Exclusive: Ricki Lake Talks About Her New Celeb-Filled Birth Documentary

Back in 2007, actress and talk-show hostess Ricki Lake produced the critically acclaimed documentary The Business of Being Born, which featured her delivering her now 10-year-old son at home in a water-filled tub. She followed it up with the 2009 book Your Best Birth, which combined personal birth stories with practical information about having a baby, whether at home or in a hospital, vaginally or via C-section. Even though the 42-year-old mom of two is busy working on a memoir and a new TV talk show, (both slated for 2012), she’s taking time to return to the subject she feels most passionate about, giving birth, with the four-part series More Business of Being Born, out on DVD November 8 but available to stream online beginning in August.

Directed by Abby Epstein, who’s collaborated with Lake on all of these babies, the direct-to-DVD docs contain poignant and intimate interviews with midwives, OB/GYNs, doulas and celebrity moms like singer Alanis Morissette, model Gisele Bundchen and actress Molly Ringwald. Since the series is still being filmed, even new mama Pink is hoping to share her harrowing tale of her two-day breech labor and necessary C-section.

iVillage chatted with Lake about her literal labor of love.

Since you already released a documentary and a book about this subject, why did you feel the need to revisit it again?

We marketed the first film in a very grassroots sort of way. We traveled around the country and did lots of Q&A sessions and people asked so many questions that weren’t addressed in the film. We didn’t get a chance to talk about simple things like what’s the difference between a doula and a midwife, or the possibility of VBAC (vaginal birth after a cesarean). With this series, we were much more in depth. The Business of Being Born had a whole narrative with my home birth and Abby’s emergency C-section. This series is very different. It’s more of an educational tool.

What do the different installments cover?

The first one is about [author and activist midwife] Ina May Gaskin’s The Farm Midwifery Center. The second part has all the high-profile mothers we’ve interviewed. Gisele [Bundchen] talks about her water home birth. The C-section rate in Brazil is very high, so she is totally going against the grain. She was incredibly articulate and beyond gorgeous. We filmed Alanis Morissette twice: Before she had her baby and after. Molly [Ringwald]’s story is incredible. She had a twin delivery at an advanced age and the second was a footling breech vaginal delivery, which is almost unheard of today because doctors aren’t taught to do that. They go usually right to the C-section. Christy Turlington had a difficult, drug-free hospital birth and was inspired to make her own documentary [No Woman, No Cry] about infant mortality. And I think we’re going to interview Pink. Of course she’s a busy new mom but we’re trying to work it out. The third installment is about choices like birth centers, doulas and C-sections. And the last one is about VBAC. It’s so complicated. There are hundreds of hospitals around the country that won’t even allow it.

At first glance it might seem like you advocate home births for all women. But that’s not really the case, is it?

Absolutely not. I want to be clear: I am promoting choice, not home birth. It’s about mothers feeling comfortable and safe, and making informed choices.  Having a water birth at home was my decision. I remember my baby was crowning and my midwife said, ‘If you want to do it, you better get in that tub right now!” I leapt like a 200-pound gazelle because I really wanted that experience. But it’s not for everyone.

What do you say to women who choose to have scheduled C-sections to protect their “vaginal integrity”?

It’s a joke! I didn’t tear with either of my children and they were both over 8 pounds. In fact, my midwife came back to my apartment the next day and she looked down there and said that it didn’t even look like I’d had a baby. My body recovered so quickly. That’s what happens when you’re not given a drug that numbs you from the waist down. You can feel what you’re doing. That said, I don’t judge any woman for making the choice that she makes. But I think major abdominal surgery should be a last resort.

You raised money for this new series on Kickstarter. How did that go?

Great! Basically everyone worked on the second film for free. We don’t do these for the money: I’m still $200,000 in the hole from the first film! Since I couldn’t fulfill my dream of going to school to become a midwife, this is how I help get information to the public. We had different pledge levels. For $5 you could stream the series and for $60 you’d get it on DVD. We had one level that was a joke: We said that for $10,000, I would come to your town and host a baby shower. Well guess what? Dr. Glen Elrod, an OB/GYN in Wasilla, Alaska paid for me to host a shower for his wife, who happens to be a midwife, who’s pregnant with their third child. I’ve already booked my plane tickets and we’ll screen More Business of Being Born. Dr. Elrod is a real hero. He supports home births in his community. 

You’ve publicly gushed about how in love you are with your “normal guy” boyfriend, Christian Evans. Have you considered having a child together?

I thought about it. When you fall in love it’s something you talk about. The idea of having a lovechild with him is amazing, and I loved being pregnant and giving birth, but raising children is so hard, and it gets harder and harder as you go along. Teenagers are so tough—and I have a good one! [Christian] has a child as well. So we’re okay; we have our brood and we’re really happy to enjoy this next phase of our lives.

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