While bringing doula work to light is important, it must be done with integrity. I had the extreme pleasure of being the only doula on the Netflix episode of 'Childbirth Explained'. It was part of a 4 series episode of 'Sex Explained', beautifully narrated by Janelle Monae. My initial excitement of actually seeing myself on video clouded what the 30 minute episode was actually discussing. You see, we had no idea what the context or even what series our involvement would appear. I venture to guess that most of the other participants had no idea either.
When I say we, I am referring to the mother I was assisting and the doctor who was attending her birth. We were in the last minutes of the episode and we were the only black women. The Birth Center of NJ had been open for less than a year, when Netflix approached them for a series on "natural birth". Pre and post interviews were asked of the doctor and the birthing mother. I was not granted such a luxury. To be fair, the Netflix crew that arrived at the birth had no idea what a doula was until the day of filming. So when I was asked to sign the release form I provided a description of doulas, used by the narrator much to my surprise!.
So, what was wrong with this video? A lot! Namely the focus on pain during childbirth and the misinformation about the average length of labor...9 hours? I think they meant 9 months gestation. More to the point, our main goal at the birth center was ruined. We wanted to provide evidence in action regarding natural childbirth, freedom of movement and the low intervention environment that a birth center can ensure. Instead we were in a mash up cervical stretching, primate birthing and numerous birth stories of trauma and pain. Not exactly what we had planned.
What was captured? A few snippets of me administering oxygen to an exhausted laboring person. What wasn't captured? The hours in the tub, walking the hallways of the birth center, showering, on the birth ball and the CUB. All the love, encouragement and peaceful moments were narrowed down to her final pushing minutes. Birth is more than just the pushing stage!
I'm glad this new mother felt strong, empowered and supported during her labor.
I'm upset it will go down in history as a typical birth in America.