through.  

I have only two critiques of The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition. One, there is no mention of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in the film.  CPMs and other midwives attend the majority of out of hospital births in the US and the movie misses a chance to teach that there is more then one type of midwife.  There is a brief reference to CPMs in the Classroom toolkit but I would have liked to have seen CPM represenation in the film. I do however appreciate the project idea that encourages students to research the laws for midwives, including CPMs, in their state.  

My other critique is that a hospital birth without intervention would have been a great addition to the home births at the end of the film.  The reality is that the majority of women in the United States choose hospital birth.  How can we encourage women to advocate for a hospital system where low risk women can have a physiological (ie let birth unfold without interventions unless truly necessary) birth?  It has been a long time since I have seen the full length Business of Being Born so I cannot remember if it contains a physiological hospital birth.  Come to think about it, that would make for a great discussion/student project. How can we encourage true physiological support in hospitals? 

The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition is a great resource.  Let's get it out into our classrooms! I definitely intend on introducing this into my daughter's future middle school classroom.

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