Photo Credit: Art Streiber/20th Television via Getty Images
In her first blog for the iVillage blog series CelebVillage, actress/ filmmaker and mom of two Ricki Lake shares why she's so passionate about her childbirth documentary film, The Business of Being Born, and its follow-up series and why she feels they've "revolutionized" her purpose in the world.
About eight years ago my dear friend, director Abby Epstein, was visiting me in Los Angeles and I approached her with an idea for a film project about midwives and natural birth. I showed her home video footage of my younger son Owen’s birth in our New York City bathtub and gave her a copy of my childbirth bible, Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. I am sure Abby thought I was nuts and was probably thinking this would not be a commercially viable project (to say the least!) but she took the material and politely agreed to look it over.
A few weeks later, Abby called me and said she was blown away by her own ignorance on the subject and thought it would make an amazingly compelling documentary. We spent the next three years filming birth in hospitals, homes and birth centers and ultimately created The Business of Being Born (which Entertainment Weekly has said was the "rare documentary that is actually changing lives. It deserves to be called revolutionary.")
When The Business of Being Born (nickname: BOBB) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008, I would say that something started to shift in the mainstream birthing paradigm. And while it feels sort of pretentious to say your film is "changing lives," I don’t know how else to describe the reaction it continues to have. We literally receive hundreds of emails from parents who credit the film for setting them on the path to a positive and empowering birth experience or saving them from a potentially damaging one.
I am approached on the street at least once a day by a mother (nickname: BOBB Mom) who tells me how the film changed her life in the way that it influenced her child’s birth. It often catches me by surprise -- like actress Michelle Monaghan hugging me in a hotel lobby or Demi Moore describing her natural births at an Oscar party. We have just created an educational version for college students (nickname: E-BOBB) and I have become a behind-the-scenes birth consultant for celebrities seeking doulas or midwives. I knew the film had truly become a grassroots phenomenon when Pink tweeted about it and now the gossip sites are buzzing about Jessica Simpson wanting to follow in my footsteps. Jessica, if that’s true, I know a great doula for you!
On Nov. 8, Abby and I released our follow-up series, More Business of Being Born (nickname: More BOBB), a set of four films that delves deeper into all things birth and features many more well-known faces like Cindy Crawford, Alanis Morissette, Gisele Bundchen, Christy Turlington Burns and Laila Ali. But mostly, the new films answer tons of basic questions about labor and childbirth. We’ve just started doing screenings around the country and I am reminded once again about how this arena is my passion.
At times, people have tried to turn me into a divisive figure and twist my desire to inform women about their birth options into some fascist agenda for natural birth or home birth -- but that’s okay. I do understand that presenting alternatives to the status quo can make people defensive, but for me this has always been about more women having positive birth experiences. If that idea is controversial, then that says something sad about our birth culture. So from this "little" idea that Abby and I discussed in my living room almost eight years ago, we’ve given birth to BOBB, More BOBB, E-BOBB and inspired thousands of BOBB Moms. It’s become a movement and I feel like its proud mama. Sometimes it’s challenging to embrace all the superficiality involved in the entertainment industry, but investing my heart in the BOBB world has made all the difference for me.
A few weeks ago, I was getting dressed to attend the L.A. premiere of More BOBB and didn’t know how I was going to get through the night. My body was covered in bruises and ice packs from grueling Dancing with the Stars rehearsals and I was freaking out about having to learn three new dances. I had spent every rare free moment outside of dance rehearsals talking to press about More BOBB and I was experiencing levels of pain and exhaustion that I never knew possible. But once I arrived at the theater in Santa Monica and saw the supporters who had traveled from all around the country to share in this celebration with us, I began to feel my energy renew. Like the life-changing empowerment I experienced during the births of my children, these films have revolutionized my purpose in the world.