CBB Talks to Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein About Your Best Birth, Part 2

Former talk show host Ricki Lake drew praise and criticism for her documentary, The Business of Being Born. Now, together with Abby Epstein, her documentary partner, the mom of two is releasing a book, Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience.

In part 1 of the interview which ran yesterday, Ricki and Abby spoke to us about their film and their new book. In part 2, they spoke to us about the accompanying new social networking site, mybestbirth.com, their next film that comes out this fall and answered CBB reader questions!


Celebrity Baby Blog: You mentioned you’re finishing up your next documentary.

Ricki Lake: It’s much more like a learning tool, it’s not going to have a narrative like the first film – not as much drama. We felt like there was much more to talk about, and to inform people of. We get into the VBAC issue. We went to the farm and interviewed Ina May [Gaskin, who is known as the pioneer of modern midwifery] and all the midwives on The Farm in Tennessee. We have Kimberly Williams-Paisley in the film, too, who was pregnant at the time, so we all went down to film together. I think there’s just so much more to talk about, and I think for people who are already interested in the first film, they’ll love the second as well.

Abby Epstein: We started shooting it about a year ago, and it’ll come out in the fall, around Labor Day. It’s more around the lines of the book, starting with The Business of Being Born and showing what happened with the film, and the impact it had. The film, for a small documentary – it’s unbelievable the impact it’s had. The letters that we get, every day, from people saying they saw it and then went and changed their birth plan, or had a different birth, is incredible.

Tell us about mybestbirth.com.

Ricki: It’s really a hub for mothers-to-be and families-to-be. We have different groups where discussions are happening: VBAC moms, BOBB (Business of Being Born) moms– women who saw the film and had a certain kind of birth due to what they learned from the film. These social-networking sites are happening all over, and there are tons for moms, but not for mothers-to-be. So I love it! I put movies up from our book tour, and it’s been so successful.

Abby: It’s not just “what to expect what you’re expecting,” it’s not fear-based. So much information is fear-based or gauzy, like someone threw pink gauze over the whole thing to tell you how beautiful it is. That’s not real – it doesn’t really relate to my friends or Ricki’s friends or people who are having these babies, almost half of which seem to be ending up with C-sections.

Are you going to stay focused on birth or is there another subject matter you’re interested in covering?

Ricki: I’d like to expand. I think there’s the business of breastfeeding, the business of infertility, the business of surrogacy. There are so many different places to go that you can talk on end about and explore. But I’m into anything that’s about choice and education, and the birth stuff is what my passion is. I think there’s so much more to discuss still.

Homebirth is not an option for everyone, so what are some basic tips for having your best birth when a C-section or being in the hospital is required?

Ricki: First off, do your homework. Really read about what is happening, physiologically, to your body when you have any drugs, so you can make an educated decision. If you have to have a C-section, it would be good to know what the recovery is like, where nurses put the baby after birth, if you can give your baby formula afterward, and so on. There are choices you can make in every instance that can make you feel that you are in control of your body and that you’re not just being dictated to and rushed along. You want to individualize and personalize your experience. I think it comes down to having a really great relationship with your care provider and being on the same page.

Reader Alyson had a natural hospital birth, but ended up having major complications. How do you know when a natural birth is best for you?

Ricki: I don’t know. Every birth is different. We all want to have this perfect experience and it doesn’t always go perfectly. I think it’s up to the individual to weigh all the options. With birth in general, there’s a risk involved. Not everyone is going to have a perfect baby, but you want to do whatever you can to ensure you have a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth. But at the end of the day there is only so much you can do.

How do you respond to moms who say that they want drugs because they don’t need to be a hero, or it’s not a competition?

Ricki: I say, “Hey, more power to you!” if that’s what you want to do. I just don’t want people doing it blindly, saying their doctor knows best, their doctor told them to do it and going along with what the so-called expert says. It’s really about reading up on all your options, and it’s about no judgment! We as mothers love to judge each other, and we’re not as supportive as I think we could be. I’m really about no judgment.

I don’t consider myself a martyr. I consider myself a control freak! I definitely knew what I wanted, and I would’ve been disappointed if I didn’t have the water birth. When I was finally 10 centimeters, my baby was coming on the bed. My midwife said, “If you want your water birth you’d better get your butt in the tub now!” So I leaped like a gazelle off the bed – all 200 pounds of me – because I wanted what I wanted. I wanted to have that experience in water, because I felt like it would be better for my baby.

Again, it’s not about judgment – I could care less about what a woman does, but I really want her to be informed.

If you could sum up why most women opt for a natural or home birth in one sentence, what would you say?

Ricki: For me, I wanted to be connected to this process. I had this moment where I had my first son – and granted I was given an epidural, and every intervention with the exception of having surgery – and my midwife came in, and my mother came in to meet my baby for the first time. And I said to my mother, “Mom this is my midwife! She delivered my baby.” And she said, “No, you delivered your baby. I helped you to deliver your baby.” That was my a-ha moment, of, “I did deliver this baby, no matter what.” Yes I had help, but I delivered the baby, no one did that for me. And I think in my natural birth I wanted to be an active participant in all the decision-making that went into my birth. And that was empowering. I feel like I gave my child a gift by being in my home environment, by having the water birth. For me, again, that was a personal choice – I’m not saying my decision was better than anyone else’s – but for me, it was the best decision.

I personally do think home birth is safer, but in low-risk pregnancies with a healthy woman, no drama during the pregnancy and so on. High-risk is riskier in every way.

Are you still planning to become a midwife?

Ricki: I’m definitely not planning to become a midwife, I can tell you that! Maybe when I’m 90 I’ll become one, but I feel like I’m better off being an advocate before them. Ina May, at my book launch, told me I was her hero. She said she’s been trying to get the word out for 30 years, and I’m doing it. It was the most precious thing anyone could say to me. At the premiere of my film, she stood up and said, “I just want you all to know this is the best film ever made on birth.” And just to have her blessing, it’s really just beyond overwhelming to me. I feel like she’s given me this gift. By reading her book and seeing her speak, being compelled to work hard to have the birth experience that I had – it was an uphill battle. But she was the one who inspired me. I’m motivated to do what I can to help her. It’s really profound.

She said at my book launch that she was very concerned because she’s getting older, and wonders who’s going to carry on her work with maternal mortality issues in this country, and I will. I owe it to her to make sure that that does not fall by the wayside. The maternal death rate has been on the rise since 1992, and we need to care about it more. We need to be educated on issues surrounding health care reform.

— Danielle

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